By Matthew Postins
Every few days leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft RattleandHumSports.com will profile a player that the Dallas Cowboys could select in the draft.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 226 pounds
Rankings: CBSSports.com ranks Garoppolo as the No. 59 overall prospect and the No. 5 draft prospect at quarterback.
Draft grade: CBSSports.com gives Garropolo a second-round grade.
In College (from Eastern Illinois bio): This postseason Garoppolo was named the Walter Payton Award winner (given to the top player in the FCS by the Sports Network), the FCS ADA National Offensive Player of the Year, the FCS ADA National Quarterback of the Year Award, the CFPA FCS Quarterback of the Year and an All-American by the Associated Press, AFCA, Sports Network and Walter Camp organizations. Garoppolo put together the finest season by an OVC quarterback in smashing virtually every OVC season and career record while leading his team to a 12-2 overall record, second-straight OVC Championship and berth in the FCS Playoff quarterfinals. In 14 games he completed 375-of-568 passes (66.0 percent) for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns (against only nine interceptions) while also rushing for four touchdowns and catching a touchdown pass. His 53 touchdowns were the fourth-most in FCS history (three behind the record) while his 5,050 yards is second all-time, just 26 behind the record set a year ago; he is one of just two players in FCS history to eclipse 5,000 passing yards in a season. In FCS career history his 118 touchdowns rank sixth, his 13,156 passing yards are seventh and his 13,089 yards of total offense ranks 10th. Garoppolo, who was named the OVC Offensive Player of the Year.
So far in the scouting process: Garoppolo is enjoying the type of rise up the recruiting rankings that Joe Flacco enjoyed leading up to the 2008 NFL Draft. Flacco went to Delaware, another FCS school, and his workouts and interviews during the scouting process allowed him to move into the first round. Garoppolo has excited scouts with his production, overall skill set and intelligence during interviews. Garoppolo met with the Cowboys during the Scouting Combine. Former Colts GM Bill Polian, who now works for ESPN, believes Garoppolo can be a first-round pick in May. Garoppolo worked out privately with San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh earlier this week.
What scouts say:
“Excellent passing vision with quick eyes to scan and a quick, natural delivery. Smart and executes the offense well. Quick intellectual process on the football field. Above average timing with little unnecessary movements and very good pace in his set-up. Quick feet to evade pressure with the pocket mobility to move his lower body with his eyes focused downfield. Gets “happy feet” at times, but shows the ability to reset. Very good touch and overall placement with improved accuracy to all levels of the field throughout his career. Level-headed and always under control with a strong leadership presence. Confident thrower and short memory. Elite career production as a four-year starter at the FCS level. Lack of elite velocity will show on some NFL throws. Needs to continue to improve his decision-making and not allow pressure to severely alter his process. Bad habit of forcing throws in small windows. Lower-than-ideal release point with an almost side-arm motion.” – Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com.
“The college all-star game circuit has vaulted Garoppolo into serious consideration as a potential franchise quarterback. Scouts walked away impressed with his athleticism, quick release and decisiveness after spending two weeks studying his game at the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl practices. Although practice performance must be kept in perspective, the fact that Garoppolo’s play against elite competition matched what scouts viewed on tape has prompted some to tout him as a future starter in the league.” – NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks
Why does he fit in Dallas: Kyle Orton’s flirtation with retirement amplifies the need for the Cowboys to identify a young quarterback that could be groomed as Tony Romo’s replacement in the long-term, and serve as a capable backup in the short-term.
The bottom line? The only difference between Romo and Garoppolo at this stage of their respective careers is that Garoppolo is a much more highly touted prospect. Romo was an undrafted free agent. Garoppolo might be drafted in the first round. Just a few months ago most scouts saw him as a mid-round prospect. That would have easily fit the profile of what the Cowboys might have been looking for in the middle rounds at QB. Now, they have to wait and see if Garoppolo drops to them in the second round. If he’s the best available player on the Cowboys’ board at that point, he makes an intriguing selection. He won’t drop past the second round, barring a major setback in the next two months.