2019 NFL Draft: Shea Patterson will have all eyes on him

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 07: Shea Patterson #20 of the Mississippi Rebels passes against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 07: Shea Patterson #20 of the Mississippi Rebels passes against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Shea Patterson will debut for the Michigan Wolverines in 2018. If he lives up to the hype, he could be a first-round selection at the 2019 NFL Draft.

Shea Patterson has one of the most captivating stories in all of college football. Patterson claimed to have been misled by the Ole Miss Rebels about their NCAA infractions, and thus pushed to transfer to the Michigan Wolverines.

Despite Ole Miss’ attempts to prevent Patterson from transferring, he successfully did so—and will not be forced to redshirt for a year because of the program’s transgressions.

That alone would be reason to keep an eye on Michigan’s new field general. As Patterson prepares for his first season with quarterback guru Jim Harbaugh, however, the pressure and expectations are mounting for a breakout season.

If Patterson manages to deliver, then the Wolverines could see a quarterback taken in the first round for the first time since Harbaugh himself was selected at No. 26 overall in 1987.

There’s certainly reason to believe such will transpire.

Patterson finished the 2017 season with 2,259 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and nine interceptions on a relatively respectable completion rate of 63.8 percent. He did so in just seven appearances, meaning he averaged 322.7 passing yards per game.

That includes the 346 yards and two touchdowns he threw for against the Auburn Tigers, but it also incorporates the 116 yards and three interceptions he tossed against LSU.

Patterson benefited greatly from the presence of potential top-five draft pick A.J. Brown, who recorded 75 receptions for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns. That doesn’t necessarily mean his individual ability is invalidated, however, as he made waves in the SEC.

At the time of the PCL injury that kept him sidelined for the final five games of the 2017 season, Patterson was leading the SEC in passing yards.

The injury adds another layer to the question marks that Patterson will be forced to overcome, but it’s too soon to pass judgement.

When healthy, Patterson is one of the more intriguing prospects in this class. He’s an undersized pocket passer at 6’2″ and 203 pounds, but he has a strong arm and slightly above-average accuracy that enables him to put deep throws on the money.

His short and intermediate accuracy could stand to improve, but he’s in a better place than most when they enter the Harbaugh factory of quarterbacks.

The issues that Patterson will be tasked with overcoming are mostly mental. He has impressive speed and agility that enable him to extend plays, a la Baker Mayfield, but he needs to learn to either take a sack or throw the ball away when there’s nowhere to go.

His borderline refusal to do so has resulted in Patterson taking unnecessary sacks and throwing costly interceptions.

At Michigan, even average quarterback play would be an upgrade. Michigan’s quarterbacks combined for 2,023 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and eight interceptions in a 2017 season that spanned 13 games, thus lowering the bar in an excruciating manner.

In saying that, Michigan has talent at the skill positions and an offensive line that should help Patterson produce a strong season.

Karan Higdon ran for 929 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017, averaging 6.3 yards per carry and 17.1 yards per reception. Chris Evans has run for at least 600 yards in each of the past two seasons, compiling 10 touchdowns during that time.

Furthermore, four-star tight end Mustapha Muhammad could have an instant impact, and incumbent Zach Gentry averaged 18.4 yards per reception in 2017.

All four players should thrive if Patterson lives up to the hype.

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The question is: Can Shea Patterson improve his 2019 NFL Draft stock by elevating an abysmal Michigan Wolverines offense in 2018?