There’s a stigma surrounding West Virginia Mountaineers and Big 12 quarterbacks, but 2019 NFL Draft prospect Will Grier can break it.
The unfortunate truth when pursuing a career in the NFL is that conference matters. That isn’t necessarily true as far as success at the highest level is concerned, but it certain certainly dictate the immediate opportunities that players are provided with.
A shining example of this is the stigma that Big 12 quarterbacks aren’t fit for the complexity of the NFL—a thought that Baker Mayfield finally seemed to shatter in 2018.
Unfortunately for quarterback Will Grier, he has two stigmas to break as he prepares for a career at the next level. The first is that a Big 12 quarterback isn’t worth an early investment, as Mayfield still has work to do before he disproves the notion.
Being selected at No. 1 overall may open some doors, but they’ll slam shut if he’s given the label of an NFL Draft bust.
The other is that West Virginia Mountaineers quarterbacks are viewed as system players. That’s a primary reason why only three West Virginia field generals have been drafted since Major Harris went No. 317 overall in 1990.
In fairness to Bulger, he was a two-time Pro Bowler who looked the star part until injuries took their toll. That’s certainly a feather in West Virginia’s cap, as Bulger produced 4,301 yards, 24 touchdowns, and just eight interceptions in his only 16-game season: 2006.
He produced a passer rating above 90 in four of the five seasons between 2002 and 2006, and led the St. Louis Rams to the playoffs in 2003 and 2004.
If we’re going to compare Grier to a former West Virginia quarterback, then Bulger might be the best player to work with. Like Bulger, he isn’t known for his athleticism or running ability, but instead his work under center.
Thankfully for Grier, he already has an elite attribute working in his favor as he enters the 2018 season: The ability to go over the top of a defense.
Grier missed the final two games of the 2017 season, as well as a vast majority of the November 18 clash with the Texas Longhorns, due to a finger injury. He underwent surgery that ended his season, but before the ailment, he was turning heads on a weekly basis.
That includes a 371-yard and three-touchdown performance against the Virginia Tech Hokies, which ranked in the top 25 in the country in passing yards and touchdowns allowed.
Overall, Grier finished the 2017 season with 3,490 passing yards and 34 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in 11 games played and 10 games completed. He completed 64.4 percent of his passes, and even displayed the ability to pick up yardage on the ground when need be.
West Virginia admittedly runs an aggressive downfield offensive attack, but at the time of his injury, he graded rather well across the board.
There are certainly issues that Grier will need to sort out, but he clearly has the raw potential to become something special.
The ability to complete intermediate throws has become elusive in recent years, as college quarterbacks have specialized in the deep ball. Grier certainly knows how to find players downfield, but it’s his No. 1 ranking on intermediate throws that jumps off the page.
That includes his ability to make plays under pressure and the liveliness of his arm that enables him to make NFL-caliber throws.
Give Grier a pocket and expect rewarding results.
As previously established, he’s one of the best in the country when the pocket collapses, as well.
There are issues that Grier will need to address, including his decision making and turnover-prone tendencies. As far as where he is entering the 2018 season however, he already looks the part of an NFL-caliber player.
If Grier turns in another strong season in 2018, and addresses the flaws that he’s being asked to improve upon, he should be a first-round draft pick.
The Big 12 and the West Virginia Mountaineers carry stigmas at the quarterback position, but Will Grier can break both come the 2019 NFL Draft.