In the weeks leading up to the 2021 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: Notre Dame’s Ian Book.
Ian Book, Notre Dame
6 feet, 211 pounds, 9 7/8-inch hands
Projected round: Day 3
2020 stats: 64.6 percent (228-for-353), 2,830 yards, 15 touchdowns, three interceptions, 8.0 yards per attempt; 116 carries, 485 rushing yards, nine touchdowns (12 games)
Strengths: Accuracy, experience, mobility, limits interceptions, leadership
Weaknesses: Size, arm strength, decisiveness
Testing numbers: 4.65-second 40-yard dash, 1.71-second 10-yard split, 32 1/2-inch vertical, 115-inch broad jump, 4.20-second short shuttle, 7.00-second three-cone drill (Notre Dame pro day)
Analysis: Book was a highly successful college quarterback, leading the Fighting Irish to a 30-5 record and two College Football Playoff appearances in his three years as the starter in South Bend.
He was a two-time team captain at a big-time school. He completed a respectable 63.8 percent of his collegiate passes and ranked 25th nationally in adjusted completion percentage in 2020, per Pro Football Focus. He threw interceptions on just 0.85 percent of passes as a senior. Of the 13 quarterbacks most likely to be drafted, only North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (0.0 percent) posted a better mark in his final full season.
In his time at Notre Dame — 48 appearances in all — Book totaled 72 touchdowns passes and 20 interceptions, with 11 of those picks coming as a freshman or sophomore.
Book also was a dangerous ball-carrier who threw well on the move and could hurt defenses with his legs, racking up more than 1,500 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in his Irish career. He tested well in speed and agility drills at his combine (85th percentile in the 40, 85th in short shuttle, 73rd in three-cone) and scouting reports use words like “gamer” and “gutsy” to describe his competitiveness.
That sounds like a player who’d interest the Patriots, right? A proven leader with big-game experience and a winning track record who’s reasonably accurate and doesn’t turn the ball over? With mobility to boot? Book even turned in a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl, which produces a handful of Patriots draft picks each year.
Book’s limitations, though, might take him off New England’s draft board and could prevent him from sticking in the NFL.
Let’s start with his measurables. Book is 6 feet tall. Yes, it’s possible for a “short” quarterback to find success in the NFL (see: Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray). But the Patriots have yet to draft one under Bill Belichick.
New England has selected 11 QBs since Belichick arrived in 2000, and all of them stood at least 6-foot-2:
|Tom Brady||2000, sixth round||6-foot-4 3/8||211 pounds|
|Rohan Davey||2002, fourth round||6-foot-2||245 pounds|
|Kliff Kingsbury||2003, sixth round||6-foot-3 1/2||213 pounds|
|Matt Cassel||2005, seventh round||6-foot-4 3/8||222 pounds|
|Kevin O’Connell||2008, third round||6-foot-5||225 pounds|
|Zac Robinson||2010, seventh round||6-foot-2 1/2||214 pounds|
|Ryan Mallett||2011, third round||6-foot-6 3/4||253 pounds|
|Jimmy Garoppolo||2014, second round||6-foot-2 1/4||226 pounds|
|Jacoby Brissett||2016, third round||6-foot-3 3/4||231 pounds|
|Danny Etling||2018, seventh round||6-foot-2 1/2||222 pounds|
|Jarrett Stidham||2019, fourth round||6-foot-2 3/8||218 pounds|
Brian Hoyer, who made the team as an undrafted rookie in 2009, also hit that 6-foot-2 benchmark.
And height isn’t the biggest knock on Book. It’s his lack of arm strength, which PFF’s Mike Renner called “well below average” and NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein wrote “fall(s) below NFL standards.”
Book relied on short passes more than any other QB in this draft, with 74.6 percent of his completions coming on throws either behind the line (17.6 percent) or to targets less than 10 yards downfield (57.0 percent), according to PFF charting data. Only Arkansas’ Feleipe Franks, a fellow Day 3 prospect, had a higher completion share between 1 and 9 yards (73.5); eight of the other 11 were below 45 percent, meaning a far higher percentage of their completed passes came on longer throws.
Book had the lowest completion share of passes that traveled 10-plus yards (25.4 percent) and the second-lowest of 20-plus yards (7.0 percent). Only Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond was lower (6.4 percent). Book’s average depth of target (8.49 yards, per PFF) also was third-lowest among QBs with the best chance of being drafted, ahead of Stanford’s Davis Mills and Mond.
PFF classified just 2.7 percent of Book’s completions last season as “big-time throws” — defined as “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window” — which ranked 101st among FBS quarterbacks and last in this draft class.
“Lacks arm strength to make all the pro throws,” Zierlein wrote in Book’s NFL.com draft profile.
Evaluators also dinged Book for his timing and indecisiveness in the pocket, which led to frequent scrambling and some off-the-mark throws. On average, he took longer to throw than any other FBS quarterback in the country last season (3.22 seconds), per PFF. And Zierlein was especially critical of his effectiveness when throwing outside the numbers, which he called “abysmal” and “dreadful.”
NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah praised Book’s “innate playmaking instincts” but concluded he “just lacks NFL arm talent and stands 6 feet even,” ranking him 10th among this year’s QBs and projecting him as a sixth- or seventh-round pick. He’s 11th among signal-callers in the consensus prospect rankings compiled by The Athletic’s Arif Hasan, and QB13 on PFF’s top-300 big board.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler is slightly higher on Book, ranking him ninth among quarterbacks (highest among the projected late-rounders) and pegging him as a fifth- or sixth-round prospect.
Top-end arm strength typically isn’t high on the Patriots’ priority list when evaluating quarterbacks, so it’s possible Belichick and Co. would overlook some of Book’s shortcomings in that area. But two decades of draft history suggests they won’t draft a 6-foot QB, even one who checks as many other boxes as Book does.
If New England still is in the market for a quarterback come Sunday, Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman — who was considered a potential early-round prospect before he opted out of the 2020 season — and the tall, athletic Franks would be higher-upside fliers.