Oregon's graduating quarterback, Vernon Adams Jr., is a longshot to even get drafted next week despite some very impressive play in his one PAC-12 season, and a "stunning" performance in the East West Shrine Game (6-9 for 191 yards and 3 TDs).
Despite overachieving at every level, as he rose from FCS legend at Eastern Washington to PAC-12 starter to that national all-star game in a year, Adams was interviewed by only two teams at the Combine, and has had just one workout (for the Los Angeles Rams, who seem to already have plans at QB in this draft.)
The reason is simple -- he's 5'11, 200 lbs and has 9 1/8" hands. According to CBS Sports:
Of the 229 quarterbacks drafted since 1996, only five (2.2 percent) have been under six-feet tall.
Of course one of those five is Russell Wilson, who measured out at 5'11 and 204 lbs (but 10 1/4" hands) at the combine.
None of this has undermined VA's confidence, though. In two interviews over the past couple of days, the Tarkenton-like scrambler rated himself near the top of this QB class. Radio host Dan Patrick asked him Monday if he was better than Jared Goff, who is widely expected to be taken by the Rams as the first overall pick. Adams was direct.
"Honestly, myself, I think, you know, if I’m not as good as him, then I am better than him. I’m not going to sit here and say he’s better than me because there’s nothing that he’s doing that I can’t do."
Before you write this off as bizarre braggadocio, Adams Jr. has the game tape and stats to back up his comments. Playing in the same conference, Goff had more yards, games and completions (due to an injury Adams suffered, as well Oregon's superior running game). But Adams had a higher completion percentage and passer rating. His TD-INT ratio was 26-6, compared to Goff's 43-13.
They faced each other head to head on November 7th, a game I wrote about here. Goff struggled in the rainy conditions; his line was 18-41 for 329 yards, 2 TDs and an interception against a Duck team not known for its secondary. Cal was behind 31-10 at halftime so he had lots of chances to huck it up, but Goff's accuracy and attitude were both weak. Adams was 17-29 for 300 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs.
Adams elaborated on the comparison in an interview with USA Today yesterday.
"I've played Jared Goff. They always want to talk about my hands being too small, but my hands are bigger than his. I've played in snowy games. I've played in rainy games. I've played in negative-15 degree games. Look at my wins to losses, look at my touchdowns to interceptions. Look at my career yards," Adams said. "I'm not a cocky dude, I just want everybody to know that everything that everyone else is doing, I can do it as well. It’s just so much on my height."
With the Pac-12 continuing its historical role as a training ground for top QBs, Adams and Goff have both played against several common opponents, along with two of the other top QB prospects, Stanford's Kevin Hogan and USC's Cody Kessler. (Adams also faced Michigan State's Connor Cook.) Those comparisons back up the boast as well.
Against USC on Halloween, Goff was 23-31 for 277 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs. Not bad. 3 weeks later, Adams burned the Trojans -- always one of the most talented teams in college football -- with 313 yards on 14-17 passing and 4 TDs -- just in the first half. Trojan DC Justin Wilcox said "He hurt us bad..." and coach Clay Helton told me after the game that:
"Vernon Adams has a unique ability to keep his eyes downfield, extending plays until he finds somebody. … We had a lot of opportunities to get Vernon on the ground [in the first half], but we didn’t. There is only so long you can stay in man coverage."
Adams finished with 407 yards and the all time record for touchdown passes against USC -- 6 TDs to 6 different receivers. He actually had more TD throws than incompletions (20-25).
Against Stanford, Goff had a bigger but less efficient game, 37-54 for 386 yards, 2 TDs, no INTs in a 35-22 loss. When Oregon played the Cardinal, Adams led the Ducks to a tense 38-36 victory with 10-12 passing for 205 yards (twice the YPC), 2 TDs, no INTs. Hogan, by the way, was 28-37 for 304 yards in that game, but his two fumbles and an INT helped the Ducks hang on for the road victory.
OK, if Vernon Adams Jr. thinks he's all that, is there any QB prospect he thinks is better than him? Just one.
Dan Patrick: "Are you better than Carson Wentz?"
Vernon Adams, Jr.: "I said he’s the only quarterback in this draft that I can literally say he’s better than me. I’ve seen him at the combine. He made every single throw. I’ve been watching him since we were both freshmen. He’s legit. He's a legit quarterback."
Again, Adams has reasons for his opinion.
While Eastern Washington did not play the North Dakota State Bison during his years there, they had several common opponents (including North Dakota, which is in the Big Sky conference along with EWU). So Adams has seen plenty of game tape on the presumed No. 2 draft pick, and he's impressed. He told USA Today that the Bison's pro-style scheme makes Wentz the most pro-ready QB in this draft.
Oregon's unique offense, developed by new Niners coach Chip Kelly, is the other major reason many scouts dismiss Adams, believing that his adjustment to NFL will be that much harder. Unless of course he goes to the one NFL team that will be running something similar.