Brad Kaaya’s 2016 season set career highs in yardage, completion rate, and touchdown passes as the mercurial passer left his stamp on the ACC. Now, the Detroit Lions are hoping his upward trajectory continues after making him the 215th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Kaaya burst into onto the FBS scene in 2014 after supplanting Jake Heaps as the starter in Coral Gables. While his first season in green and orange was a learning experience — the Hurricanes went 6-7 as he flipped between eye-opening performances and first-year gaffes — it set the foundation for a solid career. Miami went 17-9 his final two seasons with the program.
Can Brad Kaaya be an NFL starting quarterback?
Kaaya brings several solid traits to the big leagues. He is a natural quarterback whose solid mechanics destined him to rise up draft boards through the Combine and team workouts. He throws well, with an NFL level delivery, and cycles through his targets quickly to make plays downfield. When he has time to throw, he’s accurate — which is why he’s done so well in Combine and pro day exercises.
He’s cut back on turnovers and throws a gorgeous deep ball, which makes him a favorite for big play receivers. Kaaya understands his reads downfield and makes the most of them when given enough time in the pocket. After three seasons in Miami’s pro passing offense, the transition to an NFL scheme shouldn’t be too difficult.
The Lions will have to keep the pass rush away for Kaaya to shine
Kaaya’s struggles under pressure have been the bane of his college career. According to Pro Football Focus, his rating when his blockers keep the pass rush off his back is an impressive 113.0. When his pocket shrinks, that number drops to 59.2.
His disciplined check-downs, a staple in his efficient passing game, narrow considerably under pressure, forcing inaccurate throws into tight windows and frustrating mistakes. His lackluster arm strength and ineffective mobility only compound this problem, leaving him few outs when his protection breaks down. He’ll make plays under pressure — but he’ll miss several more opportunities once blitzing linebackers cloud his field of vision.
He struggles to hit on midrange routes, lacking the arm to make the tough sideline throws that can move the chains on third-and-long. Though his fundamentals are strong, he lacks the extra gear to be an elite prospect.