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Garrett Grayson Drafted as Drew Brees' Successor

Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis made waves in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft by selecting quarterback Garrett Grayson out of Colorado State. Mired in secrecy, the Saints expressed interest in a QB, but many believed that Baylor's Bryce Petty would be plucked to supplant Brees. With Petty still on the board, however, the Saints elected to take Grayson.

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I've been doing analysis on every selection that the Saints ended up making in the 2015 NFL Draft, and normally I would start with one of their first round picks in terms of actually writing on them.  However, no one pick intrigued me as much as third round pick Garrett Grayson.  It isn't because the Saints are looking for a successor for Drew Brees.  With two years left on Brees's contract, it isn't out of the realm of possibility to believe the Saints are looking at life post Brees.  But this isn't an article on the logistics of a new Brees contract, and for this very reason I won't enter into the realm of speculation around exactly why Grayson was picked.

Grayson isn't a huge quarterback.  He sits at 6'2", approximately 213 lbs.  When the Saints expressed interest in drafting a new QB, much of the focus was on Baylor's Bryce Petty.  Petty is about 6'3", 230 lbs.  So there's not a major discrepancy in the most base measurables (prototypical QB is just a buzz word anyways).  Grayson's emergence and subsequent increase in draft stock happened extremely quickly.  The Saints didn't express any outward interest in Grayson, it was all covert.  The million dollar question, however, is what exactly did they see?

Grayson's strengths are noted as his deep ball, namely his touch.  His footwork in the pocket is impeccable, and he stands very large in the pocket, a huge plus.  Furthermore, he doesn't shy away from hits if he has time to make passes.  That last bit is important in a timing offense, which is Payton's bread & butter.  At Colorado State, Grayson also worked out of several depths (under center, shotgun, pistol), which helps his handling of the snap.

Admittedly, I really miss All-22 tape.  Colorado State runs a play action that is designed to isolate the middle of the zone with a cross and a post.  The primary route is the fly route topside.  The defense shows a heavy box, with pressure coming.  The player not pictured at the bottom is the one that Grayson would eventually hit on the deep post.

Grayson sees the six man rush, and looks at his first read.  The topside fly is taken away by a cheating safety.  Colorado State's line does a fantastic job picking up the pass rush, giving Grayson time to go through his progressions.  The important thing, of course, is that he does.

Grayson stands tall in the pocket, steps up into his throw, and hits his receiver deep in the seam with a defender jumping towards him as he makes the throw.  The play in its entirety illustrates Grayson's poise in the pocket.

Grayson stands tall despite a strong pass rush, and delivers a ball to his receiver (who makes a pretty ridiculous catch himself).  In the NFL, it's imperative that quarterbacks give their receivers a chance to make a play, and Grayson isn't afraid to go downfield against anybody.  This can be a knock when it goes poorly, but a player with Grayson's strength can make these types of plays work, and that's what separates good quarterbacks from the next level.

With this being said, Grayson is not without his flaws.  He's extremely talented, but he played in an offense that was highly reliant on YAC.  This knock against him is minute, as that isn't so different from the offense that the Saints like to run, but he does not improvise well, whether it's moving away from initial reads or making plays outside of the pocket.

This play is a perfect illustration of the lock on knock.  Plays like this are exactly how quarterbacks lose the trust of their receivers, and quickly.  Grayson locks onto his receiver on flair, and the corner is all over the play.  Grayson never gets set in the pocket either, which leads to his throw looking rushed and ending up off target (the receiver had to contort to try and make an already doomed catch).  Grayson had room to flush right and try to make something of the play, and instead he put his receiver on a clothesline.

Cerebrally, there's a steep curve in the NFL.  There are benefits to be had for quarterbacks learning behind great quarterbacks, and there's no doubt that Brees will be willing to help the young Grayson.  Perhaps not in a mentor mentee capacity, NFL starting QBs rarely have time to help their competition to that extent, but just through observation there's a lot to be gleaned from a QB with Brees's pedigree.

Another excellent example of poise comes against the tough Utah defense on this play.  Grayson had spent much of the game getting beat up.  However, he reads the defense well on this play and finds a hole in their zone.  With the exception of one little hitch in his step up in which his knee appears to buckle a bit, Grayson stands confidently in the pocket that has formed around him, before firing a strike to Higgins.  This type of play is very promising from a young quarterback, as the hardest thing to do sometimes is not get antsy.

Grayson isn't a scrambler.  He doesn't quite have the athleticism that Brees has out of the pocket, or indeed in the pocket, but that's okay.  He's a tall, poised quarterback that lets plays come to him.  While in some scenarios this can be a knock, as quarterbacks of course have to create sometimes, that will come with grooming.  Grayson played in a highly structured offense at Colorado State, and there's no doubt that Payton understands this and will do everything he can to make sure that Grayson can play at the higher NFL level.  The arm strength and the confidence are there.  From here on out it will all come down to how his development is handled.  Very little is known of the process behind his selection and eventually ascension, so as of now we can only speculate as to the long term plan at QB.  However, Grayson's being picked isn't something that just happened.  Rest assured the Saints have a plan in place for their future, the only question is how it will play out.

For more information and video on Grayson, take a look here.