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Steelers 2022 NFL Draft Prospect Preview: USC QB Kedon Slovis

We continue to look at prospects who will be draft eligible in the 2022 NFL Draft. Today we break down another quarterback.

Pac 12 Championship - Oregon v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After diving into Carson Strong and Desmond Ridder, it is time to break down USC quarterback Kedon Slovis and determine whether he would be a fit for the Steelers in the 2022 NFL Draft.

If you have a prospect that intrigues you as a potential fit for the Steelers, be sure to mention it in the comment comment section, and we will take a deep dive into that prospect in the near future. As a reminder, these breakdowns are partially based on their fit specifically with the Steelers, but they will also contain analysis that can help any fan become more familiarized with these prospects.

Kedon Slovis was not expected to be the starter for USC as long as J.T. Daniels was around, but when Daniels got injured in their 2019 season opener against Fresno State, Slovis was given the chance to become the starter. Slovis threw only eight passes in that game, but the following weekend against Stanford, he took full advantage of the opportunity, completing 28 of 33 passes for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns. After Slovis set multiple school records and PAC-12 records, J.T. Daniels was forced to transfer. In the shortened 2020 PAC-12 season, Slovis managed to throw for almost 2,000 yards. It is worth noting that he threw 7 interceptions in 6 games in 2020, but 6 of those interceptions came in games when Slovis attempted more than 45 passes. He averaged more completions per game than any other quarterback in the country, and his 320 passing yards per game ranked 1st in the PAC-12 and 6th nationally.

Slovis is one of the more NFL-ready prospects in the 2022 quarterback class, possessing a solid arm and displaying accuracy to all levels of the field. Working with Kurt Warner in high school likely helped him become a better passer. He is not a huge threat as a runner, but he has enough mobility to move around in the pocket and avoid sacks. However, he needs to do a better job of sensing pressure from inside the pocket. Despite having mobility to avoid oncoming pressure, he takes a lot of sacks due to that lack of awareness. Although there are times I feel as if Slovis holds on to the ball too long, he shows good poise in the pocket and remains calm under pressure. He does a good job delivering accurate balls outside the numbers, and he has improved when it comes to throwing over the middle of the field. His development as a quarterback can be attributed to his steady footwork and rhythm inside the pocket.

My biggest issue with Slovis is his high turnover rate. There are too many instances where he locks on to his primary receiver, allowing the opposing defense to easily read where he is going with the ball. He was battling a shoulder injury throughout the 2020 season, which could partially be why his arm did not seem to have quite as much life on it last season. Unfortunately, many athletes do not regain their entire arm strength very quickly after suffering a shoulder injury. One scouting report that I read on Slovis pointed out that he struggles throwing the ball to the right side of the field in accurate fashion. The couple games I have watched of him is not enough of a sample size for me to confirm that, but I do feel as if he is more comfortable throwing to the left side of the field.

When it comes to Slovis’ tape, he is all over the place. His best 2020 game was against Washington State while his worst came against Oregon in the PAC-12 Championsip Game. We are going to take a look at both, but let’s begin with the good.

In the video below against Washington State, Slovis displays tremendous downfield accuracy, especially at 1:48. Slovis sees Amon-Ra St. Brown one-on-one, but the coverage is very good. Slovis throws an absolute dime, and there is nothing the defender can do about it. We see this same pinpoint accuracy at 2:53, except this time it is on the goal line. The defender forces St. Brown to the outside, but Slovis puts perfect touch on the pass, and the defender is unable to reach the ball and swat it away.

Slovis has become more accurate and more confident when throwing toward the middle of the field. At 2:19, Washington State drops back in zone and leaves the middle of the field open. It is not a difficult throw in a tight window, but it shows the confidence Slovis gained from the previous season. In 2019, he was more hesitant to throw simple passes over the middle.

The fumble at 6:36 is the main negative taken from this game. Slovis’ ball security has been a concern, and it will have to get better in 2021 if he wants to become a top ten pick.

He did not throw many downfield passes in the second half, but he took the short and intermediate passes that were given to him and picked the defense apart, working his way down the field and putting USC in position to score on two separate occasions. Unfortunately, one of those drives ended in the Slovis fumble. You can check out the full video below.

His worst performance was against a stout Oregon defense in the PAC-12 Championship Game. This one starts off pretty bad from the beginning for Slovis, who throws an interception on the first drive of the game (0:14). This ball may have just gotten away from Slovis, as he throws it right to Deommodore Lenoir. It is thrown way too far to the inside, and his receiver running a comeback route never had a chance at it.

At 1:43, Slovis throws another costly interception. Rather than stepping into the pocket, he continues to back up until the rush finally gets to him. He gets rid of the ball but makes a terrible decision, throwing it to the portion of the field where Oregon had four defenders compared to USC’s one receiver.

The play at 3:19 is a positive example of Slovis using his mobility to move outside the pocket and avoid a sack. He keeps his eyes downfield and finds St. Brown, who comes back toward the ball for a big gain. The following play, USC hurries to the line, and Slovis finds St. Brown wide open downfield, as cornerback Deommodore Lenoir slipped near the first down marker. This drive gave USC some positive energy as the first quarter came to an end.

At 12:45, Slovis shows off his arm strength and downfield accuracy on a pass that should have put USC in position to tie the game. Slovis sees 6’3” Bru McCoy, who could be a day two pick next April, matched up against 5’11” cornerback Mykael Wright one-on-one. Slovis throws another dime, but it goes through McCoy’s hands.

A few plays later at 13:16, we see that the drive ends in another interception by Slovis. It looks as if he was trying to throw the ball away, but he throws the ball right near the sideline, allowing safety Jamal Hill to intercept it before stepping out of bounds. This interception was completely Slovis’ fault, but it should have never gotten to that point. If London would have caught the beautiful pass that Slovis threw to him a couple plays prior to the interception, the Trojans would have had a chance to come back and tie the game. Sadly for USC, that is not how it played out.

You can check out his full performance below.

Many of Slovis’ 2020 highlights come from the games that can be viewed above, but if you want to see his best plays from 2019, you can check out the video below.

NFL Comparison: Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen was considered the most “NFL-ready” quarterback in his class due to his accuracy and solid arm. However, Rosen could not consistently keep the turnovers away and did not have the mobility to make plays with his feet. That is also the case with Slovis. While I think Slovis has a decent arm and good accuracy when he has time to throw, he does not have the mobility to gain yards on the ground when nothing is open in the passing game. Rosen could move around in the pocket, but he also lacked the awareness to sense oncoming pass rushers. When Slovis is on, he looks like a poor-man’s Aaron Rodgers extending plays and making accurate throws down the field, but considering all the talent that was put around him and the amount of turnovers he still commits, I do not think he ever becomes an elite quarterback. The flashes of greatness we have seen are few and far between, and his nagging shoulder injuries may prevent him from ever regaining his entire arm strength.

How would he fit with the Steelers?

When you look at what the Steelers tend to like in their quarterback, Slovis actually checks a lot of boxes. He has prototypical size and is primarily a pocket passer. The Steelers generally like drafting younger prospects early in drafts as well, and Slovis does not turn 21 until just a couple weeks before the 2022 draft. This would lead one to believe that there is a lot of room for Slovis to grow as a quarterback, but outside of his shoulder continuing to heal, there is not much that Slovis can really do to become more dynamic. He may be able to cut back on turnovers as he develops, but he lacks speed as a runner, and his arm will probably never be considered “elite.” Maybe he proves me wrong with a fantastic 2021 season, but as of now, I do not see him as a guy who would bring anything to the table that Mason Rudolph does not bring already.

But what do you think? Is Slovis a prospect that could fit what the Steelers want in their next franchise quarterback? Should the Steelers consider taking him if he falls to them? Be sure to share your thoughts on Slovis and anything else NFL Draft related in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and updates surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.