On the NFL team scouting report, probably the most eye-catching information of all of the categories was within the box listed for final grade. It simply read two words in all caps.
This was the write-up for one NFL team last spring when it evaluated Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy. In fairness, that NFL organization probably shouldn’t feel too bad in its evaluation. Purdy almost went undrafted in 2022, lasting until the ultimate pick within the draft, No. 262 overall. Yet the previous Iowa State star is now only one game away from leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. This weekend he’ll change into only the fifth rookie quarterback to begin a conference title game, and not one of the previous 4 were in a position to help their team make it to the Super Bowl.
Purdy’s rise from being chosen as “Mr. Irrelevant” has been some of the remarkable stories of the NFL season. The Athletic reviewed a pre-draft scouting report from an NFL team to explore why the four-year college starting quarterback lasted so long within the draft, then spoke to the coach who wrote that report and asked, on the condition of anonymity for competitive reasons, what he sees in Purdy now, what other teams might need missed and why the 23-year-old has been such a super fit for the 49ers.
The book on Purdy last spring was of a prospect with less-than-ideal size, at 6-0 1/2 and 212 kilos. His hand size also lower than ideal: 9 1/4 inches. The athleticism he displayed on the 2022 NFL Scouting Mix also didn’t impress. He ran a 4.84 40 and vertical jumped 27 inches. In his report, the coach wrote, “Didn’t test well, limited athlete that has a maxed out body. Very mature and experienced. Threw it okay.”
The strengths for Purdy were that he was “VERY” experienced with 48 college starts and that he manages the sport well, making the routine plays consistently. He was creative because the play extends and “works through his progressions thoroughly.”
The weaknesses: “sawed off … not a excellent athlete … limited arm, each in strength and throw repertoire.”
It took a series of injuries for Purdy to get his opportunity this season in San Francisco. In Week 2, the 49ers lost starter Trey Lance to a broken ankle. Then, in early December, Jimmy Garoppolo injured his foot and San Francisco turned to Purdy. He has been terrific, posting a 13-to-4 TD-INT ratio, while completing 67 percent of his passes for a 107.3 rating, which is sort of two points higher than any QB within the NFL who had enough attempts to qualify. More impressively, Purdy is now 7-0 because the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
The NFL coach who wrote the scouting report said Monday, “The most important thing that stood out in a different way than from his college film, and (49ers GM) John Lynch actually said it a number of weeks ago, is his athleticism. I don’t remember him moving like that at Iowa State, and he didn’t test well. He jumped 27 inches, which is terrible. He ran a 4.85 (4.84). He’s got short arms, like really short, and he’s got small hands. He’s 6-1, and his arm is OK. The twitchiness just wasn’t really there. His short shuttle was OK —4.45 — that’s not outstanding.
“There seems like there’s two or three of those guys every yr, who’ve played a ton in college. They produced and know the playbook out and in but are only physically limited. They play a lot and so that you get a very good have a look at what they will’t do, where sometimes it helps guys that don’t play that much because their warts don’t show up as much.”
Evaluating college quarterbacks has all the time been particularly vexing for the NFL. One school of thought, the coach said, is when you’re going to take a QB in the primary round, he must be elite at one thing. “That was the entire debate with Mac Jones,” he said. “What’s his one thing that he’s really great at? Well, he processes thoroughly, and he’s really accurate, which is tough to see physically. That was a thing with Joe Burrow (when he was coming out of LSU) until everyone ended up coming around on him. Joe’s fast but not likely fast. His arm’s good, not great. However it was, Hey, he’s only a baller. The guy is basically, really good at quarterback. In terms of that ‘it factor,’ It’s just oozing out him.”
Purdy had been an efficient runner at Iowa State, rushing for 19 touchdowns and almost 1,200 yards in his profession, but there was a number of concern about how well his wheels would translate at the subsequent level. “The requirement to juke people and outrun people in college is lots lower than it’s within the NFL,” the NFL coach said. “You saw that with Zach Wilson, Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow — guys that looked fast in college, but they’re just not fast enough within the NFL. In college, they may give you the chance to outrun that D-end or draw back from that linebacker, but they got hawked down within the NFL. But Purdy has kinda maintained that and almost surpassed his level of agility within the NFL. I ponder what he did within the offseason (to prepare for the NFL).”
Purdy ran a 4.84 40-yard dash on the 2022 mix. (Kirby Lee / USA Today)
The coach said Purdy’s offense at Iowa State features a number of runs, Q-reads and RPOs, but there wasn’t a number of true drop-back passing like what scouts saw from Burrow or Jones. Within the 49ers’ games against Tampa Bay, Washington and Seattle particularly, the coach said, Purdy displayed some wiggle, lateral quickness and agility that he had not seen before he made it to the NFL. The Cowboys, who’re really athletic up front on defense, corralled Purdy the perfect that anybody has thus far within the NFL, he said.
“But,” said the coach, “what I believe is basically making him successful is he’s processing a number of information pre-snap because they do a number of motion, shifts, kills, alerts in that offense. It could actually be hard to simply snap the ball and know which approach to hand the ball off. His composure late within the down — he has not made very many boneheaded mistakes — has really been impressive. He did have one (Sunday) when he threw the ball away and almost ended the half and you possibly can see Kyle (Shanahan) MF-ing him under the decision sheet for an excellent 10 seconds. Those plays haven’t shown up lots.”
Asked where he thinks Purdy can be drafted now based on what he’s shown this yr, the coach said probably second or third round.
“We undervalued his agility and doubtless the mental side, and San Francisco is ideal for it because they put a number of importance on that due to their offense,” he said. “In San Francisco, he can operate and play-action and boot and screen and manage the sport. It’s not like he’s playing in a system like in Buffalo where the Bills are counting on Josh Allen sitting back and just hucking the ball all around the field, where it’s like, ‘Good Lord, how are you making those throws?’”
“In San Francisco, they don’t depend on the quarterback’s production as much as most teams. It also helps that they’ve the perfect left tackle, the most effective tight ends, the most effective running backs, the most effective wide receivers and a very good defense — they’re loaded around him.”
The coach is desirous to see how Purdy handles facing the Eagles within the NFC Championship. “Philly does lots to challenge you one-on-one, where he’s gonna need to make some tough throws — it’s a number of five-man rush, a number of read-trap coverages — it will possibly make it hard on the quarterback. It’ll be interesting to see how they attack it, especially in the event that they can’t run it the best way they wish to.”
(Top photo: Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)