Reports on Tuesday suggested that the Jacksonville Jaguars were the lead contender in the newly developing Matt Flynn sweepstakes. Obviously the Jaguars now have a major connection with Flynn, with head coach Gus Bradley being from Seattle and having some unique insight on Flynn, based on how he performed with the scout team to prepare Bradley’s defense from week to week. Still, it’s a bit odd to hear that Jacksonville is the lead dog for a player they showed no interest in last year. Alas, times have changed. Fresh with a new coach, a new GM, and a muddled QB situation that didn’t show that much progress last year, the Jaguars may be willing to spend a mid-round pick on a QB so that they don’t have to take a top-33 pick on one. But should they?
Let’s turn back the page a few years. Matt Flynn came out of LSU as a one-year starter (playing behind the worst NFL bust in history for much of his college career). Flynn’s measurables and college production made him a 7th round pick by the Green Bay Packers. Flynn showed some real polish despite starting for less than a year at quarterback, flashing a strong ability to read through progressions, calmly feel a pass rush, and throw a very accurate short-intermediate ball. However, his lack of experience and his measurables made Flynn a non-ideal prospect, especially given his just-adequate height, moderate arm strength, and inconsistent deep ball. His NFL comparison, Ryan Fitzpatrick, seems like a good one, given what we’ve heard of Flynn’s skills thus far.
Fast forwarding to the 2012 offseason, Flynn only had a few more games as a starting quarterback to add to his resume. The last of these games, however, was one that made Flynn the money that he’s receiving today. His 480 yard, 6 touchdown day in Week 17 of 2011 made people wonder how good Matt Flynn could be. According to Football Outsiders, basically every quarterback in NFL history that has had a game about as good as Flynn’s has been a Pro Bowler during their careers. Their analysis of 15 quarterbacks, ranging from all-time greats like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning to moderately-high achievers, like Daunte Culpepper, Matt Hasselbeck, and Marc Bulger led Football Outsiders to declare that Flynn’s ceiling was “a Hall of Famer”, while his floor was “at least close to a Pro Bowl player”. In their opinion, “It was only one game, but the simple fact is that mediocre quarterbacks are almost never that good”.
Greg Cosell of NFL Films did some work on Flynn during the 2012 offseason and determined that Flynn “can be a successful NFL starter”, but is “a player that needs to be coached and managed to maximize the skills he possesses… [as it is] for 80-90% of [NFL] quarterbacks”. Cosell further reports, “Flynn in his rightful role [can be] an efficient passer in a multi-dimensional passing game in which the scheme rules, not the quarterback”. In other words, Cosell doesn’t quite agree with Football Outsiders that Flynn’s floor is close to a Pro Bowler. However, he believes that Flynn can get there in the right system. A more optimistic scouting report was done over at Bleacher Report last offseason. The writer grades Flynn using a system used to grade quarterback prospects coming out of the draft, giving him a grade of 8.9 which suggests that Flynn will become one of the best at his position. While the grading scale used is highly subjective, the article does get one thing very right. The author declares, “While Flynn isn’t a rookie, he’s about as close as you can get.” For all of those Jaguars fans that think Blaine Gabbert needs some more time and experience to prove his worth (myself being among them), Flynn has much less college and NFL experience than Gabbert does, despite being quite a few years older.
Overall, Flynn has thrown 141 NFL pass attempts (about 3-4 games worth) and has completed about 62% of his passes. He’s thrown 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 92.0. If he achieved similar numbers when throwing 10x as many passes, Flynn would be a highly coveted free agent. But the truth is, he’s got less than one full season of college and NFL football starting experience under his belt. If that’s the case, why are we still talking about him? What makes him any different than the Matt Cassels, Kevin Kolbs, and AJ Feelys of the world? Well, in the two games he has started, he’s looked incredible: 81 attempts for 731 yards with a 68% completion percentage, 9 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. The fact of the matter is, QB is such a scarce position that teams are willing to look anywhere to find them. Guys like Doug Flutie, Kurt Warner, and even Tom Brady are prime examples of this. While those players are most certainly exceptions rather than the rule, when a backup quarterback puts up numbers like those, teams take notice. And why shouldn’t they? Teams take fliers on quarterbacks all the time – and often give up tremendous value in the process. Blaine Gabbert is a prime example of this – he was somewhat of a project at quarterback that cost a 1st and 2nd round pick to draft. Why not take a flier on a later round guy – especially one who has shown success in albeit limited NFL action. The risk/reward on a guy like Flynn is quite high, depending on the price. Which brings us to our next question – what is the price on Flynn?
Seahawks fanblog FieldGulls suggests that the Seahawks should be able to get a 2nd rounder at best and a 4th rounder at worst for Flynn, with the expectation that the Seahawks will deal Flynn for a 3rd rounder. I think that’s a pretty fair assessment of Flynn’s market value. The real question will be whether the Jaguars will be willing to give up a top 70 pick for Flynn in a draft class that’s supposed to be incredibly deep. Being a team with so many holes that’s likely changing schemes on offense and defense, the Jaguars need all the draft picks they can get. That being said, if Bradley and co. saw something in Flynn that made them think he’s something special, there’s likely no better way to use a mid-round pick. At the end of the day, the Jaguars will likely grade Flynn the way they grade most players in the NFL draft, and assess his value amongst the other players they have given a third round grade on. With such little game tape on Matt Flynn, the Jaguars are lucky to have some significant insight on his future prospects as a quarterback in the NFL. Perhaps the chips are finally falling into place for Jacksonville’s favorite football team.
– Zain Gowani