UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson is a potential hidden gem in the 2023 NFL Draft. What are his strengths and weaknesses as a mid to late-round prospect?
We all know the top four quarterbacks in this year’s draft, based on consensus and likelihood. Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud should be the top-five locks. Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis could go anywhere in the top five or ten.
But there is a hot debate on who the next guy up is after those four, other than Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker possibly, who is pretty polarizing in his own right next to Richardson and Levis.
The UCLA Bruin shouldn’t sniff the first round but Dorian Thompson-Robinson (or DTR) has shown flashes of poise and athleticism to potentially hit as a mid to late-round pick over the last five seasons under his coach, Chip Kelly. When talking about the experience at the collegiate level that guys like Richardson and others lack, DTR is way more experienced in comparison.
At 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, the redshirt senior needs to hit the weight room and bulk up at the next level, as the Vegas native plays smaller at times (for his height) and needs to be more aware as a runner to avoid the big hits (potential injuries). Although he doesn’t have top-percentile speed at the position, DTR is dynamic with the football and has the mobility to separate himself from other candidates at the position.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson: A 2023 NFL Draft Sleeper QB To Watch
He can be used as a weapon at the next level, as he rushed for 1,826 yards on 471 attempts and had 28 touchdowns on the ground. As a playmaker for the Bruins, DTR displayed his dual-threat ability to the fullest at UCLA ever since he arrived and immediately was thrown in as a freshman in 2018.
Running a 4.56 40-yard dash at the NFL Draft Scouting Combine last month certainly helps his case, as his 10-yard split is tied (with Malik Cunningham) as the fastest ever at the position at 1.51 seconds, showing his elite burst when he sees the gap to take off. There aren’t many legit draftable rushing threats at the quarterback position this year, other than Richardson, making the UCLA signal-caller different from other pure passers or semi-mobile prospects around his draft range.
Even with his escapability, DTR has shown signs every year and improvement in scanning the field accordingly and making the right progressions with his reads before deciding to get out of trouble.
However, most if not all, of his turnovers come from passing, as his wind-up is a tick late, forcing an extra second for opposing defensive backs to read his eyes and pick him off. His footwork can also use work and be not as choppy, as he sometimes takes an extra step or two in his drop back. Some of these mechanical issues lead to poor placement and potential interceptions or pass breakups (potentially missed touchdowns or big plays or making something easy more difficult).
Speaking of turnovers, DTR has big enough hands to make it a non-concern (9 7/8 inch) but the fumbles are. In total across five seasons, he has 28 and lost half of them (14). The Bruin will have to be way cleaner if he wants to be given a chance to play his rookie year, as he is also slightly older at the age of 23 (due to COVID eligibility for the extra year).
His throwing motion and mechanics will have to be corrected somewhat and be more consistent at the NFL if he wants to be successful, as it dips too low causing a delay in the throw and messing up the timing since it’s a bit late. There are good signs, as at the throwing event at the NFL Draft Scouting Combine and his pro day at UCLA, it is evident DTR has worked on it some, and the growth/potential is there.
At his best, DTR as a passer is great with timing against man coverage and RPOs especially, as a good NFL offensive scheme around him would benefit and maximize his skillset a ton at the next level. However, against zone and under pressure, he will have to make better decisions and not make costly throws. His best throws were on the outside and in the seams, as his arm is good enough to make off-script throws if need be, his best throw at the combine maxed out at 62 miles per hour, which was faster than Richardson’s and fastest at the event, surprisingly.
His best year was this past year, as he had his best passing touchdown-to-pick ratio (27 to 10) and had a 69.6 completion percentage (throwing for 3,169 yards in the air on 382 attempts). Overall, DTR has 88 passing touchdowns to 36 interceptions, with 10,710 yards in the air on 1,369 attempts (with a 63.3 completion percentage) over the course of his five-year collegiate career at UCLA.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson amassed a few accolades in the PAC-12 for the Bruins and set school records at UCLA, as he was also the school’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns.
Based on his physical stature and play style, DTR comps best as a combination of a Kyler Murray and Geno Smith-type profile. Kyler is a few inches shorter and Geno is ten to twenty pounds heavier but DTR resembles Murray’s running style and Smith’s resurgence could be the upside of the UCLA quarterback if he polishes his craft as a passer in the NFL.
DTR could be looked at at the top of the board on day two at best, especially with teams that need a solid potential backup and/or developmental quarterback that can sit behind a veteran as the second or third option entering the upcoming season.
Teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Francisco 49ers have all reportedly met/ talked with him at either the UCLA Pro Day and/or NFL Draft Scouting Combine. They all make sense as potential landing spots for Dorian Thompson-Robinson, as he could go higher than the consensus.
Games Scouted: 2019– USC; 2020– USC; 2021– Cal, LSU, Hawaii; 2022– Oregon, USC, Washington, Utah, Arizona State, Bowling Green (11 games)