The 2020 NFL Draft Combine gets underway this Sunday in Indianapolis, and among the pro prospects scheduled to attend is Hawaii QB Cole McDonald. He and some 300 other NFL hopefuls will take part in medical evaluations, official measurements, interviews, strength and agility tests and, finally, on-field workouts. QB workouts are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 27. We thought we’d round up some pre-Combine comments about McDonald’s chances as an NFL signal-caller. Take a look:
TERRANCE BIGGS, FULL PRESS COVERAGE:
Let’s get this trait fleshed out. Once upon a time, McDonald owns the choppiest, herky-jerky, loopy throwing motion in college football. After watching his 2019 film, he altered his motion and started the long road of unlearning whatever he used in previous seasons. Now, his delivery remains far from perfect, but you can see the offseason work manifest itself in 2019. At the next level, he must continue to iron that hitch out completely.
In Hawaii’s Run and Shoot, you expect underneath and quick routes. However, McDonald would air it out and place the ball over the shoulder, between defenders, and across the field. His stats bear out a marked improvement in this area with the upside to complete even more.
RANDY GURZI, FANSIDED:
There’s one name that continues to be overlooked as a potential factor in the NFLL Cole McDonald.
There are a few reasons McDonald isn’t getting the same attention, but the biggest could be where he played collegiately. He started under center the past two seasons for the Hawai’i Warriors, and McDonald didn’t get a lot of time on national television due to where he played. On top of that, Hawai’i doesn’t serve as a hotbed for NFL talent.
Nevertheless, McDonald boasts NFL size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), arm strength, and mobility. He’s also shown a lot of growth as a player, increasing his completion percentage five points in his final season while also throwing for roughly 250 yards more.
As for his athleticism, McDonald finished 2019 with 383 yards rushing and had seven touchdowns. That allowed him to finish with 880 yards on the ground and 12 total touchdowns.
Of course, McDonald isn’t without his warts. Playing in a run-and-shoot offense, he wasn’t asked to read defenses the way NFL quarterbacks are. He’s also been wild with his mechanics and his short-to-intermediate accuracy suffers due to this.
Where he really shines, despite the short accuracy, is his ability to hit the deep ball. McDonald constantly put the ball right where it needed to be for his speedy wideouts and could even thread the ball through some tight windows when taking shots deep down the field.
It’s likely that once he gets to the NFL Scouting Combine, he will start to get a little more recognition. He won’t be popping up in the conversation to be a first-round pick anytime soon, but McDonald has enough about his game to warrant a late day-two to early day-three pick.
XAIVER AGUIAR, FANSIDED:
When you first start to think of what colleges to look at for NFL prospects, the University of Hawaii doesn’t come to mind. The Rainbow Warriors don’t play most of their games until most of the country is sleeping and have only had five players drafted in the last decade. But, down in the Aloha State, there’s a kid that deserves some national respect- Cole McDonald.
The gun-slinging junior from California has quietly been one of the most exciting players in college football. Though he has obvious major flaws, there’s a reason that Cole forwent his senior eligibility to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. He has obvious talent and has a legitimate case on why he should be selected over some names who may get more clout than garners.
Accuracy: McDonald’s arm talent is obvious when turning on the tape. He can make the necessary throws in the shorter range, but beyond that can be very streaky. For someone with such a great arm, it’s satisfying to see him be so inconsistent with his throws.
Some of his misses could be attributed to his inability to lead receivers, and him simply wrongly anticipating the break of the route. He does have great footwork and his throwing base is actually one of the best in the class. He puts some great touch on the ball, but he also can put none of it on at all and it can lead to some throws that get away from him laterally.
His accuracy isn’t putrid, but not anything to rave about either. The potential is there thanks to his great motion and base, but he needs to prove that he can become more consistent in order to stick around the league.
Progressions and Decision Making: There are many times McDonald’s makes you want to throw your monitor out the window when watching his tape. For a kid so talented, he can make some ridiculous decisions. There are just a few moments where a child playing Madden would make a better decision with the ball than that of McDonald’s.
For someone who by all accounts is quite intelligent, you can’t help but cringe when he gets so easily bated by the defense. He needs to be better at reading coverages and being able to understand what route by his receiver will be most effective against said coverage.
In Hawaii’s offense, he wasn’t asked much to actually scan the field and make a read. When he did though, he turned his head to slow, which forced him to rush throws and deliver an inaccurate ball. He needs to work on going through his progressions in a timely manner and not obviously locking in on his first read like so many prospects in this class are guilty of.
Pocket Presence: He can definitely hang in the pocket better than some in this class. When he sees pressure he tends to step up and try to make a throw, but again, he can rush his process which correlates with a terrible throw.
When he rolls out it seems he lacks urgency, and that won’t bode well at the next level where NFL pass rushers can close in on you in the blink of an eye. It was hard to pinpoint how comfortable he would be in an offense that isn’t solely ran out of the shotgun because that’s the formation he ran almost every play out of at Hawaii. Though he wasn’t horrible here, he wasn’t great either- just passable.
Throw Accuracy Short: 8/10
Throw Accuracy Mid Distance: 6/10
Throw Accuracy Deep: 6.5/10
Throw Power: 7/8
Throw on the Run: 5/8
It Factor: 5.5/8
Ball Placement: 6/12
Decision Making: 5/10
Injury Risk: 4/4
Pocket Presence: 5/8
Final Film Grade: 63.9 (QB8)
If you want a low-risk long-term project, Cole McDonald is your guy. His work ethic and love for the game are unmatched, and teams will surely fall in love with that.
His playstyle is perfectly applicable to the current NFL landscape, and at worst he can be a backup for many years to come. The fact he played for a small school is clearly a concern for most, but I don’t think it’s a big deal at all. In games against higher competition, he seemed fairly comfortable and showed his arm talent transferred at that next level.
AJ SCHULTE, PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK:
Every year, there seems to be the “sleeper” quarterback: a guy that doesn’t have a lot of draft buzz but has traits that easily translate to the NFL. This year, my pick for that role is Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald. McDonald has been a polarizing prospect among analysts, but he’s one of the guys I keep coming back to. The tools he brings to the table make him an excellent fit for how the game is transforming. McDonald’s skillset is a perfect fit for the modern NFL.
A two-year starter under Nick Rolovich, McDonald operated Rolovich’s Run & Shoot offense with aplomb, compiling over 8,000 passing yards and 70 touchdowns with the Rainbow Warriors. The Run & Shoot was a double-edged sword for Cole McDonald, as he wracked up 24 total interceptions in his career, with double-digit INTs in both of his seasons as a starter.
Those interceptions are a startling number and would suggest a quarterback who either can’t read a defense or one who trusts his arm too much. McDonald is a combination of the two, but I think there is some necessary context to the interception totals that a lot of people are either ignoring or are ignorant of.
McDonald runs an offense that requires cerebral play and understanding of defensive leverages and coverage keys. Many think the offense is wide-open and straightforward just because it is run primarily from the shotgun or pistol with four wide receivers, but this is not the case. The run-and-shoot has been around for decades, and even the Patriots use R&S concepts in their offenses. Cole McDonald has to make the right reads and be decisive with the football, something that a lot of modern collegiate quarterbacks in simpler schemes struggle to do. It won’t be an extremely difficult transition for Cole McDonald to take from Hawaii to the modern NFL, especially since his skillset is a great fit.
You’ll watch a highlight reel and see uncanny throws downfield from Cole McDonald, but it’s the underneath stuff that goes unnoticed. McDonald throws with rhythm underneath, far from being a simple point and shoot kind of player. He’s accurate in the red zone and the 1-10 yard range.
The best thing about McDonald’s game are the physical traits he displays. In terms of pure arm talent, McDonald is among the top of this draft class, if not at the very top. There isn’t a throw Cole McDonald can’t make at any level of the field. The downfield threat that McDonald provides with the juice he puts on throws is uncanny.
If McDonald lands on a team that will work on fixing his mechanics and is willing to develop and fit him into their passing scheme, McDonald can become a franchise quarterback. Cole McDonald’s skillset fits right in with the way the NFL is evolving.
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