KJ Costello’s recent transfer to Mississippi State makes him one of the most polarizing quarterback prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft class. While he was highly productive in his time at Stanford, a lackluster – yet efficient – offensive scheme led by coach David Shaw held back his abilities as a passer. Now, Costello joins the top passing mind the world, Mike Leach, at Mississippi State.
Leach has a lot of deficiencies in developing NFL prospects. However, getting quarterbacks drafted has never been a weakness for him. Leach now has his most physically talented quarterback to date. How will Leach benefit Costello’s draft stock, and why does this make Costello the top sleeper quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft?
What does KJ Costello bring to the table?
Costello is a supreme physical specimen. He lacks great athletic ability, but he has the requisite movement skills to avoid pressure and pick up a few yards if need be. Costello’s biggest calling card is his size and strength. Towering at 6’5″ and weighing in over 220lbs, he possesses the frame to stay strong in the pocket and deal with the punishments of playing quarterback in the NFL.
Costello also has a massive arm. He throws with strong velocity and has shown signs of impressive accuracy. He can make throws to every level of the field and outside both hashes. He has one of the most talented arms in the class, and it’s a skill he can depend on in the NFL.
Costello functioned in a pro-style offense under Shaw at Stanford. The Cardinals ran the ball nearly 30 times a game and commonly played out of one or two wide receiver sets, heavily utilizing tight-ends. He’s operated both under center and out of the shotgun, which will be paramount for his evaluation after a season in a Leach offensive scheme.
What qualities does Mike Leach bring?
Leach is arguably the top passing offensive mind in the world. He’s nearly perfected the Air-Raid offense and continually produces one of the nation’s top passers year after year. Leach’s offense has produced a top 20 passer in each of the past seven years and six of which the offense produced a top ten passer.
Leach has also produced four straight quarterbacks who have either drafted or invited to a rookie mini-camp. However, none of the quarterbacks that Leach has had have been nearly as physically gifted as Costello, both from a physical and mechanical standpoint.
Leach’s offense is the quintessential Air-Raid attack. Passing the ball nearly 80% of the time last year, Leach is unafraid to rip it and rip it often. He designs pass plays the attack the middle of the field and commonly schemes open receivers down the field. Costello’s natural velocity is a perfect fit for this and will be able to naturally push the ball down the field.
One thing both Stanford and Washington State did similarly was utilizing the screen pass. What separated the two though, was the use of blockers and the variance in which the plays were called. Shaw runs a slow-paced, and often boring, game-plan at Stanford while Leach is more erratic when calling them.
Shaw commonly utilizes them in second or third and long when defenses are expecting some sort of trickery. Meanwhile, Leach will utilize them at any given point, be it first and 10 or fourth and one. Costello’s transfer into an innovative offense will be a breath of fresh air.
What to expect from KJ Costello’s transfer
Costello’s transfer to Mississippi State is a strong career move as Leach will help him become one of the top passers in the nation. Costello has thrown for 6,151 yards, 49 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions in 29 career games. In Shaw’s lack-luster offensive play-calling and ingenuity, Costello was an efficient but limited passer at Stanford. Meanwhile, last year alone, Leach’s starer Anthony Gordon threw for 5,579 yards, 48 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.
Costello is the most talented quarterback Leach has ever had. He possesses the strongest arm of Leach’s past four starters. His natural velocity will help push the ball down the field in Leach’s downfield Air-Raid attack, and he should be one of, if not the most productive passers in the nation. Expect Costello to be one of the nation’s leaders in every major statistically passing category.
Costello’s transfer and its impact on the draft
Leach has had two quarterbacks drafted and two others invited to NFL rookie camps over the past decade. Now he gets his hands on a supreme physical prospect who has already taken meaningful snaps in a pro-style offense. Costello’s mechanics are NFL ready, and he’s already a decently polished prospect. Leach will help improve Costello’s accuracy down the field, and his willingness to push the ball down the field.
Combining that with his already impressive natural velocity and frame, Costello has a very real chance at being one of the first five quarterbacks selected. It’s unlikely he’s a first-round selection, and even less likely he’ll be selected over Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance. However, the competition to be the fourth quarterback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft is wide open, and I believe Costello has a very real chance at being that player.