NFL Draft

2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Miami QB Brad Kaaya

We’re back again breaking down prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, set to kick off on April 27th through the 29th. Our goal this season is to write reports on at least 150 players and hopefully, as many as 200. It will, of course, have a focus on Pittsburgh Steelers’ wants and needs but we will look big-picture too at the best players in this year’s draft.

If there’s a player you would like us to breakdown, let us know in the comments below.

This is a showcase of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya.

Brad Kaaya / QB Miami 6’4 210 lbs

The Good:

– Accuracy: When Kaaya had a clean pocket and time to throw, he demonstrated consistent accuracy and great ball placement. Regardless of whether he was throwing bubble screens, deep outs, skinny posts, or verticals, he almost always put his receiver in the optimal situation to make a play and rarely required them to break stride or make significant adjustments when the ball was in the air.

– Play-Action: At times Kaaya was a magician with his play-action fakes and regularly fooled defenders (and the cameras) with who had the football. He exhibited a mastery of the fundamentals: good patience when entering and exiting the mesh-point with the running backs, extension of the ball to the running back with both hands, displaying an open/empty hand to the defense as he left the mesh, lingering his eyes/head on the run-action before beginning his rollout, and snapping his head back toward the field after completing the fake. Although he won’t have quite as much time in the NFL to use such prolonged fakes, the ball skills and deceptive ability will still transfer well.

– Velocity: From a practical standpoint, Kaaya has the arm strength required to make all the throws on an NFL route tree. He throws with a good amount of zip (with relatively little effort) and has no problem completing deep comebacks to the wide side of the field. He doesn’t have elite power in terms of his max throwing distance (his passes tended to float on deep verticals down the sidelines); however, he displayed an NFL-worthy arm by throwing the ball with strong velocity to nearly every part of the field.

– Footwork: On the whole, Kaaya has polished footwork, both from under center and from shotgun. He has a fluid drop back, can quickly separate from the line of scrimmage when starting from under center and almost always throws from a balanced position. When scanning the field, his feet move and reset synchronously with his eyes, keeping him constantly ready to throw.

– Size: Kaaya is built like a prototypical NFL pocket passer and he takes full advantage of his 6’4” frame. He’s still on the lighter side in terms of his weight; however, a professional training program should help him add some good lbs.

The Bad:

– Mobility: The huge, glaring problem in Kaaya’s game is his lack of mobility. Although he was a very capable passer when he had time and space, he struggled if forced to scramble or move laterally within the pocket. He had difficulty feeling incoming pressure and had poor agility when attempting to evade the rush. He was the definition of a statute in the pocket at times.

– Pocket Mechanics: Kaaya had a few undesirable (but correctable) habits when working in the pocket. First, his ball security was lax as he waited for receivers to finish their routes. He would often let the ball get away from his body as he maneuvered in the pocket or let his non-throwing hand lose contact with the ball. Second, when working from shotgun and after reaching the top of his drop-back, Kaaya sometimes had a mild case of “happy feet” by unnecessarily inching forward towards the LOS. Although harmless most of the time, this wasted movement could become more detrimental within smaller NFL pockets.

– Poor Competition: It was obvious that a lot of Kaaya’s success was a product of playing inferior teams with simplistic defenses. He frequently faced soft zone coverages with wide-open passing lanes and benefited from his receivers’ superior athleticism. To his credit, he took advantage of the situations he faced; however, it is still a factor to consider when projecting his readiness for the next level. Kaaya went 1-1 in Miami’s two games against ranked teams in 2016 (beating No.16 West Virginia and losing to No.23 Florida State).

Other:

– Throwing Motion: Kaaya’s throwing motion is good, but not great. He has a small looping movement within his delivery but still manages to finish with an over-the-top release. He occasionally pats the ball before starting his motion, which can both tip off defenses and prolong his release time. Additionally, his motion is not always the most consistent, as his follow-through was sometimes sporadic (without reason) during games. None of these glitches caused major accuracy or timing issues at Miami; however, it’s possible that their effects become more pronounced in the NFL.

– Pro-Readiness: Kaaya played in a pro-style/spread hybrid offense. He regularly took snaps from under center and has experience with pro-style plays (Miami ran a lot of bootlegs and quick 5-step drops without a reset). As previously mentioned; however, a big caveat to his pro-readiness is his minimal experience against quality opponents and his limited exposure to sophisticated defenses.

Bio:

– Career Passing: 39 Starts (23 wins, 16 losses), 60.6% completion rate, 9,968 yards (255.5 avg.), 69 TD 24 INT
– Finished his career as Miami’s all-time leader in in yards, completions, and attempts. Also, Kaaya finished with the third-most touchdown passes in school history.
– In 2016, Kaaya led Miami to its first bowl victory in 10 years by beating No.16 West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl. He was named the game’s MVP.

Film Breakdown:

– A few examples of Kaaya’s excellent play-action technique. First, against Appalachian State, he slow plays the mesh-point with the running back, hides the ball against his chest, fakes with an open hand and draws the defense into the run-action. Moreover, before Kaaya transitions into his rollout, he locates the edge rusher by looking over his opposite shoulder. This allows him to both sell the fake more convincingly and determine whether there is going to be pressure in his face when he flips his head back towards the field.  Textbook fake:

– Against Pitt, Kaaya again demonstrates great play-action fundamentals and totally fools the edge rusher:


– A few things to notice on this next play against Georgia Tech. First, Kaaya showcases his arm strength and accuracy with a pinpoint throw on a deep out (from the opposite hash) against GT’s Cover 3. He holds the safety with his eyes on the first step of his drop back and then places the ball along the sideline where only his receiver can get it. Great trajectory on the pass as well. Second, as mentioned above, Kaaya has the small, bad habit of patting the ball before his release. This is not a fatal flaw by any means, but it nevertheless is an area that can be improved:

– Lastly, a few examples of Kaaya’s lack of mobility in the pocket. Here against North Carolina, he feels the pressure but lacks urgency as he steps up. Additionally, he allows the ball to get away from his body as he shuffles forward, making it easier for the defender to force the fumble. This is obviously a tough play, given that the rush is coming from his blindside; however, it is still representative of how he generally responded to pressure:

– Against Georgia Tech, Kaaya again fails to sense the pressure, this time coming from his front side. Plays like these were not uncommon:

– Overall, I think that while Kaaya had a successful career with the Hurricanes, his ceiling in the NFL will probably be as an above-average game-manager. He has a strong arm, generally takes care of the football, and takes what the defense gives him. However, unless he lands on a team with an exceptional offensive line or improves his mobility, his current lack of evasiveness and pocket awareness will continue to be a major weakness that limit his potential.

Projection: Early Day 3

Games Watched: (all from 2016) – vs Appalachian State, at Georgia Tech, at Notre Dame, vs Pitt, vs North Carolina, vs. West Virginia

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
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Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinley
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