In my most recent article, top five draft eligible quarterbacks, I noted University of Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs as a potential dark horse candidate to have his draft stock skyrocket during the 2015 season. As I did in my quarterbacks article, I’ll note a dark horse candidate for each position group I cover leading up to the season and an article breaking down each player that falls under that category.
Josh Dobbs, Tennessee, JR
Josh Dobbs doesn’t have a rocket arm, but he makes up for that lack of arm strength with a very natural pocket presence, good field vision, and superb timing and anticipation. As Ben Natan says, weak-armed quarterbacks need to master the nuances of the game in order to negate their arm strength. While Dobbs isn’t perfect within the nuances of quarterback play, he’s extremely advanced for a player that only has a handful of starts under his belt.
This is a great example of Dobbs attention to detail on the nuances of quarterback play. A lot of young quarterbacks struggle with their footwork while moving to their non-dominant side, but that’s something that Dobbs does very well.
While moving to his left, he keeps his eyes downfield and takes note of the defender engaging with his pulling tight end. He shuffles to left, resets his feet, and displays proper weight transfer to get perfect trajectory on the ball down the sideline.
This is a reoccurring theme in Dobbs play; he doesn’t fold or get scared under pressure. His game exudes confidence with keen awareness, and that extends to the manner in which he attacks defenses down the field.
In the midst of pressure Dobbs always has his eyes downfield scanning the defense and looking for open receivers. He has a natural, uncanny ability to feel pressure without dropping his eyes or taking off with the football, which is a knock on a lot of young quarterbacks.
As the defender crosses his face (and over-pursues a bit) look at Dobbs’ eye level. He knows the defender is in his space, but he doesn’t let the defender dominate his thought process. He keeps his eyes up, evades the oncoming tackler, and shows nice anticipation to fire the ball to the tight end on the sideline before the safety can come overtop to make a play on the ball.
Dobbs is aware of what coverage defenses are running and doesn’t get overwhelmed by pre-snap movement. Kentucky breaks the huddle showing off a Cover 2 look before the strong safety rotates down and they move into their Cover 3 defense. The receiver at the bottom of the screen is running a deep post pre-occupying the cornerback while the tight end runs a wheel route into the area vacated by the cornerback.
Even after being forced to flush from the pocket, Dobbs recognizes the open hole in the zone coverage and makes an extremely impressive throw on the run. As I’ve noted before, his composure under pressure and with a collapsing pocket is one of the best I’ve seen out of this year’s quarterback crop. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to claim that he possesses elite pocket presence.
Tennessee’s offensive line is still very much a work in progress; Dobbs is going to see his fair share of interior and exterior pressure. Jonathan Allen bulldozes through Tennessee’s center, but Dobbs isn’t phased by the pressure in his face. He stands tall and throws and accurate strike into the teeth of the Crimson Tide defense.
No matter the pressure he’s facing, Dobbs stands tall and strong in the pocket. Quarterback play in the NFL is chaotic by nature and potential quarterback prospects have to be able to thrive in chaos, this is an aspect of the game that comes very natural to Dobbs.
While Dobbs’ accuracy isn’t perfect, he still shows a nice ability to be accurate throwing in to traffic and squeezing the ball into tight windows along the sideline. The back shoulder throw seen here isn’t a staple in his game, but he shows the ability to complete the pass. This contest versus Alabama was his first taste of extensive playing time, and it’s impressive to see him hit this throw versus elite competition with limited playing experience. He’s only going to get better.
When Dobbs has the time to throw, he displays very good anticipation against zone coverage. He progresses through his reads extremely well and has shown the ability to look off defenders in order to increase spacing for his receivers in zone coverage. Since he doesn’t have the elite arm strength to consistently fit the ball into tight windows, he needs to have precise timing and anticipation, which he has flashed in his limited snaps.
Dobbs’ natural football ability doesn’t limit to the passing game, he’s also an effective runner on the ground. He’s not an elite athlete, but he sets up his runs well with great field awareness. Dobbs is great in the open field because he understand the angles that defenders are coming from and knows where everyone is on the field. In the NFL (whether it be 2016 or 2017) he won’t be a huge rushing threat on the ground, but he’ll be a threat to efficiently move the chains on the ground in both designed quarterback runs, and when the pocket is deconstructing around him.
I’m a big fan of Josh Dobbs, but he’s not perfect. At times his accuracy can be a bit spotty, even in the short portion of the field. He’s confident with firing the ball into zone coverage, but with his lack of velocity on the ball, he’ll leave his receivers and tight ends open to vicious hits from back seven players. Another area where his lack of arm strength is notable, is when he has to push the ball down the field and lead his receivers away from deep coverage.
Arm strength is Dobbs’ big issue, but he’s generally been able to counteract it with his pocket presence, field vision, timing, and anticipation.
Josh Dobbs only has a few starts under his belt, but he’s already a fairly polished passer with the room to grow into one of the best quarterbacks in the country. If Dobbs can improve his arm strength and become more consistent with his accuracy he’ll be on his way to a high first round pick when he decides to take the next step to the NFL.