If someone said the quarterback up on the screen studied Drew Brees’ motions in the pocket and attempted to translate those skills to his own game, there would be no reason to question the validity of the statement.
The way he slides around outstretched arms, averting danger, and climbs the pocket is reminiscent of the New Orleans Saints quarterback.
It’s one of the things the guy on the screen does especially well.
A good example comes late in the first quarter in a game against Utah from last season when that quarterback for Colorado State, Garrett Grayson, climbs the pocket, slips out toward the left hash mark and connects with his receiver on an out route.
Everything he does, right up until he throws, reminds you of No. 9.
Grayson, of course, will serve as Drew Brees’ understudy in New Orleans after being selected in the third round of the NFL draft Friday. Will he one day replace the 36-year-old Brees, who has two years remaining on his contract?
In an ideal world, Grayson would sit behind Brees for at least two years, develop his skills and emerge as the next great quarterback for this organization. It would be the rare scenario that Green Bay is now enjoying after Aaron Rodgers stepped in for Brett Favre, which allowed the Packers to go from one all-time great to the next.
Looking at the percentage of situations that actually play out in that manner, the odds of that happening in New Orleans are relatively slim.
But after watching four of Grayson’s games from last season, it’s easy to see why the Saints are willing to find out whether he can be their Rodgers.
It’s also clear that he will need some work before that thought becomes anything more than, well, a thought.
Starting at the basics, the Saints likely will look to rework Grayson’s throwing mechanics, which is something the Packers had to do with Rodgers once upon a time. Grayson features a delivery that is a bit wide and unconventional, instead of a preferred over-the-top motion. In the same game against Utah, he nearly had the ball stripped from behind because of his looping, wide motion.
During a conference call, Grayson noted that this is an area he is looking to address and that he has already has taken measures to improve it. Throwing at various points this offseason, it was evident that Grayson had worked to clean things up, but there’s likely still work to be done. He said some of the issues were caused by playing through a sore shoulder last season.
“It just didn’t hurt as bad to throw with the longer release, and so it got me in some bad habits. And that is just something that I am trying to tighten up, because I know those defenses in the NFL are coming off the edge quick,” Grayson said. “Obviously you don’t want to have that release or the ball hanging out there too long. It’s just something to try to tighten up.”
On the field, Grayson showed he has the ability to hit all the throws. He throws a nice deep ball and has the confidence and ability to connect on just about every other route on the tree. His offense at Colorado State featured some spread and pro-style elements. He was often in shotgun during the four games reviewed for this study, but he also took snaps under center at times.
He throws a tight ball and appears to have good enough arm strength. One area where it appears he could use development is in reading and diagnosing defenses. At times, Grayson flashed the ability to make full-field progressions and to manipulate the defense with his eyes. One such moment came in the second quarter against Nevada when he got his receiver open for a 42-yard touchdown by first looking left before delivering a bullet between the safety and cornerback up the right hash.
But too often it looked like he was making only single reads and had eyes for only his primary receiver. With his penchant for staring down his target, it’s a bit of a surprise more of his passes weren’t jumped. This is something that can and will need to fix as he learns under Brees.
Grayson shows good accuracy in his passes and does a good job of throwing guys open and leading them away from contact. But he could use some work in his anticipation. He often appeared to wait to let go of the ball until after his receivers came out of their breaks, instead of throwing with anticipation.
He also shows supreme confidence in his ability to complete a pass, which can both be an attribute and a liability. Sometimes he sneaks passes into windows that do not appear to be open. There are times when this backfires and he dangerously throws the ball into traffic.
And while it might be a superficial pet peeve and something that can easily be fixed, Grayson needs to do a better job of selling play-action fakes. There were times where he appeared lazy faking a handoff, though it didn’t affect him since he completed a high percentage of these passes.
Grayson is an intriguing player. He has a lot of the attributes that you’d like to have in a starting quarterback, but there are also elements of his game that need polishing. The view would be different if he were being evaluated as a starting quarterback. But if he were completely ready for that job, the Saints wouldn’t have been able to select him in the third round.
In time, we’ll find out how it all comes together. But it appears there’s a lot here for coach Sean Payton to work with.