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Ryan Finley Could Climb Back Up Draft Boards

By Dave Holcomb
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This offseason, Ryan Finley will aim to become the fifth active signal caller in the league that played for the Wolfpack.

Only one school currently has more quarterbacks in the NFL than N.C. State, but this offseason, Ryan Finley will aim to become the fifth active signal caller in the league that played for the Wolfpack.

Finley, though, isn’t as sure of a thing as he was five months.

He began the 2018 season as ESPN Todd McShay’s top NFL quarterback prospect. Now following the season, he’s fallen from that perch. Still, Finley had an excellent 2018 season, and he is an intriguing Day 2 prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Including his bowl performance, Finley threw for a career-high 3,928 yards and 25 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He completed 67.4 percent of his passes and averaged 8.1 yards per attempt. Finley led the ACC in passing yards, passing yards per game, and completion percentage. He was also second only to Trevor Lawrence in yards per attempt and touchdowns.

Finley started three seasons at N.C. State, and in the olden days, that would have really elevated his draft stock. NFL coaches and scouts used to love quarterbacks with a lot of college experience -- a couple years as a starter -- but with more and more early entries, measurables such as arm strength and athleticism have become more important.

That’s probably the biggest reason why his stock has dropped a little. Finley has just above average arm strength, isn’t real mobile and has trouble with accuracy under pressure.

For that reason, Finley likely won’t go in the first round. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 5 quarterback in the class behind Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock, Duke’s Daniel Jones and West Virginia’s Will Grier. CBS Sports also has Finley as the No. 58 player overall.

Walter Football ranked him a little higher as the No. 4 quarterback in the class, but the website also gave him the label of death -- game manager.

“He was an accurate game-manager for N.C. State, doing a good job of protecting the football and leading an efficient passing offense,” wrote Charlie Campbell of Walter Football. “However, Finley has limitations as a passer and is not a dynamic thrower of the football. He could be a less-athletic version of Alex Smith for the NFL.”

Essentially, Finley’s ceiling isn’t nearly as high as any of the quarterbacks that went in the first round last year. But while a guy such as Josh Allen has a higher ceiling, there’s still something to be said for drafting a pro-ready signal caller who is an intelligent leader.

Whoever lands Finley in the draft -- likely on the second or third day -- will be getting a poised football player. Finley turned 24 last month and spent six years in college at N.C. State and Boise State. Sports Illustrated called him “perfect for teams … who want a mature, smart, savvy signal caller.”

His age could scare some teams away as well, but in each year of college, Finley improved. That should be appealing to teams. It’s a sign that he takes direction very well and will continue to develop if placed in the right situation.

Finley doesn’t project to be the next Philip Rivers or Russell Wilson. Those are the two current NFL starting quarterbacks who played at N.C. State. But Finley should be a better signal caller than either Mike Glennon and Jacoby Brissett, who are the other two active NFL quarterbacks from the Wolfpack.

No matter where he lands in the draft, Finley will become the fifth N.C. State signal caller in the league, and he should receive his chance to prove he deserves to start.