Comps – Low/Medium/High
Jeremy Johnson (Low) – Patrick Towels (Medium) – Blake Bortles (High)
Nick Fitzgerald was the heart and soul of his team for the past three years. He had to be the breadwinner for a lackluster Bulldogs offense, and ran or passed the ball on over 82% of the plays in 2018. With that in mind, it’s fair to wonder whether or not he would have been productive even if the skill positions weren’t a barren wasteland in Starkville. Fitzgerald’s ball placement and decision-making is some of the worst I’ve seen in this draft class. He routinely divebombs passes into the dirt when asked to go downfield, and his deep ball often sails harmlessly out fo bounds. Although he is able to throw decent off platform, his accuracy is always shoddy regardless of the platform he is working from. The Mississippi State offense was run first, second, and third under Fitzgerald, and it seems to have negatively affected his growth rate as a passer. He did not process information well beyond the line of scrimmage, and seems unable to recognize coverages as they relate to his receiver’s routes. He pulls the trigger on baffling throws that have no chance of getting to the target, and the ball is constantly in danger when it comes out of his hand. Once he locks into his target he is unable to work to checkdowns or overcome the positioning of defensive backs. Instead he tries to jam the ball through whatever is in his path. Fitzgerald’s arm talent was obvious in a lot of 2017 tape, but it seems to be fading following a severe knee injury in last year’s Egg Bowl, and he does not get the same speed on his throws that he achieved as a junior. If he were to use his lower body mechanics more effectively and drive from the bottom up, there is good reason to believe he can make every throw asked of him. However, he has a long way to go in regards to maximizing his arm. Fitzgerald’s 2017 tape suggested a developmental quarterback, but his 2018 tape leans more along the lines of position change. He does not have game breaking speed or overwhelming power, but he’s a strong runner who can shed poor tacklers without much trouble. There is clamoring among draft media about a potential switch to tight end, which makes sense with his ability to pull away from linebackers in space. He’s a straight line athlete, but he could be useful bringing in passes up the seam. Fitzgerald’s size does not make him great in the pocket, as he lacks a sense of pressure or control, but he is always a difficult out.
Reads & Decisions
Was not required to make complex decisions or full field progressions in his scheme. One read and run style is not feasible at the next level. Stares down his target as soon as the ball hits his hands. Needs to see his man open before letting the ball fly; does not have requisite anticipation skills. Completely disregards coverages; does not have acceptable awareness of post-snap movements. Ran one of the most run-oriented offenses in college football; Auburn game had him at 28 rushes to 17 pass attempts. Puts too much faith in his arm; throws into sealed throwing lanes with the belief he can get it through. Does not seem capable of finding checkdowns within structure. Has not developed much throughout career. Gets tunnel vision as a passer and ignores everything outside of his target.
Accuracy & Ball Placement
Ineffective in his attempts to lead his target. Frequently dirts passes even in the short game. Throws into the teeth of the defense do not have the placement to avoid interference. Deep ball is rarely in his target’s catch radius. Passes are constantly behind his man, forcing them to work backwards to it. Was not given much assistance by his receivers, as anything difficult was dropped. Attempts to alter trajectories on his passes are often futile. Not enough touch to float passes over defenders. Lacks any element of precision as the field stretches. Struggles with high/low variance on intermediate throws. Does not work away from defender leveraging when taking on man coverage. Did not see much of a decrease in his accuracy when working from a moving platform.
Pocket Awareness & Scrambling
Looks every bit the part in regards to physical makeup. Stands at a looming 6’4″” with a well-defined frame. Impressive athlete who is capable of turning on the jets when he gets into space. Had a good portion of his yardage designed as a runner rather than accumulating it with play extension. Erases angles on linebackers if they aren’t prepared for his speed. Does not have top end acceleration, but he’ll get the job done. Can use his size to push the pile and fall forward. Not elusive enough to make defenders miss; must brute force his way to yardage. Calls for a position switch may be worth investigating. Pocket presence is brutally underwhelming for his play style; does not spot breakthrough and relocate. Can survive arm tackles. Lacks control over steps.”
Mechanics & Throwing Motion
Fades from his throws if pressure is in his face. Does not stay true to his platform if it means getting hit. Footwork is somewhat sluggish, especially when his drops are short. Does not angle properly towards his target; forced to overcompensate with his arm adjustments mid-throw. Goes all arm with his throws rather than generating power from his base. Extreme deviation in all areas of his process from a mechanical standpoint. Release is rather low for his size, which caused plenty of batted passes. Uneasy weight transfer is often caused by inability to settle his base. Lacks urgency in his movements. Was forced to work from difficult situations due to amount of RPOs utilized. Inexperience may be a cause of issues. Alters arm slots if needed.
Velocity is above average when he sets his platform and drives hard on the ball. Does not seem to throw with the same juice that was present prior to the knee injury. Off platform throws don’t have enough on them. Arm talent is a mixed bag, as he does not seem to throw consistent speeds. Reliance on his upper body to create power will take a lot off of the ball. Unlikely to have issues dealing with weather redirecting his throws. Has the physical tools to distribute the ball at every level, even if he is too inaccurate to do so. Will need to learn to unlock his natural gifts.