Most expected the New England Patriots to select their quarterback of the future in the 2018 NFL Draft. Instead, they drafted Danny Etling.
That’s not to say Etling, who split his college career between Purdue and LSU, can’t become a quality NFL QB. The man he’ll be backing up in New England is living proof that gems can be found in the later rounds.
But for the seventh-round draft pick (219th overall) to find success at the next level, he’ll first have to fix his mechanics, which are … well, they’re not pretty.
Etling employed an awkward throwing motion last season at LSU, rarely setting his feet or stepping into his throws and relying solely on his arm to get the job done. This diminished the velocity of his passes and caused many to sail, like this one against Texas A&M that nearly was intercepted:
Etling’s delivery looks like that of someone who is trying hard not to throw his back out — which makes sense, because that’s exactly what he was doing. He underwent back surgery last spring to repair an issue that had bothered him the previous season and, in his words, “developed bad habits” as a result.
“I would just get the ball out in a way that doesn’t hurt,” Etling told SECCountry.com before the draft. “It messed with my fundamentals a lot.”
After wrapping up his senior season on New Year’s Day, the 6-foot-3, 222-pound passer began training with renowned throwing coach Tom House to correct these fundamental faults. House, a former major league pitcher, has worked with several top-flight quarterbacks in recent years, including Tom Brady.
Let’s move on from mechanics, though. Despite his flaws, Etling still posted respectable stats for the Tigers, throwing 16 touchdown passes last season with just two interceptions and completing an even 60 percent of his passes. The Patriots place a great emphasis on ball security, and director of player personnel Nick Caserio praised Etling’s during his post-draft news conference.
Etling wasn’t asked to do a whole lot in LSU’s offense — he ranked 75th in FBS with 275 pass attempts, many of which were screens, check downs, shovel passes and other throws close to the line of scrimmage — but his 9.0 yards per completion was tied for sixth-best in FBS, thanks in large part to his ability to chuck the ball down the field.
One of Etling’s greatest assets is his arm strength, which was evident on the numerous deep balls he uncorked last season. Here’s one of the two 40-plus-yard touchdown passes he threw to wide receiver D.J. Chark — who ran a 4.34-second 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine and was drafted in the second round by the Jacksonville Jaguars — during a November win over Arkansas:
He also showed off his arm on this 87-yard touchdown pass against Syracuse, which traveled 55 yards in the air:
Here were two of Etling’s most impressive completions from the games we watched for this film review — both on routes toward the sideline, both with a defender bearing down on him:
Etling said he has “no expectations” as he prepares for his first Patriots practice, which is smart — even making the team’s 53-man roster as a rookie would be a tremendous accomplishment for him. But if he can get his mechanics straightened out, he has the ability to develop into, at the very least, a solid NFL backup.
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images
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