What Mattered Most? David Sills V, Gary Jennings and Will Grier at West Virginia
It is endlessly fascinating to me when a quarterback prospect and two or more of his wide receivers are all draft-eligible at the same time. Zach Mettenberger, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry is the most famous case of this situation but assuredly it has happened numerous times through the history of the NFL Draft. The situation that is most interesting to me this year is Will Grier, Gary Jennings, and David Sills V. Grier is one of my favorite non-Kyler Murray quarterbacks in this class and the Air Raid offense that the Mountaineers ran while the trio was there produced some awesome results.
Grier, Sills, and Jennings were the nuclei of the West Virginia passing offense for the last two seasons and their individual numbers are a little wacky. Jennings caught 97 passes for 1,096 yards in 2017 but scored only one touchdown. Sills had only 61 receptions in 2017 but 18 (!!!!) touchdown receptions. Both scored double-digit touchdowns in 2018. Will Grier had the 20th and ninth-most prolific passing offenses under Dana Holgerson, throwing 71 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in his time at West Virginia. Grier spent one season at Florida but was banned for a year by the NCAA for failing a PED test and subsequently transferred to WVU. One red flag for me thus far is that Grier won’t take an NFL snap until he is 24 years old.
There is no denying that the numbers of all three of these players are impressive, even when compared to their Air Raid peers. David Sills and Gary Jennings were number one and number two in the Big 12 in receiving touchdowns and both were in the top 10 for yards per reception. Jennings had more receptions in 2017 than future NFL wide receivers Keke Coutee, James Washington, and Marcel Ateman while he finished fourth in the nation in that stat. It’s worth noting here that Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad wide receiver Ka’Raun White was also involved in the WVU offense in 2017, scoring 12 touchdowns on 61 receptions.
So the question is: how do we attribute the passing success of the West Virginia offense? Was Will Grier the buoy that brought up Sills and Jennings? Were the two wide receivers similar to Landry and Beckham in that they made a draftable quarterback just by the nature of their talent?
There is a reason that David Sills is outside of most people’s top 15 wide receiver lists. He’s not particularly fast or agile and will be playing his rookie season at the age of the 23. The former quarterback turned wide receiver was a touchdown machine at West Virginia and accounted for 37% of West Virginia’s passing offense in 2017. The fact that he took a year away from WVU to go play junior college quarterback is 1) hilarious and 2) I think actually an indication that he is a natural at the wide receiver position despite only playing it for three years. Thus far into the exploration of the WVU offense, I feel comfortable saying that all three players aided the production of one another.
Jennings, to me, seems like the better player out of the two WVU wide receivers. He played in all four seasons at West Virginia including as a true freshman (something that I always like to see). Jennings didn’t come close to matching Sills in the touchdown department but did have more total receptions than Sills did from Will Grier. Jennings is also significantly more athletic than Sills; a 4.42 40, 95th percentile SPARQ-score, and elite burst numbers. Despite Sills finding the endzone more often, I feel comfortable saying that Jennings is the better prospect/player but think both are solid.
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The hardest question to answer in all of this is just how good is Will Grier. The Air Raid offense that Dana Holgerson runs at West Virginia is designed to allow quarterbacks and wide receivers to put up crazy stats. As the Air Raid makes its way to the NFL, quarterbacks who are familiar with the concepts and have above-average arms are going to be in demand. Grier finished the 2018 season with the fourth-best adjusted yards per attempt in the nation and was seventh in 2017.
Hayden Winks on Rotoworld wrote a great summation of Grier’s game, stating “Will Grier is a better quarterback prospect than Drew Lock and Daniel Jones because of his accuracy and his production. Grier finished in the 87th percentile in passing EPA while Lock (55th) and Jones (19th) hung around the likes of Kyle Shurmur and Clayton Thorson. Grier may never be a top-32 NFL quarterback, but he has the profile of a quarterback who could be a starter or high-end backup.” While he doesn’t have the biggest cannon arm, Grier can make most of the throws and has good technique in the pocket and in his drops. I prefer what I know Grier can give to what people are projecting Drew Lock to give.
Did having future NFL wide receivers help Will Grier out at West Virginia? Certainly. Had he been without one of Sills or Jennings, his production numbers would have been worse. All three deserve spots in the NFL based on their production profiles though it seems that none of them stand a great chance of hearing their name called early. Unlike the Zach Mettenberger/LSU situation though, I don’t think it is fair to ascribe all of Grier’s success to the players around him. He will be a solid, spread offense back up and capable starter when called upon in the NFL.
Jennings and Sills are a little harder to project. Neither will be high-value selections by NFL teams though I could see a team jumping on Jennings in the third or fourth if they really loved him. Sills seems like a player who will have to contribute on special teams to hold a roster spot but may be valued due to his versatility (can play outside or as the big slot). All three players are fairly landing spot dependent in terms of future dynasty fantasy football value but are all worth monitoring.