Thanks to his excellent arm strength and ideal size at the quarterback position, University of Pittsburgh product Tom Savage was a prospect whose stock soared leading up to the 2014 NFL draft.
Although he's still viewed as something of a project to succeed in the pros, the Houston Texans were too tantalized with Savage's upside to let him slide down any further, selecting him in the fourth round with the 135th overall pick.
CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman tweeted the selection and noted which quarterbacks the Texans passed on:
Tom Savage goes to Houston, picked before Mettenberger, Murray & McCarron.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) May 10, 2014
Savage, who measured at 6'4" and weighed in at 228 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, has deceptive athleticism but will be mostly confined to the pocket in the pros. Because of that, he must improve his mechanics, which can be a lot to ask for when his instincts have told him to throw the ball a different way for his entire career to date.
There were some polarizing assessments with regard to how Savage would translate to the NFL leading up to the draft. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller doubted Savage's accuracy, while NFL Network's Albert Breer cited the QB's transfer from Rutgers and lack of success at Pitt as red flags:
Does accuracy get better in the NFL? Lot of people will tell you it can't. Lot of examples show it doesn't. Tom Savage is very inaccurate.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 11, 2014
Hard thing about Tom Savage is Pitt finished 6th in a 7-team division. And he transferred after being benched for kid who was later benched.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 14, 2014
Savage talked about his issue after leaving Rutgers, according to Tania Ganguli of ESPN:
But that didn't stop the Texans from taking a flier on Savage, confirming what Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network reported with regard to the talented signal-caller's ascent up draft boards:
The Tom Savage buzz is legitimate. His name keeps coming up when I talk to decision makers.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 8, 2014
NFL.com's Gil Brandt has liked Savage for quite some time, comparing his arm talent to the likes of former Dallas Cowboys superstar Troy Aikman:
Let me say this about Tom Savage: is he a finished product? No. But arm reminds me of Aikman's and teams covet that, as they should.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) April 7, 2014
Jeremiah also noted the improvement he saw in Savage as the 2013 campaign progressed, per NFL.com's Bryan Fischer:
The arm strength is easy to notice. He's got a big arm and you see him make some drive throws you don't see other guys make. When I watched him early in the year, he took so many sacks and I kind of worried about his ability to navigate in the pocket and get out of trouble. I watched some later tape on him and saw him get out of things, so I came away thinking he's OK and not quite as immobile as I first thought.
Many who defend Savage argue that he didn't have a great offensive line in college and that he had limited talent around him overall to succeed. That could have led to some of the mechanical flaws and his tendency to throw off platform, along with his mediocre stats this past season, where he threw for 2,958 yards and completed 61.2 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Solid but not spectacular. And to provide a balanced perspective, Savage's No. 2 wide receiver in Devin Street was graded as a fourth-round prospect by CBSSports.com prior to the draft. Street might be rated better in another class if the wide receiver position wasn't so deep in this particular draft.
How will Tom Savage fare in the NFL?
Freshman phenom Tyler Boyd was also an explosive weapon at Savage's disposal, as he caught 85 passes for 1,174 yards and made a lot happen after the catch. So it's hard to fault Pittsburgh, since the program surrounded Savage with at least a decent supporting cast.
By the time he's ready to take the field, Savage should have all the pieces in place and the necessary development to lead an NFL franchise. There's no question he has all the physical tools to thrive in the NFL, but he has just one strong collegiate season under his belt. That will require him to sit for at least a year or two.
For someone who has generated so much attention ahead of the draft, it might be hard for Savage to deal with riding the bench for the foreseeable future. If he ultimately doesn't pan out, it could be due to discouragement in not seeing any game action.
The Texans may not see immediate dividends returned on their investment on Sundays, but given time, they have reason to believe that Savage can become the future face of their franchise. Coaching him up and ensuring he doesn't lose confidence as he's brought along gradually will be key to his success. Bill O'Brien will help develop Savage in a quarterback situation that is seemingly wide open in Houston.