Let’s start off by saying that it’s way too early to predict what will happen in the 2017 NFL draft. Any prediction should be taken more as entertainment than as fact.
Having said that, it’s hard not to be at least a little interested in the early projection.
ESPN NFL draft insider Todd McShay came out with his way-too-early 2017 mock draft, which was loaded with a lot of the expected top prospects. Deshaun Watson, Leonard Fournette and Malik McDowell were all high on that list. The versatile Jabrill Peppers came in at No. 23 overall, followed by Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey was at No. 24.
And Mitch Leidner was right behind them.
Yes, the Minnesota quarterback who has been the subject of plenty of criticism from Gopher fans was tabbed by McShay as a first-round quarterback. Here’s how he justified the high selection:
Leidner shows some upside as a passer, but I’ll be looking to see if he can improve his accuracy (59.5 completion rate and 14-11 TD-INT ratio in 2015). Listed at 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, Leidner has ideal size and has shown the ability to make plays with his legs off designed runs and scrambles. He’s a late riser to keep an eye on, similar to Blake Bortles and Carson Wentz.
McShay is right about a couple of things. Leidner certainly has good mobility to go along with his NFL build. Nobody will argue that.
What’s interesting was that he likened Leidner to Bortles and Wentz, both of whom were drafted in the first three picks. Bortles had back-to-back seasons of 25 touchdown passes and 3,000 yards while Wentz won back-to-back FCS national titles.
With all due respect to Leidner, who came on strong in Tracy Claeys’ offense down the stretch last year, he has a ways to go for that comparison to be a fair one.
If Leidner does end up being the first B1G quarterback to be selected in the first round since 1995, you can bet there will be a few surprised people in Minneapolis.