Ole Miss football: Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu could be steal of 2019 NFL Draft

(Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images) /

Ole Miss Football quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has received little hype for the 2019 NFL Draft, but he could ultimately be one of this year’s biggest steals.

Jordan Ta’amu isn’t going to hear his name called during the first night of the 2019 NFL Draft on Thursday, but the Ole Miss football product seems like the ideal developmental quarterback who could one day be viewed as the steal of the draft.

With the Rebels, Ta’amu was remarkably efficient during his year and a half as the team’s starting quarterback, completing 64-percent of his passes across his 19 game career with 5600 yards and 30 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions.

It’s fair to throw the caveat in there that Ta’amu was working with one of college football’s best receiving corps, buoyed by three who are going to be selected in the 2019 draft, two of which could hear their names called during the first round. But plenty of quarterbacks have had ridiculously talented receivers and failed to produce at the rate Ta’amu did in college.

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SB Nation’s Bill Connelly recently published a piece that examined the advanced stats of college football quarterbacks with what they went on to do in the NFL, which produced an accurate gauge of what to expect with this year’s crop of prospects.

Basically, Connelly’s data argues that quarterbacks aren’t going to exceed their college numbers in the pros, so a deep dive into the numbers should in the very least give you an idea of the ceilings of the prospective signal callers in the NFL.

In his top-tier of quarterbacks, Connelly is looking for passers with career success rates above 49%. Success rate measures the percentage of plays that were successful when directly involving the quarterback. He defines success rate as gaining 50-percent of necessary yards on first down, 70-percent on second down, and 100-percent on third and fourth down.

Only three quarterbacks reach those top criteria this year; Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, and West Virginia’s Will Grier. The fourth quarterback on that list is Ta’amu, whose career success rate at Ole Miss came in at 47.9 percent, just barely under the threshold that would have put him in the top-tier.

Even still, that’s an impressive number that puts Ta’amu ahead of much more heralded passers like NC State’s Ryan Finley (45.6%), Missouri’s Drew Lock (41.7%), Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson (40.1%), and Duke’s Daniel Jones (39.6%), all of whom are projected to be picked higher than Ta’amu.

Ta’amu isn’t without his flaws, and it’s easy to see why he’s viewed as a day three player. He played in an up-tempo offense designed to maximize yardage and points, one where he was often tasked with getting the ball out as quickly as possible. He rarely moved to secondary or tertiary reads, instead, tucking and running if the first option wasn’t there.

It’s fair to wonder, though, if the blame for that shouldn’t be more on Ole Miss’s coaching staff as Ta’amu was just running the offense the way he was asked to.

He doesn’t have a huge arm, either, but it’s serviceable enough to make the required throws. He always had nice zip on his passes on the slant and out-routes in the short and intermediate areas of the field and had the arm strength to hit big-play target D.K. Metcalf deep down the field.

Ta’amu’s mechanics are already near-perfect, and he displayed accuracy to all levels of the field. He wasn’t just a dink-and-dunk or screen throwing quarterback; he was asked to push the ball down the field and he did that effectively.

Ta’amu has a smooth delivery and is extremely poised. His leadership ability shouldn’t be overlooked; he should instantly provide a locker-room boost to whichever franchise gives him a shot.

He also has the ideal size for the position, measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds at the combine. He’s an excellent athlete, showing an ability to escape the pocket and make plays down the field with his legs. Stick him in a system that priorities run-pass options and will take advantage of his legs, and Ta’amu could become a solid starting quarterback down the road.

In the very least, he should make an effective back-up. It’ll take some time for him to learn how to process defenses in the league, but good coaching should help him with the mental side of the game as he starts looking at more than just his first read. He’s a project quarterback, but with proper coaching and development, a team could unearth a late-round diamond in the rough who goes on to severely outperform his draft position.

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While teams will reach, and even give up future draft compensation in order to move up and take the “sexier” quarterbacks like Lock and Jones, a smart general manager will sit back and let teams fight over those types of players while biding his time to pull the trigger on Ta’amu on day three