With players like Desmond Ridder, Brock Purdy, and Kenny Pickett returning to school, the depth of the 2021 NFL Draft quarterback class has taken a hit. On one hand, it increases the urgency for teams to get their choice of the top four quarterbacks. But on the other hand, another NFL Draft prospect like Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks might ride the uncertainty into a professional role.
Feleipe Franks NFL Draft Profile & Senior Bowl Measurements
- Position: Quarterback
- School: Arkansas
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’6 3/8″
- Weight: 234 pounds
- Wingspan: 83″
- Arm: 33 6/8″
- Hand: 10″
Franks’ college football career has been one of the more well-documented quarterback tenures over recent years, if not for its success, then for its tumult. It started on a note promising enough. Franks was a highly-rated quarterback recruit out of high school. A four-star prospect, Franks was the fifth-best quarterback in the nation in the 2016 class. He was also ranked as the 65th overall prospect.
Franks had some dual-threat appeal at 6-foot-6, 219 pounds. Additionally, his baseball background endeared him to teams seeking out a strong pure thrower. By the end of his recruiting cycle, Franks had offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, and LSU. Ultimately, he chose to join the Florida Gators’ football program, then coached by Jim McElwain.
Feleipe Franks’ journey to becoming an Arkansas quarterback
As Franks redshirted his first season, the Gators limped forward with a quarterback combination of Austin Appleby and Luke Del Rio. In 2017, the Gators retained Del Rio and brought in Malik Zaire as a transfer from Notre Dame. However, neither would play with the first-team unit. Franks won the competition as a redshirt freshman and took over the starting quarterback job.
From there, Franks held onto the starting job for over two seasons. His career started off on a rocky note, as he completed just 54.6% of his passes for nine touchdowns and eight picks in 2017. In 2018, Franks fended off challengers and showed progression with new head coach Dan Mullen, completing 188 of 322 attempts for 2,457 yards, 24 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He also led Florida to a 10-3 record and a bowl game victory against the Michigan Wolverines.
Feleipe Franks’ sudden fall in Florida
By now, Franks earned some security as Florida’s starting quarterback. But all it took was one injury to dissolve his safeguard on the position. In the third game of Florida’s 2019 season, Franks suffered a season-ending ankle injury that would require surgery. In his place, little-known backup quarterback Kyle Trask started.
Trask went on to lead Florida to an 11-2 finish and another bowl victory, and Florida’s offense excelled in Franks’ absence. On December 1, 2019, Franks announced that he would leave Florida in 2020. Franks wrote that “my heart will always be a part of the Gator family” and expressed gratitude for his coaches over his time with the Gators.
At the time, he didn’t know what his future held. However, after briefly considering the 2020 NFL Draft, Feleipe Franks ended up being a graduate transfer. The Florida quarterback chose to stay in the SEC in 2020, joining up with head coach Sam Pittman and the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Franks’ lone season with Arkansas
After his tumultuous stint at Florida, Franks was largely viewed as an afterthought when arriving at Arkansas. But the redshirt senior made the most of his final collegiate season. He completed a redemptive arc for himself and entered the draft cycle on a high note.
Ahead of the 2020 season, Franks was voted a team captain by his teammates at Arkansas. He took ownership of the starting quarterback position and didn’t look back. In nine games, Franks completed 155 of 228 attempts for 2,017 yards, 17 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He blew his career completion record out of the water with a 68.5% mark over his nine-game stretch. He also averaged 8.9 yards per attempt, over one full yard more than his previous career-high in a full regular season.
On December 23, it was confirmed that Franks had accepted an invite to the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. And just a week later, Feleipe Franks announced his intentions to officially enter the 2021 NFL Draft.
Analyzing Feleipe Franks’ 2021 NFL Draft profile
For a time, it wasn’t clear if Feleipe Franks would make it to the draft evaluation stage as a serious prospect. His play was volatile at Florida, even when he was at his best. Furthermore, the transition to Arkansas didn’t look promising on the surface. Franks was going to an offense with much less talent and less proven coaching ability.
Nevertheless, Franks flourished amidst the change of scenery, and it’s admirable how he took the change in stride. On tape, it’s easy to see that Franks quickly took on a leadership role for the Razorbacks. He’s constantly communicating in the pocket, moving players around, and modifying protections.
Franks clearly appreciated the stability in Arkansas, and through that stability, his physical traits were able to shine a bit more. At 6-foot-6, 228 pounds, he’s a tall quarterback, but he moves fairly well for his size. He’s a good athlete with enough speed and lateral agility to manipulate the pocket, and he can also produce as a runner. He had some very impressive plays on the ground, especially his touchdown carry against LSU late in the year.
Franks also has good arm talent. I wouldn’t say his arm is elite, from a strength or an elasticity perspective. However, he still generates good pace with relative ease, and when his shoulders are square and his base is set, he can deliver high-velocity balls with accuracy and touch as well. It seems as though his mechanics improved somewhat in 2020, which allowed him to better channel his traits.
Where can Franks keep improving?
Franks is trending upward after his year in Fayetteville, but he still has plenty more room for growth. Mentally, the Arkansas quarterback has shown flashes of working through his progressions with good pace. Nevertheless, he can be more consistent with this.
Franks also has trouble throwing with anticipation consistently. Again, there are flashes, but Franks can be late with his trigger. This either causes his throwing window to shrink or close entirely, which can cause the play to collapse. Quarterbacks have to be proactive with their decision making in the NFL, and the Arkansas quarterback has room to improve in that regard.
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In addition to his passive mental work, Franks can also be more aware of how his eyes impact defensive backs. He will stare his targets down a bit too often, and in the NFL, that’s an invitation for a potential turnover. His mental work also erodes a bit under pressure. Franks has the mobility to extend the play, but sometimes he struggles to keep his eyes downfield, and he can also throw the ball away more often to avoid sacks.
What’s the verdict on Feleipe Franks?
Feleipe Franks still carries a degree of uncertainty as a draft prospect. However, Franks’ decision to return to school and transfer to Arkansas was a very good one. Franks went from being a reclamation project to a legitimate NFL-caliber developmental quarterback. He may never be a starter, but he has enough talent to earn a chance. Even beyond that, his resilience in the face of continuous adversity, and authoritative triumph at Arkansas, bodes well for his draft stock.
Feleipe Franks’ best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Franks has good athleticism and arm talent, and mentally, he inspired confidence by actively taking on a leadership role with the Razorbacks. The Arkansas quarterback grew from his Florida days, but he still has a considerable amount of operational growth to undergo before he can be an NFL quarterback.
Franks has some starting potential with his physical talent. Additionally, it’s promising that he improved his accuracy in 2020. However, as of now, Franks is a Day 3 pick who can latch on with a team in need of quarterback depth or developmental potential.
Which teams might be interested in Franks?
Where Franks goes on Day 3 is up to NFL teams. If he makes a strong impression at the Senior Bowl, and if he tests well at the NFL Combine, his stock could rise even further. But at this point, he looks like a good addition for teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions, and Pittsburgh Steelers on mid-to-late Day 3.
On one hand, being labeled as a Day 3 pick isn’t a strong endorsement. But there were times when it was unclear whether or not Franks would be drafted. Franks was overtaken by Kyle Trask in Florida, but by virtue of his work in Arkansas, he has a good chance to be selected himself. He can be a team’s third quarterback for the foreseeable future. And from there, he may eventually get an opportunity to prove himself as a potential starter.