Draft Analysts Still Holding Firm On Ian Book As A Later-Round Selection
The consensus view of Ian Book’s professional football outlook is a career as a backup quarterback, but that doesn’t come without value in the eyes of NFL decision-makers and coaches.
There’s enough appeal when evaluating Notre Dame’s three-year starter, in fact, that has led draft analysts to peg him a probable selection in April’s draft, even if he’s not in every top-10 ranking of quarterbacks.
That’s a more optimistic projection than a year ago, pointing to a clear benefit from his decision to return for his fifth season. With regard to the NFL’s view of him, his final year of college football was about solidifying his stock as a possible backup more than it was trying to prove himself as a potential NFL starter. Draftniks think he was successful.
“He was a really good college quarterback,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Monday. “He improved. [Coach] Brian Kelly had nothing but great things to say about his leadership and what he meant to that football team.”
Wrote The Athletic’s Dane Brugler in his top 10 quarterback rankings: “He showed noticeable growth in his final campaign.”
Book’s 2020 numbers don’t pop off the page, but they do illustrate efficiency. Book completed 64.6 percent of his passes on 8.0 yards per attempt. He threw for 2,830 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions while adding 485 rushing yards (on 4.2 yards per carry) and nine scores. He left Notre Dame ranked second in program history behind Brady Quinn in several passing categories, including passing yards (8,948) and touchdown passes (72).
At January’s Senior Bowl, Book was named the National Team’s most outstanding quarterback after the three days of practices, edging a pair of later-round prospects in Sam Ehlinger (Texas) and Feleipe Franks (Arkansas) for the honor. He met with 31 of the 32 NFL teams in person at the Senior Bowl, an important footnote in a year with no NFL Scouting Combine and pre-draft visits likely taking place over Zoom.
All of that, though, raised his ceiling and draft projection only so much. Kiper does not have Book among his top 10 quarterbacks. NBC Sports’ Thor Nystrom has him 14th. Brugler is the most optimistic, pegging him as the No. 8 quarterback. Kiper’s ESPN colleague Todd McShay has him as the No. 150 overall player in the draft. The Draft Scout’s Matt Miller previously told BlueandGold.com he has a draftable grade on Book.
For some context, the 150th pick is usually in the fifth round. In the last five drafts, an average of 12.4 quarterbacks have been picked.
“I see a backup, a guy that could be a guy you can have for a long time as a career backup type who gets you through a two- or three-game period if your starter got hurt,” Kiper said. “I don’t see him as a starting quarterback in the NFL. If someone does view him that way, maybe he goes fourth round. If you view him as a possible starter but more of a backup, maybe a later-round pick. I think there are some limitations there that make him more of a backup.”
Stature and pocket presence in particular are some of the knocks, but mobility, athleticism and improvisation skills draw draft analysts and scouts to Book. He is No. 2 on the school’s list of career rushing yards by a quarterback (1,517). He averaged 4.2 yards per carry for his career and scored 17 touchdowns on the ground.
“Although undersized, Book is a gutsy dual-threat passer with quick feet and natural throwing skills on the move,” Brugler wrote. “From the pocket, he is hesitant with his reads and at his best on three-step drops, calling for quick timing throws. Overall, Book needs to improve his trigger and touch as a pocket passer, but he is an instinctive, athletic play extender and a proven winner, projecting as an NFL reserve capable of locking down a backup job.”
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