Last week, the Jets announced that they had signed rookie quarterback John Wolford. Todd Bowles has already indicated that he's a candidate for the practice squad, but he might play tomorrow night, so we're breaking him down in detail so you know what to expect.
The 22-year-old Wolford is listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, and is an undrafted rookie out of Wake Forest. He was a second-team all-ACC selection last season and attended rookie minicamp with the Jets and Chargers.
Wolford was recruited to Wake Forest out of high school and won the starting quarterback role as a true freshman. He had a tough time at first, but gradually helped the Deacs rejuvenate their program as they went to and won bowl games in his junior and senior year.
As a freshman, Wake literally had the worst offense in the nation and Wolford was sacked 101 times in his first three seasons, throwing 30 touchdown passes and 35 interceptions. However, he broke out in his senior year as he led the ACC with 29 touchdown passes and set career highs in completion percentage (64 percent), passing yards (3,192), rushing yards (683), yards per carry (4.9) and rushing touchdowns (10). He threw just six interceptions, a career-low.
Despite his excellent senior year, which ended with a 400 yard, four-touchdown performance in a bowl game shootout win over Texas A&M and featured a short-lived online Heisman campaign, Wolford was a combine snub and didn't get much NFL interest.
The Jets brought Wolford in to try out at their rookie camp in May, but didn't sign him to a contract despite the fact that he was reportedly impressive. They resigned him last week, ahead of the last preseason game, in which they presumably want to give their third string linemen some reps without putting one of their three top quarterbacks in jeopardy.
Let's move onto some further analysis of what Wolford brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Wolford's main problem is his lack of size. He's listed at 6-foot-1 but actually measured in at 5-foot-11½ at his pro day. That's probably the main reason for the lack of NFL interest.
Nevertheless, his athletic numbers are very good. His 40-time was above average, his short shuttle and three cone drill were very good and his broad and vertical jump were about average.
Wolford doesn't have a cannon for an arm but uses a pump fake to good effect and can get the ball downfield with adequate touch and timing:
He will usually put enough zip on the ball on out-breaking routes, throwing a tight spiral on this pass:
His numbers when throwing downfield last season were solid and a vast improvement on his first three seasons.
Wolford's ball placement seems to be pretty good. He can hit players in stride and has a good understanding of when to lead a receiver and when to put the ball in a spot where only he can make a play on the ball.
He will at times throw slightly behind his man or low on intermediate passes, but did not throw a lot of reckless interceptable passes last year.
His completion percentage in his final season was much better than in the past and he ended up 20th in the nation.
As noted, Wolford was sacked over 100 times in his first three years, but Wake Forest's offensive line got better and better over the course of his career and he started to trust his protection more and throw from within the pocket with more success.
Here he is able to move within the pocket to extend the play just long enough for his man to uncover down the field:
Wolford shows an ability to anticipate and get rid of the ball quickly, but still holds onto the ball too long at times when waiting for plays to develop. As you'd expect there is a drop-off in his completion percentages when under pressure, but he shows an ability to beat a blitz.
While his pocket presence is generally good, he does sometimes fail to keep the ball adequately protected and can be susceptible to losing fumbles, usually when on the move. On this play, he doesn't anticipate the rush off the edge and isn't able to get his throw off. The fumble was returned for a score:
He seems to be good at moving within the pocket and changing up his arm angle to get passes off cleanly, which is essential for a short quarterback. He only had five passes batted down at the line last year.
Wolford admits that his footwork was not ideal in his first three seasons and his improved play in his senior year is probably in large part due to the hard work he carried out during the offseason.
Wolford's throwing motion is sound and he has a quick, compact release. However, there are times when he will bail out of a throw under pressure. He also has a tendency to throw the ball across his body when rolling out, which is something he doesn't look as comfortable doing as you might expect.
Wolford played in a simplistic offense in college, which often predetermined where the ball was supposed to go based on pre-snap reads. However, he at least showed that he can come off his primary option and check down underneath at times. He shows off his ability to read the field here:
In his senior year, he started to have a lot more success on tight window throws. Again this is probably a by-product of him having improved his footwork.
Here's an example of a poor read, though, as he doesn't sense the defensive tackle dropping into coverage and throws a pick-six as he tries to force the pass under pressure:
Wolford is a good runner, capable of scrambling out past the second level and picking up chunks of yardage on read option looks. In one game last season, he passed for 363 yards and three scores and rushed for another 136 yards and three more scores. Here's how dangerous he can be on designed runs:
Wolford's running ability also enables him to escape the pocket or roll out to make passes and he has some escapability in and around the pocket as he will battle to keep plays alive, as he shows here:
There might be some level of adjustment required for Wolford to be ready to handle a pro-style system, but he is regarded as smart and has a good command of the huddle, so this is something he might be able to cope with.
The diminutive Wolford has dealt with plenty of injuries during his time at Wake Forest, although he showed some toughness by often playing hurt. He ended up starting 47 games.
He was knocked out of a game in his freshman year when he landed on his head at the end of a scramble and missed the Clemson game with a shoulder injury last year. He's also had foot/ankle injuries in the past.
Wolford's teammates and coaches speak in glowing terms about his intangibles, praising his smarts, toughness and team-first mentality. He is regarded as a hard-worker with a high level of competitiveness.
He has no character red flags but had a tangential association to a scandal when it emerged that the team's former announcer had been feeding information about the playbook to other teams and his father suggested that this might have been a factor in him being sacked so much in his first three years.
As Bowles has already said, the Jets might consider Wolford for a practice squad spot and some playing time tomorrow night, so long as he picks up the system quickly enough.
That's probably the best case scenario for him in the short term but if the Jets end up carrying just two quarterbacks for all or part of the year, then Wolford will likely have a key role as the scout quarterback and will learn a lot from travelling with the team.
That's far from guaranteed though and he'd be defying the odds if he could establish himself even as just a back-up while being less than six feet tall. Nevertheless, he has good intangibles and could be able to handle game manager-type assignments, as he's likely to be asked to in the second half of tomorrow night's game.