Nate Peterman was not a nationally recognized name heading into the 2016 season. But then the Panthers’ quarterback earned Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week honors after leading Pitt to a nationally televised 43-42 upset over the Clemson Tigers, and people took notice.
Now, the 6’2” 225-pound graduate is rising up NFL draft boards after a strong showing at the 2017 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. As a result, his name is now trending among draft enthusiasts. Analysts and scouts effused praise upon the Panthers’ two-year starter all last week for his performances both during practice and in the game.
One of the analysts to commend Peterman’s play throughout the week was Mark Schofield of Insidethepylon.com. Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with Schofield on Sunday to receive a detailed analysis of his thoughts surrounding the Panthers’ former quarterback following the Senior Bowl.
“I think it was a pretty solid week,” said Schofield. “He came in viewed by many—I’d say myself included—as sort of the top guy down there going into the week. A lot of people thought that some of the stuff he had done this last season at Pittsburgh kind of made him stand out, especially when you view him in juxtaposition to the other guys that were down there. And I think he sort of lived up to the billing. [Peterman] made some really nice throws during practice, some throws that really kind of stood out. So I think he really helped himself.”
Of the throws that stood out, Schofield recalled an out-route to one of the North’s tight ends on Wednesday that garnered “an audible reaction from the scouts, and the evaluators, and the writers that were in the stands.” Throughout the week, Peterman consistently demonstrated a series of skills that enabled him to complete such impressive, NFL-caliber throws.
“I think as far as strengths go, you see footwork from him. Particularly not even in game type situations, but just going through footwork drills with the other quarterbacks. You could see the way he takes short, choppy steps in the pocket, keeps his feet under him—he’s always in the ready position to throw … Peterman just looks more fluid in the pocket with his footwork.”
Schofield’s praise didn’t stop there.
“Ball placement,” he added. “Accuracy. That was something that also stood out this week. It seemed like most of his throws were where they should be. To the right shoulder, to the left shoulder. To the right half, depending on the route structure and the play design, and even the coverage that he saw. Those were the areas that really stood out, and I think those will help him, because those are areas where you need to be sound if you’re going to try to make the leap to the NFL. Receivers expect the ball to be put where it should be. You need to be clean in the pocket with your movements when you’re going to try and evade pressure.”
Of course, scouts attend the Senior Bowl to view a prospect’s weaknesses just as much as they do to view his strengths. Peterman did exhibit some flaws throughout the week, although Schofield believes none of the shortcomings on display will doom him in the NFL.
“Peterman doesn’t have the power arm that you might like to see from NFL quarterbacks,” Schofield revealed. “I don’t think it’s a fatal flaw, but it’s definitely something you should note. And then, sometimes there was some hesitation—not making throws when you expect the ball to come out. But I really attribute that more to the new environment, the new receivers, learning a new offense in the course of a couple of days, and trying to execute that throughout the week. So I don’t really ding guys too much during a week like this for showing some hesitancy. Especially when, with Peterman, you saw it early, but it disappeared as the week went on as he was getting more comfortable into the offense he was running.”
The North team was coached by members of the Chicago Bears’ staff, while the South team operated under the guidance of the Cleveland Browns’ staff. Peterman, a member of the North squad, earned Schofield’s praise for his ability to learn the concepts introduced by the Bears’ coaches throughout the week. And while the actual game can improve a player’s draft stock, Schofield believes that it is how a player reacts to coaching throughout the week that shapes his overall success.
“The practice week is pretty much the biggest part of the Senior Bowl. People tune in, they watch the game, there’s an MVP awarded—Dak Prescott won the MVP last year and people think that was a really big part of what propelled him to get drafted where he was by the Cowboys—but it’s really how these guys take to coaching during the week, how they sort of progress during the week, that is very important to see. And Peterman had a very good week in that regard as well.”
After outperforming his teammates during the week, Peterman received the start for the North during Saturday’s game. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown while receiving a majority of the snaps under center.
“I mean, his performance in the game was ok,” said Schofield. “He had some nice throws and reads. Davis Webb put up better numbers, got the MVP…But they gave [Peterman] a lot of throws, and you could tell that the coaching staff—the Bears’ coaching staff—wanted to see what he could do, and had confidence in him heading into that Senior Bowl game.”
After providing some quick insight into Peterman’s game day performance, Schofield quickly returned to Nate’s accomplishments during the week, since it was during practice when he separated himself from the other quarterbacks.
“But again, the week of practice and how he handled everything, sort of an all-eyes-on-him situation, how he reacted to that, how he took to coaching—you could tell that there was a difference with him and the other quarterbacks that were there in terms of their ability to adapt to the faster play speed that they saw this week than they were used to, playing with different athletes, adjusting to receivers that you’re not familiar with. So I think really focusing on the week of practice, he had a really good week in that regard.”
California’s Davis Webb earned game MVP honors after completing 11 of 16 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown on his three drives as the South’s quarterback, all of which ended up with a score. Webb’s performance may have won the day, but Schofield maintains that Peterman won the week.
“I still think [Peterman] was the top guy that was down there,” Schofield asserted. “Davis Webb had a shaky week in practice, but he had a really good Senior Bowl game. There are players that don’t practice but show up on game day, and maybe Davis Webb is that kind of guy. But I think overall, from start to finish, Peterman was the top quarterback down there. I think that’s what people kind of expected. The fact that there was that sort of expectation around him coming into the week and he lived up to that, also speaks well to him.”
Nate Peterman may have emerged as the top quarterback at the Senior Bowl, but it should be noted that none of the perceived top quarterback prospects in the 2017 NFL draft participated. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson elected to bypass the Senior Bowl, while North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, and Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes are ineligible for the game as underclassmen. Although Nate Peterman is not considered one of the top-tier prospects, Schofield believes his draft stock still remains relatively high.
“I think most people, myself included, have the four guys at the top: you’ve got Watson, you’ve got Kizer, you’ve got Trubisky, and I would include Pat Mahomes in that as well. I think those are your top four QB’s in this class, and guys that I think will get consideration for selection in the first round … And I think there’s sort of that second tier, where you’ve got guys like Brad Kaaya from Miami, I think Davis Webb is in that as well, and I think Nate Peterman’s there. He’s probably the top guy in that second tier. And so I think in terms of a draft stock, and a potential grade on him, I’m looking at Peterman as a solid Day 2 guy. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him go early in the second round. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him go maybe early in the third round. But I think he’s definitely that Day 2 guy … I think he’s definitely the top guy in that sort of ‘next tier’ in this quarterback class.”
Mark believes that whatever team selects Peterman in the draft will receive a player that can “come in and give you decent early rookie or second-year production at the quarterback position.” Much of the basis behind this prediction involves the schemes that Nate played in at Pitt under offensive coordinators Jim Chaney and Matt Canada.
“I think he’s sort of a solid pro-type quarterback that, we’re talking about that Pittsburgh offense, was asked to do some things in that Pittsburgh offense that not a lot of quarterbacks were asked to do in their offenses. And so I think that gives him a step ahead in that learning curve that you would see from a rookie.”
In a year where most teams in need of a franchise quarterback will be searching for “the next Dak Prescott,” being a Day 2 selection who can contribute as a rookie is not a bad projection at all. And while Nate Peterman may not necessarily be the next Dak Prescott, he could certainly become the next Day 2 quarterback selection to find success in the NFL.