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2022 REWIND: Re-Scouting Davis Mills 2021 Tape/Season (bonus Trevor, Trey, Mac scouting too)

Date:
July 11, 2022

 

2022 REWIND: Re-Scouting Davis Mills 2021 Tape/Season (bonus Trevor, Trey, Mac scouting too)

 

Why did I want to do a Davis Mills ‘rewind’ study? Multiple reasons…

(1) I thought Davis Mills was not going to be a serious NFL QB prospect. I mocked the draft pick by Houston, at the time…and into watching his preseason play.

I’m supposed to be some kind of a QB guru, and I am, but as I watched Davis Mills develop last season – I was eating my bad scouting take from the pre-Draft/preseason. So, I wanted to know ‘why?’ I missed it…or ‘did I really miss it?

(2) I saw some ‘good’ QB play as Mills’ rookie season wore on – I wanted to see how good it really was. What kind of context of a QB talent is Mills? Since I missed it in his brief time at Stanford, I need to start from scratch with his NFL time.

Davis Mills only really started 11 games at Stanford…and five of them happened in the 2020 PAC-12 COVID debacle season. It’s probably a legit excuse, for me, that we had a limited/weird time to see Mills' work – but I should have caught ‘it’, I should’ve seen ‘it’. I suspect I saw the computer’s bad grading and just hurriedly went into his tape scouting with a jaded view and then when I didn’t see any excitement in the tape, I mentally confirmed the computer analysis.

It happens. Rarely…but it happens. I hate when it happens. Scouting is very susceptible to the mood/mindset of the scout – it’s not as much science as you think.

(3) Late last season into this 2022 calendar year/offseason, I kept saying ‘Davis Mills is a better version of Mac Jones’…to which there are crickets in response by the hearers/readers of such claims…and it draws Ross Jacobs’ ire when I say it.

Ross Jacobs, like me, dismissed Mills before the 2021 NFL Draft and mocked his 2021 preseason game play/tape. We both quickly changed our tune a few games into his regular season play. I think it was Ross who first noticed something had changed, but we both changed our tunes on Mills pretty soon into his first/forced starting stint. As the season wore on, I suspected/scouted/felt Mills was actually better than Jones. I watched/studied Mac Jones in the 2021 HOU v. NE game in detail, right along with Mills in the same game while conducting this Mills study and I’m going to comment on Jones later on in this report.

In fact, I got to watch a full game of Mills v. Mac…Mills v. Trevor…and Mills v. Lance in this study time. A week or so ago, I did a full study of Zach Wilson’s 2021, where I got to see Zach v. Mac and Zach v. Trevor. So, I have watched the top 2021 QB prospects in some detail the past few weeks and I’m going to compare and contrast and rank them all here within this report.

In this Mills study, I watched all 11 of his 2021 starts…from Week 3 vs. Carolina to Week 18 vs. the Titans, in a huge game for Tennessee (for the #1 seed). I watched it all…every throw, sack, and scramble by Mills in 2021. I watched all 11 NFL starts of Mills…11 NFL starts as a rookie is the same amount of starts as Mills had at Stanford in three seasons combined. Let that oddity factoid sink in.

 

Let’s begin with the end/the conclusion (after watching his 2021 season)…

Davis Mills is a really good-looking, legit NFL QB. I mean, really good. Not an obvious elite who’s super-tall, super-fast, and/or with a cannon arm…not an Allen-Mahomes-Herbert-Burrow young elite, but the Joe Burrow thing…there’s some mild Joe Burrow undertones here – in that Mills is so efficient, so smooth but not flashy…he can kinda sneak up on you with how good he is in an unassuming body and arm – it’s a good NFL body and ‘plus’ arm, just neither ‘wow’…Mills is not physically imposing nor does he have a cannon arm – but he a good NFL size (6’3+”/217) and he has an above-average arm.

I don’t want you to take the ‘Joe Burrow’ mention lightly either. Mills is a really good QB talent, and he’s just now coming into his own/getting more reps. Everyone is running around defending (example) Trey Lance by saying’ “He barely played in college! He needs more time!!” Lance had one full season, 2019, where he played in 19 games. He was a star in his 2019 season/FCS title run of 16 games…and then played in just one game in COVID 2020, then he went to the pros. Mills had 11 starts in that same span that Lance had his 17 starts. Yet, Lance stumbled around as a backup, highly protected NFL QB in 2021…while Mills was jammed in as a starter and completed 67% of his passes and threw for 16 TDs/10 INTs for arguably the worst team/worst coached/worst backfield/worst O-Line in the NFL.

What Mills accomplished as an unplanned-to-start (in 2021) rookie playing for a terrible team with poor protection is really quite amazing. Trey Lance and Mac Jones had good/great O-Line protection and great run games to assist them with two of the top coaches in the NFL (if not the #1-2 best coaches)…while Mills had the worst run game I think that I’ve ever seen in the last decade of studying football working for one of the most ridiculous head coach hirings of the decade (and he lasted a year before being fired).

The thing about watching all 11 of Mills’s NFL starts is – he was really capable and good from his first start to his last. The same guy/QB. He did improve as he went but it wasn’t like a night and day switch was flipped, it wasn’t the usual rookie rocky beginning and then progression upward – Mills was really calm, accomplished, good right away and really never deviated from who he was. He worked like a veteran QB right off the bat…the least jittery/panicked rookie QB that I watched in 2021 season.

Mills’ first five starts = 4 TDs/6 INTs

Mills’ final six starts = 11 TDs/3 INTs

Doesn’t that mean progression? No…not in this case. Honestly, it was more about the quality of the opponent…which is another feather in Mills’ cap. His first 6 starts were against six of the best defenses in the NFL…

Week 3 = v. Carolina…early on in 2021 this defense was hot as the team started out (3-0). Mills completed 68% of his passes with 1 TD/0 INTs here – a forced start due to another Tyrod injury the week prior. I watched Mills work calmly in the pocket, read through 2-3 progressions (when he had time), and made all the throws you’d want. He also was working with Anthony Miller as a key WR…if that tells you the sad state of affairs of the weaponry he was given to work with.

Week 4 = at Buffalo was in a rain, mist, rainforest jungle against arguably the best defense in the NFL…so the 0 TDs/4 INTs and 52% Comp. Pct. was somewhat/totally understandable…and should really be thrown out of his statistical trends/analysis due to the weather conditions alone. This game was the only real outlier performance for Mills – huge INT count and low Comp. Pct. Mills never had a start under 63% Comp. Pct. except this Maid of the Mist game at Buffalo. I never saw him play this poorly all 201 season, and he really wasn’t terrible here, just the weather and the great Buffalo D were a force too great.

Week 5 = v. NE, coming off the Buffalo game I’m thinking that (my mindset back last year leading up to this game) Mills was gonna get destroyed by rookie QB killer Bill Belichick. Instead, the Texans launched out to a double digit lead (that they would blow late) and Mills dropped 72% Comp. Pct. and 312 passing yards with 3 TDs/0 INTs against a defensive genius with a good+ defensive unit opposing. Mills killing it with Chris Moore as his key WR here. It’s insane – and it was this game that was the sign to all (who were looking) that Mills might be something more than ‘good’.

Weeks 6-7-8 Mills faced a top defensive unit in Indy, then best defense of the 1st-half of 2021 Arizona, then the hot defense of the Rams. He faced a gauntlet of the defenses in a 3-week stretch and completed 67-72-76% of his passes versus them while under crazy defensive pressure. And he’s not just dumping off screens and bubbles all game.

Mills’s first six starts…six brutal opponents, and he just calmly went along playing smart football and making accurate throws…and many times making these throws on the run/scrambling for his life or in a muddy pocket. He has a Brady-Burrow-like calm, awareness in the pocket. I’m not saying he’s Brady-Burrow-like, but I am not ruling it out yet either – and that should make us all stop and take notice.

To show you how stupid the NFL coaching staffs are – Mills was then benched Week 9…for Tyrod Taylor. Which, watching these Mills starts – he was so much better than Tyrod it was not even debatable, but the team was losing, and someone needed to be blamed and I think Mills is so low key good-possibly-great that it went right past his coaching staff…a staff that got canned after a year of nonsense.

So, after Tyrod looked terrible (as usual) the team went back to Mills to start Week 13, and the rest of the season.

At least now Mills was going to start against some easier defenses – Weeks 14-15 vs. SEA and JAX. His Seattle start…he completed his first 14 passes in-a-row, ultimately throwing for 331 yards…in another loss. Mills then beat the Jags comfortably, looking more polished and more talented than his opposing rookie QB, Trevor Lawrence.

Week 16, the schedule turned nasty again. Week 16 vs. a top pass D in the L.A. Chargers, followed by the always tough 49ers Week 17 then top 10 defense/AFC top team Tennessee in the finale.

Mills went out and thumped the Chargers…78% Comp. Pct., 254 yards, 2 TDs/0 INTs…a must-win for LAC, and Houston whooped them.

Week 17 was probably Mills toughest game aside from the Buffalo pissing down rain game. Mills was flustered a few times like I’d never seen before. Overall fine but credit SF for a great plan…and Houston led this must-win-game-for-SF for a while before falling.

Week 18 was a must-win for Tennessee for the #1 seed in the AFC, and the Titans jumped out to a couple score lead early…then Mills roared them back to within 3 points with a 70% Comp. Pct. game with 301 yards passing and 3 TDs/0 INTs to finish off a really great-for-a-rookie-QB season.

I left the rewind/re-watch with a very positive feeling on Davis Mills. I felt kinda stunned actually…he was so low key good as a rookie in a terrible spot that I can’t believe more isn’t being made of him…he should be in a hot debate about how highly he ranks among that 2021 NFL Draft QB class, but he’s barely mentioned in it. Mills is a really solid, top 20 in the NFL already kind of QB…and he’s only going to improve…and no one really cares.

I’m trying to think of the best way to compare Mills…what QB comp fits in recent years. QBs that come to mind…

I already mention the Burrow comp…I am wondering if Mills is going to ‘low key’ it through the backdoor and shock everyone, like Burrow did his first year as starter at LSU (which was OK/undetected by most/all) to the next season where the best college season ever…then to an instantly stable/good starter in the NFL as a rookie, to the Super Bowl the very next year. After Burrow’s first season at LSU, no one was taking him seriously going into the magical season that would follow.

Matt Ryan is a name that comes to mind…not much to look at physically, not the biggest arm but enough of all things and is just successful (to varying degrees) in the NFL. But I think Mills today is better (better trained, modern era, as much or more raw talent) than young Matt Ryan was.

Jimmy Garoppolo? Calm and steady…a ‘winner’? A better than given credit QB? Maybe. But I’d say Mills is already working better than when Jimmy G. hit the NFL. I always comment, the past five years, that the newer/current QBs are better than the old QBs (back when they first hit the league) because the newer QBs have the advantage of all the advanced passing camps and wide-open high school and college offenses, etc. – but that’s the thing about Mills, he played at stuffy Stanford…and not that many games played there. And yet Mills just walks into the NFL with limited play time and into a crappy organization and is really-really good. It should be near impossible for Mills to do what he just did.

Maybe throw Burrow-Ryan-Garoppolo into a blender and you get Mills? Not as great as Burrow (…yet, we disclaim) but better/more promising than Ryan…but a floor of ‘Matt Ryan’, a ‘ceiling’ of Burrow? I mean, where might Mills be in a year or two? His rookie season was no fluke. And don’t take away that I’m saying Mills = Burrow…I’m just wondering/leaving the door open to the possibilities of where Mills can go from here, after such a stunning rookie season given his college work and pro surroundings. This (good Davis Mills rookie season), literally, should not have happened…it should not happen like that, that easy, in the pros as a rookie…or so we’re all groomed to believe ‘how hard’ the NFL is for rookie QBs.

We can try and compare Mills to Burrow-Ryan-Garoppolo, but maybe more interesting is to compare him to the 2021 QB class…Lawrence-Wilson-Lance-Jones-Fields…all the guys that went well ahead of him, but all guys he might actually be better than. Let’s talk about this angle.

 

The 2021 rookie QB draft class revisited…

 

Zach Wilson: I just studied Wilson’s 2021 season (report on FFM) a week or so ago, and I was not happy with what I saw. I graded Wilson as the top QB prospect, last year, in an otherwise confusing 2021 NFL Draft QB class. Wilson was clearly the best passer in college…from accuracy to deep ball, to general arm strength, to quality of off-script throws. Wilson completed 73% of his passes in 2020 season at BYU with 33 TDs/3 INTs in 12 games. You could watch his tape and see all the markers of potential greatness. Three-year QB at BYU. And…

…Wilson was an NFL failure in 2021.

Oh, but his O-Line…and his weapons! I agree, that was a factor…but it was for Mills too, and Mills looked exponentially better than Wilson in 2021 in every way except footspeed/mobility. Wilson has more tools, more hype, more starts…and he looked incompetent as a rookie…while Mills looked like he knew what he was doing from start #1.

Might Wilson grow and come into his own? Absolutely. But Mills is already there…and he can grow from here too…can’t he? If Wilson is an ‘A or D’ proposition, and Mills is a solid ‘B’ (just making grades up for an example)…then would you take the ‘B’…or hold out for a shot at an ‘A’ where you might get smacked with the ‘D’? Wilson was truly awful in 2021…unrecognizable from his college work. Mills was terrific in 2021…unrecognizable from his college work in the whole other direction.

I’m starting to think Mills is the better, safer prospect than high variable Wilson…for the NFL. For Fantasy, you can allow for more ‘A or D’ gambles. But I don’t rule out Mills developing into an ‘A’ possibility. Again, think about what just happened with him in 2021…the low experience level, the terrible team surrounding, and he was really very good within that as an NFL rookie thrown into starting due to the veteran starter’s injury. I’m at least not ruling it out that Mills has room to grow from here too.

Rookie seasons…

65.3%, 275.7 yards per start, 13 TDs/5 INTs = Burrow (9.75 starts, his final game of 2020 left with injury 75% of the snaps into the game)

68.0%, 228.5 yards per start, 15 TDs/9 INTs = Mills (11 starts)

70%+, 232.6 yards per start, 15 TDs/5 INTs = Mills (10 starts, ignoring the Bills game where it was a rain-fest)

55.6%, 190+ yards per start, 9 TDs/11 INTs = Z. Wilson (12 starts, ignoring Week 7 where he got hurt 18 snaps into the game)

 

Mac Jones: I’ve gotten to watch Mac Jones in more detail in two games through the Wilson and then Mills study. Week 5 v. HOU, Week #2 v. NYJ. And I see the same guy each time, and that guy (Mac) isn’t anywhere as good as Mills based on their 2021 NFL experiences.

Jones is being somewhat hidden in a cute, protective bubble by Bill Belichick (which is smart to protect a rookie…it’s normal…just Mills didn’t have that luxury) -- run-run-run-run-play action pass and quick strike, no reading the field over-the-middle shots when the defense cheats up to play the run. Jones is not sitting back in the pocket desperately trying to make things happen with a 2nd or 3rd option behind a terrible O-Line. No, Mac is getting some ‘Alabama’ treatment in New England – a protected environment to be a nice game manager. Low pressure on many of Mac’s throws…good O-Line, plays designed to make one/no read and fire to a wide-open receiver over-the-middle where the linebackers have abandoned. Smart for the NFL/playbook…but not a franchise/elite QB developing work that I see. You could see ‘it’ in a millisecond with Justin Herbert in the NFL…Mac, not so much…but he’s OK and can grow too – Mac just didn’t do as well, didn’t look as natural as Mills in 2021.

Mac doesn’t have the arm of Mills, and Mac has not shown the ability to read multiple things under pocket duress well…not even close to what Mills works in and thrives with accuracy. It’s not even close for me, watching the both of them in the NFL – Mills is far superior version of Jones.

67.6%, 223.6 yards per start, 22 TDs/13 INTs = Mac Jones (in 17 starts in 2021)

68.0%, 228.5 yards per start, 15 TDs/9 INTs = Mills (11 starts)

70%+, 232.6 yards per start, 15 TDs/5 INTs = Mills (10 starts, ignoring the Bills game where it was a rain-fest)

 

Trevor Lawrence: I’ve now watched two Trevor games in detail/scouting him via the Wilson and Mills studies…both later season games, and Lawrence looks the same to me – nowhere close to as gifted as everyone in the football world told us. If he were generational, he would’ve walked into the league, like Justin Herbert, and took it by storm in some way…no matter how bad the surroundings. Instead, Lawrence was clearly the worst of all the top rookie QBs.

I see the same guy every time, going back to his college tape – comfortable short passer/safe in a designed-protected offense but totally flat when trying to throw medium or deep. Lawrence has happy feet in the pocket and is terrible throwing off-script. Clean pocket with unlimited protection and he can plant and fire…then sure, looks really good…like most every QB on NFL rosters do with all clean pocket time. The weird thing is, Lawrence had a very good O-Line to work with and lots of time in the pocket most throws…and played in lots of deficits against prevent defenses late in games – a really fertile opportunity for output…and he could barely put-up numbers in a terrific environment for racking numbers.

And if any analyst says, “Well, Lawrence will grow into an elite QB with more time!” then why doesn’t Mills get credit for already being NFL-good now…and then with hope he’ll grow from there too. Why is it only the media-pre-ordained QBs get to grow…but not the ignored, like Mills? To me, Mills is better than Lawrence in every way as a passer – more accurate, more comfortable, and a better arm in non-perfect pockets.

It’s not even close for a comparison between the two (Mills and Trevor). Zach Wilson I could see making a beautiful leap, because he was way better than Trevor in college. But Lawrence, I don’t see a leap big enough to catch Mills 2021, much less Mills 2022+.

59.6%, 214.2 yards per start, 12 TDs/17 INTs = Trevor Lawrence (in 17 starts in 2021)

68.0%, 228.5 yards per start, 15 TDs/9 INTs = Mills (11 starts)

70%+, 232.6 yards per start, 15 TDs/5 INTs = Mills (10 starts, ignoring the Bills game where it was a rain-fest)

 

 

Trey Lance: A pure wild card. I watched Lance’s full start Week 17 vs. Houston and it was a mixed bag. One moment he’s throwing laser beams downfield like a young Josh Allen, the next he’s winding up and firing a downfield pass that comes out wrong/like a half-a-wounded-duck and the ball is wobbling all over, short of its target like a weird Jake Locker-alike. One play he takes off running and looks like Jalen Hurts, the next he takes off running and gets halted short of a 1st-down or goal line run that otherwise seemed in the bag.

Everyone in football-land will scream, “But Lance has barely played/had a chance!” He played more college football than Mills did heading to the pros…and when both were thrown into the fire in 2021, Mills looked like a seasoned veteran already…and Lance was all over the place, high-to-low as you’d expect for a rookie.

That’s the thing we won’t give Mills the full credit for…all these 2021 rookies got thrown into the fire at some point, early on in the season – the one who handled it/looked the best out of all of them…was Davis Mills. He gets little credit for that…and little-to-no assumption that he can only grow from here.

Lance had a great run game/O-Line to hide behind…Mills did not. Mills had to carry the offense on his back, and he did that (as best one could in that offense) from his first game to the last in 2021. It was a shocking sight to behold watching it all back – there was little growth as the season wore on, because Mills was really good right away as it was…in horrible surroundings.

I wouldn't be surprised if Lance ended up to be the best QB of the 2021 crop...or the worst/a bust. The jury is still out. He has time to develop/improve.

 

Justin Fields: I haven’t rewatched enough here to go any deeper on him…and Fields is a totally different QB case than Mills. Like Trey Lance really is an apples-and-oranges comparison as well.

 

The natural question you have to ask now… If you were to redraft the 2021 QB class right now, what would my order be?

Let me start by ranking just the 2021 tape alone, considering each QBs surroundings and circumstances…

1) Davis Mills, and it’s not even close.

2) Mac Jones…did what he needed to do…played within the confines.

3) Trey Lance…50-50 moments of ‘wow’ and ‘ughh’.

4) Zach Wilson…mostly erratic with small flashes of brilliance.

5) Justin Fields…has some hope, and I’ve not delved deeper into Fields and he’s not a similar style to Mills to fairly compare to. So, I’m basing him off my college scouting grades and watching him in-season 2021. No 2022 study yet.

6) Trevor Lawrence…no growth, no ‘wow’, no ‘flash’.

 

As an NFL GM, how would I draft these guys to my football roster?

1) Davis Mills…I’d have to take the guy who showed quality and poise and talent under disastrous surroundings. There’s no reason he can’t grow from here.

And this might mean this draft class was wildly overrated, except for Mills as a surprise but not some elite.

2) Trey Lance…the ‘boom or bust’ play. Could be the next Josh Allen story, I won’t deny it…but why can’t Mills be the ‘next Burrow or ‘next Brady’ wish/hope? What if Lance is just a lesser Jalen Hurts wannabe?

3) Zach Wilson…if he gets it all together, maybe he’s the best of the bunch – but his 2021 tape was SO bad, I’m a bit rattled on him.

4) Mac Jones…he may grow too, like a ‘next Brady’ but I see him many steps behind where Mills is at. So, whatever he grows, Mills could grow too…and Mills starts out ahead.

5) Justin Fields…for the run-pass hope.

6) Trevor Lawrence…he might grow into a decent-ish QB, but he has nowhere near the upside Lance-Wilson has, and he’s not close to as good as Mills is already.

 

As a Fantasy GM, how would I draft these guys to my Dynasty roster?

1) Trey Lance…the running ability for FF scoring and the Josh Allen upside.

2a) Zach Wilson…maybe, maybe not #2…but I’d be banking on a QB1 upside if he comes into his own and if he fails in 2022, I quickly move on.

2b) Davis Mills…maybe should be the #2…but for as good as he is, he’s still stuck in Houston with a bad O-Line and bad head coach for offense. I could go either way on Wilson v. Mills for FF.

4) Justin Fields…might be FF-with/better than Mills due to running tallies.

5) Trevor Lawrence…on a gamble he does find another gear, plus he may just play a similar ‘protected’ offensive/passing game, but he can run a little bit.

6) Mac Jones…I don’t see QB1 possible, not in New England for weather, stuffy offense/coach (why did Brady leave?), and lack of runner scoring to supplement things.

 

Current ADP for Fantasy Football 2022 (to give you an idea of what the public thinks)…

1) #100-110 overall ADP = Trey Lance

2) #120-130 overall ADP = Justin Fields

3) #130-140 overall ADP = Trevor Lawrence

4) #150-170 overall ADP = Mac Jones

5) #150-180 overall ADP = Zach Wilson

6) #170-200 overall ADP = Davis Mills

 

 

Summary:

3,500+ words in…I hope I’m making some inroads with you on how good Mills MIGHT be…how good he already is. I suspect you’re intrigued but not fully onboard with the radical shift in thinking on Mills. NO ONE else is saying it or even hinting at it…which is the story of my scouting life, so I’m not fazed by that – I’m emboldened by it. But you’re not as excited, I suspect. Why not? Well, we all didn’t watch Houston games naturally in 2021 and we all didn’t think Mills was much to use time vesting in…so we haven’t naturally seen Mills grabbing our attention. I am hoping this report will shift our thinking…that it will open the door to the possibilities.

Whenever I bring up Mills (v. Mac) to Ross Jacobs, he counters with – Mills is OK, I just don’t see the upside. And I think that’s probably a thought everyone might have – but why? Based on ‘what’ does Mills NOT have ‘an upside’? I think it’s an emotion, a cliché response because we just don’t believe/we’ve convinced ourselves that Mills is not anything to talk or think about. How is it that all the other young QBs have some magical upside (in our minds), but Mills…who has played less games in college than ANY of them…he doesn’t have an upside? Mills, the one who played the best football out of all of them…with the least experience and the worst surroundings…he’s ‘maxed out’ somehow? Do we REALLY think this…or have we been trained by the media silence/dismissal to assume it?

Why doesn’t Mills at least get credit for not having the downside of all the others? Mills doesn’t get credit for being the best performer of the group in 2021. He doesn’t get credit for having any upside growth. What does Mills need to do to get your attention…or at least earn your respect/not your dismissal?

My overall point/conclusion from this study is – what IF Mills is the best/smoothest 2021 rookie QB talent already…AND has some upside to grow from here? And that doesn’t mean he’s a Hall of Famer…it might mean he’s an exception to every rule about QB scouting/expectations for a rookie…and that this 2021 QB draft class might suck, that the analysts got it all wrong (how could that ever be?).

I can kick myself for not seeing ‘it’ in his college tape scouting. I can accept that, but it’s OK to be wrong at first. Sure, you wanna be right ahead of everyone at all times…I agree. That’s what I work all day-and-night to do, but if I’m not ‘right’ at first, the next best thing is to then be ‘right’ ASAP. There’s no value in me holding to my college grading/scouting on Mills when all the NFL data flew in the face of it. There’s value in eventually getting it right – and also value in being the ‘most right’ from our turning point going forward.

I just lived through an entire season of Davis Mills…watching, noting, charting, analyzing…and I’m telling you with all my experience and track record of such things to bring to the table to support my words – Davis Mills was the best rookie QB of 2021 season, and he may wind up the best 2021 draft class QB of them all. How good he can/will be…we’ll see.

How can you prosper from that Mills proclamation/statement? I mean, maybe Mills is just a solid QB2 for Fantasy for forever…like an old school Andy Dalton or Matt Ryan or Philip Rivers – but the good FF-news on that is that Mills is so ignored right now that he trades as QB3…there’s some FF-value here, especially in deeper dynasty and/or SuperFlex for sure.

QBs that I believe Mills is better than/more talented than going into Week 1 of 2022, and going forward…

Matt Ryan

Jameis Winston

Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Mac Jones

Tua

Kenny Pickett

Daniel Jones, Sam Darnold

Jimmy Garoppolo

Possibly Baker Mayfield.

Eventually better than Derek Carr, if not already better.

Am I starting to get your attention on this Mills thing? I’m not proclaiming him pending (or current) elite…but I am now open to the fact that he’s the best of the 2021 crop based on their rookie seasons, AND he was the least experienced of the bunch going to the NFL…so if he’s this good, this fast, with little experience…how good might he really be someday? I just want us at least alert to the possibilities that Davis Mills might be hiding in plain sight.

If you walk away from this novella thinking ‘RC thinks Mills is like Burrow’...I missed the target. I just want us to open our minds to the possibility that Mills is a lot better than the total ignoring we’re doing (myself included/guilty)...and that a path to subtle goodness/greatness (like a Burrow) is at least on the table. It’s cooler/more hip to talk about Trey Lance upside or 49ers’ fears. All the other 2021 rookie QBs get more attention…and Mills gets none, unless it's an analyst mocking a top 2023 draft pick QB to Houston in the 1st-round/top 3 of the draft. 

Most everyone is blowing right past Davis Mills ever really being anything…I think that’s a mistake, and that there is something very unique, odd happening here with his (what should be) attention-getting rookie season – and I am intrigued to see how it plays out with another year of work AS the entrenched starter.  

 

Bonus notes/items found along the way:

 -- Worst case scenario/takeaway: If Davis Mills is good, not bad, if you’ll go there with me…then I KNOW his favorite target is Brandin Cooks. And if his favorite target is Cooks, and we all know Cooks is a talent…then Cooks should be a strong WR1-1.5 candidate with a very solid/good Mills.

Mills got benched midseason, inexplicably, then when he returned to start their final five games of 2021, Cooks played all the snaps for three of those games…missed one game COVID and in Week 18 he got hurt and left the game early. In those three full games for Cooks with Mills as a returning starter, he hit for 7.3 rec, 89.7, 1.0 TDs per game. Small sample size but encouraging. Two of 3 games Cooks went for 100+ yards with Mills in that final stretch. And Cooks was pretty good with earlier season Mills as well but they were also facing some monster defenses/CBs in that stretch.

Small sample stats aside…I can tell you from watching all the 2021 Mills’ games and all the throws – it’s Cooks as Mills' #1 look, and it’s not even close.

Nico Collins was starting to rise up a bit with Mills too, but from my detailed re-watch…it’s Cooks by a mile, and Collins is a side piece.

And another WR note…when Cooks got hurt Week 18 in a must-win for Tennessee, Mills then went nuts with Danny Amendola (7-113-2/9). Tennessee had a top 10 pass defense in many metrics, a top 5 defense by PPG allowed…and in this must-win game, Cooks was gone, and Mills nearly beat the Titans with Danny bygawd Amendola off the bench with a 70% Comp. Pct., 301 yards, 3 TDs/0 INT game.

The game Cooks missed with COVID…Week 16 where Houston shockingly crushed a very good Chargers team/pass defense. Chris Conley and Nico Collins both caught TD passes in that one.

Weeks 14-17, Cooks was a WR1 with Mills in his full games played and then Amendola was a WR1 in Week 18. Just loose end data that I thought was interesting.

Bottom line = Brandin Cooks as a ‘value’ WR is on the table…Cooks trades as the #23-26 WR in early summer ADPs. Cooks' projections are suppressed because of the public disinterest in Mills.

 

 -- Speaking of Kenny Pickett

I like Pickett as a QB prospect, but I also acknowledge that there is a hand size issue to some degree and a more concerning terrible Wonderlic test result. However, Pickett is a pretty smooth QB who can read defenses and can hang in a pocket and has a decent-not-amazing arm. Pickett is a good-not-great QB prospect.

Mills is taller than Pickett…has a stronger arm than Pickett…and can read defenses and hang in a pocket and throw as well as Pickett…and Mills went to Stanford, I assume he would have crushed Pickett’s terrible/concerning Wonderlic score. 

Mills could’ve been the best QB prospect in the tarnished 2022 NFL Draft…and you might go along with that. But Mills might also be the best QB prospect in the lauded 2021 NFL Draft – and it’s up to you to deal with or deny that. I just want you to consider it.         

 

 

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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is a fantasy football player analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics and College Football Metrics. 

Email rc4metrics@gmail.com

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