In the two weeks leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, NESN.com will be taking a closer look at this year’s quarterback class and how each player could fit with the New England Patriots. Next up, Florida International’s James Morgan.
James Morgan, Florida International
6-foot-4, 229 pounds, 9 3/4-inch hands
Projected Round: Day 3 (4-7)
2019 Stats: 58.0 percent, 2,585 yards, 14 touchdowns, five interceptions, 7.2 yards per attempt
Strengths: Arm strength, intelligence, size
Weaknesses: Decision-making, accuracy, mobility
Testing numbers: 4.89-second 40-yard dash, 29-inch vertical jump, 112-inch broad jump, 7.51-second three-cone drill, 4.64-second short shuttle
Analysis: A relative unknown at the outset of the pre-draft process, Morgan’s stock has steadily risen over the last two months. Some draft analysts now believe he’ll be one of the first QBs taken on Day 3, perhaps as early as the fourth round.
And he seems to be on the Patriots’ radar. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported last month that New England was “closely vetting” Morgan, who performed well in the East-West Shrine Bowl. He recently met with the team over FaceTime, per a report from ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Earlier this week, Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Edholm reported the Patriots are one of more than a dozen teams that “appear to be showing legitimate interest” in the Conference USA product.
What’s there to like about Morgan? For starters, his arm strength and velocity are excellent. He puts serious mustard on the ball and has no problem airing it out downfield. He’s also a smart guy — before transferring to Florida International, he earned a pre-law degree from Bowling Green in just three years — with strong intangibles, receiving the Pat Tillman Award as the Shrine Bowl participant who “best exemplifies character, intelligence, sportsmanship and service.”
The rest of his on-field product, though, is a bit of a mess.
Morgan lacks accuracy and touch, frequently firing fastballs that land 5 to 10 yards away from his intended target, and his decision-making is suspect. Though he threw just five interceptions last season, his film is littered with instances of him hurling passes into blanket coverage.
The stats bear that out, too: Over the last two seasons, he ranked 115th among quarterbacks in turnover-worthy plays, according to Pro Football Focus. And despite his big arm, he completed just 15 of his 55 deep passes in 2019. Those throws resulted in five touchdowns, four interceptions and a 67.2 passer rating that ranked 133th in the nation, per PFF.
Morgan’s numbers also declined across the board in last season, with his completion percentage dropping from 65.3 percent in 2018 to 58.0 percent and his yards-per-attempt average slipping from 8.4 to 7.2. Drops were a major issue for FIU’s receivers, but some of those came on rocket-propelled short passes that should have been thrown with less zip. (As Lance Zierlein wrote in Morgan’s NFL.com draft profile, he “throws short passes as hard as any quarterback ever.”)
The Patriots never have drafted a quarterback with a completion percentage as low as Morgan’s 2019 mark. The only New England draftees with completion rates below 60 percent in their final college season were Zac Robinson (58.9), Kevin O’Connell (58.5) and Rohan Davey (59.1).
The physical tools will make Morgan a desirable project for some team. But he doesn’t fit the mold of a typical Patriots prospect.