One of the strangest stories to emerge this draft season is the apparent fall of Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins down draft boards, a slide that makes no sense.
This is a guy who threw for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns last year. He's an unquestioned leader, a highly decent person and clearly one of the most talented players in the draft. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Haskins displayed a knowledge and passion for the game that impressed during his interviews.
In many ways, Haskins is the kind of player NFL teams would create in a test tube and roll out onto the field.
But something odd is happening, and it goes beyond the debate in NFL circles about whether Haskins is talented and inexperienced or just too raw to run an offense at this point. Simply put, signs are pointing to the real possibility that Haskins' draft stock is plummeting.
A qualifier here that's important: This is the NFL draft, and the two certainties in life are the sun will rise and people in the NFL will lie about the draft.
Still, it seems meaningful that when the NFL announced the list of prospects who will attend the draft in Nashville later this month, one of the biggest names was missing. It was Haskins.
Normally, when a huge name like Haskins doesn't go to the draft, it's because that player's camp believes he could experience a precipitous drop, and his handlers don't want him embarrassed on national television. Haskins' people likely will deny this, but generally, this is true.
There's also what B/R draft guru Matt Miller said recently on The Rich Eisen Show—that he's hearing Missouri quarterback Drew Lock could be taken ahead of Haskins.
All of this leads to a question: Why?
After speaking to a half-dozen front-office executives and coaches, some answers are becoming clear.
"Can he move enough when [the] pocket changes?" one NFC coach asked in a text. "Great kid! Will learn. Agility concerns and limited exposure [with] down-the-field throws."
This is one of the smartest coaches (and people) I've ever known. If he is expressing these concerns, then my guess is this is an emerging—or already established—leaguewide belief about Haskins.
"I like him a lot," the coach added. "He'll learn but will take time. Best place would be a [year] or two behind a veteran starter. A good comparison would be Jacoby Brissett. I loved Brissett. I'm a little concerned about Haskins."
Another comparison floated my way was Byron Leftwich, the former Jaguars quarterback who is now the offensive coordinator with the Buccaneers.
Nothing wrong with becoming the next Leftwich, or Brissett, but patience isn't an abundant resource in the NFL anymore. Teams aren't going to want to take several years to groom Haskins if they take him in the top 10. They're going to want more immediate production. This might explain the alleged slide.
Other NFL sources worry it may take years for Haskins to develop the mechanics and footwork needed to perform the core task of the quarterback game: connecting accurately on deep passes.
Oddly, what teams say about Haskins privately isn't matching up with what analysts are proclaiming publicly. Former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, now of ESPN, spoke for many when he told the John Keim Report podcast he believes Haskins can be a talented NFL player.
"He has got really good NFL intelligence," Orlovsky said. "You talk about a kid that can go to the line of scrimmage, and completely know what's going on, and understand, 'This is the pressure. You've got to pick this up. This is the weakness of the defense.' And communicate it all. Very bright.
"He makes appropriate throws. I don't like when people say, 'A quarterback who can make all the throws.' I've been around defensive ends who can make all the throws. You have to make appropriate ones. This kid's tape is very impressive."
Though Orlovsky compared Haskins to Philip Rivers, he also said one concern he has is that Haskins will "go a little quiet" at times, meaning in some stretches he didn't take over the game the way he should have.
So what is Haskins? A promising QB who has a lot to learn or a signal-caller who can already dissect a defense? Depends on whom you ask, it seems. But know this: The criticism of Haskins could also be a smoke screen from teams hoping he'll fall to them. That's far from unprecedented.
It's too early to tell what he'll be. He certainly has star qualities. Now, it's just a matter of figuring out if any team is patient enough to allow them to flourish.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter:@mikefreemanNFL.
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