Nebraska football: NFL draft scout understands the hype, believes QB Tanner Lee ‘has the tools’

Tanner Lee has yet to take a snap as Nebraska football’s starting quarterback. That doesn’t mean he’s not drawing the attention of many NFL scouts already though.

Matt Miller, the NFL draft lead writer for  Bleacher Report and host of the  Stick to Football podcast, understands why Lee is getting the attention that he is. While he has yet to produce game film at Nebraska, his production on the practice field is enough to get people talking.

“Everyone is going to say it but he has the tools,” Miller said. “That’s where you start with evaluating a quarterback, especially with a guy like Tanner Lee that has transferred from Tulane. We haven’t really seen him yet, so size, arm strength, accuracy that you can see in practice are the things you get excited about.”

And many have gotten excited over Lee. Patrick Woo, who scouts for the Reese’s Senior Bowl, thought Lee may have been the best quarterback at the Manning Passing Camp this summer. Former NFL executive Phil Savage, who is now the Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director, felt the same as Woo. Savage called Lee “a top NFL prospect for ’18 or ’19” after seeing him at a Nebraska practice.

Miller knows NFL scouts and teams are “quarterback hungry.” With more and more quarterbacks leaving collegiate programs sooner than ever before, he understands why.

“You really have to turn over every rock,” Miller said. “You have a guy that is a redshirt junior and traditionally we’d say, ‘OK, he has two more years. Don’t worry about him. We’ll get him next year.’ But more and more guys are leaving after playing just one year.

“[Chicago Bears quarterback] Mitchell Trubisky was the second pick in the draft as a one-year starter [at North Carolina]. [Philadelphia Eagles quarterback] Carson Wentz was a senior but he started a year and a half [at North Dakota State], so it’s not like it used to be where guys need to start three or four years. ”

The Huskers have had their fair share of NFL scouts visiting during fall camp. That has included visits from the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Bears, Indianapolis Colts. Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos. The NFL scouts could have been at Nebraska to get a look at a number of players, but it’s likely the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Lee was on the list.

There’s a lot of upside to Lee. He’s expected to be a solid fit in coach Mike Riley’s pro-style offense. Add that his physical attributes and it wouldn’t be a surprise to find even more scouts on Nebraska’s sidelines soon.

“When you do check those boxes physically and you’re a quarterback, it will get everyone there checking you out,” Miller said.

Should Lee consider the NFL at the end of his redshirt junior season? That’s the question on many minds, even with Nebraska almost two weeks from the start of the season.

Miller felt the 2017 draft wasn’t the deepest in terms of quarterbacks. While three quarterbacks went in the top 12, it wasn’t an overall solid quarterback class. As a result, the 2018 draft could make up for that and then some. It’s still too early to say for sure, but it’s trending that direction when Miller looks at it.

“It’s tough to say because right now everyone assumes there will be three quarterbacks who are thought of pretty highly,” Miller said. “That is Josh Allen at Wyoming, Josh Rosen at UCLA and Sam Darnold at USC. Everyone kind of has them in a different order but they’re the top three quarterbacks. And then you have another group, like [Washington State’s] Luke Falk, [Oklahoma State’s] Mason Rudolph and [Oklahoma’s] Baker Mayfield, so it looks like the 2018 draft will be pretty deep at quarterback.”

As an NFL draft scout, part of Miller’s job is helping athletes determine what makes the most sense for their careers. He helps advise players like Lee on whether or not they should declare for the draft or stay in school.

For Miller, his advice comes down to a couple of key questions.

“You have to be smart and look around at supply and demand,” Miller said. “How many teams are willing to draft a quarterback early? How many quarterbacks out there that kind of fit that?”

If Lee does declare for the draft at the end of this season, Miller wouldn’t blame him. There are a plethora of reasons an athlete will decide to declare — from personal reasons to family and academic reasons.

Beyond that, Miller sees fewer and fewer quarterbacks come out of college “NFL-ready.” That means many will spend years getting developed while sitting on the sidelines.

“The idea is, ‘If I’m going to have to be developed anyway, I might as well get paid to do that,’ ” Miller said. “We’ve seen that and I think [Detroit Lions quarterback] Brad Kaaya left Miami and he knew he wasn’t ready. He knew he wasn’t going to be an early pick, but he wanted that development to happen in the NFL and to get paid to do it.

“I think that’s something we often don’t consider is a reality. If these guys are going to have to sit for a couple of years, they’d rather start the process at 21 or 22 and they’d rather get paid to do it instead of riding it out, getting drafted at 24 and then waiting and biding your time when you could be 28 or 29 before you really get a shot.”

As for Lee’s future, Miller isn’t sure what to expect just yet. Lee needs some real game experience under his belt with Nebraska before Miller would advise him either way. He sees the potential.

At Tulane, Lee made 19 starts between 2014-15. Lee threw for 1,639 yards, 11 touchdowns and had a 52 percent completion rate in 2015. Miller saw a little of [Denver Broncos quarterback] Chad Kelly in Lee’s play and ability at Tulane, so he can understand the hype.

It’s part of what has drawn several NFL scouts to Nebraska through fall camp, despite Lee having yet to take a snap as a member of the Huskers.

The post Nebraska football: NFL draft scout understands the hype, believes QB Tanner Lee ‘has the tools’ appeared first on Land of 10.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X