Kedon Slovis is one of the most interesting quarterback prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. He entered the college football world in 2019 and was a dominant force as soon as he touched the gridiron. He came back after a successful freshman season but proceeded to have an unbelievably disappointing sophomore campaign. Here’s why he struggled so much last season and how he can recover to become a top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Kedon Slovis arrived at USC in 2019 as a four-star recruit and an early high school graduate. He began the season as the backup to starting quarterback and former five-star recruit JT Daniels, but he got an opportunity to play very early. Daniels tore his ACL during their week one matchup vs. Fresno State, so Slovis came in and claimed his spot as the starting quarterback for the rest of the year.
In 12 games in 2019, Slovis completed 71.9% of his passes and threw for 3,502 yards, 30 touchdowns, and just 9 interceptions. He also averaged 9.4 adjusted yards per pass attempt and had a passing efficiency rating of 167.6.
That level of production is incredible for a true freshman, and his film was just as good.
Despite being just 18 years old, Slovis played like a seasoned veteran in 2019. When young quarterbacks play early in their college football career, they usually struggle as they transition into a higher level of football. Since the game’s speed increases from high school to college, these players often make poor decisions and aren’t polished mentally. This wasn’t the case for Slovis, though.
Slovis was wise beyond his years in terms of his mental processing during his freshman season. He consistently made good decisions with the football and never got in his own head, which is a big reason why he threw just nine interceptions despite attempting a high volume of passes each game.
One of the best parts of his film was how quickly he got through reads and his ability to anticipate open windows.
Timing wasn’t a big issue for him as he went from option number one to option number two quickly and efficiently. This was huge because USC ran many short and intermediate routes that forced Slovis to get through his reads and throw the ball quickly.
Throwing with anticipation is rare to see from a young quarterback, but Slovis showed he could do that in his first season. He didn’t need to see his target get open before throwing the ball, making him an even better passer.
On October 12th, USC faced off against ninth-ranked Notre Dame on the road. They ended up losing 30-27, but Slovis made it clear that he has the talent to be a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
He threw for 255 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions while completing 68.6% of his passes. He played extraordinarily well, considering Notre Dame has a unique defensive scheme that makes it difficult for opposing quarterbacks to get comfortable in the pocket. The Fighting Irish run a lot of zone coverage with exotic setups, and they like to blitz a decent amount. However, this didn’t faze Slovis as he lit up their defense with quick decision-making and solid play extension.
This performance was a one-game summary of Slovis’ entire freshman season. He played beyond his age and showed up against his toughest opponents all year long, which caused many people to fall in love with his game and begin labeling him as a player to watch regarding the 2022 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, he regressed in 2020 and took a step back as a player.
In six games last season, Slovis completed 67% of his passes and threw for 1,912 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. Here are his numbers from his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Completion Percentage: 71.9%
Yards Per Game: 291.83
Adjusted Yards Per Attempt: 9.4
Touchdowns Per Game: 2.5
Interceptions Per Game: 0.75
Touchdown to Interception Ratio: 3.33
Touchdown Rate: 7.65%
Interception Rate: 2.3%
Passing Efficiency Rating: 167.6
Completion Percentage: 67%
Yards Per Game: 320.17
Adjusted Yards Per Attempt: 7.4
Touchdowns Per Game: 2.83
Interceptions Per Game: 1.17
Touchdown to Interception Ratio: 2.43
Touchdown Rate: 6.44%
Interception Rate: 2.65%
Passing Efficiency Rating: 144.1
Slovis’ production wasn’t awful in 2020, but he was less efficient, and he turned the ball over at a higher rate. Rather than building upon what he did in 2019, he took a step back and regressed instead of improving.
One of his biggest weaknesses through his first two collegiate seasons was his physical tools. Slovis doesn’t have elite arm strength, and he can’t extend plays outside the pocket at a high level like other top prospects from previous drafts. This wasn’t a huge deal during his freshman season because he was so good at processing defenses quickly and efficiently, but his sophomore season was a different story.
During the 2020 season, Slovis’ underwhelming physical tools were more apparent. His throws seemed to have less velocity, forcing him to be even sharper mentally to make up for his lacking arm strength. However, his decision-making wasn’t up to par, which led to some awful interceptions. His poor decision-making is why his interception rate increased from 2019 to 2020.
Another issue that plagued him was his worsening accuracy. He was a very accurate passer in 2019, which is reflected by his 70% completion percentage. This year, however, he wasn’t as consistently accurate, which led to a dip in his completion percentage.
Both of these issues came out of the blue, and they nearly destroyed his draft stock.
Kedon Slovis is a very talented passer who displayed an advanced feel for the quarterback position as a true freshman in 2019. He regressed in the next year, but I’m optimistic that he can improve his draft stock during this upcoming season.
Slovis will never blow you away with elite physical tools, but recent prospects, including Joe Burrow and Mac Jones, have shown us that you don’t need a powerful arm or world-class speed to be an effective quarterback. If you don’t have outlier physical tools, you can get by with quick processing and high-level accuracy, two skills that Slovis possesses.
Although 2020 was a down year for him, It wouldn’t be shocking to see him return to form and put up monster numbers as a junior. For this to happen, though, he needs to be a better decision-maker and a more accurate passer. If he’s an improved version of his 2019 self this year, he could be a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.