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Why the Bengals should be excited to have signed USF QB Quinton Flowers

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He rewrote USF’s record books with electrifying runs and throws. He’s beaten odds his entire life. Now he’ll try again.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals signed Quinton Flowers as an undrafted free agent following the NFL Draft on Saturday. They’re getting one of the most purely exciting rookies in the league, though.

Here’s why the former USF QB is so awesome, why he might not be a quarterback in the NFL, and why you should hope for your team to land him anyway.

Flowers was one of the best and most fun college QBs of his time.

Flowers has 42 game, season, or career USF records. He’s the AAC’s all-time total offense leader (11,802 yards) and is one of six FBS players to reach 8,000 yards passing and 3,500 yards rushing. He’s one of six to have 70-plus pass TDs and 40-plus rush TDs. He led top-10 scoring offenses in each of his last two seasons. He started for three seasons and won 30 games, not that any NFL team in its right mind would draft on win totals.

In the running game, Flowers was a magician. He ran for 1,530 yards in his junior season and another 1,078 as a senior. The only quarterbacks who piled up more ground yards were Lamar Jackson, Arizona’s Khalil Tate, and guys from triple-option teams. Often, he looked like he was playing a video game.

Flowers could chuck the rock, too. His arm wasn’t what made him special, but he still finished in the top 25 in passer rating twice in three years. (The other year, 2017, he was 36th, while in a new offense that didn’t always suit his strengths). He finished in the top 25 in yards per throw in each of his three years as a starter. USF was always a run-first team, but Flowers threw plenty (354 times in 12 games as a senior) and had better efficiency numbers than certain other Group of 5 quarterbacks who are going to be picked in the top 10. Flowers made a few pretty throws, too.

“There’s a lot I can bring to the game,” Flowers told reporters at the NFL Combine in March. “My arm, my legs, my mobility to get out of the pocket and make things happen. I look at myself as a playmaker. I’m a guy who always used to watch Michael Vick and tried to be the best I could be.”

Media evaluators aren’t certain Flowers can play QB.

At the combine, Flowers said it was “kind of a 50/50 thing” between teams who wanted to scout him at quarterback and running back. Flowers said he’d be OK with changing positions at some point, but he’d rather not do it immediately.

“I just want a shot first,” he said. “At quarterback.”

Commentators have been widely skeptical that Flowers can play quarterback as a professional and have suggested a switch. A sampling:

  • NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein writes that moving to running back is Flowers’ “best shot at playing in the league,” as Flowers “doesn’t show the consistency or accuracy needed as a passer to play that position in the NFL.”
  • Scouting consultant Chris Landry says, “I don’t see enough consistent passing skills for him to be a quarterback. But I would definitely give him a shot.”
  • And ESPN’s Mel Kiper:

At the combine, Flowers ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds. That was faster than any quarterback in attendance, though Lamar Jackson didn’t run, and it beat nine of 26 running backs. He was 5’10 and 214 pounds, four inches shorter than Jackson and the average NFL QB. Flowers worked out some with the running backs in Indianapolis. That kind of thing typically happens at the request of teams at the event.

Flowers doesn’t have a receiver’s build, so if he leaves QB, it has to be for running back or kick returner.

Teams floating Flowers as a running back isn’t new. When he was a recruit deciding between schools five years ago, plenty of them didn’t want him to play quarterback.

“Florida wanted me to play quarterback, but I just had a feeling they were going to switch my position just because I just asked a simple question: ‘Can you bring me (to meet) the quarterback coach?’ and they never did. So I knew they didn’t believe in me,” Flowers told reporters at the combine. The Gators’ disbelief in Flowers’ arm turned out to be USF’s gain.

People who know Flowers speak of him with reverence.

“He’s gonna make some GM look like a genius,” Willie Taggart, one of his head coaches at USF, told the Tampa Bay Times.

He can’t play if you tell him to be Tom Brady. … He’s always been that kid, he finds a way to get it done. Here’s my question: You can’t say he can’t play quarterback. He hasn’t shown that he can’t.

”Even when he came in (to USF) they were saying, ‘He’s too short, he can’t see over the line.’ He did that fairly well. So to me, give him an opportunity, let him show that he can’t. Don’t just set limitations on him.”

Here’s what former USF defensive lineman Deadrin Senat said when I asked him what Flowers would bring to the NFL:

“Quinton is a game-changer,” a line Senat kept repeating. “I think whoever takes him is gonna be a lucky person. He’s a workaholic. He’s a great person, and he’s athletic. People see him as a running back or a slot guy, but I think he’s a nice little quarterback. But it’s not my judgment to say, but whatever team takes him, day one, they’re gonna get a full athlete who can do a lot of things.”

Whatever his position or how long he stays in the league, Flowers is one of this draft’s easiest players to root for.

Nobody has a hard time cheering on a lightning-bolt quarterback from a mid-major conference who’s achieved all Flowers has.

But more importantly, Flowers has gotten through nightmare after nightmare to be where he is now.

Flowers is more mature than any 23-year-old should have to be. His father died in a shooting when Flowers was 7. His mother died of cancer when he was 17. A stepbrother died in a shooting when he was was 20. He has kept going through all of it.

Maybe Flowers won’t stick for long in the NFL. It already seems doubtful he’ll get an extended shot at quarterback. But if he does, the sport will be more enjoyable for it.