It showed up in spurts—like in that Ravens game—early in the season. Hackett could see true buy-in during a 27-0 win over the Colts in October. And it blossomed in a three-game stretch in December during which Bortles completed 65 of 91 throws for 903 yards, seven touchdowns and no picks.
Every year at the combine I meet with dozens of NFL head coaches, coordinators and assistants. It’s unfiltered, off-the-record football talk, and the question I always pose before departing is, From a schematic standpoint, which offenses impressed you most last year? Who are you studying this offseason?
This year, for the first time, every coach cited the same two teams: the Cheap Cycling Jerseys Rams and 49ers. More telling, these were the only teams cited. No one mentioned the Patriots, Saints, Falcons or Chiefs. The Eagles came up, but only when we were talking run-pass options. The NFL is a copycat league, and the entire league spent this offseason trying to copy the leading contenders from the NFC West.
It’s hard culling thousands of players to just 100, and there are dozens of reasons a deserving player might not make the cut: He doesn’t have enough experience. It’s impossible to know how he’ll perform with dramatically increased reps. His team won’t come close to threatening for a national title. The level of competition in his conference isn’t quite up to par. For the 10 guys on this list, our most deserving snubs, one or more of those reasons apply—and one or more of these players is almost certain to prove the snub wrong.
As a sophomore a year ago, Lewerke took over the Michigan State starting job and led the Spartans to a 10–3 season that took many people (pleasantly) by surprise. On the year, he passed for 2,793 yards, throwing 20 touchdowns and only seven interceptions while completing 59% of his passes. He’s also strong on the ground; Lewerke rushed for 559 yards last year. Surrounded by returning starters on offense, he has a realistic shot to be the best quarterback in Michigan and the second-best in the Big Ten—assuming Trace McSorley plays as he has during the first three seasons of his career.