Tom Savage started his freshman year for Rutgers and there was a sense that he and Mohamed Sanu would be the connection that took that program to another level. They went another direction at quarterback part way through his sophomore year, which has worked out… well, it has not worked out for Rutgers at all. Savage transferred to Arizona first and then transferred to Pittsburgh. As a result, he was unable to play an actual game from 2010 until this year, his senior year.
Savage has an incredible amount of arm talent with likely the strongest arm in the entire draft. He has a great build and looks the part, but is inconsistent at just about everything else. His mechanics and footwork are the biggest issue, but his pocket presence and decision making also are hit and miss at times. Savage has had moments of brilliance and incredible frustration in all of those areas. He is also going to be 24 when drafted, but should not really impact him. Savage is a day three pick and for some, the ideal third string quarterback for teams looking for a passer with the tools to develop.
Vitals & Build
Savage measured 6’4” 228lbs at the scouting combine with 9 5/8” hands. Has a strong build and looks the part of a quarterback. His speed is average, but he does occasionally flash some quickness in spots. Savage needs to keep working on quickening his feet, but he looks NFL ready as it is and may only get stronger at the next level.
Savage has top of the line arm strength and can push the ball down the field almost effortlessly. It does not strain him to throw it long so he has tremendous control with it.
Savage is also extremely talented with the amount of zip he can put on passes and his passes can be deceptive in how fast they are moving, even for a few of his receivers who have been surprised with how quickly the ball was on them at times.
His arm strength and zip make his options virtually unlimited in how much of the field he can attack and how much ground he forces the defense to cover.
Accuracy & Touch
Savage has the ability to make any throw on a football field. He is the type of guy who can probably throw the ball 80 yards from a knee and put it in a trash can. His best 10 passes will match up with anyone in the country.
Savage is also the type of player who can miss any throw on the field. Due to mechanical inconsistencies, he has shown he can miss a 5-10 yard pass that should be a gimme. Savage is the type of player who will tease people with what he can do and be incredibly frustrating.
He really thrives when it comes to throwing lasers and keeping the ball on a line. Savage has shown he can make 15-25 yard out routes on a frozen rope and put it in the hands of his intended receiver leaning over the sideline.
When it comes to touch passes, Savage has shown he can do it, but it is not as consistent. He does not really have a total array of touch passes yet, but there is no reason to think he cannot keep learning. Savage likes to go with the fastball because he can fit passes into tight windows and has a good sense of where the receiver is going to be. His upside in this area is virtually unlimited, but it all comes down to reps and his mechanics.
Mechanics & Footwork
Mechanics are the biggest issue that Savage has to address. His throwing motion is pretty good. Savage holds the ball in front of his throat, pulls back behind his head at about a 90 degree angle and fires forward. Occasionally, it can be a little sluggish, but it is not really anything that needs to be addressed. He is not tipping his pitches and his motion is more than effective enough for him to make any throw he needs to make.
From the waist down is where Savage is incredibly inconsistent. His footwork and his weight transfer can be dramatically different from one play to the next, depending on how much time he has and how rushed he feels as well as just a level of randomness that appears to be due to his arm strength.
When Savage throws on time, steps correctly and shifts his weight properly, he can pretty much do anything he wants with the football. The problem is that happens less than half of the time. He will short step, have his foot go forward, out to the side, or throws off balance without a step. And with his weight, there are plenty of times where he is throwing the football from any point; weight back, forward and everywhere in between.
The result is that Savage never seems to be in rhythm and the passing results tend to be almost random. Accuracy, touch, timing all are potential issues when it comes to any individual missed pass and there are plenty of examples where he is more compensating for an issue with his arm and making out okay as well.
It is not uncommon for a passer with the arm talent of Savage’s to have these types of issues and rely too much on his arm, but he is falling into all of the various traps as opposed to just one of them. If Savage can address these issues, he can be an artist with the football. If not, he will be an incredibly inconsistent passer.
This is another area that is inconsistent for Savage. There are times when he is a deer in headlights with pressure, taking a bad sack and situations where he climbs the pocket and throws a dime.
The offensive line situation for Savage was an extremely difficult one, so he got a ton of experience having to operate under duress and try to make up for the lack of protection. The concern is that he occasionally would feel pressure that was not there and bail out of protection.
On the other hand, Savage has produced some brilliance as well. From planting his foot in the ground, spinning out of a sack and making the right read to avoiding pressure before it gets to him, he has shown he can do the job.
With the beating he took at Pittsburgh, there is a thought process that he could use a break and get back to trusting his protection, able to just play again as opposed to assuming pressure and then trying to find a play. This has also worked against his mechanics in how he has had to make quick throws with questionable footwork.
It is good that Savage has a great deal of exposure playing under center so he is accustomed to his drops, footwork as well as turning his back to the defense in selling play action. In that respect, he should be able to transition to the NFL extremely efficiently.
Decision Making & Anticipation
Like with most everything else, this has plenty of good moments and some questionable ones, usually coming with trusting his arm strength. He has the arm strength to put passes in tight windows and he knows it, so he tests it often, which has had some unbelievable results both ways. There have been some awful looking plays where the defensive back was just waiting on him to make a mistake and picked it off, reading his eyes and his body language to make the play. At the same time, he has been able to thread needs and make a great pass.
Savage tends to trust in his early reads a little too much, perhaps as a result of the pressure he has faced, but has certainly demonstrated the ability to go through his reads, find a check down and make the right play.
It is difficult to know how much Savage really anticipates because he throws so many bullets. He may see it early, but he is usually not able to throw it early because he throws it so hard at his target. It gives him quite a bit of room for error, but it would require access to the coach’s tape to get a better feel on it.
Savage’s timed speed was not great, but he has shown on a number of occasions that he has quick enough feet and agility to make a man miss and extend the play outside of the pocket. It all comes down to Savage being able to anticipate that pressure is coming, but he has left a number of defenders grasping at air and he will occasionally pick up a first down or crash his way into the end zone.
The Pittsburgh offense has also used a number of rollout looks and play action passes to get him outside and move the offensive line, which he was able to execute perfectly fine. Overall, Savage’s ability to run is not something that a team is going to have to scheme against or something many offenses are going to play, but he can surprise opponents on occasion.
The flip side of this is there are times when Savage will get flustered and act like a deer in head lights and get frozen from pressure, eating the ball and taking some bad sacks when he should have thrown the ball away. He will also occasionally try to use his size and strength and overpower defenders. Success in that realm has only empowered him to be more brave with that and deliver hits as opposed to avoid them by sliding or getting out of bounds.
Savage is pretty scheme diverse in what he can do. Horizontal or vertical, he can play in either one. The limit with Savage largely comes to just how much they want him to do with his feet. No, he is not someone who is running the read option, but outside of that, he can potentially fit in every other situation.
The key with Savage will be getting to take time, which will take a few years and getting back to the fundamentals, not getting beat down so much, working on his feet, trusting his protection and getting a break from that constant pressure from opposing pass rushes. He is the type of quarterback who needs to disappear for a while, but has the potential to become a starter and potential franchise quarterback down the road.
Savage is somewhat similar to Brad Sorenson with the San Diego Chargers. Sorenson, coming out of Southern Utah with a good amount of hype at various times during the process but ultimately went in the seventh round. Sorenson has the tools but needed further development and may have found a good place to do it in San Diego. Savage has a lot of similar characteristics both physically and likely in role early.
Tom Savage has an incredible arm and great size. The talent is there for him to be a great quarterback, but there is a ton of work to be done with him. In addition to his feet, decision making and sense of the pocket, he also is not coming into the league with a ton of experience. Savage will have six years of college football in all, but played in 31 total games. It is a decent amount but not ideal. He warrants a third day pick and will likely be picked because of his remarkable arm talent, but needs to be a backup for a few years while he develops.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com