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Scouting the 2018 NFL Draft - Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

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Washington State v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

We’ve already highlighted many of the most regarded and hyped quarterback prospects in the upcoming draft. Today we’ll shift the tone and move the spotlight towards a less heralded prospect who has seen a little bit of love as a potential mid-round flyer; Washington State’s Luke Falk.

Personal/Physical

Born: December 28, 1994 (age 23 on draft day)

Hometown: Logan, UT

Height: 6-4

Weight: 223

Career Stats

2014: 5 GP, 156-243 (64%), 1859 yards (7.7 Y/A), 13 TD, 7 INT, 140.4 rating (NCAA)

2015: 12 GP, 447-644 (69%), 4561 yards (7.1 Y/A), 38 TD, 8 INT, 145.9 rating

2016: 13 GP, 443-633 (70%), 4468 yards (7.1 Y/A), 38 TD, 11 INT, 145.6 rating

2017: 12 GP, 357-534 (67%), 3593 yards (6.7 Y/A), 30 TD, 13 INT, 137.0 rating

I keyed in on the following games from Falk’s 2017 season: Stanford, Cal, and Colorado.

Positives

  • Patient in the pocket
  • Quick to move through progressions
  • Solid feel for the pressure
  • Willing to take the safe play over the higher risk/higher upside one
  • Solid anticipation thrower over the middle of the field
  • Adept at the back shoulder throw
  • Footwork appears sound, far from perfect but his base is good and he has a foundation to improve off of

Negatives

  • Regressed statistically over course of career, piled numbers against inferior opponents while struggling mightily against more formidable ones
  • Doesn’t have tremendous arm strength
  • Below-average mobility
  • Lack of big time throws
  • Doesn’t showcase touch on the deep ball
  • Inconsistent screen accuracy, tendency to miss high
  • Tendency to telegraph, leads to many of his picks
  • Safe mentality is nice but can be too quick to look for checkdown, misses out on some open receivers downfield
  • Despite solid feel for pressure, doesn’t showcase ability to make athletic escapes

Game Notes

  • Checkdown-fest against Stanford with one poor pick six that almost led to WSU’s demise. Did lead a clutch drive and threw a pair of impressive TDs down the middle.
  • Took an insane amount of pressure against Cal. 9 sacks, a few of which could’ve been avoided but it was a rough day for the offensive line. Falk didn’t handle it very well, throwing 5 picks in a varying variety of ways. Classic game where everything that can go wrong, went wrong.
  • Colorado game looked passable on the stat sheet (3 TD, 0 INT, 17-34, 197 yards), but wow. He got away with at least 4 easy interceptions. Falk seemed a beat late in this game with his vision and throwing and was lucky to get out of this game without a complete meltdown.

Film

I always like to start off by showcasing what a player does well. There’s a reason every prospect is getting NFL buzz, even if they’re not projecting as a franchise-changing first round pick. For Falk, his game is hanging tight in the pocket, sensing the pressure, and working the middle of the field. You can see all of that here, as he evades the initial pressure, then sets and fires a really nice ball in the middle of the field while under pressure, always keeping his eyes downfield.

Falk doesn’t showcase much special arm talent, but here you see more of his middle of the field touch, which he did show a lot of. Also note that this was a 3rd & 14 play late in the 4th with his team trailing, a key play in an eventual comeback.

More good pocket play. Falk hangs tight in his own end zone, scans the field and drops it right in the bucket over the middle.

Getting a theme here? Falk moves the defense to create a 1-on-1 window that he likes, coming right back and throwing a well placed pass to let his receiver make a play for the touchdown.

Let’s move on to Falk’s weaknesses. For a QB who doesn’t take many shots downfield, his rate of turnover-worthy balls was pretty worrying. Here’s one that does get converted into a pick. Falk doesn’t have the arm strength to rocket this ball in there and make up for a poor pre-made decision. There was a heavy dosage of plays like this were DBs were all over his throws.

Another example of Falk locking on to one read and getting easily jumped for the interception. He was generally solid with going through progressions, but just doesn’t demonstrate the touch or finesse to complete risky throws like these.

A mix of good Falk and bad Falk. Nice job hanging tight here and scanning the field, and a good effort to extend this play and still create a solid base to throw from. This is just not a very strong-armed throw that needs to be led towards the sideline more. Should’ve been a pick, one of many should-be picks in the Colorado game.

This is an interesting play in the evaluation on Falk. He does do a nice job at the line and working through reads, but he is a conservative player, far from a gunslinger. That can be good and bad, and here you see the bad end. Falk (who isn’t close to a running quarterback and rarely scrambled) abandons too early here and leaves 2, possibly 3 potential big plays on the field as a pair of receivers eventually find a ton of room over the middle.

Other GGN Views:

David Wyatt: “He holds onto the ball for way too long, takes too many sacks, doesn’t read the D and recognize where the pressure is coming from.”

Smackdad: “Over the last 2 years Falk cleaned up against weak sister opponents and was pretty much mediocre or worse in the aggregate against decent teams.”

“He combines the look of a game manager with the turnovers of a gunslinger, not an ideal combination.”

Draft Grade: Fourth Round

I like Falk as a mid-round quarterback project. On the mental side of the game he showed enough to where I think he’d be the kind of guy who a team can expect to reasonably compete or achieve as a solid backup over his first two years in the league. He seems to know how to manage a game and play safe, sound quarterback.

A guy many (including me) are hoping the Jets throw all the dough at, Kirk Cousins, is a good comparison. Cousins was another mid-round flier that didn’t seem to possess gamebreaking physical tools, but Cousins eventually got his shot and has figured out how to make the most of his tools to become a highly productive NFL quarterback. Cousins is a rare example of a mid-rounder panning out and I’m not saying Falk will turn out to have similar success, but he has the fundamentals to give himself the chance to stick around and develop.

Now, there are reasons he isn’t getting much, if any first round buzz and why he is a fourth round value in my mind. He just doesn’t flash anything special that makes you say, “wow, I can build my offense and my franchise around that ability.” In perspective of this year’s class, you can mention Josh Rosen’s accuracy and pocket presence, Sam Darnold’s unbelievable touch and anticipation, Lamar Jackson’s athleticism, or Baker Mayfield’s uncanny playmaking and ferocity. Falk doesn’t have that trait. He also put the football in danger far too often for my liking as a conservative-minded QB.

For the Jets, I don’t think a mid-round quarterback is part of their offseason plan, so I don’t think Falk will come into play for them. I think his floor is level with or close to a polarizing player who is rated more highly overall like Josh Allen, but Falk’s ceiling just looks far lower in my view, and that’s what drops him to the mid-rounds. A team set at the position could stash him in the middle of the draft. I think he’s solid enough to where he will eventually get a shot, perhaps sooner than anyone expects. But will he develop enough to go beyond a spot starter or game manager?

Poll

What grade would you give Luke Falk?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    1st round
    (16 votes)
  • 6%
    2nd round
    (28 votes)
  • 31%
    3rd round
    (136 votes)
  • 24%
    4th round
    (105 votes)
  • 24%
    5th round
    (103 votes)
  • 8%
    6th or lower
    (38 votes)
426 votes total Vote Now