NFL Draft analysts continue to predict big things for Mitch Leidner, but Gophers coach Tracy Claeys is keeping things in perspective.
ESPN’s Todd McShay projected Leidner as the No. 25 overall pick last month in his “Way-too-early 2017 NFL Mock Draft.” His colleague, Mel Kiper, came back recently by listing Leidner as the nation’s No. 2 senior quarterback, behind Cal’s Davis Webb. (Note: Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Miami’s Brad Kaaya are among the draft-eligible underclassmen.)
Previously, CBS Sports draft analyst Benjamin Allbright predicted that Leidner could be a sleeper for next year’s draft. This was notable because Allbright had predicted the same one year earlier for Carson Wentz, the North Dakota State QB who went No. 2 in this year’s draft.
The 6-4, 237-pound Leidner has a strong arm, 35 games of college experience and posted a 59.5 completion percentage last year as a junior. The Gophers can’t wait to see what he does as a senior after having surgery to repair ligament damage in his left foot.
But when asked about Leidner’s first-round potential on the recently completed Gopher Road Trip, Claeys tapped the brakes a bit.
“Here’s the thing, I don’t pay attention much to the NFL stuff,” Claeys said. “I would say this: He has the size, he has the skills they look for. Mitch knows -- to be a No. 1 pick, he’s going to have to play well. So everybody gets a little ahead of themselves by writing articles like that.
“But we do have expectations for him being a senior. [Football’s] important to him. He loves being the quarterback at the University of Minnesota. He’s a Minnesota kid, and he’s tough. I think with the addition of [offensive coordinator] Jay Johnson coaching the quarterbacks, I think Mitch will have a big year. And if he does, he’ll get rewarded next spring.”