For and Against: Shea Patterson

In 2016, Shea Patterson enrolled at Ole Miss as one of two 5-star QBs in his recruiting class. He sat and watched as Chad Kelly ran the offense. The plan was for Patterson to take a redshirt season, but everything changed when Kelly went down with a torn ACL and lateral meniscus in the ninth game of the season. Ole Miss decided to burn Patterson’s redshirt with three games remaining in an effort to become bowl eligible. The Rebels finished the season 1-2 behind Patterson and failed to make a bowl game.

With Kelly out of eligibility, Patterson returned as the starter in 2017. Before the season, several NCAA infractions came to light. Patterson started seven games as a sophomore before a PCL injury ended his season. Once the heavy punishments from the NCAA violations were announced, Patterson weighed his options and decided to transfer to Michigan. After a back and forth battle between Ole Miss, Michigan, and the NCAA, Patterson was allowed to play immediately and has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Patterson’s transfer to Michigan meant neither 5-star QB from the 2016 recruiting class would finish their collegiate careers at the school they started with. Patterson’s transfer also sparked a lot of conversation about his place in the 2019 NFL Draft class. There is a faction of Twitter that believes that Patterson is the QB1 of the draft class.

Our very own Carter Donnick (@CDonScouting) is one of those who has Patterson at the top of his ranks. I do not. That gave me the idea for this For and Against article. Only looking at one side of the player really allowed us to nitpick what we saw, so that’s what we did. Carter will lead off with his argument for Shea Patterson, and I’ll follow with my case against him.

The Argument For Shea Patterson

As some of you reading this may or may not be aware of, I’m a big Shea Patterson fan. He is my QB1 entering the 2018 college football season. Having heard the 5-star hype around him, I decided to delve into his tape shortly after this year’s draft, not expecting a whole lot and came away impressed, to say the least. Now, that isn’t to say Patterson isn’t without his flaws. Footwork and mechanically, he stands to improve a great deal, not to mention with certain reads and deep ball placement. However, the traits Shea displayed during his brief time with the Rebels have me intrigued, and he is certainly a potential next-level franchise QB if his game progresses as I envision.

Accuracy, Velocity, & Ball Placement

A pinpoint short-to-intermediate passer, Patterson is surgeon-like when he’s on the top of his game. Here are a few examples below:

First off, let’s start with one of my favorite plays Patterson has made in the six games I’ve watched. Recognizing the pressure and seeing a flat-footed defender, Shea takes the hit and delivers an absolute strike to his tight end. Put in the perfect spot, this is a next-level throw.

In the same game against a quality Auburn team, Patterson splits the defense and shows off nice touch on this particular play. A.J Brown drops the pass, but this is the type of throw Patterson makes on a consistent basis.

Once again throwing a dart across the middle to his tight end, often a pleasant recurring theme throughout Patterson’s tape, Shea displays his natural accuracy on this play. After all, he’s leaning on his back foot and still somehow puts enough zip to reach the outstretched arms of his intended recipient.

I think many people naturally assume two completely wrong things about Shea Patterson, both of which this particular play make an example of.  First, people think Patterson’s wideouts bailed him out during his time with the Rebels. While this is partially true, as he had tons of talent to throw the ball to, his receivers dropped a lot more balls than you’d think given their 5-star credentials. Additionally, because of a porous record, many think Patterson struggled against top competition. Although he played admittedly terribly vs. Alabama (who doesn’t?), Patterson balled out versus LSU and Auburn, two teams with defenses as strong as any in the nation. If you don’t like Patterson because of mechanics or footwork, that’s fine. But, don’t buy the other two narratives.

Lastly, getting away from that discombobulated, albeit justified rant, here we see another deep laser that is dropped by his intended target. Although Patterson’s deep ball needs work, examples such as these last prove he isn’t purely a slot-only thrower. He has plenty of velocity to throw outside the hashes and past 20 yards. However, since he’s so good in the short-to-intermediate area he doesn’t feel compelled to throw outside the hashes.

Mobility, Effort, & X-Factor

Often compared to Johnny Manziel during his high school and even collegiate career, Patterson is a much better prospect as far as next-level traits are concerned, but both are very similar in terms of energy, scrambling ability, and swagger. Let’s delve in and see why:

Showing off that patented mobility, Shea looks almost like a baseball player on this throw, torquing his body and putting the ball where only his wideout can snatch it. Simply put, that’s a play that not many can make.

Escapes the pocket and absolutely zings it. Anyone questioning his arm talent… we need to have a little talk!

Finally, here we see Patterson hang in the pocket and deliver a strike. This doesn’t involve mobility and isn’t anything particularly special, but shows Patterson is developed enough to also work within a pocket. Yes, he can get in trouble at times trying to do too much with his legs, but plays like this show his mobility doesn’t define him. You wouldn’t see Johnny Manziel making this play.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, I can see some of the negatives regarding Patterson’s game, some of which Brad will absolutely delve into. As I mentioned, his footwork is pretty abysmal right now, his mechanics need work, and he often tries to make things too complicated. However, despite all these issues, all of which are 100% fixable, Patterson displays tremendous accuracy, velocity, and poise. If he can work on some of his flaws, especially with his new Coach Jim Harbaugh, a known QB developer, the sky is truly the limit. Additionally, Michigan will help him get out of previous bad habits and hopefully develop a more mature game. Transferring because of sanctions, not his play (let’s make that clear), Patterson’s season with the Wolverines is sure to be an exciting one. I am absolutely buying the hype, and if he can show Baker Mayfield-like growth this season, he is absolutely deserving of a top 10 pick, especially in a weak quarterback class.

The Argument Against Shea Patterson

Shea Patterson is an exciting college QB. He put up numbers in two different offenses at Ole Miss, and he’ll put up numbers with a talented receiving corps at Michigan. However, I don’t understand throwing around the QB1 talk in May of 2018. Patterson has only started 10 college games. He’ll be learning his third offense in as many seasons. Not to mention, his mobility is a big part of his game, and he’s coming off a knee injury.

As Carter pointed out, when Patterson puts everything together, he can do some nice things. The problem is he doesn’t put everything together consistently enough. After watching every snap he took in 2017, inconsistency is his most glaring weakness. If a coach wants one thing from his QB, it is consistency. Coaches want to know what they are getting every day, every game, and on every snap. They do not want any surprises. If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it 100 times, and ironically, most recently on an episode of All or Nothing featuring Michigan.

For a QB, everything begins with footwork. Good footwork helps a QB stay on time, get proper depth, stay upright, and deliver an accurate pass. Poor footwork hinders all of these as well as ruins a QB’s base, negatively affects throwing trajectory, and negates a powerful arm. Patterson’s footwork is dreadful. Just pick any game and watch and you’ll notice several flaws with Patterson’s footwork.

Shea Patterson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Far too frequently, he throws without setting his feet:

Shea Patterson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

He often steps laterally instead of toward his intended receiver when delivering the ball. In the quick game, he’ll take a small hop instead of a proper stride and end up off balance. Here he hop-steps laterally, toward the sideline, rather than anywhere toward his receiver. He ends up off balance and has to overcompensate with his arm causing the throw to go wide.

Shea Patterson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Here is what the quick game footwork, mechanics, and result should look like:

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He’s also guilty of overstriding and ending up with too wide of a base causing his passes to sail.

Shea Patterson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Patterson’s flaws don’t start and end with his footwork. His mechanics are faulty as well. Before release, a QB’s elbow should be at or above the shoulder in order to generate power. Patterson throws with his elbow too low. The ball ends up somewhere between his chest and hip. Not only does this cause him to lose some of the power behind his throws, but he also gets too far under his throws because the hand follows the elbow. This puts too much air under his throws causing them to hang. Sometimes he doesn’t step at all and throws with his weight falling away from where he’s going with the ball.

Shea Patterson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I can’t figure out why, but Patterson is always falling backwards away from the line of scrimmage. Maybe it’s laziness, or a mental hurdle, or he feels like he is under more pressure than he actually his, but his weight is consistently falling away from the play for one reason or another. On top of that, Patterson unnecessarily adds distance to this throws because he fails to step up into a clean pocket. All of these issues lead to inaccurate throws.

In general, a quarterback’s hips should get the ball where it’s going, and his arm should guide it. Patterson seems to throw entirely with his upper body and his hips just follow.

I asked three head coaches to give me one word or phrase describing Patterson’s footwork and mechanics. All three run an offense similar to Ole Miss and understand what they should see from the QB. Here’s what they said:


“Footwork? Where would I even start?”

“Patterson gets away with bad footwork because of his arm strength. It can be a blessing, but in his case, it’s a hindrance. You can tell he’s thrown this way his entire life. You can get away with it early, but as you move up the ranks, it gets exposed. It’s too late to change it now.”

I think it is one part the RPO offense he was asked to run and one part laziness. He’s always gotten away with it, so why put forth the extra effort to change it now?

As Carter mentioned, deep ball accuracy is another area where Patterson struggles. Like all college QBs, he’ll occasionally drop in the perfect pass, but that’s usually on a shorter throw down the seam. When throwing deep to his outside receivers, he falls victim to his footwork and mechanics again. It’s nearly impossible to make a deep throw with the correct trajectory while jumping backwards, throwing off your back foot, or shifting your body weight backwards instead of forwards. From time to time, he fails to put the correct trajectory on the pass and ends up overthrowing it. More often than that, his deep balls have too much air underneath them and end up underthrown. He missed far too many long touchdown passes last season because D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge had to stop and wait on the ball after already gaining the edge on a defender.

Patterson is completing 60.7% of his passes through 10 career starts so one might argue, strictly based on numbers, that he is an accurate passer. I would counter with not every completion is a good pass. Patterson’s ball placement is erratic. His receivers never know which side of their body the ball is going to end up on. Again, passes like this are caught, and his completion percentage doesn’t take a hit, but no one would argue that this is a good pass:

Shea Patterson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Here’s another easy throw that is off-target. The ball should be thrown so that A.J. Brown can start moving upfield rather than having to wait on it and leave his feet just to catch it.

Shea Patterson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Here are several throws that are late, off-target or thrown to where the receiver was instead of where he was heading.

When under pressure, Patterson’s ball security becomes questionable. Once he decides to escape the pocket, he drops his head and turns his back to the line of scrimmage. Once he’s clear, he’ll get his eyes back up and reset, but his carelessness with the football is concerning. He drops the ball down to his waist, carries it with one hand, and swings it back and forth. He’s practically asking for it to be stripped.

Shea Patterson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This habit was noticeable all season from the first game until his last. He never corrected it.

Patterson’s arm is strong enough to zip passes across the middle and down the seam, but there are throws that he struggles to make. I’m not saying that he doesn’t have a strong arm. He absolutely does; he just relies on it too much. Let’s separate throw power from arm strength for a minute. Because he doesn’t throw with proper mechanics, he fails to generate as much throw power as possible. On release, his elbow is way too far below his shoulder. He is always falling away from his intended receiver. He frequently fails to step into this throw, throwing off his back foot instead. Even one of these reduces potential throw power. All three of these, often on one play, causes any pass that is required to cover a great distance to either float or skip to its target.

Shea Patterson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Patterson’s lack of throw power becomes most obvious on throws from one hash to the opposite numbers. There are plenty of examples of him floating these passes or requiring his receivers to dig them out of the dirt, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Here he is with a relatively clean pocket with room to step into his throw. Even in a near-perfect situation, the result is far from desirable.

Shea Patterson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Patterson makes questionable decisions with the football as well. He appears to predetermine where he’s going with the football. He picks a spot and throws to it regardless of whether or not the defender has it played. He also tends to get stuck on his first read for too long. As a result, he’ll try to force a late throw across the middle or miss an earlier check-down opportunity.

Changing offenses this season could help Patterson’s footwork, especially on quick throws. Working with Pep Hamilton and Jim Harbaugh should go a long way to help iron out other issues, but at 21 years old, it’s too late to completely overhaul his mechanics and break other bad habits. I’m afraid he is who he is at this point. Although, I believe we could have a slightly different conversation if Patterson plays two years at Michigan.

There we go, a unique look with two different viewpoints on the Michigan Wolverines new quarterback. Which side are you on? Did @CDonScouting find enough positives to get you to buy into the Shea Patterson hype? Did @DFF_BMack point out enough flaws to get you to steer clear? Let us know.


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