The West Virginia Mountaineers are on the verge of having a historic NFL Draft weekend, and quarterback Will Grier is likely to lead the way by becoming the first player off the board — possibly as early as pick No. 32 in tonight’s first round.
The Charlotte, North Carolina native announced his transfer to West Virginia in April 2016, following his one-year suspension for a banned substance in his redshirt freshman season at the University of Florida. Grier sat out the 2016 season due to NCAA transfer rules, while questions about how the suspension would effect his eligibility after transferring. On June 20, 2017, the NCAA granted Grier a waiver to clear the way for him to play in the Mountaineers’ season-opener against Virginia Tech.
In his two seasons as a Mountaineer, Grier completed 516 of 785 passes (66%), totaling 7354 yards, 71 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
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Grier has impeccable accuracy on his ball placement. Time and time again, Mountaineer fans witnessed Grier drop a pass through a narrow window and into the arms of his receivers. According to Pro Football Focus, Grier grades out as the best in the country on catchable passes over 20-yards, and only second to Baker Mayfield over a two-year span. Grier also leads the way with the highest PFF grade for “over-the-shoulder” passes, which is where the largest chunk of his big time throws come from.
The biggest knock on Grier by draft analysts continues to be his perceived lack of arm strength, however numbers from All Pro Analytics at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and the NFL Draft Combine have Grier throwing at the highest speed and velocity of any quarterback in this class and last year’s class. In terms of actual strength, Grier is fine. The perception most likely stems from a root cause, Grier’s true weakness — his footwork.
When Grier has time to set his feet before throwing, his arm strength looks about as elite as you’d want to see from an NFL Draft prospect. However when under pressure and in a hurry to make a throw, Grier has the tendency to not get his feet set under him, often times causing him to throw off balance.
Take a look at Grier’s game-winning touchdown pass to Gary Jennings in the Texas game for the perfect example of this. Grier is able to compensate for his footwork inefficiencies by being an athletic, instinctive playmaker, but they could lead to issues at the professional level.
Grier has reportedly met with at least 10 NFL teams ahead of tonight’s NFL Draft, with the most interest coming from the New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers and the New England Patriots. The Redskins and Giants are rumored to both have their sights set on Duke’s Daniel Jones, and that’s probably for the best if Grier wants to have a successful NFL career. Grier would be best suited in a role where he can be the backup to an established NFL veteran for a couple years before being traded or stepping into the starting role after the vet retires — call it the Jimmy Garoppolo plan.
Outlook and Projections
“Will Grier, New England Patriot” feels like something that was written in the stars. Grier would be able to sit behind Tom Brady for a couple years, earning some spot playing time and ultimately learning from the one of the greatest coach/quarterback combos ever. The Patriots have the 32nd pick in the first round, and could theoretically use it to grab Grier before other teams set their sights on him in the 2nd round. New England also has the 24th and 32nd pick in the 2nd round — No. 56 and No. 64 overall — and could elect to take him there.
Another possible darkhorse candidate for Grier’s services could be the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 69 overall pick (5th in the 3rd round). The Jags signed Nick Foles in free agency, and could draft Grier as a solid No. 2 quarterback.
Prediction: Middle 2nd round - Middle 3rd round