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NFL Draft 2017 Scouting Report: QB Kyle Sloter, No. Colorado

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NFL Draft 2017 Scouting Report: QB Kyle Sloter, No. Colorado

*Our QB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.

 

I don’t make many scouting reports ‘free view’, but this is a unique case and I’m doing a series of background articles and reports on this player, so this particular scouting report is open for all to consider. It’s also a little different than our normal scouting reports, so for more evidence of our work check out the free samples on our home page. Considering new readers to this, I need to begin by putting a lot of my cards on the table…

It’s a strange and magical tale that has unfolded with Kyle Sloter’s college career.

I’m going to attempt to convince you that Kyle Sloter is one of the five best QB prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft. Quite frankly, I think we could have been arguing for him as the top prospect had things turned out differently early in his bizarre college career (more detail on that in a moment). I do believe he has that kind of talent. Few in the football business will agree with that last statement…or would even allow it to be entertained for discussion, but I hope you’ll hear my story and decide for yourself.

I know two things are probably running through your mind with the radical opening statement I just made. Let me address them so you’ll be encouraged to stay with this scouting…

1) Your first thought is – “Typical internet scout trying to be smarter than everyone in the room. Just to be clever, this guy (me) is naming prospects from the depths of college football and doing that thing where the ‘so-called-experts’ apply the ‘sleeper’ label to look smart.

I get that.

You should have that thought, because that’s the true con of football analysis you read everywhere. Almost everybody is named a ‘sleeper’ if they have any shred of talent. It’s how people in the scouting and analysis business play it safe – ‘sleeper’ means “he might be pretty good, but then again he might not.” It’s a clever non-position to take and to look smart along with it.

I’m not trying to get a rise from you by pulling a low-level quarterback and blasting a trumpet for him. I’m not an arm of his agent (I don’t even know who his agent is). I didn’t grow up with, nor am I friends with, Kyle Sloter. I just met him…because I wanted to, because of the amazing story…that I quickly found is even more amazing than I first realized.

I’m in the ‘being right’ business, not NFL Draft ‘click bait’ business. I’m an independent football scout and I use that knowledge to put my money where my mouth is. I do have NFL and CFL personnel people and agents as subscribers, but that wasn’t my initial target for doing what I do. I’m a scouting profiteer, if you will. I gamble on football based on my scouting (not the world’s scouting), whether it’s betting games or playing high stakes fantasy for myself or consulting for my private clients for their wagers…I’m trying to ‘be right’. Especially, if my ‘right’ is opposite everyone else’s, because there is more money for me to be right first and all alone. There’s money in that for NFL teams as well.

I’ve been scouting players for several years, after a nice run in finance and operations management for a large corporation. I’m getting better at scouting and continue to evolve every year. I’ve used what I learned in business to develop my own Moneyball analytics and also studying the tape constantly, all year ’round…and I employ a system marrying the two concepts of numbers and tape.

This next part will sound like a Kevin Costner speech from Bull Durham, but I want to give some context for new readers to this since it’s open to the public – I believed Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Savage were top quarterbacks in the 2014 class, and that Blake Bortles was a disaster prospect before the draft (NFL analysts chose Bortles and Manziel as their guys over Garoppolo and Savage). I think Jameis Winston is borderline awful as a quarterback talent. I believe that Ricky Stanzi had a chance to be the Tom Brady-like, if anyone was looking. I believed Colin Kaepernick was trouble right away coming out of Nevada – and was excoriated by a few media members when Kap had a moment of success, and have not been apologized to since. I’m not perfect, but I’m pretty damn good at what I do. And it’s all on the record at College Football Metrics.com.

I’m not trying to get your click (but, if I am right about this scouting report, I bet I will in the future). I just believe there is something to be explored with Kyle Sloter…and that his story deserves to be told, to have a light shone upon it.

You may also be thinking – “Why haven’t I heard of this guy (Sloter) before? He must not be that good.” Media awareness is not a great plan for gauging a prospect’s talent and transition to the NFL. Do I really have to recount the poor track record of NFL teams and well-known analysts at scouting talent at any position…especially at quarterback? If your argument against Sloter is that ‘football analysts aren’t talking about him‘ – you have a losing position. I’m not making fun of the NFL because they’re fallible, I’m just making the case that THEY ARE fallible – and prospects like Sloter pay the price.

I could win my case against mainstream football scouting in the court of public opinion quite easily…

Exhibit A – Every NFL Draft I can recall since I’ve been in the scouting business, and before it. It’s been an unpredictable mess my entire life.

Exhibit B – The best quarterback in the history of the sport was a sixth-round pick, who every analyst wrote off upon first sight…and he couldn’t even secure the starting job fully in college.

Exhibit C – I’m thinking of recent Hall of Fame quarterbacks…

Kurt Warner, nobody wanted/everybody passed over. One of the greatest QBs in NFL history was bagging groceries after his NFL Draft. It took multiple injuries in one fell swoop for him to even get a chance.

Brett Favre wasn’t wanted by his own draft team. He was traded.

Tony Romo just retired…one of the best QBs, statistically, of the past decade. Undrafted free agent entering the NFL.

All the while we are fed Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Christian Hackenberg, E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, et al, from the media and scouts.

If you want to blindly side with the “experts,” be my guest. But please don’t think that, because “no one else is saying it,” there isn’t a legit possibility with a player. I’d venture to say no pro sport has looked more elite talent in the face, as they entered the draft, and quickly rejected them than the NFL has. There’s room for scouting dissent from the mainstream. There are great prospects hiding in plain sight in every draft, and they go late in drafts or go undrafted for any number of flawed reasons.

Honestly, I could try to write flowery words, lace it with snappy scouting terms, and selectively yank favorable video clips/GIFs to shape the narrative, to make me and this scouting report on Sloter seem official and technically savvy, but I’d rather you just sit and watch his highlight reel for a moment.

First, however, you should read his background story – because it is the single strangest story I’ve come across in all my years of scouting. You HAVE to read it first or you’re missing half the experience here. Stop what you are doing (reading this) and read this: (link) The Surreal Story of 2017 NFL Draft QB Prospect Kyle Sloter

 

Second, I want you to watch this YouTube highlight reel. Do not watch the tape first because you love the visual and because ‘reading is for squares‘. I get that. You NEED the context of the background story. Trust me…you’ll thank me. It’s that interesting. Read the story I wrote. The link just above – that you should have already read if you’re reading this.

 

After you follow steps #1 and #2, in that order, then proceed…

 

 

Seriously, stop looking ahead. You’re ruining it for yourself. You really are. You’re going to miss it…

 

Third, you may need to watch that YouTube highlight reel again. I get that it’s a touch dangerous just to look at the best plays back-to-back, but I think Sloter’s successful plays are quite telling.

Look for a couple things that need absolute scouting focus to observe – look at how many of those throws are downfield and how many are in the middle of the field. Most college (and pro) quarterbacks are scared to death of the middle of the field. ‘Fake’ QB prospects rack up numbers by throwing a lot of elaborate screens, and no-read, quick slant passes or no-read heaves down the sidelines deep, hoping for a magical connection or for a harmless wind-up-out-of-bounds ball…they (and their coaches) are basically trying not to have turnovers. That’s why they avoid the middle. It’s congested and you really have to ‘see’ things clearly/read the field and have the confidence and arm to make these throws. Not many QB prospects do…thus, college offenses are created to minimize the limited talent at quarterback. Sloter displays an ability to move off a first read and fire bullets downfield with great accuracy in just his first year of college play – not ever really working with the first-team receivers for two years and then being thrust into play from off the bench to start 2016. In addition, he’s working with FCS receivers and O-Line…his surrounding cast was not like what Deshaun Watson or Mitchell Trubisky got to work with.

Also, notice how effortless the throws are. Sloter was clocked as the second-fastest thrower in the 2017 NFL Draft class (58 MPH). The ball rockets out of his hand and is almost always on the money, in stride with the receiver. It’s so effortless that it doesn’t stand out at first watch. I watch football tape almost every day, for many hours a day – I assure you that what he is doing with his throws is ‘next level’. Hitting a receiver is great; just getting it into his radius…but hitting a receiver in stride, whether you’re throwing from the pocket or running away from pressure, is a rare God-given gift. It’s why NFL teams are beating down his door after more research – anyone in the business can see the gift instantly, if they are looking.

The retort some people might have right about now: “Well, yeah but…this was FCS level. So, it isn’t as impressive.” First of all, many endorsed an FCS quarterback as the #1–2 overall guy last NFL Draft, a guy who has about half of the natural passing skills Sloter has – North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. Wentz had a slow delivery/wind up and showed limited ability to throw downfield in college. Sloter throws darts all over the field with the greatest of ease. I’ve scouted both Wentz and Sloter…and it’s not even close in comparison in their pure quarterbacking arm talents and instincts. Again, you may think I’m nuts – those of you who are slaves to mainstream scouting that burns you all the time. The issue is not how far off football analysts often are – the issue is you keep following it and never questioning it (not my subscribers, of course). Sloter is a better natural talent than Wentz, and that’s an easy call. Sloter is about the same height with a better arm and has similar/faster (clocked) feet. Carson Wentz had one 300-yard passing game as a starter in his college career (23 starts). Sloter came off the bench as a backup not working much with the first team and dropped nearly 400 yards and 6 TDs in his debut. I could rattle off several statistical markers in favor of Sloter over Wentz.

I will agree with you on this – we don’t have a lot of tape/games in which to scout Sloter. I get that, and it is an issue. I wish there were more video but there isn’t. You’ve read the story I linked you to, so you know why. I have plenty of tape that shows me DeShone Kizer isn’t very good. I have limited tape that tells me Kyle Sloter may be great…I just don’t know for sure – but I sure would like to find out for the cost of a 5th-to-7th-round draft pick.

What I see with Sloter is a natural talent. I’m not sure how fast he’ll adjust to the NFL speed, but I do know he has the natural talent and character to warrant a chance to figure it out. We really could be staring down a Kurt Warner situation here. The raw skill was sitting there but no one saw it or had ‘reasons’ why not to try. Everyone was immediately biased against Warner because ‘Northern Iowa’ is not ‘Alabama’ or whatever the hot school was at the time. You can see the raw, natural skills on tape with Sloter…it’s sitting right there for the taking. His college level of play should not be a huge factor for the NFL Draft price being asked.

Sloter’s early NFL career may be influenced somewhat by small school bias and limited roster space. Teams do not like carrying a developmental third QB unless that QB was endorsed by the mainstream (see: Christian Hackenberg, E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, Connor Cook, etc.). Sloter won’t have that in his favor. He’s going to have to flash fast or grind/bounce around the league for a bit…and bouncing around never helps a quarterback get a fair chance later. It’s almost like a QB prospect is marked for life if other teams cut them…unless they played for the Patriots, and then we assume the Pats/Belichick know more than anyone else (and they usually do) and ex-Patriots usually get more looks.

I can’t guarantee anything other than that his data and backstory are just begging for someone to make Sloter a priority later in the draft – rather than just a name on the list among a sea of day three draft names.

 

Kyle Sloter, Through the Lens of Our QB Scouting Algorithm:

19 of Sloter’s 29 TD passes in 2016 were from 20 or more yards out.

In his three toughest games on the schedule (D1 Colorado State, Eastern Washington, and North Dakota), Sloter averaged 59.3% comp pct., 2.7 TDs/1.3 INTs, and 297.7 yards per game.

In games where Sloter was ‘cut loose’ with 30 or more pass attempts in a game (6 games), he averaged 3.8 TD passes/0.8 INTs, 340.3 passing yards per game.

6-of-12 for 100 yards against Montana – an odd game where Montana had a 40-20 advantage in time of possession, but Sloter threw 2 TDs passes among just 6 completions…including a game winner with 3+ minutes remaining.

37.3% UNC 3rd down conversions in games Sloter started.

60.0% (9-of-15) 4th down conversions in games Sloter started.

 

 

Pro Day data (indoors due to weather, on a basketball court for most drills)

6′4.8″/222, 32.5 arm length, 9.8″ hand size

4.65 40-time, 7.00 three-cone

38 Wonderlic score

 

Sloter’s college stats on WashingtonPost.com: http://www.foxsports.com/college-football/kyle-sloter-player-stats

 

 

The Historical QB Prospects to Whom Kyle Sloter Most Compares Within Our System:

Our system had a hard time locating anything that compared closely to the unusual data and measurables of Sloter. I think a cross between Jared Goff and Marcus Mariota has some logic – comfortable and accurate like Goff (at least he was before LA 2016) with the quick, decisive delivery like Mariota…and Sloter can run the ball better than most (but not as talented a runner as Mariota)

Kurt Warner comes to mind for me, mostly. Because I remember watching Warner be so amazing, so precise…and even at my young age, with an untrained eye, I was saying to myself – how did all these highly paid football people miss Kurt Warner completely? You could tell in an instant, in his debut with the Rams, that Kurt Warner was immensely gifted. How did everyone not see it in his college play or in NFL practices? They weren’t looking! Sloter looks that good to me in an instant – and I’m shocked he hasn’t been the ‘sleeper’ buzz QB prospect of 2017 by now.

Warner got thrown into the fire in the NFL, like Sloter did with Northern Colorado in 2016, and Warner walked in somewhat cold in his debut NFL season as a starter – and won the league MVP and a Super Bowl. How was that possible? How are the greatest players at the most critical position in a sport/business completely missed by experts and coaches? All our computer scouting models are saying is – kick the tires on Sloter and see if there is some magic waiting to unfold.

 

QB-ScoreQBYrCollegeHWadj Comp Pctadj Yds per Compadj Pass per TDadj Pass Per INT
7.549Sloter, Kyle2017No. Colorado76.822263.3%13.13112.58528.207
9.013Goff, Jared2016Cal75.521564.2%13.15814.32839.401
7.557Mariota, Marcus2015Oregon76.021165.4%13.87614.107119.571
10.657Bradford, Sam2010Oklahoma76.323667.0%13.45010.32734.324
8.762Savage, Tom2014Pittsburgh76.223560.9%12.95316.57056.024
9.865Rivers, Philip2004NC State77.022968.1%11.99714.17858.063
8.567Kolb, Kevin2007Houston75.121864.1%13.84515.483256.250
8.057Webb, Davis2017Cal76.522959.4%11.86218.69635.250
7.492Pike, Tony2010Cincinnati77.822358.9%10.57514.43740.987

 

*“Adj” = A view of adjusted college output in our system…adjusted for strength of opponent.

**A score of 8.5+ is where we see a stronger correlation of QBs going on to become NFL good-to-great. A scouting score of 9.5+ is rarefied air—higher potential for becoming great-to-elite.

QBs scoring 6.0–8.0 are finding more success in the new passing era of the NFL (2014–on). Depending upon the system and surrounding weapons, a 6.0–8.0 rated QB can do fine in today’s NFL—with the right circumstances…but they are not ‘the next Tom Brady’ guys, just NFL-useful guys.

 

2017 NFL Draft Outlook:

A couple of weeks ago, I would have said Sloter is a great UDFA priority, but the more I talk to people about his Pro Day and workouts, and the more I share his story with football people – the more momentum is picking up for Sloter to be a late-round draft pick.

It’s not like 1–3 teams are sitting back on this secret and hope to pounce after the draft. This has grown into half the league making contact with him of late, and a growing number of teams are targeting him as a late priority – some team will have to make this pick or it will be a frenzy of phone calls hoping he picks them after the draft. Easier for a team to draft him than to get lucky after.

 

NFL Outlook:  It all has to do with what team he lands with and whether they give him a real chance…or whether fate or Providence intervenes. The GM could love his story and his talent and the head coach might want nothing to do with it in favor of a ninth offensive guard for the 53-man Sadly, that happens…a lot. If Sloter lands with a team that will see the potential and work with it – they may strike gold sooner rather than later.

 

— R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics.com and a football projections analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics.com. He’s also a contributor for FantasyPros, Advanced Sports Logic, and various other football websites annually.

 

rcf@collegefootballmetrics.com

 

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