The 2021 NFL Draft is set to create history. There’s a genuine possibility that four quarterbacks are selected with the first four selections. As the NFL struggles with a supply and demand issue at the sports most important position, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see several signal-callers selected in the later rounds. Can Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello be one of those late-round selections in the 2021 NFL Draft?
K.J. Costello NFL Draft Player Profile
- Position: Quarterback
- School: Mississippi State
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’5″
- Weight: 220 pounds
Tony Pauline’s K.J. Costello Scouting Report
Positives: One-time highly regarded quarterback who possesses terrific size, has a big-time arm, and zips the ball into targets. Remains poised under the rush, scans the field, and goes through progressions. Keeps his eyes downfield and distributes the ball to all his targets. Puts touch on screen throws. Previously displayed the ability to hit receivers in stride and have the ball on the mark as pass catchers left routes.
Negatives: Comes off a fatal 2020 campaign. Throws were over the place last season and put receivers in precarious spots. Mentally struggled handling the offense, seemingly predetermined where he was going to throw the ball before the snap, and stared down targets. Made poor decisions and consistently threw into double coverage last year. Needs to improve his deep accuracy.
Analysis: Costello was graded as a potential middle-round choice entering the season, but he played so terribly in 2020 that he lost his starting job at Mississippi State. He enters the draft as a reclamation project. While Costello possesses the physical skills to play in the NFL, he’ll need a lot of work between the ears in order to get his game back on track.
K.J. Costello Player Profile
Costello’s stock in the 2021 NFL Draft directly contrasts with his reputation as a high school quarterback. A junior season where he earned All-State honors after throwing for 3,123 yards and 23 touchdowns ensured that he was a heavily recruited prospect. The four-star prospect was ranked as the third-best pro-style quarterback and seventh-best player from California in the 2016 class.
Costello held offers from over 15 programs, including Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida. However, prior to his senior season, he narrowed it down to three teams — Stanford, USC, and Michigan. Eventually, he selected the Cardinal in what he called a “once in a lifetime” decision.
With his future secure, Costello lit up the Californian high school scene for Santa Margarita Catholic High School. By the end of his senior season, he held 19 school records. Those included the career passing yards record previously held by Carson Palmer, now set at 8,222 passing yards. His ability to put up huge numbers on any given day was demonstrated with a single-game record of 452 yards.
Costello capped off his high school career with All-State honors, an invite to the US Army All-America Game, and he reached the “Elite 11” finals.
K.J. Costello’s college career at Stanford
Despite his impressive high school pedigree, Costello redshirted his freshman season at Stanford. After sitting out in 2016, he made his debut against Rice, displaying some ability outside of the pocket with a 25-yard touchdown run.
Having made an impression as backup, he earned his first start against Arizona State before starting the final six games of the 2017 season. Throwing for 1,573 yards with 14 touchdowns, his play down the stretch earned him an honorable All-Pac-12 mention.
In his first season as a full-time starter, Costello emerged as one of the best passers in the Pac-12. During the season opener, the new team captain connected with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside for an 80-yard touchdown, setting the standard for the rest of the season.
He threw for seven 300+ yard games, and his 5 touchdowns against UCLA contributed to 29 touchdowns which ranked third in program history. His 3,540 passing yards led the Pac-12 and were second in Stanford history. His performances earned him second-team All-Pac-12 honors.
Unfortunately, an injury-plagued season meant that he struggled to repeat those performances in 2019. He made just five starts while throwing 1,038 yards and 6 touchdowns. With the emergence of Davis Mills during his absence, Costello opted to transfer as a graduate. In February 2020, Costello announced that he would be transferring to Mississippi State.
Costello transfers to Mississippi State to play quarterback for Mike Leach
Transferring to a team that had been a predominantly run-focused offense might have been considered a strange move for a quarterback. However, Costello wasn’t the only high-profile arrival in Starkville early in 2020. With Mike Leach’s arrival at Mississippi State — and subsequent switch to the Air Raid offense — much was expected out of the Bulldogs’ offense.
In the season opener against LSU, those expectations were not only met but smashed.
Costello threw for 623 yards and 5 touchdowns as the Bulldogs shocked the reigning national champions. Not only did he break the program record with his performance, but it was also the 11th best single-game passing yard total in NCAA history.
Costello earned multiple awards, including the SEC Offensive Player of the Week, Manning Award National Quarterback of the Week, and Maxwell Award National Player of the Week.
Despite becoming the fastest quarterback in program history to reach 1,000 passing yards — doing so in the opening three games of the season — the rest of the season didn’t go quite as expected. He made five starts before seeing his playing time diminish behind Will Rogers. Following the season, he declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
K.J. Costello’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Could Costello sneak into the back end of the 2021 NFL Draft?
The Mississippi State quarterback has good size and arm strength to be an NFL quarterback. However, his performances last season will have ultimately impacted his stock. As a result, he best projects to be a backup quarterback while he recovers his confidence and develops some areas of his game.
Costello would make a sensible late-round option for a team with an established veteran starter who can help develop his skillset. Therefore, teams such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Washington Football Team are potential landing spots.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.