Vikings Draft Spotlight | Dorian Thompson-Robinson
The Minnesota Vikings must find Kirk Cousins’ successor in the near future, as the passer will turn 35 years old in a few months and is entering the final year of his contract for the first time since joining the organization in 2018. An extension is still possible next offseason, but it seems unlikely at this point.
The new regime wants to find their guy, but that won’t be easy with only five picks in the upcoming draft, the first one will be the 23rd overall. For that reason, it will be necessary to find a quarterback outside of the top guys, and there are some interesting ones in the draft.
Vikings Draft Spotlight | Dorian Thompson-Robinson
Dorian Thompson-Robinson is a 23-year-old draft prospect who saw action on the field for the UCLA Bruins in five seasons. He joined the program as a four-star recruit, despite having offers from more than two dozen other colleges in the country, including Georgia, Michigan, and Alabama.
Former NFL head coach and brilliant college football mind Chip Kelly became the head coach of UCLA in the same offseason. As a true freshman, Thompson-Robinson played in nine games. His stats weren’t any good, with only 1,311 passing yards, 7 passing touchdowns, and 4 interceptions on a 3-9 UCLA team.
DTR became the full-time starter in his sophomore year, recording 2,701 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He also added 4 rushing touchdowns. He also broke the single-game total yards record in school history when he recorded 564 yards against Washington State.
The quarterback had to play through a shortened 2020 season because of COVID-19, but his numbers improved significantly in some areas. His completion percentage rose from 57.7% in his first year and 59.7% in his second season to 65.2%. In addition to that, his rushing numbers increased despite only playing in five games instead of 11. DTR played much more consistently in his final two seasons and improved as a passer and runner, which led him into the draft conversation.
The signal-caller has a lot of experience, as he attempted 1,359 passes and completed 63.3% of them for 10,710 yards, 88 touchdowns, and 36 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,826 yards and 28 touchdowns in 49 games.
Thompson-Robinson is a fantastic athlete at the quarterback position. He ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the NFL Draft Combine. That is Cam Newton and Russell Wilson territory, and it shows on tape. He can outrun defenders and is a real dual threat. Defenses have to account for his running ability. His elite 97-percentile 10-yard split and the 90-percentile broad jump match that.
Despite possessing the skill of rushing the football, DTR is looking to pass first and only takes off when nobody is open. That is the preferred mindset of NFL teams. Those quarterbacks have proven more effective, especially in the long run.
The quarterback has a rocket arm. He can sling the ball more than 60 yards down the field, hit tough throws like 20-yard out routes from the far hashes, and hit tight windows. DTR doesn’t just have NFL-level arm strength. He will have one of the stronger arms in the league.
DTR has outstanding accuracy in the short and quick game, especially compared to some other QBs in the draft. He rarely misses a receiver on a screen, in the flat, or on slant routes. Run-pass options will be a big part of the game plan when an NFL team gives him a shot.
Not only is his fastball impressive but also his off-platform throws. He can scramble out of the pocket with his top athleticism and throw on the run without setting his feet. That is an important trait in today’s NFL. It is part of what makes Patrick Mahomes special and what other players, including Kirk Cousins, lack.
The same can be said about his improvisational skills. If the pocket collapses or the receivers aren’t open, Thompson-Robinson can create something by either running by himself or buying time by escaping the pocket and scrambling around. That skill is essential in the modern league and separates good from great quarterbacks.
Thompson-Robinson has excellent timing in going through his progressions and throwing at the right moment. His five years of experience playing in Chip Kelly’s offense helped him refine that aspect of the game. Kelly is playing a pro-style offense but has a lot of quick-game and some one-read plays. The QB is comfortable running gimmicky plays and performing full-field reads.
In addition, he has good ball placement that allows receivers to catch the ball with plenty of possible yards after the catch. He is also excellent at throwing passes between linebackers and safeties, which is one of the hardest throws to make because it requires perfect touch.
The young quarterback is very comfortable in the pocket and has a high-level pocket presence. He knows when to take a sack and when to scramble and stays calm under pressure without panicking, which is a huge advantage to many other players coming into the league who have to grow into that comfort level first.
DTR shows mostly flawless mechanics and footwork, which leads to a high consistency at throwing the football. He rarely misses throws because of bad mechanics. In addition, he has a natural and fluid throwing motion that doesn’t need to be rebuilt as one of the few prospects in the upcoming draft.
Thompson-Robinson had some disastrous decision-making errors on his game tape, which was clearly his biggest flaw. He didn’t see the lurking linebacker or safety on most of those plays and threw the ball right at him. He will be hard to trust in his rookie season until that is addressed and fixed by the coaching staff.
DTR throws flat-footed at times. While he’s really good at it, it’s not the best platform to throw off and can lead to errant passes. He also tends to throw off balance when it isn’t required.
DTR has a small frame. He was measured at 6’1″ with 203 pounds. That will make him one of the smaller quarterbacks in the league. That increases injury risk, and he might struggle in the pocket seeing over big linemen. Those potential struggles didn’t show on tape.
Thompson-Robinson struggles at throwing deep despite having a strong arm. He needs to be more accurate and put the ball where the defender can’t get to it. DTR should also trust his arm. He has the arm strength to throw lasers but puts too much air under his throws for no reason.
Thompson-Robinson has some top-notch NFL traits, including his plus athleticism, arm strength, and playmaking skills out of the structure. However, his weaknesses, especially the decision-making aspect, prevent him from any conversation to go early in the first round with the likes of C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young, who don’t make those mistakes.
Despite those imperfections, DTR is an underrated player in the draft class. Many view him as a late-round pick, but he could go way earlier than expected because of his high-end traits. Teams don’t expect a flawless prospect at the QB position outside of the top 5 picks, and the potential of DTR could intrigue a team, and all it takes is one team to bet on his upside. He should hear his name called at some point on Day 2 of the draft.
If the Vikings miss out on the top guys in the draft, Thompson-Robinson is the way to go. He can be a starting quarterback once he limits his bad decisions. The rookie can sit behind Cousins for a year and then compete with another rookie pick in 2024 or a free agent signing for the starting job.
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Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt
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