Some Small School Quarterbacks Make NFL Teams' Preseason Watch List
Updated June 12, 2019
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
NFL teams will search far and wide for a potential franchise quarterback, and they don't care what level of competition a player has played at. North Dakota State alumnus Carson Wentz is recent proof, but others, including Miami of Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger and Alcorn State's Steve McNair, maintained that trend over the years. Entering the 2020 NFL Draft process, there are a few small-school quarterbacks who have been placed on NFL teams' preseason watch list. North Texas' Mason Fine, Florida International's James Morgan, Northern Arizona's Case Cookus, and Northern Colorado's Jacob Knipp were included on the watch list that was given to teams at their spring meeting.
Knipp only played in three games in 2018 before an injury ended his year early. He played in four-and-a-half games in 2017 before a season-ending injury, but he threw for 1,352 yards and nine touchdowns while completing 63 percent of his passes before going down. Knipp suffered another season-ending injury in 2016 during the second game of the year. The advance scouts must see a lot of potential in Knipp, as players with three straight years of season-ending injuries that occur early in the year rarely ever make watch lists, especially from small schools.
Cookus (6-4, 235) made NFL teams' preseason watch list despite also having two seasons cut short by injury. He only played in two games for Northern Arizona in 2018, but in 2017, he completed 58 percent of his passes for 3,413 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. In his freshman year, Cookus completed 69 percent of his passes for 3,117 yards with 37 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Morgan completed 65 percent of his passes last season for 2,727 yards with 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions. It was a huge improvement over his 2017 and 2016 seasons, and the 6-foot-4, 213-pounder has good size to him.
In 2018, Fine completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,793 yards with 27 touchdowns and five interceptions. He completed 63 percent of his passes in 2017 for 4,052 yards with 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Fine is part of a group of prospects who will bring scouts to North Texas this coming season.
Cookus, Knipp, Fine and Morgan were given late-round or undrafted free agent projections by some advance scouts. Of course, a lot is going to chance during the course of the 2019 season and the leadup to the 2020 NFL Draft. Some players will rise to being early-rounders, while others will slide to going undrafted. These four might end up being late-round picks or undrafted free agents, but being on NFL teams' preseason watch list gives them the opportunity of all 32 teams having them on their list of players to scout and from there they might impress enough to become legit NFL prospects.