Two weeks ago, in the days after rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges relieved a struggling Mason Rudolph early in the second half of a critical game against the Bengals and immediately threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to James Washington, many—including Hodges own teammate, James Conner—wanted to give Washington the bulk of the credit for doing most of the work during the pivotal score in a 16-10 win.
Fair enough. It was about a 40-yard pass on a deep crossing route. Hodges had ample time to throw, and you’d like to think most quarterbacks—even the ones who played college football at the FCS level and went undrafted—could have hit Washington in stride.
But while most quarterbacks at both the college and pro level can hit wide-open receivers 40 yards downfield, the vast-majority don’t have the arm-strength to make all of the necessary throws that scouts, coaches and experts are usually looking for in potential NFL starters.
Is Hodges a potential future starter for the Steelers or another NFL team? How strong is his arm? When you research some pre-draft scouting profiles on him, the general consensus is his arm is “just above average.” I guess that’s fair. Does he have a cannon like a Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers or, heck, even Joe Flacco?
It’s doubtful, otherwise, it’s hard to imagine he would have gone undrafted, FCS school or not.
What I have learned while post-sensationally researching some of Hodges’ pre-draft profiles is that he anticipates well and that he “throws to where they (his receivers) are supposed to be.”
Does it even matter if you don’t have a cannon for an arm, if you are “very” accurate (to quote one or two of Hodges’ draft profiles) and can place a football right where it’s supposed to be and when it’s supposed to be there?
In baseball, does it matter that you don’t have tremendous raw power if you’re able to compensate with great bat-speed and a fantastic understanding of the strike-zone?
I believe when people talk about arm-strength in an NFL quarterback, they’re thinking of his ability to throw a pass 60 or 70 yards through the air. However, when you read a lot of profiles on quarterbacks, those sidelines passes—the ones that require great anticipation, timing, accuracy and strength—seem to be the ones that make or break a prospect’s draft-stock.
And that is why I was way more impressed with Hodges’ two-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Diontae Johnson in the third quarter of the Steelers 23-17 victory over the Cardinals last Sunday than I was his 79-yard hook-up with Washington in the Bengals game.
When Hodges dropped back and threw that out-pass across his body, I winced like one often does when he or she drops their cell phone on a non-carpeted surface (“Is the screen shattered?”). Let’s be real, if a pass like that is off in any way—from timing, to accuracy, to arm-strength—it could be intercepted and taken back the other way.
But Hodges’ pass to Johnson couldn’t have been more perfect. Yes, Johnson did a lot of the work by running a great route, catching the pass, getting both feet in bounds and maintaining possession all the way through the tackle. However, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show off his impressive skill-set if Hodges’ pass wasn’t placed where it was supposed to be placed and when it was supposed to be placed there.
The jury is obviously still out when it comes to Hodges’ future as an NFL quarterback, starter or otherwise. But his two-yard touchdown pass to Johnson showed me a talent I’m not so sure someone of his draft pedigree should possess.
It may have just been a two-yard out pass, but it was way more revealing than your average 79-yard touchdown could ever be.