NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2021. This is the sixth in a series of scouting reports that will run throughout the offseason.
Oklahoma has been a QB factory since Lincoln Riley took over the program in 2017. In the head coach's first two seasons on the job, the Sooners produced back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, both of whom were taken with the No. 1 overall pick in their respective NFL drafts. In 2019, Jalen Hurts arrived in Norman, Oklahoma, as a grad transfer from Alabama. He finished second to Joe Burrow in Heisman voting and was taken in the second round of the 2020 draft.
Last season, redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler took the reins of Riley's offense. While the former five-star recruit experienced some growing pains -- including being briefly benched in the Red River Showdown vs. Texas -- he finished the season with a 15:2 TD-to-INT ratio over his final seven games and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors. Consequently, there's plenty of buzz surrounding the Phoenix native heading into the 2021 season, with his name topping numerous Heisman watch lists. Can he reach the heights of his OU quarterbacking predecessors?
After watching three of Rattler's game tapes against top competition in 2020, I offer my initial scouting report on the Sooners quarterback:
Height, weight: 6-foot-1, 210 pounds (school measurements).
2020 statistics (11 games played): 214 of 317 (67.5%) for 3,031 yards, 28 TDs and 7 INTs; 81 carries for 160 yards (2.0 average), 6 TDs.
Game tape watched: at Iowa State (first meeting, Oct. 3, 2020), vs. Oklahoma State (Nov. 21, 2020), vs. Florida (Cotton Bowl, Dec. 30, 2020).
What I liked: Rattler has a very quick release and he plays with energy and urgency. He flashes the ability to stick the ball into tight windows down the seam. The OU signal-caller is at his best throwing on the move. He is accurate rolling to both his right and left, and he has a good feel for applying the proper pace and trajectory on the ball. He threw some beautiful deep balls in the three games I watched, showing the touch to drop the ball in the bucket. He isn't an overly explosive athlete, but is elusive when he gets into the open field.
Where he needs to improve: Rattler has a bad habit of drifting at the top of his drop. He floats himself into unnecessary pressure and, at times, just falls off throws for no reason, decreasing his accuracy. I love his ability to extend plays, but when he has clean pockets, he needs to grind his cleats into the ground and deliver accurate footballs. His pocket awareness against the blitz is another area where he needs to improve. Hopefully that will come with more game reps and experience.
Biggest takeaway: While I like some of the things I see from Rattler, he currently isn't on the same level as the Sooners' back-to-back No. 1 overall picks. Mayfield was a much more polished passer at this point in his career, while Murray's athleticism sets him apart. Both of those players have been able to overcome their size limitations to find success at the next level. I need to see quite a bit of development from Rattler in order to confidently predict next-level success.
He reminds me of: This is a difficult one to find. I don't see any obvious comparisons for Rattler. My hope is that he will turn himself into a Jeff Garcia type of player in the NFL. Garcia lacked the ideal size/frame, but he made things happen with his accuracy, mobility and playmaking skills. I do think Rattler has that potential. When he plants his feet, he's very accurate. And he has the athleticism to make the off-schedule plays that allowed Garcia to flourish during his time in the pros. Rattler's not there yet, but I can envision the 20-year-old eventually arriving at that level of play.
I can't wait to watch him play: vs. Iowa State on Nov. 20. Rattler had some up-and-down moments in the Sooners' two contests vs. the Cyclones last fall. His interception in the end zone sealed OU's fate in the 37-30 regular-season loss at ISU, but he played much better in the Big 12 Championship Game, resulting in 27-21 Oklahoma win. The 2021 Cyclones should be the best football team Iowa State has ever put on the field. I'm excited to see if Rattler rises to the occasion in this marquee matchup.