Controversy at (Backup) QB: Scouting Brandon Doughty As Miami’s Potential No. 2 QB
With the 223rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected quarterback Brandon Doughty out of Western Kentucky. This choice may have surprised some, as the team could have addressed more glaring roster holes than 3rd string quarterback. This was an especially strange move, as backup quarterback Matt Moore was recently locked down with a two-year contract extension. But, conventional pick or not, it appears that Doughty is in South Beach to stay. The 7th round pick will have to compete for a spot on the depth chart below the likes of Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore, and he projects to be the team’s third quarterback if they decide to keep that many on the roster.
Background and Stats:
Brandon Doughty had a pretty atypical college career. After being redshirted for his freshman and sophomore years due to injury, he exploded onto the gridiron as a junior. In his first full season, he shattered nearly all of Western Kentucky University’s passing records. In 2014, he brought the Hilltoppers’ to College Football’s national consciousness, when he posted 4,830 yards and 49 touchdowns in his second year as a starter. In 2015, his senior year, he proved that he was hardly a one hit wonder, when he led the FBS in passing yards (5,055), touchdowns (48), and completion percentage (71.9).
Doughty’s ridiculous stat line over the last two years is indicative of his mastery of WKU’s offense, and the hard work that he put in along the way. Unfortunately, coming from a small school, he has often been labeled as a “system” quarterback, and thus projecting his potential to succeed at the pro level is quite difficult. Additionally, he was rarely tasked with playing against top-tier competition as quarterbacks from larger schools have done. All things considered, Doughty was exceptional at what he was asked to do as a quarterback, and he should be a solid side project for Adam Gase and Clyde Christensen to develop over the next few years.
Brandon Doughty’s greatest strengths undoubtedly lie in his intangibles. His ability to quickly master WKU’s offensive scheme allowed him to compensate for his relatively mediocre athletic and arm talent over the last few years. His timing and knowledge of the system gave him the confidence to get the ball out quickly, limiting negative plays. He also is not afraid to check down in the flat if there aren’t any big plays to be made. Many young quarterbacks try to play the hero, and end up getting sacked or intercepted instead of picking up an easy three or four yards. His advanced ability to take what the defense gives him and get the ball out quickly has enhanced his ability to avoid pressure, and has allowed him to frequently catch opposing defenders off-guard.
In WKU’s game against LSU, there was very little room to work with for Doughty and the offense. In this play, already down 10, Doughty begins with a fake sweep play to the right. The cornerback bites on the fake, and Doughty immediately throws a dime to his wide open receiver on a seam route. Doughty gets the ball out after just two seconds, and the play results in a touchdown.
In addition to having all of the cerebral aspects of an NFL ready quarterback, Doughty possesses many of the instincts that cannot be taught. He displays outstanding touch and accuracy on throws in the middle of the field, specifically on seam and crossing routes. While his throws to the outside can certainly be improved, his ability to lead receivers down the middle and in the flat on short and intermediate routes is very impressive for a quarterback coming out of college. Take this play against Central Michigan for example:
In addition to having the precision and instincts that any quarterback needs to be successful, he has very underrated poise in big (relatively speaking) games. This opinion is contrary to most media analysis, as many draft experts emphasize his inability to win games against top tier teams like LSU. While these concerns are valid, one must also consider that the team around him was severely outmatched against many of the nation’s established programs. I point to his bowl game victories against Central Michigan in 2014 (49-48) and South Florida in 2015 (45-35) as good examples of poise when the lights are bright in Western Kentucky.
Like most small school or system quarterbacks, Brandon Doughty has some damaging limitations. His measurables are slightly below NFL starter parameters, but they’re hardly a dealbreakerdeal breaker at 6’3” and, 213 lbs. It’s his athleticism that leaves much to be desired. His 5.22 second 40 yard dash at the combine was actually the worst of any QB by nearly 0.3 seconds. The poor combine performance likely contributed to his fall to the 7th round, as his lack of athleticism probably turned some teams off.
Doughty also lacks the ideal arm strength and athleticism to be a starter in the NFL. While far from terrible, his mediocre arm talent often shows on throws to the outside. His deep ball accuracy relies too much on timing and anticipation, as the ball takes a little bit longer to get to its mark than most teams would like. In essence, Doughty has a smaller margin for error when he makes his throws, which could be detrimental when squared off against NFL-caliber talent. This disadvantage was often unmasked when Doughty played top-tier talent like LSU, where he struggled to elevate his play to the level of competition that he was facing.
Perhaps Doughty’s greatest weakness is that he struggles mightily under pressure. When he feels a blitz coming, his mechanics falter and he makes rushed decisions. More a pocket passer than anything else, he lacks the athleticism to shrug off the pressure and make impromptu plays. So, when the pocket is collapsing and someone gets in his face, he loses his composure and makes detrimental mistakes. This play against LSU is a prime example:
Doughty senses the pressure coming from his right, and forces the ball into a very tight window. His rushed throw is badly underthrown, and is easily intercepted. It is also worth noting that Doughty struggled throughout the rest of the game after that interception.
Doughty’s lack of experience against top tier talent, poor athleticism, mediocre arm strength, and lack of composure under heavy pressure have led to a perception that he was merely a game manager at Western Kentucky. This moniker is often a death knoll to aspiring NFL quarterbacks, but there is definitely reason to be positive about Doughty’s chances. He is a smart, capable quarterback with a strong work ethic. He has an extremely impressive statistical resume, and I think that the Dolphins’ decision to draft him can be seen as a vote of confidence. Instead of trying to fill roster holes at linebacker and on the defensive line, the team spent their pick on a third string quarterback, which was definitely a luxury.
Brandon Doughty projects well as a backup quarterback, and could do well as Ryan Tannehill’s backup once Matt Moore’s contract expires in two years. When it comes down to it, Matt Moore will be 33 by the time his contract is done, and I’m sure Adam Gase wants a backup ready if the team decides that the aging veteran isn’t worth the money down the line. Either way, if there is any coach that can mold a quarterback and capitalize on his strengths, it’s Adam Gase.