Former Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs is a smart guy – everyone knows that. He made as many headlines for being a standout student majoring in aeronautical engineering as he did for his play on the field.
But for how polished and likable he was off the field, Dobbs was always a controversial presence on it. After he received the lion’s share of credit for Tennessee’s turnaround in 2015, critics tore him apart in film study.
Despite Dobbs having a good grasp of the game and being a dynamic playmaker, critics pointed to his 59.6 percent completion percentage as a junior. His passer rating that season with a meager 127.0, which was No. 8 in the SEC. There were obvious concerns about accuracy on passes longer than 10 yards.
Of course, Dobbs isn’t the first accomplished SEC quarterback to face similar criticisms. Just compare the NFL.com scouting reports for Dobbs and former Mississippi State All-American Dak Prescott:
- Prescott: “Accuracy on intermediate and deep throws dropped sharply … Footwork is a mess … Throws to target rather than leading or throwing them open on short/intermediate throws.”
- Dobbs: “Footwork is uneven and causes him to throw from unbalanced platform too often … Decision making not where he needs it to be. Can’t always get away from poor looks once he’s made his mind up pre-snap.”
Prescott made the Pro Bowl, won NFL offensive rookie of the year and led the Dallas Cowboys to a 13-3 record in his first season as a starter. He also came out of a college spread system under Dan Mullen in Starkville.
After Prescott’s success, NFL teams will surely be looking for similarly unheralded quarterback prospects to take a chance on late in the draft. Dobbs has as good a shot as any to be that kind of player.
There was certainly a point where Dobbs was overrated at the college level. Many pegged him as an All-America contender early in his career, especially in 2014 after he led the Vols to their first bowl win in six years. Expectations rose through the roof. Some thought he was good enough to lead Tennessee to a national championship.
Admittedly, Dobbs’ accuracy remained inconsistent his senior year. Through his first eight games in 2016, the problems lingered. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes in just two games. The lowlight was a 12-for-26 performance against South Carolina in a season-crushing loss. Once the Vols fell out of the national title picture, Dobbs dropped off the national radar.
But after eviscerating Tennessee Tech, Dobbs turned a corner as a passer. Over the final five games, Dobbs completed 74.2 percent of his passes and averaged 10.2 yards per attempt. He threw for 12 touchdowns and just 1 interception, while also running for another seven scores. The highlight was 409 total yards and four touchdowns against Nebraska in the Music City Bowl.
Granted, the Vols did not play any ranked teams over that streak. In fact, Tennessee lost a disappointing game to Vanderbilt in the regular-season finale. Don’t blame the offense, though. Dobbs almost singlehandedly led the unit to 47.8 points per game over that stretch. Dobbs had a 105.7 passer rating under pressure last season too, which was No. 5 in the nation per Pro Football Focus.
5 takeaways from that QB data dump…
1. Josh Dobbs really did go from massively overrated to massively underrated in like 2 months. pic.twitter.com/N9UQdAtNiu
— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) April 4, 2017
Dobbs was later lauded after going 12-for-15 for 104 yards in the Senior Bowl. More importantly, he proved he could handle NFL scheme concepts.
“I thought he ran the offense, moved the ball and did the things we thought we could do,” Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson told NFL Network. “He did a good job.”
Jackson coached the South team at the Senior Bowl, coming away as impressed with Dobbs as Dobbs was with him.
Dobbs has a strong arm and is relatively accurate on shorter throws. Just three of his interceptions came on throws shorter than 10 yards downfield. Those encompass most of the throws he will be making consistently in the NFL. That’s encouraging.
Trusting the process
To be clear, Dobbs is not as talented as Prescott was coming out of school. Prescott was an All-American and legitimate Heisman contender on a much less talented roster at Mississippi State. He improbably led the program to a No. 1 overall ranking.
Furthermore, Prescott fell into the perfect situation as a rookie. After being paired with running back Ezekiel Elliott, Prescott only had to throw the ball 28 times per game. His 459 attempts ranked No. 23 in the NFL. Prescott was also sacked just 25 times, which also ranked No. 23.
It took a crippling injury to Tony Romo and the stars aligning for Prescott to even get into a game, much less win the starting job. Whether Dobbs is ready or not, chances are he won’t have the perfect storm of a rookie year that Prescott just experienced.
After playing in more of a college spread concept at Tennessee, Dobbs will benefit greatly from NFL coaching. If he can tweak his footwork and mechanics, the arm talent is there. His knowledge of the game has never been in question.
The onus is now on Dobbs to make those improvements. However, there will be chances in a league desperate for quarterback talent. For a player who could be picked outside of the top two rounds, Dobbs has the tools to develop into a steal.
|College stats||Josh Dobbs||Dak Prescott|
|Yards per attempt||7.1||8.0|