In his “way-too-early” 2017 NFL mock draft a few months ago, Todd McShay of ESPN had Gophers QB Mitch Leidner as a potential first-round pick.
Gopher Nation, which remains skeptical about Leidner as he enters his senior year, reacted to that tidbit as though McShay had channeled the heat of 1,000 suns into one scorching hot take.
It’s now mid-August, and perhaps the take has cooled down a bit based on a projection from Scouts Inc. — done by McShay and two other colleagues — after a summer spent more closely evaluating game film.
That said, they still have Leidner as the sixth-best QB prospect in the 2017 draft — and second in the Big Ten behind only Iowa’s C.J. Beathard, though Leidner’s overall draft “grade” of 62 is far lower than the elites like Clemson’s Deshaun Watson (88) and Miami’s Brad Kaaya (87).
Leidner does not have a big arm, but he can improve his ball velocity by getting his lower body more involved in his throws. He plays in a zone-read-heavy run offense and is a competitive runner with above-average vision, speed and toughness. Leidner hung tough in the pocket behind an offensive line that struggled to protect. He has elite intangibles.
The first part about mechanics is interesting. If those evaluating him from a distance are correct, we’ll have to see if new offensive coordinator/QB coach Jay Johnson can work on it with Leidner. The parts about his running ability the offensive line are fair points, and the elite intangibles comment is also intriguing.
We’ll see how it all translates into Leidner’s senior year. Suffice to say if he has the type of season that warrants even a mid-round look from NFL teams, Gophers fans should be quite happy.