Welcome to Summer 2018, you guys: Without basketball or football games, let’s dive into some sports speculation, shall we?
NC State football is coming off the best season in the Dave Doeren era: nine wins and a victory in the Sun Bowl. The Wolfpack have to replace a lot of the defensive side of the ball; led by Bradley Chubb, the team’s entire defensive line was selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.
However, even with Jaylen Samuels and Nyheim Hines NFL-bound, too, NC State reloads with plenty of offensive firepower on the offensive side of the ball. At the top of that list: quarterback Ryan Finley, who’s joined by one of college football’s top receiving corps.
After considering entry to the 2018 NFL Draft, Finley elected to return to Raleigh; he enters the 2018 season as one of the top quarterbacks in college football. Unsurprisingly, he’s also pegged as a first-round talent in the eyes of some for the 2019 draft, too.
So, if all goes according to plan — Finley balls out, State wins some games and the fifth-year senior proves his first round bonafides — there’s a good chance the 6-foot-4 Phoenix native gets drafted early. And if that happens, there’s also a good chance he starts an NFL game in 2019. (Yes, I know this is pretty far into the weeds.)
The Vets: The other 4
In the 2017 NFL season, four former NC State quarterbacks started at least one game: Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Jacoby Brissett and Mike Glennon. In total, Rivers, Wilson, Brissett and Glennon started 51 games.
Those four players — drafted over the course of a full decade — combined to complete 1,068-of-1,737 pass attempts for 12,429 yards and 79 touchdowns.
Wilson led the NFL with 34 touchdown passes; in his 14th NFL season, Rivers threw for over 4,500 yards — something that’s happened only 53 times in league history. (It was Rivers’ fourth season of 4,500 pass yards.)
In relief of the injured Andrew Luck, Brissett started 15 games and was sacked a league-high 52 times. He also completed 59 percent of his passes and accounted for 17 touchdowns. Glennon, ever the bridesmaid, managed to platoon at the quarterback spot with former Tar Heel Mitch Trubisky, and started four games.
Old and Bold
Philip Rivers is under contract for two more seasons — signed through 2019; however, the elder statesman, 36, would still like to play a few more seasons. It feels like if one gets to a certain age in the NFL, things rotate on a year-to-year basis; it just can’t be assumed that anyone will be able play this violent sport without sustaining an injury.
That said, Rivers led the NFL in sack rate last season; behind a powerful offensive line, Rivers was sacked on just three percent of his drop-backs in 2017. According to Pro Football Reference, it was just the 30th time in NFL history a player has been sacked 20 or fewer times and attempted at least 550 passes.
A reduction hits bodes well in extending the career of a pocket passer.
As we all know, Russell Wilson — like Rivers — is entrenched at his starting position. Wilson is one of the best players in the league, and if he stays healthy, he will take darn near every snap for Seattle next season.
The same comfort isn’t afforded to Brissett or Glennon, though.
Luck’s health status remains a big question mark for the Colts; if he misses time, which seems a certainty, then Brissett is the guy. He proved himself capable to start in the NFL. For Glennon, Wilson’s old backup for a few seasons in Raleigh, it’s more tricky.
Glennon, on his third team in three years, is now a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona drafted Josh Rosen with the 10th overall pick; this offseason, the franchise also added veteran Sam Bradford. Glennon isn’t at the top of that pecking order, and it may take several things coinciding simultaneously for him to get a start.
Still in school: The Ryan Finley Factor
Ryan Finley doesn’t have the nation’s biggest arm, but he’s accurate and efficient, which was on full display in 2017. According to Football Study Hall, NC State ranked 17th in the FBS in Passing Success Rate (45.9 percent).
Finley and Baker Mayfield were the only two FBS players in 2017 to throw for over 3,500 yards on at least 400 attempts, and also fewer than seven interceptions.
Over his two seasons with the Wolfpack, Finley has started all 26 games, won two bowl games and thrown for 6,573 yards and 35 touchdowns.
It’s certainly no guarantee that Finley will start a game during his hypothetically rookie season, either. So much of that depends on time and situation, too; who knows where Finley will end up, and what other quarterbacks will be on the roster.
However, Finley will be 23 during his final season at State; by the time he gets to the pros, he will be older than a lot of rookies. Perhaps that pushes him on the field sooner — who knows.
I can hardly predict what I’ll eat for dinner tonight, so trying to envision who will start football games in the NFL over a year from now is silly science. Regardless, the fact that there’s a nonzero chance that nearly 16 percent of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks — for at least a week — could come from one program is pretty neat, and a clear recruiting selling point for Dave Doeren.