2021 NFL Draft: Searching for the next Joe Burrow

Tanner Morgan, 2021 NFL Draft (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Tanner Morgan, 2021 NFL Draft (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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K.J. Costello, 2021 NFL Draft
K.J. Costello, 2021 NFL Draft (Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

4. K.J. Costello, QB, Mississippi State

Don’t worry about getting your eyes checked if you aren’t seeing K.J. Costello in a Mississippi State uniform from the above picture. The 6-foot-5 former starting Stanford quarterback transferred to Mike Leach’s Mississippi State with one year of eligibility remaining after serving as a two-year starter for the Cardinal before his 2019 season was cut short after just five games.

Costello’s and intriguing prospect after starting 25 games in a more traditional Stanford offense. Costello has great size and arm strength making him what would be an enticing late-round developmental guy that would need to improve his accuracy. His transfer to Leach’s Air Raid style offense could pay off if the 23-year-old can improve his decision making and perform against SEC defenses.

Costello could make a jump in 2021 NFL Draft boards if he can both stay healthy and iron out his past deficiencies while working with Mike Leach. While Leach’s offenses lead to inflated statistics, former Washington State quarterbacks Anthony Gordon and Luke Falk on both on an NFL roster while Gardner Minshew is the returning starter in Jacksonville. Unlike the former Wazzu quarterbacks, Costello brings a blue-chip pedigree and a significant height advantage.

Similarly to both Minshew and Gordon, Costello will be joining Leach’s offense as a transfer. However, unlike Leach’s former protegees, Costello enters the Bulldog program as one of the highest-ranked recruits, whereas Minshew was an Eastern Carolina transfer and Gordon a City College of San Francisco transfer. If Costello follows the trajectory of Minshew and Gordon he should see improvement in his decision making and accuracy.

Minshew jumped from a career 57.9% completion rate at ECU to 70.7% despite the increase in level of play and adjusted pass yards per attempt. After sitting a year behind Minshew, Gordon threw for an impressive 71.6% in 2019 at an adjusted 8.4 yards per attempt. If Costello can fit in the Air Raid and improve upon his intangibles, he could make the jump from an average 62.6% rating at 6.1 adjusted yards per attempt despite jumping from Pac-12 to SEC competition.

Costello’s transfer puts the quarterback in a unique situation as the Air Raid offense continues to evolve in the NFL. Unfortunately, Costello does not have the luxury of a complete offseason or a year of sitting like Minshew or Gordon. If Costello can recover from injury while meshing into a new scheme and team in this shortened period, his 2021 NFL Draft status should rise this spring.