Rookie Jeff Driskel is currently a third string quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. If it weren’t for dynasty fantasy football leagues, I doubt anyone outside of the Driskel family would even know that or care. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, let’s examine Driskel and see if he’s worth a rookie draft pick on those teams trying to find a deep sleeper at their quarterback position.
The First Trickle of Driskel
Let’s go way back and get into Driskel’s pedigree as a passer. In 2010 he was not only the Florida High School Player of the Year (which is actually saying something considering the amount of football talent in Florida), but was also the National High School Player of the year and was ranked as the best pro-style QB in the class of 2010. In fact, the 5-star recruit was the top ranked QB according to Rivals and was ranked as the 32nd overall best player. As a result, he was recruited by almost all of the major programs before eventually committing to the University of Florida.
As a Gator, Driskel was more or less a bust in his 4 years in Gainesville, eventually losing his job as the starting quarterback and never throwing more than 12 touchdowns and failing to ever top 1,700 yards. Of course, injuries played a part in Driskel’s lackluster showing in the SEC, but the majority of his underperformance rests solely on his shoulders.
In his 5th season of eligibility, Driskel transferred to Louisiana Tech where he finally excelled and lived up to the hype of his high school days. He threw for over 4,000 yards with a completion percentage over 62% to go along with 27 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. It’s up to you to decide if he was just a late bloomer, or if the system change was the reason for his breakout, or if it was a result of the step down in competition moving from the SEC to Conference USA. If you attribute it to a step down in competition, it’s hard to imagine moving to the NFL will be a seamless transition.
Thus far in the media, 49ers coach Chip Kelly has said he’s been impressed with Driskel in camp and OTAs, but of course, that might be typical off-season coach-speak, not too often do they admit that they screwed up a draft pick and a player has looked terrible. Nevertheless, one of the biggest pluses for Driskel is his competition, or more specifically lack thereof. As of today, with only former top-10-pick-bust Blaine Gabbert and former-all-world-but-fell-off-of-a-cliff-and-has-no-confidence-anymore Colin Kaepernick ahead of him, if he can develop under Chip Kelly, it wouldn’t be crazy to see Driskel take over in another year or two.
Driskel is definitely a project, but if he can grasp the concepts of 1st year coach Chip Kelly’s offense, he might be a notable sleeper in 2017 or 2018, while being a worthwhile stash in deeper dynasty leagues now. Barring significant injuries to both Gabbert and Kaepernick, it’s highly unlikely he sees the field at all this year. However, with his experience running zone read offenses at both Florida and Louisiana Tech, he might have a leg up on his poor competition moving forward. At the end of the day, his downside could see him working at a car dealership when the season kicks off, but he does have potential to be a starting NFL QB in the next few years and that makes him an ideal late round target in dynasty start-ups and rookie drafts.
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