The New England Patriots have been planning for life without Tom Brady ever since they selected quarterback Ryan Mallett in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Brady has outlasted each and every one of his potential successors, but he can’t do it forever. With their franchise quarterback entering his age-42 season, the Patriots could look to groom North Carolina State quarterback Ryan Finley as their quarterback of the future.
New England Patriots 2019 NFL Draft Targets: Ryan Finley
Ryan Finley spent two years as a backup at Boise State before joining North Carolina prior to the 2016 season. During his three years with the Wolfpack, Finley completed 64.5% of his passes for 10,501 yards, 60 touchdowns, and 25 interceptions. The Pheonix native ended his collegiate career on a high note, finishing 2018 with a career-high in completion percentage (67.4%), yardage (3,928), and touchdowns (25).
Finley isn’t the most athletically gifted quarterback but he manages to stay competitive thanks to his advanced ability to read and diagnose a defense. Finley is one of the best in the class at winning pre-snap and knowing exactly where to go with the football. Additionally, his ability to look off safeties and direct defenders with his eyes is well beyond his years.
Ryan Finley wins before the snap, but that’s only half the battle. In terms of actually throwing the ball, Finley is good at standing in the pocket and sensing pressure. He’s capable of hitting receivers in stride when on the move and is precise in the short and intermediate passing game. While his arm strength isn’t the best, Finley’s above-average deep ball accuracy lets him pick up chunk yardage through the air.
Ryan Finley knows where the ball should go every time, but he doesn’t have the arm to make all the necessary throws. While nobody questions his accuracy, he doesn’t have the arm skills to make some of the more difficult throws. Because of this, Finley has to rely on anticipation throws and releasing the ball before his receivers actually get open.
Unfortunately for Finley, this is another weak area of his game. The North Carolina product doesn’t throw his receivers open and often waits for his targets to gain separation before releasing the football. While a stronger-armed quarterback could get away with this, Finley’s inability to trust his targets can get him in trouble. Ultimately, Finley leaves too many plays on the field because he doesn’t can’t squeeze balls through tight windows and doesn’t trust his receivers enough to throw the ball before his target is open.
Additionally, Finley has a long way to go as a red zone passer. Finley had just one season with more than 18 touchdown passes and finished 2018 with 11 interceptions. The reason for this is because Finley isn’t good at finishing drives. While he’s good at sensing pressure, Finley isn’t good at adapting when said pressure gets in his face. This leads to dangerous throws, especially in the red zone where passing lanes are naturally narrower. It’s possible to overcome subpar arm strength, but Finley needs to make dramatic improvements in the red zone if he’s to develop into an NFL starter.
Last Word on Ryan Finley
Ryan Finley isn’t ready to be a starting quarterback, but he could develop into one in time. The North Carolina product already has the intelligence for the position, which is truly the most important quality. Finley wins pre-snap on a regular basis and always knows the weak part of the defense. On top of that, Finley has next-level ability to look off defenders and open throwing lanes with his eyes.
While he has the brain, there’s a reason Finley isn’t projected to be off the board until the third round. Finley’s arm leaves a lot to be desired and he lacks anticipation with his throws. While he’s good at sensing pressure, he’s not good when he’s unable to avoid said pressure. All of this adds up to a quarterback who struggles to make NFL throws, especially in the red zone. Finley’s arm strength basically is what it is, but he theoretically could improve on his anticipation throws and pocket poise at the next level.
Tom Brady won’t be around forever, but the greatest of all time still plans on playing until he’s 45. This gives New England at least three years to decide if Finley can be the face of the franchise. Say what you will about arm strength, but any smart quarterback with strong accuracy has a chance to succeed in New England’s system. He’ll never be as good as Brady (nobody will), but Finley could develop into the quarterback of the future.
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