Draft season is a year-round thing for me, and I’m not one to shy away from talking about prospects this early. With Ben Roethlisberger contemplating retirement and the end of an era coming soon, I’ve been searching for sleeper QBs that might potentially be drafted. I actually found three sleepers from the FCS level and I’m planning something good for one of them in the coming months.
The first one I want to talk about is Kyle Lauletta. He plays for Richmond in the CAA conference. He’s listed on the school site at 6-foot-3 (I suspect he’s probably shorter than his listed height), 215 pounds. He’s currently on the Senior Bowl watch list and reportedly has been getting some NFL buzz.
Keep hearing good things about 2 QB prospects on rise: @SpiderFootball's Kyle Lauletta (6-3, 206) & @WKUFootball's Mike White (6-4, 227)— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) October 24, 2017
Before I get started, I’d like to say that I first heard about Kyle Lauletta from my good friend, Will Stevenson (twitter handle is @DraftMarvel) back around March. If you are on Twitter and are interested in draft talk, especially when it pertains to QBs, he’s a must follow.
Kyle is a 22-year-old from Exton Pennsylvania. He played for Downingtown East High School and ended up accumulating 5,243 total yards and 64 total touchdowns in two seasons. Named a team captain there, he helped propel his team to a couple of Chesmont League titles, along with a 19-2 record.
Kyle comes from a football family. Kyle’s Dad, Joe, played quarterback for Navy in the 1980s. His father has had a big impact in what he’s taught him about being a leader.
“In seventh or eighth grade I was unsure what position I wanted to play going into high school and my father said, ‘Hey, why don’t you try quarterback?’” recalled Lauletta, who attended Downingtown East, outside of Philadelphia. “In college I am getting coached on the technical aspects and he kind of teaches me on the personal side with leadership. As a captain on the team we have to handle a lot of different issues with players and whenever there is an issue I always lean on him for advice and he has been very helpful on how to deal with certain situations.”
He also leans on his older brother Trey (also played QB), who helps him with more of how to improve the more cerebral aspects of QB, including quizzing him on protections.
“He is hard on me,” Kyle said of Trey. “He will quiz me on protections and other things we are looking at. He instills those things in me, about being confident and every aspect about what I need to know.”
Lauletta was very lightly recruited coming out of college. He wasn’t rated by Rivals, 247, or really any recruiting service. He ended up choosing Richmond because of their “academic reputation” and the “football success” their program has had. Lauletta is double majoring in both business and leadership.
Throughout his time as a starter, he has helped lead Richmond to the FCS playoffs both in his Sophomore year (2015, he red-shirted 2014) and Junior year. He’s been a team captain since his Junior year. Unfortunately, his Junior year ended abruptly, after he suffered a torn ACL vs William and Mary and he ended up missing the FCS playoffs.
Lauletta hasn’t had a ton of stability on offense throughout his time at Richmond. Since 2014, Richmond has had a different offensive coordinator every single season. He’s currently on his fourth offensive coordinator, Jeff Durden, who runs more of an up-tempo offense. His previous coordinators had a reputation for being more traditional with their offenses, more under center, 3-step and 5-step drops.
Lauletta didn’t start off well statistically speaking as the starter in his first season.
2015, 14 games played: 3598 yards, 9.2 Y/A, 61.6 CMP%, 19 TDs and 15 INTs.
He made quite a big jump, though, in his Junior season.
2016, 11 games played: 3022 yards, 8.7 Y/A, 63 CMP%, 24 TDs and 8 INTs.
Through only seven games this season, he’s on pace to shatter his career highs in both passing yards and TDs.
2017, 7 games played: 2643 yards, 9.2 Y/A, 64 CMP%, 23 TDs and 8 INTs.
STAT LEADERS— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) October 26, 2017
Kyle Lauletta of @SpiderFootball leads #FCS in passing yards per game: https://t.co/WR9V9U2WpS pic.twitter.com/v7GaEQK7Wz
It’s very encouraging to see a guy who keeps trending up. That shows you they’re making growth from year to year. Of course, raw statistics don’t always tell you the full story, that is why we watch the film.
Lauletta is a quick-footed QB who can make things work from the pocket. His quick feet allow him to reset quickly and fire. He has good weight transfer, and his hips and upper body are usually in sync when throwing. His throwing motion is very efficient with little wasted movement.
Lauletta doesn’t drop his eyes when the bodies come flying at him, and he’s an accurate passer under pressure. Subtle footwork allows him to manipulate the pocket to elude rushers. Also, he can get outside the pocket and pick up yardage with his legs when he has to. He shows good touch and placement when throwing on the move.
Lauletta doesn’t need a perfect platform to showcase throwing velocity and accuracy. He’s got sufficient arm strength to test a secondary deep at approximately the 50-55 yard range, even when throwing from the far hash. His placement on intermediate routes gives his intended receiver the chance to maximize yards after the catch.
Lauletta also can throw long breaking outs from the far hash with decent velocity and great timing. The ball is often out well before the receiver has even broken off his route. He throws with great anticipation, often seeing the window well before his target breaks open. He works the middle well and sees underneath linebackers in coverage, often throwing over them to fit the ball to his target. He also does a good job using his eyes to freeze safeties and linebackers to create open throwing windows.
Lauletta’s pre-snap recognition is evident as he makes checks at the line of scrimmage and reads the defensive coverage. He works through multiple progressions and doesn’t stay riveted on one read. He’s very good selling play-action, dropping his shoulder and selling the run.
While his arm strength is sufficient, he doesn’t fit every system. He’s best suited for a west coast timing-based offense. Because he plays in the FCS conference, that makes it harder to gauge whether he can fit his passes into tighter windows (but not saying he can’t). While he has no notable injury history, he has sustained an ACL injury. His deep-ball accuracy is inconsistent, as he generally tends to overthrow in breaking deep posts towards the middle of the field. His decision-making is generally solid but not perfect (need more film to confirm the root of this issue).
I mentioned Lauletta’s throwing motion and how there’s little wasted movement. It’s so obvious on film—whether he’s throwing deep, intermediate or short—it’s all one smooth, efficient motion.
It’s quite obvious how short and compact his motion is. There’s very little ball-drop and his backswing isn't excessive.
Pocket movement and throwing under pressure
As mentioned, his pocket movement is extremely subtle. His footwork is very underrated and helps him elude rushers when he’s manipulating the pocket. Watch this play vs. South Carolina State.
Just one subtle sidestep and his tackle is able to take the rusher up the arc. As for the throw, it looks like the CB on the left side of the formation is in cover-2. He’s staying on top of the underneath routes and passing anything deep to the safety.
I don’t really get the CB’s thought process though. He’s squatting on the route like it was going to be a back shoulder throw once Lauletta releases the ball. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that throw was going up-field and the CB just ends up guessing instead of playing the ball.
It was a good throw by Lauletta because he put it high, assuming the CB was going to carry the receiver (RB) up the field, while also putting it between the CB and safety. I think he was aided a bit by a questionable thought process from the CB, but it was clearly still a good throw and he showed tremendous poise keeping his composure in the pocket.
Here’s another example of him using his footwork and keeping his eyes downfield.
Once again, Lauletta does a great job of keeping his eyes focused downfield. Never once do you see them drop, despite the amount of pressure and bodies flying at him. You can see how the CB is trying to account for the crosser while also being in a position to break up the comeback route.
Lauletta places it high over the underneath CB and in a spot where his guy can get it. The safety closed but to no avail. Just great placement and, once again, great poise while under pressure.
Here’s another example of him showing great pocket presence.
Lauletta has to evade the edge pressure, as the defensive end was able to knife inside with a clear path towards the QB. Lauletta just moves outside the pocket, allowing his tackle to push the DE up the arc, giving him ample time to throw. Lauletta lobs the ball while on the move from about the 10-yard line and hits his receiver near the other team’s 45 yard line. That’s about a 45-yard pass.
Here’s one more throw under pressure, this time vs. Virginia.
I like this throw a lot. You’ve got an unblocked defensive back ready to bear down on you and you calmly drop a dime deep downfield along the sideline in stride to your receiver. That’s an NFL throw.
Timing and anticipation
When I mentioned his timing, I mean that his timing on those long outs is just outstanding. Watch this throw vs. James Madison.
This is just absurd. The ball was released and, by the time the WR has broken off his route, the ball looks to be at least 10 yards downfield at the time of the break. You rarely see QBs having this level of timing in the FCS. This trait is evident throughout his film too.
Here’s another example, again vs. James Madison.
It’s very hard to tell but, based on the receiver’s route, it looks clear (at least to me) that he broke off his route when the ball was 10 yards downfield. There’s ample velocity on this pass as well. Lauletta is more towards the far hash and he throws this from about the 10 to the 45 yard line. These aren’t throws that a lot of QBs like to make and, even though Lauletta has a sufficient-but-not-overpowering arm, he overcomes it with his great timing.
As for his anticipation, this is a throw that really caught my eye.
It’s subtle, but notice where the receiver is when he starts his motion. He’s obviously covered on this play and this is why it’s called anticipation. The QB is throwing to a target that isn’t open at the time but is about to get open.
If you notice, it’s not a very big window either. The CB still is in good position and not trailing the receiver by much. The problem is that he couldn’t quite get his eyes back towards the ball because it was released so soon. You can also see the safety ready to make a break on the ball. If this ball had been thrown sooner, it more than likely would not be a completion.
I love the placement on the throw as well—low, where only his guy can get it and tough for the CB to make a play on it.
One of the best traits a QB can have and Lauletta shows it on film often.
Lauletta communicates pre-snap with his receiver on the right side of the formation. I don’t know what the change could’ve been, but it looks like William and Mary was playing cover-2 and he noticed something he liked. He starts off looking towards the free safety’s side and trying to freeze him. Then he looks back towards the deep post and hits his receiver.
The receiver had to leave his feet but the ball was catchable. The notable thing on this play was the pre-snap recognition and the obvious eye manipulation. This allowed the throwing window to open so he could fit the ball down field.
This next play vs. Elon is subtle but huge.
You can see how he’s clearly eyeing the crossing route at the beginning of the play. As he sets to throw, the linebacker is convinced that he’s going to throw to the crosser. You can see him bite on that and he instead hits the deep dig. The ball is thrown over the linebacker and into the receiver’s stomach with perfect placement.
The last example I want to go over was vs. Colgate (no, not the toothpaste brand).
Colgate is in cover-1 and they got a one high safety. Lauletta drops back and just holds the safety long enough so that he doesn’t risk the safety jumping the route. The CB actually has great coverage on this play but Lauletta drops an absolute dime of a throw on a rope to his receiver in stride. Perfect placement and good use of the eyes.
Deep ball inconsistency
The problem I have with Kyle Lauletta is that his deep ball can be inconsistent at times. Even when he hits his guy, often times the ball tends to get overthrown. This occurs mostly on deep post routes.
Here’s an example vs. Sam Houston State.
Right here he does a great job of stepping up to avoid the edge pressure, along with side-stepping the interior pressure to find a spot to set his platform. He uncorks a deep ball to his target on the deep post, but it’s too far for him. I’m unsure if Lauletta thought it was a vertical route and this was the first game of the 2017 season so miscommunication could be a very possible reason.
Here’s another misfire, this time vs. North Dakota State.
You see Lauletta again doing another good job of side-stepping the rush and setting up. He has a guy streaking wide-open down the field and he just overthrows him. This could’ve been a TD and would’ve potentially kept this game from getting out of hand as much as it did. This was during the 2015 FCS playoffs.
The thing about him, though, is that I don’t think this is due to any lack of arm strength, or that he’s not good on deep passes. Throws like this one tell a different story.
This is from the far hash and from the goal-line of his own end zone. This is an absolute bomb of a throw and he hits his guy in stride for the TD. The camera angle wasn’t exactly ideal but you can see his receiver corral it around the 50-yard line.
His deep-ball accuracy is inconsistent but it’s not a fatal flaw.
I have a really hard time seeing him not getting hype if he gets that invite to the Senior Bowl. I can see coaches falling in love with his leadership and football intelligence. He has great nuance in his throwing ability and, if he continues to have a great season, he could get that invite.
Lauletta has helped keep Richmond in close games. He helped keep them in the game vs. Albany and led them to a narrow victory (41-38). But his game-tying TD run wasn’t enough for them to overcome Delaware in double OT.
Richmond has a big stretch coming up vs. some good teams like currently undefeated James Madison. They’re desperate for wins, as they recently dropped to 4-3 after the loss to Delaware. If they win out, they could get into the FCS playoffs, but that’ll hinge on Lauletta playing well.
I believe Lauletta has the potential to rise throughout the process.