McCaw!!!: The Campaign to Get the Seahawks to Draft Grayson McCall
Seaside Joe 1236: Time to answer the questions about whether or not McCall's inferior competition is reason to worry
Try as you might, you can’t just extract what’s special about Grayson McCall through a needle and then hope to inject it into Will Levis’s veins to create a Super Shredder. You can’t simply have Jon Gruden teach it to Spencer Rattler under hot studio lights. And “je ne sais quoi” isn’t French for “passing yards over expectation”; McCall’s unique essence on and off the field is the only analytic evidence that I need to know that he will continue to ascend up draft boards over the next nine months.
Hopefully not so high as to keep the Seattle Seahawks from giving him the opportunity that he needs to become a special NFL quarterback.
Everything between Seaside Joe and McCall started last April, when I made a bold proclamation in the headline that “Grayson McCall could be the next Zach Wilson,” followed by the longest article I’ve ever written for this newsletter. Even today, after setting the FBS record for passing efficiency in 2021, that is an opinion you will see shared by almost nobody else.
But this was last April, before the 2021 season, when McCall’s resume had only read that he was a two-star recruit who had redshirted his freshman season, coming off of his first year as the starter for Coastal Carolina, a school that many people have still not heard of. Though McCall has recently cracked the consensus top-10 QBs for 2023 at NFLMockDraftDatabase (update: McCall has actually slipped back down to 12th as I write this) and there are a handful of people willing to even posit that he could be a first rounder, it was only a year ago that nobody else but me saw him that way.
But as I write this to you on April 12, 2021, I pledge that there ain’t a dang soul that I’ve found who is willing to call McCall a first rounder. Or a second rounder. Or a third rounder. According to one site, Grayson McCall’s aggregate projection for the 2022 or 2023 NFL Draft is … the seventh round.
Of course, “the seventh round” is the same as saying “there might as well be no round” and it was difficult to find analysts, writers, and content creators who were even willing to watch McCall play. It wasn’t until I interviewed former NFL quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan for a different job that I told him at the end of our talk, “Hey, my favorite QB is Grayson McCall, I think you should check him out.” And he did.
This was all just based on watching every play of McCall’s redshirt freshman season at Coastal Carolina, plus whatever footage was available from a high school career that took place right across the street from Sam Howell. You can even watch the two face off from a game in 2017, when Howell was one of the most coveted recruits in the county and McCall, though he went toe-to-toe with him, barely sought after because of the triple-option offense they run at Porter Ridge High.
Which also happens to be the same number one criticism that McCall hears about his NFL Draft prospects because he plays at Coastal.
But it is that same commitment to his team and his teammates, including his decision to not enter the transfer portal in 2022, that reminds me so much of Justin Herbert and why I felt so strongly about him in the 2020 draft. Herbert had grown up right down the street from the University of Oregon and he had been skipping a lot of showcase opportunities in high school because he refused to miss any practices. Though he could have easily raised his recruitment profile from two stars to four or five stars if he had chosen to open his options and perform in front of scouts at these showcases, Herbert was committed to his high school team, committed to Oregon, and he worked his way into being a star for the Ducks and a top-10 pick in the draft.
Nobody would have been mad at McCall if he had chosen to transfer from Coastal Carolina to a Power 5 program, especially given that practically all of his receivers and tight ends have now graduated or moved onto the NFL. As Seaside Joe readers know from the Ken Walker series, he is a perfect example of a player who was overlooked during the recruitment process, immediately starred at a program considered to be “less than,” and then his decision to transfer to Michigan State showcased how special he is as a running back when given the opportunity to shine in a pro style offense.
There’s nothing wrong with Walker’s decision to transfer and clearly it was in the best interest for Walker and Michigan State without even really harming Wake Forest. In McCall’s case, as the quarterback, it wouldn’t have been a negative if he had chosen to transfer. But I do think that it is a positive that he stayed committed to the Chanticleers, to head coach Jamey Chadwell, and to all the incoming new starters who were hoping to get their chance to play with him.
Add in the wrinkle that McCall also dealt with his first significant rehab this offseason, going five months without throwing a football, and I think we will see a version of him in 2022 that has never been seen before.
A Grayson McCall who is getting a lot more positive attention than he was a year ago, and that means that he will also hear way more criticisms, skepticism, and doubts about his ability to become an NFL starting quarterback. Especially without his usual supporting cast. Especially now that he’s going to be compared to Spencer Rattler, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, and all the other draft prospects who’ve yet to even have one season as a top-five Division-I quarterback, let alone two.
How about three?
Many of you have been reading Seaside Joe long enough to have already formed an opinion about McCall and what I hear in the comments section, emails, and on Twitter is that you want to believe as much as I want to believe. I have people messaging me from Carolina saying that McCall going to the Seahawks would be a dream, and Seasiders who plan to go see the Chanticleers in person this year for a chance to see him up close. The connection between McCall, Seaside Joe, and the Seahawks is already well established locally to this newsletter.
But it would be so much better that if as the season goes, “McCall to the Seahawks” is something that continues as his stock goes up and the message expands on a global scale. Imagine thousands of Seahawks fans, holding hands in a circle, chanting “Grayson. Grayson. Grayson.” in an effort to will his presence in Shane Waldron’s offense* into existence.
*with all the pre-snap motion and the potential for an option QB with accuracy to excel in Waldron’s brand of offense, it actually makes perfect sense to add someone like McCall who has been running a triple-option for his entire career
Not all of you are convinced yet and that’s okay. Not all of you should be convinced. Even I still have Bryce Young as my top-ranked quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft and so much can happen between now and the end of the college season, the potential remains for Seattle to have at least five or six better fits on their draft board when we end up with another year of information to digest.
This is not about talking about a “better fit” or a “stronger arm” or “well this that and the other thing could happen and I’m afraid to get my hopes up!”
It’s a week before NFL training camp and a little less than two months before McCall’s junior season begins, so all I am looking to get into today is the start of a movement. Though it is a continuation of posts that I’ve been running on McCall for the last 15 months, this is an official declaration that if the draft was happening today—with no additional information—the Seattle Seahawks would be wise to consider Grayson McCall as an option to become the franchise quarterback.
Even if, like Russell Wilson in 2012, they get to wait to pick him until round three. Waiting isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a team searching for a franchise quarterback.
But McCall’s glowing resume is not entirely made out of intangibles. His stats are not merely boosted by playing in the Sun Belt Conference. The specialness of how he plays football—I dare anybody out there who has watched McCall as consistently as we have to claim that he’s not one of the five most-exciting players at any college—should not be dismissed because of “level of competition” and “he’s an option quarterback.”
He’s not just an option quarterback. He’s the only option.
But I respect your skepticism, so let’s cover some of that ground again today.
Quickly, this mom-and-pop Seahawks newsletter would really love to become the top-ranked sports newsletter at Substack and that means adding more $5/month “Regular Joe” subscribers. That’s less than .10 cents per newsletter. Sign-up for the full year at only $55 and be good to go through all of 2023 draft season and offseason.
“Grayson McCall plays inferior competition”
In this century alone, Tulane (2x), North Dakota State (2x), Marshall (2x), Fresno State, Miami (OH), Delaware, UCF, Memphis, Wyoming, and Utah State have all produced first round picks. The only two first round quarterbacks to come out of USC in the last 15 years are Mark Sanchez and Sam Darnold. The last first round quarterback out of Texas was Vince Young. The only two first round quarterbacks out of Florida in the last 40 years are Tim Tebow and Rex Grossman.
This is only draft status and sometimes you get Jordan Love or Paxton Lynch instead of a quarterback who can start in the NFL. But this list of “small school” picks includes Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Josh Allen. It includes Carson Wentz and Trey Lance. Every kind of college produces great NFL quarterbacks, just as every kind of major college produces quarterbacks who are not fit for pro football.
With the benefit of hindsight, these quarterbacks could have been wooed to bigger programs, but would that have benefitted the quarterbacks? Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers and Justin Herbert did not have a lot of offers coming out of high school and that may have only done more to motivate them to become Wilson, Rodgers, and Herbert.
I find it fascinating when a relatively unsuccessful football program* lands a premier quarterback and will often try to detective my way to an answer as to how it happened. In this case, it may have been his proximity to Howell, sucking the recruiting spotlight away from McCall in Indian Trail, North Carolina. There was also the fact that Jamey Chadwell’s offensive scheme so perfectly matched what McCall was running at Porter Ridge and most coaches at the time would never have dreamed of changing their offense just to recruit a two-star prospect.
*If you’re thinking for a second, “But Coastal Carolina is a good program, even if it’s not a Power 5 school” then let me remind you of the fact that Coastal Carolina was picked to finish last in the Sun Belt Conference going into McCall’s first year as a starter. Then McCall led the Chants to an undefeated regular season and he is 21-2 at the helm through two years. Coastal, which didn’t enter Division-I until 2017, went 13-23 in the three years prior to McCall’s arrival and they went 1-1 without him last season. For all we know, Grayson McCall is Coastal’s success.
Another point of contention I have with the “competition” argument is that McCall is not the only quarterback who avoids having to face Alabama and Ohio State. There are many dozens of quarterbacks who play outside of the Power 5 conferences, and even within the Power 5 every single quarterback gets opportunities to beef up their stats against weak defenses.
On one hand, McCall can go 22-of-28 with five touchdowns against Texas State, but he not have had a single NFL starter on his offense to help him do it.
On the other hand, C.J. Stroud can go 24-of-33 with five touchdowns against Maryland, a defense that ranked outside the top-100, and he’s throwing to two early 2022 draft picks, plus a third receiver expected to go in the top-10, and behind an offensive line with multiple expected NFL starters.
I’m not saying one situation is less impressive than the other. Only that there are caveats in both cases, and you have to make your own judgments based on watching the games; I remain convinced that McCall has proven to be as talented as any quarterback in college football. The type who you want to have the ball in his hands when you're trailing by three in the final minute of regulation.
As for those who don’t play at Ohio State, why is that McCall is the only one in the Sun Belt who absolutely dominates the Sun Belt?
In 2020, there was a quarterback at Arkansas State named Layne Hatcher and in a couple of respects he did matchup with McCall’s dominance: 19 TD, 2 INT, 12.1 adjusted NY/A. No other QB in the conference, including mini-tenured Seahawks quarterback Levi Lewis, was nearly in the same class.
However, McCall’s accuracy and dual threat abilities put him in another class of his own. Also, Hatcher was in his second season as a starter and then he crumbled in year three and recently transferred to Texas State.
On a national scale, McCall’s redshirt freshman season placed him in the top tier of all quarterbacks, but understandably that would not have mattered if he didn’t improve the following year.
McCall again dominated the Sun Belt in 2021.
He also set an NCAA record for passing efficiency, while ranking second in completion percentage (to Will Rogers at Mississippi State, a QB with an average depth of target nearly half that of McCall’s), first in Y/A, first in Adjusted Y/A, and he’s one of the few elite passers in college football who can also reliably pick up first downs with his feet.
The numbers also support that McCall is one of the most accurate passers in college football, but I don’t think that stats alone do enough to reflect how special his accuracy actually is because even if his form and mechanics will be picked apart by scouts…I’ve rarely ever seen a QB who is as accurate as Grayson McCall. On any level. He makes throws that should be impossible look easy.
But we don’t need to ignore or cherry pick the stats either, because McCall’s are dominant, even when looking through analytics. These are some advanced stats via SIS DataHub.
McCall’s 91.2% catchable pass rate was the highest in NCAA, beating out Rogers (90.3%) and Stroud (87.2%). Will Rogers had an average depth of target of 5.9, compared to 9.9 for McCall and 9.5 for Stroud.
McCall was throwing to Jaivon Heileigh, and Isaiah Likely, and Kameron Brown. Stroud was throwing to Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jaxson Smith-Njigba.
McCall’s 82.5% on-target ranked first. His 12.5 ANY/A was 1.6 yards higher than second-place Stroud.
McCall’s 152 IQR, a passing efficiency metric, was way better than second-place Stroud at 134.2, and third place Bryce Young at 129.9. Kenny Pickett, the only first or second round QB in 2022, was fourth at 125.6. McCall had fewer pass attempts, this can’t be ignored, but that’s not because he doesn’t have responsibility on Chadwell’s other play calls because remember: He’s an option QB.
Grayson McCall has responsibility on almost 100-percent of Coastal’s play calls. He is hugely responsible for Coastal’s run game.
Only Sam Hartman at Wake Forest (11.9) and Brennan Armstrong at Virginia (10.5) threw further downfield on average than McCall (9.9) in 2021. Stroud was fourth. McCall and Stroud had nearly identical pressure rates too, facing pressure roughly a quarter of the time. McCall consistently handles himself well under pressure and it rarely seems to impact his accuracy.
He is also often forced to look for a second or third read and he doesn’t lose quality on those plays. If anything, it seems to amplify his talent and what makes Grayson McCall so unstoppable.
Finally, maybe because I mentioned Levi Lewis you’re thinking, “Well, he doesn’t have the size or speed or athleticism maybe to make it in the NFL.” McCall is 6’3, ~209 lbs, and while nobody else seems to know it yet, I really believe he could be one of the fastest quarterbacks at the combine in 2023. He rarely needs to show off his speed but I’ve seen it on film and I do think that his experience on the ground and his adeptness to accurately pitch the football as an option quarterback (think of a super-powered version of 2012 Robert Griffin III) makes McCall the exact type of runner that the NFL is looking for.
He doesn’t need 100 yards a game. He may only need to reach the chains on third-and-4. McCall does that all the time.
Fit for the Seahawks
When tasked with finding a franchise quarterback from 2010-2012, Pete Carroll and John Schneider took shots with a low-risk trade for Charlie Whitehurst, signing Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn, then drafting Russell Wilson in round three. For now, McCall’s draft range continues to hover between day three and going undrafted (but again, when I first wrote about McCall as the next Zach Wilson, most people didn’t think he’d even make it into the XFL, if they’d even heard of him at all) but I fully expect him to be at least in the day two conversation by next April.
The Seahawks may have an option to draft a top-three quarterback and whether McCall will be viewed in that light is impossible to know at this time. Perhaps another quarterback will be a better option or fit for Seattle and then we can address that when it becomes clear.
For now, I still say, why not Grayson McCall? He could be the ideal quarterback for a Shane Waldron offense that will also feature Kenneth Walker III in the backfield, Charles Cross at left tackle, and most likely still DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at wide receiver. Pre-snap motion and having a quarterback who is as skilled at beating defenses before the snap as he is after the snap is exactly what the Seahawks will be looking for in their next franchise quarterback. There are some similarities to be seen between Wilson in the 2012-2014 era and McCall today, likely looking for a quarterback who may only be called upon for 400 super-accurate passes per season.
McCaw!!! may not be a campaign that all of you are ready to promote quite yet and I respect that. If he has the type of season that I believe he will have in 2022, that’s going to change considerably.
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