When a collegiate quarterback stands at 6’4, 220 lbs and possesses plus-arm strength, the NFL scouts will toss around cliches and the buzz will likely be blown out of proportion. Scouts hear of a small school quarterback transferring to a Power 5 conference who possesses “all the tools” and one can only imagine the excitement.
Tanner Lee played two lackluster seasons at Tulane, highlighted by his sophomore season where he threw 11 touchdowns to seven interceptions, while completing only 52 percent of his passes. After getting dismantled behind a horrific offensive line, he decided to transfer to Nebraska with the hopes of taking over for Tommy Armstrong Jr. During his transfer season, he lit it up on the Nebraska scout team and was rewarded with Scout Team Offensive MVP honors.
In the spring of 2017 he was even better; dominating spring ball and having scouts from all over mentioning his name.
“The hype over the summer was almost out of control,” Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller told Land of 10. “After Week 1 — and I was at the Iowa game so I didn’t get a chance to watch Nebraska live — but on my way home, an NFL scout texted me, ‘The next Carson Wentz or Mitch Trubisky might be pretty close to you. You need to go check him out.’ I was like, ‘Wait, who are you talking about?’ And he said, ‘The Nebraska kid. Everyone is raving about him.’ I said I would check him out and then he threw seven interceptions in the next two games.”
After throwing for two touchdowns and completing 59 percent of his passes in the opener against Arkansas State, Lee struggled. He went on to throw four interceptions in a loss to Oregon, then followed up with three more interceptions in another loss against Northern Illinois.
“It’s crazy because there was so much buzz about him and people were really excited, but he just dropped off so hard,” Miller said.
After sort of finding his groove most recently against both Illinois and Wisconsin, Lee sits right around where he was statistically at Tulane. He’s thrown 11 touchdowns (averaged 11.5 at Tulane) to 10 interceptions (averaged 10.5 at Tulane) and has completed 54 percent of his passes (53.4 percent at Tulane). He will probably double his average pass attempts this season, but his TD:INT ratio and averages will be roughly the same. It seems like even though Tanner Lee possesses great traits and really flashes at times... he is what he is.
So what is he?
As noted, Lee has the tools that make NFL scouts drool. His arm strength is off the charts and he has the ability to make plays downfield. Below, he shows off his great mechanics and hits his receiver in stride with the ball traveling roughly 48-yards through the air. This is the type of throw Buckeye fans have been waiting for from J.T. Barrett.
Here is another example of his elite downfield accuracy -- aided by an excellent catch by his receiver.
Not only does he have the downfield arm strength, but he also possesses a quick release. This is an excellent throw under pressure, which shows off his quick release and his arm strength to hit his receiver on an out pattern and off his back foot. This is an NFL quality throw from the far hash.
Even though Lee has shown that he can make the tough throw under pressure (above), he still struggles under pressure and makes extremely poor decisions. It has to be frustrating to be a Huskers fan since Lee flashes the highest potential, then succumbs to these sort of errors.
Below, Lee saw the pressure and decided to throw the ball anyway to an unfinished route. The QB has to be smarter here and eat the sack, or throw the ball away.
There’s no explanation for this throw. Lee was looking to the middle of the field where there were about four Northern Illinois defenders and just tried to zip the ball over the linebacker. Poor field awareness.
Northern Illinois got two free shots on Lee from his front side. Obviously this is an awful look from the right tackle, but it’s also on Lee’s inability to feel pressure from the front side. He needs to sense the pressure or see it, and make a quick decision.
As seen above, Lee, like most quarterbacks, runs into trouble when facing pressure. This will be a major problem against Ohio State’s terrorizing defensive line, and they’ll be the key on Saturday night. They should be able to get pressure with four, or they could bring a linebacker to make Lee even more uncomfortable. He has a tendency to throw off his back foot when he senses pressure, rather than moving around in the pocket — if he even senses the pressure. The “match the hand” drill will be in full effect on Saturday night.
It would be a safe to predict at least two interceptions — and a possible Pick-6 — that stems from pressure. Get after Lee early, and watch the mistakes pile up.