From a production standpoint, Brandon Doughty is the most impressive quarterback in this year's draft -- and there isn't even a close second. Now, the Miami Dolphins are gambling that his gaudy college numbers will translate to the pros, as they've selected Doughty with the No. 223 overall pick.
Doughty's collegiate career began six years ago, when the University of Western Kentucky Hilltoppers redshirted him during his freshman season. It was hardly the easy path to superstardom, especially considering Doughty rarely saw the field over his next two years. (A gruesome knee injury he suffered in September 2011 prematurely ended his season after he was given the starting job.)
Doughty's first full season as a starter was 2013, when he rewrote the Hilltoppers' record book under Bobby Petrino. He set new records for single-season passing yards (2,857) and single-season completion percentage (65.8), but turned the ball over too often, throwing 14 interceptions to go along with his 14 touchdown passes. Though Western Kentucky went 8-4, they were snubbed from a bowl appearance.
The 2014 campaign was a season of change for WKU, as it moved to Conference USA and lost Petrino to Louisville. Offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm was promoted to head coach, and Doughty began to shine as a redshirt senior. He produced the greatest statistical season in school history, throwing for 4,830 yards (16th all-time in the FBS) and tossing a Conference USA-record 49 touchdowns. Doughty also cut down on his turnovers, only giving up the ball 10 times in 552 attempts.
Western Kentucky finished with an 8-4 record for the second consecutive year, but qualified for a bowl game this time. The Hilltoppers defeated Central Michigan 49-48 in the Bahamas Bowl and Doughty led the way by completing 31 of 42 pass attempts for 486 yards and five touchdowns. Unsurprisingly, he won offensive MVP honors.
Under usual circumstances, Doughty would've declared for the draft last year, but the NCAA allowed him to stay in school for a sixth season due to his injury-riddled 2011 and 2012 campaigns. The other 13 teams in Conference USA were tormented once again.
Doughty, 24, topped his performance in 2015, once again leading the FBS with 5,055 passing yards and 48 touchdowns. He also led the country in completion percentage, connecting with his target 71.9 percent of the time. Western Kentucky was victorious in 11 games and won the Conference USA Championship. The Hilltoppers, who also made their first appearance in the top 25, ended their season with a 45-35 victory over South Florida in the Miami Beach Bowl.
In addition to his otherworldly numbers, Doughty looks the part of an NFL quarterback, standing at 6'3 and weighing 220 pounds. And yet, he was rarely mentioned alongside Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and other top-flight quarterbacks who declared for this year's draft. That is, until this February's Combine.
Doughty was on the practice field right next to Wentz, Goff, Paxton Lynch and the other passers who have garnered most of the attention over the last several months. He showed a quick release and was interviewed by the Dallas Cowboys, Washington, Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants. For the first time, Doughty felt like he was getting the respect he's worked for.
"In Indy was the first time I got to see myself alongside the top quarterbacks in the draft, to size them up eye to eye," Doughty said to SB Nation's Thomas George. "I thought I did well in the passing drills. I expected to do well. You have to be able to throw the ball on air. I knew I was the most accurate quarterback in the draft. I wanted to show that on the big stage. I led the NCAA in completion percentage not just because I worked my butt off. I think some team, I caught their eye."
The Combine didn't go perfectly for Doughty -- his 5.22 timing in the 40-yard sprint was the worst among quarterbacks -- but his experience running a high-powered offense and ability to read a defense is more important than his lack of speed. A slow 40 time doesn't speak louder than historically prolific on-field production.