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Meet Jake Luton, Jaguars starting quarterback

Gardner Minshew’s backup and a fellow 6th-round draft pick likely starts on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

NFL: NOV 08 Texans at Jaguars Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ regular starting quarterback, Gardner Minshew, was drafted in the 6th round of the 2019 draft. Minshew is likely to miss Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers with a thumb injury, but fortunately the Jags went back to the 6th-round well again in 2020 by selecting Jake Luton out of Oregon State. He had a decent enough debut against Houston last week, and he’ll likely face Green Bay on Sunday, but who is he?

The Jaguars don’t have a great history with quarterbacks. In fact, their greatest franchise quarterback is probably their first: ex-Packer Mark Brunell.

With apologies to Byron Leftwich and David Garrard, it’s not a great group, and even when they pick a quarterback highly, it has generally turned into a running joke on a popular network TV show more often than a good quarterback.

And so we have Jake Luton, who put up nice enough numbers in college but crashed to the 6th much like Gardner Minshew. With Minshew, a limited arm and an Uncle Rico physique knocked him down the charts, but he had a phenomenal final season with Washington State which got him drafted. QBOPS was a huge fan of Minshew’s 2018 season as he met both of the stats’ draft thresholds (.400 QBOBP, .600 QBSLG), joining Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Brent Stockstill (an interesting college QB), and Alan Bowman as the only 2018 quarterbacks to do so. Minshew is typical of one type of late-round quarterback, the efficient game-manager of limited physical talents (though he has worked on, and improved his arm strength since joining the Jags). They often make for decent enough clipboard holders as intelligent players who succeeded on guile.

Luton is a different type. He did plenty of game-managing in college as well, but his arm is notably better than Minshew’s and he’s much more capable of hitting plays down the field. QBOPS doesn’t like him quite as well because of a lack of accuracy (57th in completion percentage in 2019, just ahead of Jordan Love), but he was close to meeting the threshold for QBSLG and he took great care of the ball, throwing only 3 picks as a senior against 28 TDs. Squint, and you can see a player that, just maybe, you can get something out of.

Here’s the thing though. If Luton is going to complete just 62% of his passes, he should be hitting more big plays down the field. Justin Herbert, playing over at Oregon, put up a nearly identical Yards per Completion numbers, but completed a far higher percentage of his passes (66.8). When you’re throwing shorter, you should be closer to 70% than 60%, which is the fundamental difference between the two. Herbert makes for a nice compare and contrast. His college rate stats didn’t really stand out, but scouts loved him, and believed he was being held back by a poor scheme at Oregon. Score one for the scouts on Herbert. Luton also played in a conservative offense at Oregon State that had him checking down plenty, but you’ll note that no scouts rallied to push him up draft boards.

There is good reason for that. While Luton’s height (6-6) and weight (225) scream “prototypical quarterback,” he has the lanky build of Mike Glennon. Luton is also one of the least athletic prospects ever to play the position.

I don’t actually care about height, weight, or wheels on my quarterbacks that much, but he also struggles with shorter throws and with footwork. That low completion percentage is much more about missing easy, short throws than missing his deep shots, and that realization is the key to beating Luton. If you dare him to beat you deep, he may occasionally do so as he did last week on a beautiful pitch and catch to DJ Chark. If you make him check down, he’ll miss his man more often than not, and he has a tendency to lock onto his target earlier than is wise in the NFL.

Luton wasn’t bad last week, but I suspect he took Houston by surprise a bit. He’s a better prospect than you usually get in the late rounds, but he’s raw and his flaws will be easy for Mike Pettine and company to see on tape. If you can get a rush on him, he won’t escape and any hot route is going to be an adventure. I’ve seen early returns on his performance last week claiming he’s superior to Minshew, but I’ll take Minshew’s savvy any day, and I suspect Green Bay’s secondary will feast on Sunday.