Former University of Pittsburgh star Tom Savage has every physical trait a team could want in a quarterback prospect. His frame is big, his hands are big, and his arm is big. He was a top recruit coming out of high school, and he stayed five years in school. Savage, though, has had a very unconventional career. The knocks against him have caused his perceived value to sink below his talent level, so Savage could be a great steal in the mid-to-late rounds of the NFL draft.
One of the knocks on Savage coming into the NFL is that he does not have a wealth of experience. Although he is a fifth year senior, Savage was only in uniform for three seasons, and only started two full years due to an injury in 2010. His 31 career games played are far below the 54 played by AJ McCarron, and even less than juniors Teddy Bridgewater, who has played 39 games, and Blake Bortles, who has played 37 games.
Savage began his career at Rutgers. After a successful 2009 season that concluded with a bowl victory, he lost his job following a hand injury. Savage then transferred to Arizona for a chance to start again. While sitting out the 2011 season due to transfer regulations, Savage again decided to change schools when Arizona hired Rich Rodriguez, whose system would have been a poor fit for the incoming quarterback’s skills. Journeyman is not often a label that can be applied to college players, but again Savage had to sit out a season with a transfer. Initially looking to return to Rutgers, Savage ended up at Pitt.
So although Savage will be 24 before the NFL draft, he is a raw prospect, a big bag of tools waiting to be put in the hands of professional coaching. Watching Savage, the most prominent attribute he has is the ability to make any throw. Quarterbacks like him are desirable because they allow coaches to utilize the entire field. Savage can throw the ball long, he can fit passes into tight windows over the middle, and he can throw deep outs.
The former four-star recruit will also wow scouts with his size and pocket ability. Savage is a strong player, with the ability to escape the rush and even break some tackles. He keeps his eyes down field well, and has the arm strength to throw on the run with ease. He is not particularly fast, but he can move around to throw when he has to.
Aside from the lack of on-field experience, Savage does have a few warts that are going to cause him to get muddled into the second tier of strong armed quarterbacks with Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray. His biggest issue is his tendency to stare down receivers. In college he could get away with it because of his arm strength. He would often pick up his man right off the line, but was talented enough to stick the throw anyway. That will not fly in the NFL where players are faster and smarter. He has to learn to look to other reads, manipulate safeties, and utilize all of his targets. Another problem he has dealt with is erratic accuracy. Savage has the potential to be an accurate thrower, but leaves himself flat footed from time to time. That can lead to inconsistent passing in spite of solid arm and upper body mechanics.
Savage is a hot name at the moment, and once you reach the latter rounds where he is projected to be taken there is absolutely no drafting for need. That means any team could take a flyer on him and hope they can coach him into a viable starter. An ideal place would be somewhere with no thoughts of starting him for a year or even two years while he learns from the coaching staff and hopefully a veteran in front of him. Savage is good enough that he could really turn out to be a steal, and he is a lot closer to putting it all together than many talented quarterbacks who drop usually are. Watch for Savage to be picked in round five, but it would not be a surprise to see someone reach on his talent and scoop him up in the late third.
Commentary by Brian Moore