Michigan got their top target at quarterback last night when Highlands Ranch (CO) Valor Christian QB Dylan McCaffrey announced his commitment to the Wolverines. McCaffrey is the son of former Denver Broncos WR Ed McCaffrey and brother of Heisman finalist Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey; prepare for the word "bloodlines" to show up in several of these scouting reports.
McCaffrey is Michigan's fifth commit in the 2017 class and the first at quarterback.
4*, #3 QB,
4*, #6 QB,
4*, 85, #1 P-QB,
4*, 95, #2 P-QB,
4*, #2 P-QB,
With the exception of Rivals, which still considers McCaffrey as a high-level prospect, McCaffrey's rankings are tightly grouped in what will be fringe five-star territory by the end of the 2017 cycle.
He has an ideal frame for a quarterback, listed between 6'4", 185 pounds (Rivals) and 6'5", 200 (247).
Scout's free evaluation shows that McCaffrey isn't just an excellent prospect, he's an especially good fit for Jim Harbaugh's offense:
EvaluationMcCaffrey has great bloodlines and is a tremendous talent. He's a pure pocket passer with good athleticism and a great feel for the game. He's the rare QB who can go under canter and take a drop, shows very good footwork and poise. He's a natural leader with the arm strength needed to make all the throws and is able to escape pressure and make a play with his legs. He projects as an elite high major prospect- Biggins
- Mental Toughness
- Pocket Awareness
Areas to Improve
With so many high school teams running shotgun spreads these days, it's hard to find QB prospects with experience dropping back from under center; McCaffrey won't have as tough a transition as most.
It should come as little surprise that McCaffrey has been on the radar for quite a while; I found mention of him as early as May of 2014, when the then-rising-sophomore performed well at the Oakland Elite 11 regional. Irish247's breakdown of his sophomore film indicates McCaffrey was well ahead of the curve at that stage in his development:
McCaffrey boasts big-time size, and will only continue to add strength and poundage to his frame. With added strength, expect for added velocity in the pass game and physicality as a runner.
McCaffrey displays proper posture in the pocket. He has the ability to make smooth, finesse throws as well as pass with power. Good athleticism with the ability to extend plays outside the pocket or as a runner. Not a burner as a runner, but his long levers allow him to cover larger distances with an extended stride.
Flashes a mixture of move the pocket, in the pocket, and play action passes. McCaffrey has experience running a gun spread offense with read/zone concepts. Solid ball carriage in the pocket with limited wasted movement. Impeccable pedigree. Great knowledge of the game. Football player. Subtle movement in the pocket allows him to create space for throws. Down hill thrower once on the run. Reminiscence of former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist, especially on his level one and level five throws.
Their primary complaint was one based in mechanics: sometimes McCaffrey relied too much on his arm strength instead of getting his whole body into a throw.
PrepColorado QB scout Tim Jenkins evaluated McCaffrey during Valor Christian's only loss last fall (one they'd avenge in the state title game). Despite the defeat, McCaffrey still looked like a top-flight prospect:
Dylan is a big strong quarterback who has electric reset ability with his feet, meaning when he goes from one target to the next he wastes no time. He resets to number 2 better than most college quarterbacks. Dylan has a great smooth delivery. There were only a couple things left to be wanted when evaluating that game. First would be chaos management, when he moves around sometimes the ball gets away from his body. Lastly would be post snap recognition, there were a couple missed reads on zone read where there was an extra outside linebacker blitzing off the edge that he didn’t see, or a couple wide open hitch routes he had backside that he went elsewhere. After cleaning that up you see why he has garnered as many offers as he has. He is an excellent quarterback, recruit, and by all accounts I have heard a great kid!
That ability to go through progressions with solid mechanics is one of the main things that separated Brandon Peters from Shane Morris at the high school level; it's very encouraging to hear McCaffrey is on that level.
ESPN's underclassman evaluation has little actual criticism unless you were hoping McCaffrey is as much of a burner as his older brother:
STRENGTHS: Ideal height and massive frame. Heady player who makes sound decisions in the passing game. Well balanced and has a compact, over-the-top release. Possesses the arm strength to make all throws and is very accurate. Poised and patient in the pocket and athletic enough to elude defenders and step up. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Will need to fill out his ample frame. Does not have enough speed to be a dual threat. ... BOTTOM LINE: McCaffrey is a tall, polished quarterback with very good arm talent. As he matures and adds bulk, we feel he has the potential to develop into a prototypical pocket passer at the next level.
247's Clint Brewster evaluated McCaffrey's junior film after his commitment and came away suggesting he's better than Peters:
He’s got great size at 6-foot-5 and really sees the entire field. McCaffrey makes decisions that put his team in position to win. He is a smart player and really dissects coverage well, with precision- accuracy and decisiveness. He makes a ton of advanced level throws and reads on film and can really pick you apart with his arm. His mobility is just the icing on the cake.
Each year, programs strive to sign a better player at each position than they did the previous cycle. This was a tough task for Michigan considering they signed the No. 61 overall player in the country last year in Brandon Peters. But they certainly did with the commitment of McCaffrey. The Wolverines got their top overall target at the position that could potentially end up as the top quarterback in the class. McCaffrey's mechanics in the pocket are very polished, especially for a player with his type of upside and mobility. His pocket presence and footwork really set him apart from others in the class.
The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan noted one area where McCaffrey—through no fault of his own—will have to make a significant adjustment:
The lone questions around McCaffrey's talent relate to how he performs when things are stacked against him. Valor Christian is consistently one of the most talented teams in the Denver area, and there are only a couple games each year where the whole range of his skills is needed. The playing field will be more level on a consistent basis in college, and thinking under more intense pressure than he sees will be important.
McCaffrey led Valor Christian to their sixth state title in seven years last season. As with any quarterback, transitioning to tougher competition in college will be a challenge, and in his case it could require a longer adjustment period.
McCaffrey sounds like an ideal fit for Michigan. He's a passer first, and a very good one, but he can also make plays with his legs; he can operate from the gun or under center; his mechanics and understanding of the game are advanced for a prospect his age. Harbaugh has a lot to work with here.
McCaffrey holds offers from Arizona State, Colorado, Colorado State, Duke, LSU, Mizzou, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, Rutgers, UCLA, Virginia, Washington, and Washington State. He had interest but not offer yet from Stanford, which prioritized the #5 P-QB in the class, Georgia prospect Davis Mills.
Valor Christian is a dominant program in Colorado; as mentioned, they've won six of the last seven Class 5A state titles. The program has, of course, produced the McCaffrey brothers; the two other four-stars they've produced in the Rivals era are 2015 Nebraska CB signee Eric Lee and Mr. Vision Quest himself, Auburn guard Alex Kozan.
During his junior year, McCaffrey led a powerful Valor Christian team to a 12-2 state championship mark, completing 207 of 320 passes (64.7 percent) for exactly 2800 yards (8.8 per attempt) with 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
For his efforts, he was named to The Denver Post All-Colorado High School Football Team.
An interception rate well below 2% is good, in my opinion.
FAKE 40 TIME
McCaffrey's Hudl page lists a Nike-verified 40 time of 5.18, which gets zero FAKEs out of five. He's not his brother; he still has enough athleticism to break the pocket and pick up first downs.
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
McCaffrey is a near-lock for a redshirt, both because John O'Korn should be in his second and final year as the starter when he gets to campus in 2017 and doing so would separate him and Peters as much as possible. In what will presumably be his redshirt freshman season in 2018, McCaffrey should battle with Peters, Zach Gentry, Alex Malzone, and Wilton Speight (or whichever of those QBs is still on the roster) for the starting gig.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
McCaffrey is the type of quarterback prospect that makes a second pro-style prospect in the class more of a luxury than anything else; if Michigan goes after a second QB, it'll likely be a guy like Gentry or (sigh) Vic Viramontes who could also project to another position.
Here's the class as it currently stands: