Why the Slide?: Brad Kaaya

By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Three years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. A year later, we started the Why Slide? series, and this year, it is back. Feel free to email me requests for “Why the Slide?” and “Why Undrafted?” at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely respond.

Leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, many thought that Kaaya would be a mid-round pick. Given the weak quarterback class, sources say that Kaaya thought that he had the potential to go on the second day of the draft last fall when he was weighing his decision of whether to return for his senior year. Kaaya entered the 2017 NFL Draft, but never became a hot prospect like other quarterbacks such as Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes or California’s Davis Webb. Even other signal-callers like Iowa’s C.J. Beathard, Pittburgh’s Nate Peterman and Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs had more buzz than Kaaya and were drafted higher than Kaaya, despite Kaaya having a better skill set.

Sources say the reason why Kaaya slid was a combination of bad tape and questions about his personal makeup. Teams felt that Kaaya’s junior year tape was very shaky, and as a result, he was graded in Day 3 for many. Kaaya demonstrated poor vision and mobility, which led to a lot of taken sacks. Teams also felt that Kaaya lacked leadership skills, and all teams want leaders at quarterback. Sources didn’t like that Kaaya was very focused on his draft standing last fall rather than being focused on winning the next game for his team. All of those factors combined to Kaaya being a late sixth-round pick.

The Detroit Lions ended Kaaya’s fall in the 2017 NFL Draft, and that was a good landing spot for him to have a career as a backup quarterback. Detroit is expected to extend the contract of franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford, so Kaaya won’t be viewed as a starter of the future. If he plays well in the preseason and whenever he gets on the field in an actual game, Kaaya could turn himself into a commodity who other teams could be interested in trading for. However, Kaaya seems to have the personality where he would be happy to be a backup. Kaaya has a better physical skill set than current Lions backup Jake Rudock, so if Kaaya learns the offense well, he could quickly become Detroit’s No. 2. The Lions are a good team for Kaaya to build a backup quality career, and it would be surprising if he ever becomes ‘the guy’ at a NFL team.

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