NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2022. This is the fifth and final entry in a series of scouting reports that have run in July.
Quarterback Bryce Young took the college football world by storm in 2021, planting his flag among the top prospects at the position with a thrilling first year as Alabama's starter.
Young arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2020 as a five-star recruit, but he had to wait his turn, backing up Mac Jones as a freshman. In 2021, with Jones moving on to the NFL, the stage was Young's. He was an instant sensation. In addition to becoming the first quarterback in school history to win the Heisman Trophy, Young led 'Bama to an appearance in the College Football Playoff National Championship. He set the Tide single-season passing records for yards (4,872) and touchdowns (47), ranking second in the FBS in both categories.
After coming up short against Georgia in the title game, Young returns as a junior looking to guide his team to a championship and further cement himself as one of the brightest young talents at the position. Now that I've had a chance to study three of Young's game tapes from the 2021 season, here is my initial scouting report on the Alabama quarterback ...
Height, weight: 6-foot, 194 pounds (school measurements).
2021 statistics (15 games played): 366-of-547 (66.9%) for 4,872 yards, 47 TDs and 7 INTs; 81 carries for 0 yards (0.0 average), 3 TDs.
Game tape watched: at Mississippi State (Oct. 16, 2021), vs. Georgia (SEC Championship Game; Dec. 4, 2021), vs. Georgia (College Football Playoff National Championship; Jan. 10, 2022).
What I liked: Young is outstanding in three key areas: accuracy, decision-making and instincts. His ball placement is exceptional at all three levels. He throws with anticipation and consistently places the ball on the upfield shoulder to maximize run after catch. He can layer the ball over second-level defenders and he has a great feel for using the correct loft on deep balls.
He shows a firm grasp of the offense, consistently getting to the third progression and taking what the defense gives him. He's selectively aggressive. Young pushes the ball down the field, but he isn't reckless. He briefly lost that discipline late in the national title game, trying to play catch-up without his starting wideouts.
His instincts are as good as I've seen from a first-year starting quarterback at the college level. He can feel pressure, create space and deliver the ball from a variety of arm angles. He always keeps his eyes up when he's flushed from the pocket and you never see panic in his play.
Where he needs to improve: Size is the obvious negative when you evaluate Young. He's probably going to check in a little under 6 feet tall and he lacks the desired bulk for the position. While there's nothing he can do about his height, he can add some bulk to help deal with the wear and tear of playing quarterback. There isn't much else to critique. There are some occasions where he doesn't set his feet, despite operating in a clean pocket. That's not a great habit, but he's such a natural thrower and it hasn't impacted his accuracy.
Biggest takeaway: While taking notes on Young, a few words repeatedly came to mind: urgency, twitch and sudden. Young does everything with quickness, but he always seems to be under control. There's a confidence he possesses that allows him to play fast. He understands his system and shows a good feel for what defenses are trying to do against him.
He reminds me of: There really isn't a clean comparison for Young. However, I see the most similarities to a young Drew Brees. Both guys lack ideal size, but they make up for it with elite processing and accuracy. I think Brees was a similar athlete at that stage of his career. They are pure point guards. The ball comes out quick and the placement is excellent.
I can't wait to watch him play: vs. Texas A&M on Oct. 8. The game is going to be must-see TV. The very public Nick Saban-Jimbo Fisher squabble from this summer will draw a lot of attention, and the Aggies have one of the most talented young defenses in the country. Remember, A&M upset 'Bama last season. I expect Young to embrace the stage and play at a very high level in this year's meeting.