Many were hoping the Bengals would add a quarterback in the 2019 draft, hearing names like Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, and Will Grier turning in the rumor mill.
The Bengals added two quarterbacks, fourth round pick Ryan Finley and undrafted free agent Jake Dolegala.
Finley was initially accepted with optimism, but struggled as soon as practice started.
Dolegala, on the other hand, only took one snap leading up to the last day of minicamp, but turned heads when he finally got the chance to showcase his talent.
This scenario begs the question, can Dolegala outperform Finley? If the final QB spot came down to the two rookies, who would win it?
Finley and Dolegala are the only two quarterbacks the Bengals worked out before the draft, so there was a specific plan for each of them.
Finley was obviously the more coveted of the two. Reports say that he left a huge impression on the coaching staff during his visit, and was probably the smartest quarterback in the draft. While Finley doesn’t have first-round talent, his brain, his leadership, and his competitiveness took a mediocre NC State team to an 8-4 record in his final year.
While some view Finley as a possible starter, he is more realistically a backup who has a chance to develop into a starter over the next few years.
Dolegala was brought in with no such expectations. Though it’s easy to see that the Bengals were targeting him, a best case scenario for him seemed to be the practice squad.
It seems like, on paper at least, that Finley is still the more valuable prospect to the organization. However, if he continues to struggle, things could get interesting.
Granted, there are a lot of what ifs. What if the Bengals only carry two quarterbacks? What if Jeff Driskel has an amazing training camp? What if Finley turns things around and Dolegala falls off the wagon during preseason?
After all, wouldn’t it be putting the cart before the horse to try and figure all of this out before training camp?
Yes. Absolutely. 100 percent.
Anyways, here’s my attempt to figure it all out.
If you want to compare college stats, then Finley jumps out way ahead of Dolegala.
At NCSU, Finley posted over 10,000 career passing yards, 7.7 yards per attempt, a TD/INT ratio of 2.4, a 64.5 completion percentage, and a quarterback rating of 140.0.
The Bengals probably liked Finley because of his similarities with Andy Dalton. Finley is good at making quick reads like Dalton. Unfortunately, also like Dalton, he has very poor accuracy down the field.
His short-to-medium accuracy is excellent:
* Through 2 games of former NC State QB & 2019 Draft Prospect: Ryan Finley. Positives thus far⬇️— QB University (@UniversityofCo2) February 19, 2019
* Mechanically sound
* Great touch on throws & throws his guys open
*Cuse brings 6, Finley hitches & throws an accurate ball before WR even breaks⬇️@DraftDiamonds pic.twitter.com/iYDauuguwC
NC State’s Ryan Finley has damn solid accuracy and a mechanicaly sound release, certainly an intriguing prospect! #NFLDraft #DraftTwitter pic.twitter.com/SxfUvo0Rde— Fantasy Evaluator (@FFEvaluator) December 15, 2017
Of course Ryan Finley's 3rd passing touchdown went to No. 3 himself -- @Wide_Receiver3 with his first TD of the season! #WPN pic.twitter.com/rO5vTWegHd— Pack Pride (@PackPride) September 29, 2018
May 1, 2019
But don’t expect him to have the same type of accuracy down the field:
#ThrowbackThursday - Way back in 2016 Marcus Edmond intercepts Ryan Finley in OT to preserve a 24-17 #Clemson victory. pic.twitter.com/INjG7RL6Ch— Seldom Used Reserve (@seldomusedrsrv) November 2, 2017
He also makes the occasional bone-headed throw:
There are people who believe Ryan Finley is a first-round QB prospect. I am not one of those people. pic.twitter.com/dFrCyhltRX— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) October 8, 2018
Unfortunately, he just doesn’t handle pressure well:
Not good pic.twitter.com/XS7TVN7iA9— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) May 1, 2019
This did not go as planned for NC State. Ryan Finley picked off by Julian Love, who runs it back 70+ yards for the score! #NCSTvsND pic.twitter.com/YR5WcUpq6e— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) October 28, 2017
As for his mobility, Finley ran a 4.74 in the combine, and has decent enough speed to make him a threat in the run game if he is called upon.
Dannnnnnn *beep* Ryan Finley *beep* can scoot pic.twitter.com/xcIDgxiD5P— Mike Golic Jr (@MGolicJR57) June 13, 2018
In the North East Conference (FCS), Dolegala passed for 8,129 yards (a school record), 7.2 yards per attempt, a TD/INT ratio of 1.65, a 57.8 completion percentage, and a quarterback rating of 126.5.
Dolegala split snaps his freshman year, and took over completely as a starter in his sophomore season. He led the Blue Devils to their first ever playoff appearance in 2017.
As a physical specimen, the 6’7” 240 lb Dolegala has to prove that he has the skill to complement the size.
It is also worth noting that his 12 for 17 performance in his lone day of minicamp participation would have been his third-most accurate game of his senior season, and that was against NFL-level competition(albeit a lower tier of NFL talent, still well above FCS talent).
In the video below at the 1:08 mark, you can see Dolegala manufacture an excellent scoring drive against Columbia.
He starts off by hitting his receiver in stride despite being on the run. On the next two throws, he does a great job of finding the receivers’ back shoulders and putting the ball where only they can catch it.
This next one is a thing of beauty. He couldn’t have thrown a more perfect pass.
#TouchdownTuesday @CCSUBlueDevils WR Joey Fields pulls in the pass from Jacob Dolegala and goes 74 yards to THE . #NECFB pic.twitter.com/tz6iXjjKWz— NEC Football (@NECFootball) May 9, 2017
It is quite possible that Dolegala already has the best deep ball in the organization.
#NFLDraft QB prospect Jacob Dolegala can throw the long ball #TouchdownTuesday pic.twitter.com/ELO9NiwdDn— NEC Football (@NECFootball) April 9, 2019
While he is not as quick as Finley, he is definitely a strong runner. He has Tom Brady mobility, which is a phrase I never thought I would ever use, but helps overcome the 5.04 40-yard dash he ran at his pro day.
Dolegala bowls his way into the endzone #GoBlueDevils #ItsTime pic.twitter.com/RSyTtySIzP— CCSU Blue Devils (@CCSUBlueDevils) September 17, 2016
But if the Bengals’ offense resembles the Rams’, then mobility won’t be entirely necessary for Dolegala.
Now the difficult thing about evaluating Dolegala is that his film is very hard to find. Most of the video you can find on him is highlight reels, which pretty much only show touchdowns.
However, he is only a 58 percent career passer, so obviously his game is not perfect.
While this ended up being a touchdown, any less effort on the receiver’s part would have resulted in an interception.
#TouchdownTuesday @CCSUBlueDevils' Jacob Dolegala with the pitch for 6⃣ against Lafayette... pic.twitter.com/pviqr88xSH— NEC Football (@NECFootball) July 18, 2017
Even though this play (at the 2:08 mark) also ends up as a touchdown, Dolegala’s footwork could use some work. Of course, you can get away with pretty much anything when your receivers are that wide open.
The only interception I could find from Dolegala came at the :27 mark of this video. This was just a flat-out bad read.
My best guess as to why he had such a low completion percentage is that he often floated his passes, giving defensive backs time to break it up. On some of his passes, he mostly drew his strength from his upper body, which often causes passes to be too lofty.
Another possibility is that he made some poor reads, since he was used to squeezing the ball into tight windows. When his receivers weren’t wide open, he would rely on his accuracy to get the ball into their hands. Sometimes, it worked and those passes ended up on highlight reels. Other times, they didn’t.
Again, this is only speculation given the limited film we have.
In a nutshell, Finley is the smarter and more polished of the two. As someone who has been in college for six years, he’s quickly approaching veteran status.
He just has to show that he has the physical skills to make it.
As for Dolegala, he definitely has the physical tools, he just needs to adjust to the NFL version of the game. Going from a home stadium that seats only 5,000 to the NFL will take some time.
To summarize, Finley has the mental ability, Dolegala has the physical ability.
If I had to chose right now, I still think I would go with Finley. He is still the more proven between the two, and that’s what the Bengals are looking for right now.
If they were trying to develop their next franchise quarterback, then maybe Dolegala would be the way that they go. But for the time being, they are looking for a game manager who can come off the bench and command the offense. Finley is perfect for that.
Granted, he still needs to work out the kinks. We can’t be entirely sure how bad he was during minicamp, but reports make it sound like it was absolutely abysmal. He definitely needs to work on that, but if anyone has the ability to overcome a bad first impression, it would be Finley.
Maybe Finley’s struggles are the opening Dolegala needs. At the very least, this will be an interesting training camp.