Patrick Mahomes is lighting the NFL on fire, and is your early favorite to win NFL MVP after throwing 14 touchdown passes through four games. Mahomes just turned 23 last month and is only one year removed from being drafted, so it did not take long for some takes on Mahomes to start freezing over.
A lot of the pre-draft chatter last year focused on both his tremendous upside and downside, with Mahomes often being called a boom-or-bust prospect. One anonymous scout in Bob McGinn’s annual must-read draft report (which did have Mahomes as the top quarterback) said:
"He has the best arm of the group but he plays crazy,” a third scout said. “I don’t even think ‘gunslinger’ is the right word. He’s reckless. … I remember seeing (Brett) Favre in his bowl game his senior year. In that game he had three or four plays you thought were a little off the wall. Mahomes might have 20 plays in a game where you go, ‘What are you doing?’”"
By NFL Combine time, Ian Rapoport was reporting that Mahomes was emerging as a favorite of many evaluators. Mickey Loomis of the Saints said Mahomes was the one quarterback they would have been tempted to take–the Chiefs traded up just in front of the Saints at pick 10th. He certainly got a chance to join forces with Andy Reid, get a year in the system while Alex Smith continued to start, and the results have justified those who believed in his immense ability (and immense productivity in college that directly translated from that ability).
So let’s go back through some of them of the others.
We have to start, of course, with what seems like parody at this point. But yes, Mack Brown wanted Patrick Mahomes to play at Texas … as a safety. Brown’s innate ability to identify star quarterbacks who could go back and play centerfield on defense remains one of the truly amazing gifts of our time.
Next, Greg Cosell offered up some thoughts on Patrick Mahomes and compared him unfavorably to Davis Webb (who Mahomes beat out at Texas Tech, resulting in Webb’s transfer to California)
" Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes or Cal’s Davis Webb, a couple of “Air Raid” quarterbacks, could be the QBs who get increasing buzz before the draft. I prefer Webb among those two in the next tier. Webb fits the NFL game better, and he might be the best quarterback prospect in this year’s NFL draft, with a higher ceiling than Trubisky or Watson. A prospect like Kizer has excellent arm talent, but Webb has a more refined feel to his game. Mahomes, on the other hand, has an alarming lack of refinement. *** Mahomes made a lot of late-in-the-down improvisational plays, and many of them were unnecessary. He would often be impatient in the pocket. It will be difficult to replicate those plays in the NFL. The foundation of playing quarterback in the NFL starts in the pocket, and Mahomes will initially struggle with the disciplines of playing under center. He’ll have to be coached hard if he is to become a quality NFL starter. But how difficult will it be to lose that freewheeling gunslinger mentality? Mahomes has talent but not much consistency with fundamentals and execution; he’s like a Jay Cutler but far less disciplined. He left a lot of throws on the field by not progression reading and isolating the right throw within the timing of the route combination. Leaving throws on the field was a recurring theme in his game tape. Field vision could be an issue for him. As is playing with timing and rhythm. "
Needless to say, their paths have already diverted in the NFL. Webb, in the span of a few months, went from Eli Manning’s potential successor to being released by the Giants, and is now a backup for the Jets. Cosell is willing to express opinions on quarterbacks that don’t follow a developing consensus, but in the past that has led to things like preferring Zach Mettenberger over Jameis Winston and calling Ryan Lindley the most pro-ready passer in his draft.
Bill Polian, the living illustration of old man yelling at clouds, said that he would take A.J. McCarron over any of the quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Reminder: that includes Patrick Mahomes, DeShaun Watson (who has thrown 26 touchdown passes in 10 starts), and Mitch Trubisky. Meanwhile, McCarron couldn’t beat out Nathan Peterman (also a later round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft) who is one of the worst opening day starters of all-time.
The NY Post gave the Chiefs’ pick a thumbs down. The Sporting News listed every team’s potential biggest mistake in the first round and said for the Chiefs, it would be drafting a quarterback. They already had Alex Smith and needed to put weapons around him.
One of the major criticisms of Mahomes was the Air Raid system he came from. We were not immune here at The Big Lead, as Jason McIntyre wrote a piece warning of the lack of success of Air Raid passers:
"Buyer beware with Mahomes. He checks all the boxes (but is only 6-foot-2), and someone inevitably will draft him before he should be taken. If you’re looking for a 4th-5th round game, swing for the fences. But Day 2 picks should be expected to compete immediately. That’s not Pat Mahomes."
And Ryan Phillips labeled it one of the worst picks of the first round because of Mahomes’ flaws despite his obvious talents, and the price paid by the Chiefs to trade up. Normally one who opposes trading up, I was actually fully on board with the move to take Mahomes.
"But then I drop in and watch his games from last year, and … damn. Some may see reckless. I see I guy who isn’t going to hold the ball and is going to make plays. Through two games, I saw him get sacked once while throwing a gajillion times, and escaping pressure constantly while keeping his eyes downfield. After watching Alex Smith get his eyes adjusted downward at the first sign of pressure, it was too good to be true. I saw him throw a ball out of bounds left-handed just before crossing the boundary, just to avoid the loss while getting pushed out. That’s someone I can roll with."
So while not everything about Mahomes has been predictable, we should have seen his proclivity for throwing with his left hand coming. That was probably one of those undisciplined plays that had some people worrying about his future.