A 6'7", 245-pound quarterback with the ability to run the zone read or throw a 30-yard pass across the field to the corner of the end zone is available in the 2016 NFL Draft class. Yet he's not in discussion for the top overall pick, and some speculate he could be picked at the end of the first round. What's the deal? This is the enigma of Paxton Lynch, the quarterback from Memphis.
Lynch was a three-star recruit from Florida coming out of high school. His recruiting situation was awkward, as Florida was discussing giving him an offer. This made smaller schools like FAU and USF not bother to give him offers, knowing they'd probably lose out. After Florida chose to offer Skyler Mornhinweg, Lynch was left in the lurch, but he settled in with Memphis.
Coming out of high school, Lynch was probably not ready to start as a quarterback. He played in the Wing-T offense, and rarely had the opportunity to throw the ball. It was a big adjustment to transition to the passing-heavy, screen-focused Memphis offense.
Lynch therefore redshirted in his first year at Memphis, then won the starting job and held it until he was ready for the NFL, starting 38 straight games for the Tigers. He reached the pinnacle of his college career as a redshirt junior, taking on Ole Miss and leading his overmatched Memphis team to an easy victory, throwing for three touchdowns. His final season wasn't all roses, however, as he struggled in the team's bowl game against Auburn, throwing for only 104 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception.
The only other notable bit I have on him personally is that he has the most well-planned out hair and goatee of any draft prospect. He's definitely going for the Robert Downey, Jr. look.
Lynch is often compared to former second-round pick Brock Osweiler, and the reason why is clear: his tall stature combined with excellent athleticism. Lynch produced a 4.86-second 40-yard dash and a 36-inch vertical leap in pre-draft workouts, and he has an arm that can make throws like this one:
If you're after tools and physical potential, Lynch is one of the best options to be available from the last few years of the draft. He can run the ball by design, and he can make any throw on the field.
Mechanics and accuracy
Lynch has a great sense for ball placement on deep passes, both in the middle and along the sidelines. His passes take good arcs, and hit receivers in stride. You can chalk that up both to good arm talent, and good timing with his receivers.
It's not talked about much, but Lynch has an inconsistent throwing motion, both from his throwing platform and while throwing on the run. Here's one example. Pay attention to his throwing arm, and the loopy windup it makes while completing this pass.
Lynch has a tendency to drop his arm as he's preparing to throw. This is also something that makes his pump fakes more dangerous. Sometimes while waiting for a route to open up, he unconsciously drops his arm, creating a target for potential pass rushers.
When he throws on the move, he has a tendency to whip his whole body around and throw off his back foot. It looks sort of awkward, and it doesn't help his accuracy.
The story with Lynch's accuracy is that his mechanics are weird, but you can chalk some of that up to his long limbs. He does have solid ball placement around the field, and I've seen him hit receivers in stride. He's one of the more accurate throwers available this year.
Okay, it needs to be said, before we begin this section: I hate Lynch's college offense, and I think he has a lot of learning in the classroom ahead of him before he's ready to handle an offense in the NFL, even one with simpler concepts. Lynch threw 20 percent of his passes behind the line of scrimmage this season, and most of his other passes were three-step drops with one read, or a half-field read and bail concept where he would improvise if his original targets weren't open. It's very difficult to project Lynch's decision-making because of the system he played in.
If Lynch's reads aren't open, he will buy time, often by rolling out of the pocket. Lynch can use pump fakes to improvise and try to create space to run or pass, and he understands how to use the sideline and the chains to work for him.
Lynch is all about trying to extend and go for the big play. Check this out, my favorite throw of his: he rolls left, sees his first route isn't open, looks right, sees his guy in one-on-one coverage in the end zone, and immediately rips off a perfect throw for a touchdown.This pass put the dagger in Ole Miss, making the lead 31-14. It showed good awareness and a lot of chutzpah.
So many of Lynch's throws were either quick hitters or thrown after three-step drops, without hesitation. It makes it very difficult to find examples of Lynch standing in the pocket in the face of pressure, stepping up, and delivering a pass like a pro would do.
On this play, we see edge pressure (although a defensive tackle also comes free). Rather than stepping up in the pocket, Lynch fights off the rusher and runs to the sidelines. One thing I appreciate is how nonchalant he acts as he gets to the sideline. Even with a defensive end chasing him down, Lynch looks like he's under no stress at all as he tosses the ball out of bounds.
That said, I have seen Lynch panic when under pressure, and even more so when his reads are covered and he has nowhere to put the football. It's what took him down against Auburn. Can he operate without the structure of a play call? His Memphis system had very rigidly-defined rules of where to go with the ball, so this is another scenario where I'm nervous because of a lack of information.
Lynch is a uniquely talented individual, sort of like a more successful, productive Osweiler. I liked Osweiler coming out of college, and he entered into a perfect development situation, but he struggled when he saw the field, which obviously has me nervous about Lynch. I think Lynch is in no way ready to start in the NFL, and while he's physically gifted, his style of play seems more process-oriented than I usually like to see.
That being said, you can't deny the physical talent and the throws he can make. In multiple ways, I think he has a better arm than Carson Wentz. Do I think he could be worth a first-round pick? Yes. Do I think the Buffalo Bills should draft him at No. 19 overall? I can't go that far.