The San Francisco 49ers quarterback competition is focused on Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick, but rookie Jeff Driskel will likely see plenty of work behind Thad Lewis. The 49ers spent a sixth round pick on Driskel, and his athleticism could be something that Chip Kelly can build on.
On Thursday, NFL.com draft analyst and former scout Lance Zierlein was on 95.7 The Game talking primarily about the Oakland Raiders. At the 7:38 mark, they got into a brief 49ers question, with the host asking Zierlein if Jeff Driskel could potentially emerge down the road to be the guy for the 49ers. You can listen above, but here’s what he had to say:
I don’t think so. I think he’s gonna be one of these guys you hear a lot about though. Let me tell you, when he can sit in the pocket and just wing it, man did he look pretty. He’s a big guy, with a great delivery, great mechanics, and he looks really, really good when he’s not bothered in the pocket, and he gets to sit in there, and just fling it around.
The problem I saw with him on tape in my draft work is that when the bullets flying, it gets a little noisy in the pocket, he turns into a different guy. The head drops down, the eyes drop, and he becomes a more rushed, impatient player. And I don’t think that changes. Honestly, I think it’s in you, that level of confidence and poise. You either have it or you don’t, and you can get a little bit better with it, but the NFL is all about heating you up at the quarterback position, and so that’s why I think for as much as Jeff Driskel will look good in practice, and will look the part in the uniform, personally I have my doubts that he'll be able to take that step to the next level as an NFL quarterback as long as he’s unable, in my opinion, to really handle consistent pressure on the NFL level. Because as we know from watching the 49ers, they're going to allow some pass rush. That's for sure.
I’m guessing the 49ers are not as concerned about his confidence, or if they are, they think it is something he can improve upon. He’s a sixth round pick, so for the time being, I don’t think we should be expecting a whole lot of much. Everyone points to the late round exceptions (see Brady, Tom), but odds are not in Driskel’s favor.
Zierlein helped contribute the many pre-draft scouting reports NFL.com put together for this year’s draft prospects. He wrote up Driskel’s and mentioned the confidence issue, saying, “A positive 2015 helped Driskell regain some confidence, but hes not where he needs to be yet. With his upside and traits, Driskel is worthy of a day three selection and could yield dividends with patience and coaching.“
There is zero need to push Driskel too hard at this stage of his professional career, and with Chip Kelly in charge, patience and coaching are certainly there for Driskel. That’s really all we can ask for at this point.