Home > College Football, Div-I FCS, Draft, NFL > Is Pat Devlin a First Round Prospect? Are the Blue Hens FCS Contenders?

Is Pat Devlin a First Round Prospect? Are the Blue Hens FCS Contenders?

This story really begins when University of Delaware Quarterback Pat Devlin was still setting Pennsylvania high school football passing records, in 2005.  That year, a former three-star recruit by the name of Joe Flacco transferred from the University of Pittsburgh back closer to home at Delaware.  Unable to secure his release from his scholarship at Pitt, Flacco’s third college season went the way of his first two: nowhere.

Twenty three months after his transfer, Flacco was still a relatively unknown college quarterback, though well entrenched as the Blue Hens’ starter with 2,800 passing yards, 18 TDs, and just 10 INTs.  Thanks to a pretty remarkable 2007 playoff run, and the depth and magnitude of scouting in the NFL (leaving no stone unturned in the search for players to throw millions of dollars at), Flacco went from “the FCS QB who put up 50 beat Navy” on Halloween 2007, to a battle tested playoff QB (in college!), to a combine star, and then 6 months from his victory against Navy: Baltimore Ravens franchise player.

Flacco didn’t just turn the Blue Hens into a 2007 FCS runner-up, and himself into a professional, though he did both those things that year.  He also helped turn Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler into something of a QB guru, and the program into a destination for out-of-favor blue chippers to come and potentially build a pro career.

And so, three years after the last Delaware appearance in the NCAA FCS Football Championship, here comes the test of the idea that a mid-level D-I FCS program can operate, quietly, as an NFL quarterback factory.  Pat Devlin, after losing the battle for the starting QB job at Penn State transferred out of the program to small-town Newark, DE, and enters his senior season as the most accomplished passer in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2009, and arguably the best professional prospect in all of the FCS.  He also leads a team that hasn’t posted seven wins since going 11-4 under Flacco in 2007, and hasn’t even won so many as 6 conference games in a season since leaving the Atlantic 10 in 2007.

There are two very separate questions here:

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Pat+Devlin&iid=2439147″ src=”f/3/6/d/Penn_State_v_a112.jpg?adImageId=12985599&imageId=2439147″ width=”290″ height=”460″ /]

  • Will Devlin establish himself as the next 1st round quarterback from the University of Delaware?
  • Can the Blue Hens put together some semblance of a meaningful playoff season with Devlin, or is this a team that’s just not ready to compete?

In any case, I’ll try to address these questions in reverse order.  Pat Devlin is probably a better pure passer than Joe Flacco, based on their respective high school careers, recruiting hype, and first year statistics at Delaware.  The biggest difference in between their two seasons is probably the number of passes attempted.  It’s not like Devlin wasn’t the unquestioned QB of the Blue Hens last year; only 7 attempted passes last year by the team were not thrown by him.  Still, he threw about 70 fewer passes than Flacco did, and was sacked 26 times, more sacks in 2009 than Flacco had in his Blue Hen career.

The other factor here is that by my accounts, Flacco had the better pieces.  RB Omar Cuff, in four years at Delaware — the last two with Flacco — never failed to average at least 4.4 yards per carry, and truth be told, his 5.0 YPC senior season led the Blue Hens offense.  Flacco really just managed it and converted third downs.  Cuff scored 39 (!) offensive touchdowns that year.  Devlin inherits no such running game.  The offensive line should be improved this year, but last year, UDel runners combined to average fewer than 3.5 yards per carry (team total of 3.1 includes Devlin sacks), and just 16 TDs, which matched Devlin’s personal total.  Things will be better this year, to an extent, but what won’t change is that unlike Flacco’s senior season, what is accomplished by the Hens will be accomplished by Devlin.

Delaware returns a pretty strong pass defense, which in theory, would lend itself to winning the shootouts they are sure to be in, but thanks to college clock rules, teams that get themselves in an early hole can keep running if they can eat up 5-6 yard chunks on the ground, they will not ever need to put the ball in the air to catch up.  That run defense is another reason that Devlin has fewer attempts than Flacco: less time of possession.  Teams that can’t stop the Delaware passing attack can at least keep it off the field.

Devlin appears poised to blow away all of Flacco’s records from 2007, but the Hens are not as good of a team as they were that year.  They are a good bet to get to the postseason on the strength of a 4500 yard passing season from Devlin in which he obliterates the school passing TD record, but they aren’t the best team in the CAA by any stretch, and are looking at a 7-4 or 8-3 season.  They have a brutal road schedule (though a very favorable home slate), having to face FCS powers Richmond, James Madison, William & Mary, and UMass all away from home.

As for Devlin himself, he’s currently rated the third best Senior QB by NFL Draft Scout, a distant third behind Jake Locker, and Christian Ponder.  Ponder has certainly made up a lot of ground since their recruiting days of 2005, while Locker was originally classified as a “dual-threat” quarterback.  If Devlin is to have his late first round draft status threatened, it will come from an early draft commit.  Ryan Mallett is a virtual certainty to leave Arkansas and enter the 2011 NFL Draft, and probably the main competition for Devlin to be a pro prospect.  Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor, Arizona’s Nick Foles, and Miami’s Jacory Harris are all darkhorses to do the same, and Devlin’s prospect status requires that he shatter the records this year, and lower his high sack rate to outpace these younger talents.

Can he hold those players off?  Well, I don’t think any of the third year college players are likely to commit to the draft unless they are reasonably certain to be the first pick.  That leaves just four players in the race to be the first quarterback taken: Locker, Ponder, Mallett, and Devlin.  At this point, those are good odds for Devlin, who is, along with Ponder, the most accurate prospect in the class.

Pat Devlin’s chances of being an NFL pro aren’t as good as Flacco’s were heading into draft day, but they are better than Flacco’s were at this time three years ago.  His team’s chances of being a playoff threat aren’t all that good — in many ways, he’s kind of his own show out there for the Blue Hens.  It’s going to be an interesting story to track, as certainly, Delaware is going to collect a bunch of wins over lesser programs, and be in the hunt come December.  Devlin should have his stage to showcase his skills at that point — as Joe Flacco did before him.  He’ll get to finish the story that Flacco, inadvertently, began writing.

  1. May 25, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Gregg, can you do me a favor, and this link instead of the flickr link?http://www.photoshelter.com/c/monsterphoto/img-show/I0000H3qMRrmE8Rg, Furthermore if you need images of any delaware sports let me know, and i’ll send it to you personally.

  2. May 26, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Done. When I do my College Football Previews, I’ll be sure to hit you up ahead of time.

  3. May 27, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Excellent. and thank you

  4. Brent
    August 6, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Jay Paterno is a worthless pile of crap. I still don’t know how he thought it was ok let this guy get away. By far one of the best QB’s PSU has had since Kerry Collins. I believe most PSU fans feel this way. I also believe that most PSU fans are rooting for Pat’s success as a potential first rounder. I’ve been following his career since he left PSU, and I wish Pat the best this season.

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