Why the 2020 NFL Draft's best-kept quarterback secret has first-round potential
This big, athletic and polished quarterback is the ultimate draft sleeper in the 2020 class
He's a 6-foot-4, 230-pound, draft-eligible quarterback of a 7-1 team in a Power 5 conference, and for some reason, is garnering essentially no draft buzz. Until now.
Wake Forest's Jamie Newman has plus athleticism, a decently strong arm, and has made an assortment some of the most high-level plays from inside the pocket of any quarterback in college football this season. Actually, probably only Joe Burrow from LSU and maybe Oregon's Justin Herbert have made more retweet-worthy, highlight-reel throws from between the tackles this year.
As a redshirt junior, Newman does have another year of eligibility, but what he's done as a passer -- and runner -- this season has put him inside my top 50 right now. I'll show you why I have such a big grade him at the moment.
Below are the five categories on which I grade quarterbacks. They are listed in order of importance, with the most important category at the top.
Newman is completing 67.2% of his passes, at a more than respectable 8.3 yards-per-attempt average with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. So, the classic statistics check out. In late October, Pro Football Focus noted Newman's adjusted accuracy percentage was 77.3% -- discounting drops, throwaways and times he was hit as he threw. That figure indicates he's consistently putting the ball where his receivers can reel it in.
And this Wake Forest offense is far from gimmicky. It's uptempo but features the vertical passing game, and Newman routinely tests secondaries deep. More often than not, he places the ball perfectly to his target. Check this dime to redshirt sophomore phenom Sage Surratt against North Carolina that traveled right around 45 yards in the air.
With the deep ball being his specialty, I have to show a few more teardrops down the field. Here, against Elon, Newman ripped it to to Surratt down the seam on a play with three defenders in pursuit. If this throw was slightly off target or underthrown, it had a chance to get knocked away. But Newman led him into the end zone.
The last I'll show of Newman's downfield bucket throws came against Boston College, and his other big wideout Scotty Washington was the target. Notice how the pocket was collapsing but Newman was still able to drive the football far enough to get it to Washington down the sideline without the receiver having to break stride.
To illustrate that Newman isn't just a downfield passer who can't hit the broad side of a barn on short to intermediate throws, here are two passes at those levels of the field that couldn't have been located any better. While just a pair of plays, you can trust that Newman doesn't have an accuracy problem whatsoever.
Here's a beauty of an end zone target on fourth down while trailing Utah State in the fourth quarter of the opening game of the season. Newman put the ball only where his receiver could snag it.
And, for the intermediate laser, I head to the Demon Deacons' win over NC State last weekend. On third-and-long, Newman stood in and delivered a strike across the middle between an underneath linebacker and two trailing defensive backs on the in-breaking route to move the sticks.
Super impressive, right? And he's made these throws while calmly operating from inside the pocket, which is a perfect segue to the next category.
Newman's pocket-management skills are unbelievably advanced for a quarterback who had made just four starts before this season. He doesn't often panic as his pocket his crumbling around him. Frequently is he very patient inside a clean pocket -- an aspect of playing the position that seems like a piece of cake but, as many quarterbacks in college and the NFL show, is not.
On a third-and-11 against NC State, he waited patiently for his wideout to free himself over the middle and ripped a throw for the first down.
Even a few of the GIFs in the Accuracy section demonstrate how patient Newman is as a pocket passer. The overwhelming majority of college quarterbacks would panic and vacate the pocket after about two or three seconds in it, and it's exceptionally rare to find such an inexperienced signal-caller willing to simply stand in, wait, wait some more, then fire accurately.
Newman does that often.
I've saved the best play for this category, an integral part of playing quarterback successfully in the NFL. If he can't get through his reads in college, he's almost assuredly not just going to start doing it against faster defenses on Sundays.
Not only does Newman consistently scan from inside the pocket, but he knows he needs to get off his first read if it's not there and quickly finds secondary and tertiary targets down the field.
This completion on third-and-19 against Boston College is not just the most impressive overall play I've seen from any collegiate quarterback this season, it's up there with the most outstanding throws I've watched among first- or second-year NFL quarterbacks. And I'm not exaggerating.
Newman started this play by looking right. Not there. So he snapped his head all the way across the field to the left sideline. Not there either. Time to run, right? Wrong. Pocket's clean. Stay in. And he did. After getting to the middle of the field, Newman uncorked a rocket for a first down.
That is, undeniably, a first-round pick caliber play.
Because I've loaded this article with GIFs already, I'll just give you one here. I mean, many of the throws above demonstrate that Newman has a good arm (albeit not spectacular).
But check the velocity -- and timing -- on this deep out from the far hash against North Carolina. This play is the classic "NFL throw" many collegiate quarterbacks simply aren't capable of making. Note the ball placement too.
Goodness. That's dime city.
Scrambling and running ability
The least-important aspect of playing quarterback well in the NFL is the ability to run, but it's definitely worth noting during the scouting process because mobility can limit a passer in a way or be a major luxury.
And, because I've highlighted how patient inside the pocket he is, I'm actually going to show two designed runs here. Also, because at his size and with his athleticism, Newman could provide a designed run element in the NFL. On this play against Boston College, beyond the long speed, watch how he jumped through the hole and absorbed contact before accelerating down the field.
And then against Louisville, Newman flashed his springiness on a multiple-cut run to convert on third-and-4. With the pulling left guard, it looks like this run was supposed to go on the right side of the line, but Newman quickly noticed a cutback lane and hit it.
Not many quarterbacks look like that while carrying the football.
Newman has shown the full repertoire of playing quarterback in his first full season as Wake Forest's starter, and while there hasn't been any indication of whether he's leaning toward returning to school or heading to the NFL after this year, he has tremendous quarterbacking abilities.
When it comes to the nuances of playing the position -- and the deep-ball accuracy -- Newman is much further ahead of where Dwayne Haskins was as a prospect, and we all know when he was selected.
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