2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Sam Ehlingerby Mike Fanelli March 17, 2021 1 comment
Some people grow up wanting to be a lawyer, doctor, or even a cowboy. However, Sam Ehlinger grow up wanting to be the Texas Longhorns’ starting quarterback. After four years in Austin, with a 30-16 record, Ehlinger is finally on his way to the NFL. However, there are plenty of questions about what Ehlinger’s role in the NFL will be.
Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 NFL Draft Scouting Reports.
Name: Sam Ehlinger
Weight: 230 lbs
Mental/Decision Making (13/20)
He doesn’t throw with much anticipation, instead, Ehlinger waits for the receivers to become open on crossing or switch concepts before throwing. Ehlinger tends to stare down his receivers, giving the defense the advantage before he threw the ball. He either misread the defense or forced balls into tight windows, throwing downfield into double coverage more often than he should have. When Ehlinger faced a three-man rush, it led to several coverage sacks, as he struggled to read the defense and go through his progressions. Also, he had a handful of plays where he would force the ball in the red zone that did or could have led to turnovers, failing to protect the potential three points on the board.
Short Accuracy/Placement (7.58/10)
Too many throws from Ehlinger were off ideal placement. There were several examples where simple check-down throws were low or behind the receiver, limiting their chance for yards after the catch. A big part of the problem is Ehlinger’s footwork, as he doesn’t always step into his throws, even when he had a clean pocket.
Middle Accuracy/Placement (7.17/10)
Similar problem as with his short accuracy/placement grade. Too often a receiver on a crossing route would have to reach back or high for the ball. Not only did that limit their chance for yards after the catch, but also opened them up to big hits. Furthermore, when Ehlinger’s placement in the middle of the field was off, it led to tip balls that turned into near interceptions or interceptions.
Deep Accuracy/Placement (7.33/10)
When his placement is on point, Ehlinger is a good deep-ball thrower. However, when it is off, he leaves his receivers in a tough position. Their job to locate the ball becomes harder than it should be, or they are forced to make an impressive catch using their wingspan to make up for Ehlinger’s poor placement. Furthermore, Ehlinger relies on his bigger weapons to make up for him, something he might not be able to fix in the NFL.
The Texas offense was centered around the running game and RPOs while mixing in vertical shots downfield. Because of that, Ehlinger didn’t have many multiple read throws. When he did, he had success when either pressured or facing a four-man rush. However, when Ehlinger faced a three-man rush, it led to several coverage sacks as he struggled to read the defense and go through his progressions.
Arm Strength (8.33/10)
Despite issues with his footwork, Ehlinger has an NFL starting quarterback arm. He has the strength to throw the ball downfield without any trouble. Furthermore, Ehlinger can make the opposite side hash mark comeback route throws when he steps into his throws. While he doesn’t have the best arm in the draft class, Ehlinger can play in a weather impacted city like Chicago and be successful.
Ehlinger’s throwing motion is fine but could be tightened a little. He is capable of making side-arm throws when needed but sticks to his normal motion when the situation permits. However, his footwork needs work. He doesn’t consistently set himself when throwing from inside the pocket or outside of it. At times he will get his shoulders squared with the line of scrimmage when throwing on the run but other times, he will throw off one foot while leaning to the sideline, impacting his placement and accuracy. This problem is his biggest hurdle to overcome entering the league.
Pocket Presence (8.08/10)
Sometimes Ehlinger takes sacks he could have avoided, whether pre or post-snap. However, he did a good job keeping two hands on the ball and protecting it, whether in or out of the pocket. His athleticism allows him to move around and extend plays, both from within and out of the pocket. The two things he needs to work on here are how quickly he takes off and runs and keeping his eyes downfield when the pocket breaks down.
While Ehlinger is far from a Lamar Jackson type athlete, he is dangerous with his legs in and out of the pocket. Texas used him in a similar way the New Orleans Saint use Taysom Hill in the red zone or short-yardage situations. He is a powerful physical runner when he needs to get a few yards. However, he is dangerous in the open field. During his time at Texas, Ehlinger showed off an ability to make defenders miss in space when running between the 20s. Again, he doesn’t have Jackson level athleticism, but he is on par with Dak Prescott in this aspect.
Clutch/Competitive Toughness (4.08/5)
During his time at Texas, the coaching staff and defense let him down several times. Because of that, Ehlinger had several game-tying or winning drives in his college career. When Texas needed a play on fourth down or in the red zone, Ehlinger’s number was called. Several times it was called on the ground but he made several game-winning plays with his arm as well, including against Oklahoma in 2020. However, he did force things at times as he tried to do too much. Overall, Ehlinger’s competitive toughness was one of the best in college football over the past few seasons.
In short, Ehlinger belongs in the NFL. He is nowhere near ready to start but has the tools every coach should want in their backup quarterback. Ehlinger is a team leader, a team-first guy, tough and determined. Even if he never gets a shot at starting, he will be a targeted backup for a decade, thanks to his other qualities. While he doesn’t have the tools to start right away, he could develop into a starting quarterback in the right situation. Another option for Ehlinger is to go the Hill route in New Orleans, playing as a gadget player with some quarterback snaps mixed in. The future is uncertain for Ehlinger, but he is the kind of player every coach wants in their locker room.
Final Grade (72.31/100): Fourth-Round Pick
Player Comp: Taysom Hill