The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee, who has declared early for the draft. For the total list of all players leaving school early, see our underclassmen tracker.
For more on all the other passers in the class, see our 2018 NFL draft quarterback rankings.
Updated as of Mar. 5.
Redshirt Junior | 6’4″ and 218 Pounds | Born February 14, 1995 (Age: 22) | Projection: Rounds 5-7
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.98 sec | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: 7.0 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.41 sec | vertical: 32 in | broad: 115 in
A number of promising quarterback prospects declared early for the draft this year — and Lee isn’t one of them. While many draftniks didn’t expect Lee to leave school in 2018, his decision makes sense: He’s a double redshirt, and the man who recruited him, head coach Mike Riley, was dismissed (partially because his quarterback didn’t play well enough to win games). Rather than learn a new system and hope to remain the starter under new HC (and Nebraska legend) Scott Frost, Lee decided to move on to the NFL — where coaching changes never (read: often) happen. Lee’s similar to Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert in that he’s basically a cheap version of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen: A big-bodied transfer, Lee has a strong arm and profiles as a pro-style boom/bust pocket passer.
A skinny two-star recruit from Louisiana, Lee enrolled at Tulane in 2013 under HC Curtis Johnson and redshirted his first year. The following two seasons Lee went 5-14 as the starter, missing five games due to a concussion, separated shoulder, and broken fingers. When he was able to play Lee struggled behind a weak offensive line, completing just 53.6 percent of his passes for 5.1 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) and ‘rushing’ (read: getting sacked) for a horrid -4.9 yards per carry. Predictably, Johnson was dismissed and replaced by Willie Fritz, who brought with him from Georgia Southern an option offense for which the statuesque Lee was clearly unsuited.
Deciding to transfer and receiving a good deal of interest due to his strong performances at the Manning Passing Academy, Lee ultimately chose Nebraska over Louisiana State, but then he had to redshirt again (per NCAA rules), although he did appeal to the NCAA for and receive an additional year of eligibility. After riding the bench for a season, Lee entered 2017 as the leader of the offense and was expected by the Cornhuskers to do great things. Instead, he went 4-8 as the starter, completing just 57.5 percent of his passes for a 6.7 AY/A and rushing for -3.0 yards per carry. While those numbers are an improvement on what he did at Tulane, they’re hardly the stuff of a future NFL starter. A project passer, Lee will face an uphill battle in the draft process considering that he has only one year of experience in a Power Five conference and had a mediocre week at the Senior Bowl. His performance at the combine was unspectacular. Some team will probably draft him on Day 3, but it would be a surprise if he’s ever more than a backup.
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