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Best arm, best release, best zip: Elite 11 Finals superlatives

A few days removed from the Elite 11 Finals, we’ve had the opportunity to go back and assess what we saw from the event’s three days in Nashville. As a result of 247Sports’ relationship with the UC Report, we have access to video of hundreds of passes from the week.

There’s no doubt this was not a typical event in what has certainly been an atypical recruiting cycle due to the Coronavirus. Unlike recent years, there was no 7-on-7 element and all the throws were on air. With that said, the event still allowed for a crucial opportunity to compare many of the nation’s top arms side by side.

We already tabbed Oregon commit Ty Thompson as 247Sports’ Alpha Dog from the event, so now let’s hand out some superlatives.

Biggest Riser: Baylor Commit Kyron Drones, Missouri Commit Tyler Macon

Drones and Macon entered the week with similar rankings (both three-star prospects) and high school accolades. Both led very talented squads to state titles as juniors while turning in impressive production. Drones was a first year starter and has good junior video, but we were lacking a spring evaluation. The Pearland (Texas) Shadow Creek passer immediately stuck out as one of the more physically gifted quarterbacks in attendance. He owns a big, athletic frame and was good on each day. Drones showed a very encouraging skill set in terms of his arm talent and functional movement skills and looks to have continued progressing from a technical and fundamental perspective since the end of the season. Still just 16 years old, he’s shown some encouraging improvement and looks to have a high ceiling along with being more polished than in the fall. Macon answered any questions about his physical tools, showing a live arm and stout build. The East St. Louis (Ill.) standout had one of the more consistent deliveries and like Drones, looked fairly polished as a passer. Both were the two most pleasant surprises of the week.

Quickest: Oregon commit Ty Thompson

While much of this event hinges on pure passing, we also get a look at footwork and overall movement skills of each quarterback. Thompson impressed in most facets, but what really stood out was his quick-twitch movements. It often seemed like the Gilbert (Ariz.) Mesquite product was operating at a higher speed than several of his competitors. After passing the eye test from a physical standpoint, I thought Thompson had outstanding speed and depth in his drops when working under center. His strong mechanical base allows for a consistent delivery without much variance. This allowed for him to deliver from different platforms and look like one of, if not the best passer on the run at the event. Thompson has a wide package of throws and can fire the ball out quick to the boundary without much hesitation.

Strongest Arm: Ohio State commit Kyle McCord

There were times when others may have had a throw here or there with more velocity, but McCord gets the nod here due to his consistently strong arm over the course of the week. What stood out the most was McCord’s easy arm strength – he never strained or had to throw his whole body into a throw. The first day saw the Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joseph’s product throw almost nothing but fastballs. He readjusted on the remaining two days to show some ability to layer his throws while still maintaining some of the best and certainly most consistent velocity on hand.

Best Release: Georgia commit Brock Vandagriff

Vandagriff was certainly among the more consistent passers on hand. This especially was evident during the accuracy competition on day three. When several others got gassed and saw their mechanics get wonky due to fatigue, Vandagriff made it look easy. The ball came out of his hand the same on virtually every throw, allowing him to deliver a crisp, clean football and focus on hitting the targets while not wasting energy on wild passes.

Most Accurate: North Carolina commit Drake Maye

We know Maye is highly accurate on Friday nights, hitting 72% of his passes as a junior. That carried over to the event, particularly on the last two days. Maye finished second to McCord in the pro day competition and was able to stick the ball on the receivers to multiple levels of the field. He was similarly accurate during the target competition on day three, particularly when throwing from the pocket. He’ll need to work on throwing on the run, but continued to show the ability to locate the football at a high level when his feet are set.

Best Zip: Michigan commit J.J. McCarthy, Tennessee commit Kaidon Salter

This category is a little different than strongest arm, which we’d consider to have more of a downfield element. Zip concerns more of the intermediate to short passes. McCarthy was strong in this regard all week and threw some exceptional passes over the middle of the field, in particular. I came away impressed with his ability to whip the football around the field and generate consistent RPM’s. Salter entered the week with the reputation for a live arm and upon reviewing some different angles of footage, held up very well in that regard. I thought Salter’s velocity during his pro day session on day two was among the best on hand.

Fast Starter: Caleb Williams

The currently uncommitted (announcing on July 4) five-star came out like gangbusters on Monday and was the no doubt top performer from the event’s first day. To be honest, Williams went tit for tat with the college counselors. We saw him cool off a bit on the final two days as he looked to be aiming a bit midway through his pro day session. Still, Williams flashed the upside and arm talent that has him as the current top-ranked quarterback by both 247Sports and the 247Sports Composite.

Steady Hand: Texas Tech commit Behren Morton

He might’ve not had the high points of some of the others, but Morton showed well over the course of the week and never appeared to struggle. Coming in as a five-sport athlete from a small school in West-central Texas, you might expect Morton to have an adjustment period to the drills or competition he’d see in this setting. That was anything but the case. Morton showed fluid movement skills, a consistent delivery and above average arm talent relative to the group while turning in good showings in each drill.

College Body: Florida commit Carlos Del Rio

The Atlanta area native has continued to add size and looked like one of the bigger and more filled out quarterbacks on hand. Del Rio looked a good bit larger than when we saw him in February and played at a higher level, as well. At 6-foot-3+ and around 215 pounds, Del Rio showed off one of the stronger arms in what was an encouraging three days of work.

Scheme Versatile: Oregon commit Ty Thompson

We’re going with Thompson as the only repeat winner. As noted above, Thompson looked to have the quickest and cleanest drops from under center while looking equally comfortable in operating from the shotgun. Even his play action fakes were advanced relative to the others. Though he’ll likely play in the gun primarily at Oregon in Joe Moorhead’s spread offense, Thompson’s versatility gives a bunch of options in terms of formations. The fact he’s already refined from under center also certainly doesn’t hurt any kind of longterm NFL projection.

Catchable Ball: USC commit Miller Moss

A strong candidate for Most Accurate, Moss gets the nod here. The quarterbacks were throwing to local high school receivers who to be frank, struggled at times to corral passes. Moss did a nice job getting the ball out in a quick, decisive manner and was able to adjust to the receivers and deliver a catchable football over the first two days of on-air passing.

Wish You Were Here: Washington commit Sam Huard, Texas A&M commit Eli Stowers, Texas commit Jalen Milroe, USC commit Jake Garcia, SMU commit Preston Stone, Wisconsin commit Deacon Hill, Iowa commit Joey Labas, Oregon State commit Sam Vidlak.

The Coronavirus and lack of regional camps led to some, like Huard, to be unable to attend. We’ve been able to see Milroe and Jake Garica in camp settings in 2020 but it would’ve been nice to compare them within this group. Stowers is recovering from a late-season knee injury, but we’ve yet to see him in a camp setting like the Elite 11. It would be fun to see how Deacon Hill’s considerable arm talent would match up with the best on hand in Nashville. Labas and Vidlak are two recent risers we’d also be eager to evaluate in this setting.

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