The Bengals’ quarterback room is going through some big changes this offseason. While Andy Dalton is still going to be the starter, AJ McCarron is no longer in the mix. Jeff Driskel is likely now second on the depth chart; he made a splash in the 2017 preseason before suffering a hand injury late in the year in practice. The Bengals also added Matt Barkely to the mix in free agency, but that won’t prevent the team from drafting the right guy if he falls to them.
While many college quarterbacks have been drawing a lot of attention, Washington State’s Luke Falk has flown under the radar. Falk comes from a conference that has produced current NFL players like Marcus Mariota and Jared Goff, as well as highly sought after prospects Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. However, Falk stands alone as the most productive quarterback in the history of the conference. He broke the PAC-12 records for passing yards and passing touchdowns two games into the 2017 season.
In Cincy Jungle’s March four-round mock draft, we had Falk going to the Bengals in the third round with the 100th overall pick. Falk is a solid, well-rounded quarterback who would do well in a backup role. If the Bengals are looking for a new second-string quarterback, or at least someone who can compete with Driskel and Barkley, Falk could very well be the guy. And the team seems to notice that as they sent quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt to check out Falk at a recent pro day where he was putting his talents on display.
Weight: 225 pounds
Hands: 9 1/4”
Arm length: 32”
College: Washington State
Projected Round: 3-4
Passing yards: 14,481 career (PAC-12 record); 3593 in 2017
Passing touchdowns: 119 career (PAC-12 record); 30 in 2017
Completion percentage: 68.3 career (PAC-12 record); 66.9 in 2017
Rating: 142.8 career; 137.0 in 2017
Vertical jump: 26.5”
Broad jump: 103”
Falk’s numbers are impressive, especially since he began his career as a walk-on. Mike Leach, his head coach, saw how talented Falk was and started him at the end of his freshman season. Four years later, Falk left Washington State in the top-10 of most statistical categories in the NCAA.
Falk is known for his coolness and poise in the pocket. When the ball is snapped, he goes through his reads quickly, which is impressive in Leach’s system where there are usual five receivers downfield on any given play. If Falk doesn’t like what he sees downfield, he doesn’t force bad passes into tight coverage. While this is part of what makes him successful, one the biggest knocks against him is that he throws too many short passes. Lance Zierlein said that “almost 74 percent of his pass attempts were less than 10 yards.” More often than not, Falk will check it down to a back or a tight end for a short, easy pass.
After progressing through his reads, Falk stays patient and hits his man in stride. He typically throws accurately enough that his receivers rarely have to adjust to the pass.
On deep passes, though, Falk’s timing is sometimes off. In addition to lacking the arm strength of some draft prospects this year, his timing makes it difficult for him to complete deep throws.
If the Bengals want a backup who can come into a game and take over the offense, Falk could be the guy. Falk could use more development before he becomes an NFL starter, and may well become a decent starter at that. But if Marvin Lewis wants someone who can come off the bench and keep the offense going, Falk could do that much like McCarron was capable of doing. Perhaps, a few years down the road, if the Bengals part ways with Dalton, Falk may even be considered as his replacement. But in 2018, Falk could be a good second or third string quarterback for Cincinnati.