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Scouting Report: Stephen Morris, QB, Miami

Scouting Report: Stephen Morris, QB, Miami

Another QB sleeper
By: Pete Davidson : April 18, 2014 8:02am

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Stephen Morris is not a household name these days. Not in a draft loaded with offensive talent and big name quarterbacks. Morris tends to fly under the radar and, while he’s earned his lack of fame and buzz on merit, we can’t help but think that this kid has a future in the NFL if he can find the right situation.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this year's quarterback class seems to personify the concept. Stephen Morris fits right in as a player whose glass can be seen as half full or fifty percent lacking. The question is, can a new coaching staff and some time in the lab top this kid off? We think he’s got enough talent to be well worth the risk. Let’s take a closer look at Miami’s ex-starter.

I sat down with Morris at the Combine and found him to be an intelligent respectful young man. He wasn’t nervous, but he knew he had some proving to do and that his 2013 performance had hurt his draft stock.

The reviews on Morris at this year’s Senior Bowl were mediocre at best, but, according to the player, he got a lot out of the experience. “It was great because I got to knock out a lot of the tests that are done, so I don’t have to do that here. Working with the Atlanta Falcons and Coach Thomas and everything that he’s been teaching over there and having the opportunity to learn their playbook and go through it, and dissect stuff with Coach ... I thought it was a great experience overall. Just being in the NFL situation, seeing the NFL plays and dealing with the media as well, I thought all of that was real helpful.”

Morris went on to say that he picked up on some issues with his stride that week and he thinks it will help him when throwing to his left in particular. Morris was open and frank when it came to his technique and things he is working on. He was also respectfully adamant that he’d have improved his footwork more in 2013 if he’d been healthy, but he was nursing a very sore right foot for most of the season.

“I thought the ankle did affect me a little bit. Definitely it was one of those seasons where it was always up and down.” The ankle may have affected his development as much as his performance, because it took away a lot of valuable practice time in favor of rest. “The biggest thing for me was just trying to heal my ankle, and it’s tough to do that during the season. There was really no time off.”

Morris did more than talk in Indianapolis. Let’s take a look at his Combine data.

  • Height - 6’2”
  • Weight - 213
  • Hands - 10 1/4”
  • 40 - 4.63 (2nd)
  • Vertical Jump - 30”
  • Broad Jump - 111”
  • 3-Cone Drill - 7.36
  • 20 YD Shuttle - 4.49

The numbers are not awe inspiring, but you have some key data. Morris runs well and has nice escapability when things break down. He didn’t test well as far as agility goes, but we like what we see on film, so we’re not very concerned. Morris did not have the prep time that some athletes had because he was rehabbing his ankle after the season. It also adds up that he’s still struggling with his lateral movements as that’s the last thing to return when you are dealing with an ankle injury. And, trust me, folks, there are few people in this world who have more experience rehabbing ankles than yours truly.

Things we like about Morris.

  • Arm - Morris' arm is plenty strong and he has the ability to make every throw in the book.  His issues are not about the gun, but the calibration of the sight.  If the accuracy issues can be improved, the sky is the limit.  We also like his over-the-top throwing motion, which keeps his release point high. It's a key trait for a 6'2" quarterback because it will help him cut down on balls batted at the line of scrimmage.
  • Athleticism - When fully healthy, Morris moves very well and has the kind of strength and agility that gets scout's attention.
  • Running ability - It's directly linked to the athleticism listed above, but we think Morris can be the kind of strong mobile passer that the NFL is looking for.  He can mix in some designed runs with his ability to escape and give an offense a secondary dimension.
  • Size/speed combo - While he’s not prototypically sized, he does have the kind of combination of size and speed that works at the next level, and we expect Morris to ultimately play at about 220 pounds. He’s still filling out.
  • Feet - Morris has good feet and solid footwork.  He is ahead of the game here in comaprison to some of the quarterbacks who did not play in a pro style offense like Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo.  Morris has no issues getting under center and we like what we see with his dropbacks.
  • Toughness - Let’s face it, a lot of quarterbacks would not have played hurt as Morris did. A lot of them would just sit and get healthy. Morris toughed it out and we think NFL teams will take notice. He’s the anti-Clowney in this regard.
  • Intangibles - Morris is a 2-time team Captain and his leadership shows in the huddle.  He has a reportedly strong work ethic and takes his job seriously.  I definitely got that same vibe from him in Indy.  Morris struck me as a kid that is willing to pay the price for success.
  • Production - Morris did not post big stats as a collegian, but there are some positives, especially in 2012 when he played very well and had a nice TD-to-INT ratio.  

 

Here is one of Morris' final games as a Hurricane.  Some of his plus traits are on display here.

In this clip, versus Virginia Tech, you can see Morris favoring the back foot that he spoke of at the Combine.  The negative effects are obvious.

If you watch a lot of quarterbacks, as I do, you probably see some enticing things on Morris' tape. He moves like a good athlete and when the ball comes out of his hand right, it’s got legit zip. Of course, then we have the downside. You also see plenty of shaky reads and a general lack of accuracy, which Morris attributes to his injury.

So let’s take a closer look at Morris before the injury. Here’s a look at a 2012 game versus NC State, where Morris pretty much dominated.

A few things jump out here. Morris was obviously more comfortable in Jedd Fisch’s offense. That much is clear. What’s also striking is how much better Morris is moving and how much better he looks when he’s not favoring his right foot. He can step up with authority and push off on his throws without issue. From a tape standpoint, the 2012 Stephen Morris is a superior prospect to the 2013 Stephen Morris.

So how do we square this circle? Which player are we getting in 2014? To me, based on what the player told us and based on the film, I am buying into the 2012 version of Morris. Coach Turner and I both think Morris has NFL chops that could be developed and coached up in the right environment. This kid is worth a look in the later rounds versus going after him as a UDFA.

Now for another interesting tidbit. As most of you know, Morris’ old OC, Jedd Fisch, is now running the Jacksonville offense for Gus Bradley. That makes Jacksonville a very intriguing destination for Morris, especially if they do not draft a quarterback in the early rounds.  We also like the idea of Morris going to a team like New England that does not have a pressing need at the position, but could use a strong developmental prospect.  Playing behind Tom Brady's backup, Ryan Mallett, for a year would be just about perfect for Morris.

In closing, while a lot of folks have written this kid off, we think he is still worth keeping an eye on. He’s not a strong candidate for early success, but he has NFL talent and could develop over the long haul. He won’t have any redraft value and his dynasty value is largely theoretical at this point, but Morris a player that all fantasy GMs should know about.

We’ll update Morris’ status after the draft.
 

 

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