There are many questions at the quarterback position for the San Francisco 49ers, and things didn't become any more clear with the addition of Jeff Driskel. The 49ers spent a sixth round pick on a former Florida QB that was tapped the next "Tim Tebow" early in his career. He is somewhat similar to another quarterback on the 49ers roster, Colin Kaepernick.
Driskel is 6'4 231 lbs, with 33 1/2" arms, while Kap was 6'5 233 lbs. with 33 1/2" arms at the Combine. Driskel ran a 4.56 40 and had a 32" vertical jump, while Kap ran a 4.53 40, and had a 32 1/2" vertical jump. Both were scouted as very athletic quarterbacks that could make plays with their legs. Both were also considered to be somewhat developmental, or a little rough around the edges. Both were two sport athletes in baseball and football, Driskel being drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2013 and Kap by the Chicago Cubs in 2009.
Driskel started his college career at Florida where he was teammates with Trenton Brown and Kelvin Taylor. He graduated and transferred to Louisiana Tech where he threw for 4,033 yards, 27 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in his single season as a Bulldog.
GM Trent Baalke spoke of his athleticism in his post draft wrap up:
Heck of an athlete. You look at the numbers, he's a young man that's over 6'4. He's 237 pounds. He ran a sub 4.5. Just a tremendous athlete that's played at two high caliber programs. There's a lot to work with there.
HC Chip Kelly talked to Driskel about a half an hour prior to the selection.
I think we said earlier, we love his athletic ability. He's 237 lbs and ran a 4.47 at the combine. He's got a unique package that you can kind of work with. That's an exciting thing, but I wanted to get a feel for him. I had not talked to him, so just to see where he is and get a chance to talk to him. And we had some time. We weren't on the clock for a little bit. We told him that if we got to where we were getting to, I think it was pick 207, that if he was still there at that point and time that we were going to pick him. But I just wanted to get a feel for where he was, and what his thought process was, and had a good conversation with him. I was fortunate enough to make two phone calls to him today.
There is very little likelihood that Driskel will uproot the positions of either Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert at the top of the QB depth chart but what happens to Thad Lewis and Dylan Thompson remains to be seen. The full transcript of his conference call is below:
Did you have an idea that the 49ers were a team that you could end up with?
"I haven't had a ton of communication out there, but I've always hoped in the back of my mind that I would end up there just because of the offense and the scheme that they run out there with [49ers head coach] coach [Chip] Kelly, and I know it would be a great landing spot for myself. I'm really excited about the pick."
What interaction did you have with the 49ers leading up to this?
"Very little. Just for a few minutes out at the Combine. So, it was very little. I've been told all along this is a crazy process and people get taken all the time by teams who they didn't think were going to take them."
How does what you did at Louisiana Tech, as far as the offense, mesh with what Chip Kelly's done in the past?
"We operated in a no huddle. We tried to do some tempo, incorporate a little bit of zone-read. I'm able to use my legs. I'm able to throw on the run. I think that there are a lot of similarities. Obviously, I don't know the ins and outs of coach Kelly's offense, and I'm looking forward to doing so. But, I think my pure athletic ability, ability to throw on the run and the ability to get the ball out quick is something that will help me out on that offense."
Why did you transfer as a Senior?
"You know, sometimes that's the best thing in life. You move on and get into a different place. And it's just a great situation. I just felt that I needed to move forward, rather than staying where I was. I loved the University of Florida, but I thought for my future what was best was to move forward and that's what I did. I enjoyed my time at Louisiana Tech and it worked out for me."
They talked about you as the next Tim Tebow when you were at Florida. Could you talk about the pressure that put on you and how that affected you?
"Playing quarterback in the SEC and now even elevated to a whole other level in the NFL, there's always going to be expectations. There's always going to be pressure put on you, but you can't let that affect you. I don't believe it ever did. Obviously, I'm trying my best to play up to my ability, but I did have a lot of good times as well. That's what comes with playing at high-level football and you've just got to be able to deal with it and worry about what goes on inside your building rather than what's going on outside of it."
How closely did you look at various team's quarterback situations and what do you know about the 49ers?
"You never really know what's going on. Obviously, you hear a lot of things that are going on and I know what everybody else does. That's what you hear in media reports. But, I know that it's a great opportunity and I look forward to getting there and competing with whoever's in the meeting room with me and learning from the best. It's just a great opportunity. I look forward to learn and look forward to compete and do everything I can to help bring San Francisco a Super Bowl."
What did Chip Kelly say to you when you just talked to him?
"He was excited. He had talked to me about 30 minutes before and he just wanted to see how things were going. He wanted to check-in on me. He thought that they were going to take me if I got there. He was just excited that I was still there at 207 and I was too. I'm really happy I landed in San Francisco and just can't wait to get to work. I'm kind of at a loss for words right now."
Did you talk to any other head coaches throughout the day?
"Nope, that was the only one."
Any other teams call you?
"Yeah, I had some other calls, but that's pretty standard for draft day. People checking in, seeing other team's interest, seeing what you're thinking. There was a few phone calls, but pretty quiet throughout the day until here in the past hour or so."
Is there a quarterback in the NFL you can compare yourself to or pattern yourself after?
"I watch a lot of tape on [Kansas City Chiefs QB] Alex Smith. He's a guy who can make plays with his legs, does a little bit of zone-read out there in Kansas City. The way he can make plays and get down and be smart without taking any unnecessary hits. The way he throws accurately and gives his receivers a chance to run after the catch. So, I say him a lot. I also watch a lot of [Green Bay Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers just because his escape-ability in the pocket and the way he can extend plays."
As you know, most sixth round picks don't become NFL starters. There are obviously some notable exceptions to that. What makes you think you could be a late-round pick who succeeds in the NFL?
"I think that I'm a rare talent. I think that my ability doesn't come around every day. Obviously, I wasn't picked as high as I would've liked to go, but at the end of the day all you can ask for is a chance. That's what I have now and I'm just going to go out and compete my tail off and learn and just give it everything I have. I know that I have the ability to do it and I know that the coaches are in place to help me maximize my potential."