How Bill Walsh would evaluate 2024 QB Draft Class

Promo image for Bill Walsh: From Cincinnati to San Francisco
Promo image for Bill Walsh: From Cincinnati to San Francisco

As we head into a 2024 NFL Draft awash in controversy over quarterbacks, wouldn’t it be nice to hear from one of the best ever to evaluate that key position?


Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh (Class of 1993) built a dynasty as the San Francisco 49ers won three Super Bowls under his guidance while he turned around a losing organization and finished with a record of 102-63-1.


Walsh was best known for his creative offense and ability to get maximum results from quarterbacks. In fact, Walsh had what is probably the best quarterback room in the history of the game when he managed to keep future Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young on the same team for several years.


We can wonder how Walsh might evaluate the 2024 Class of quarterbacks, where from three to six are discussed as potential first-rounders. Six would tie the record for quarterbacks taken in the first round, set in 1983, with three of the six became Hall of Famers — John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.


The 2024 quarterback draft prospects mentioned with first-round potential are LSU’s Jayden Daniels, USC’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Oregon’s Bo Nix. The first three are believed to be certain first-round picks, possibly going 1-2-3 overall. Some think that trio might be split up by one of the others, but there is no consensus.


Walsh left us in 2007, so he cannot help. Or can he? Through the miracle of the internet, Walsh can reach out from 1997 when he worked with and The Sports Xchange to evaluate the draft. And we all know that once anything is on the internet it is there forever, right?


What we have is the master himself explaining in detail how he would evaluate a quarterback.

How I Evaluate Each Position


By Bill Walsh


Coaches and scouts all have their own criteria for evaluating players. These criteria change as the game evolves and they differ dependent upon the needs or systems of respective teams.


But there will always be certain, basic requirements for players at each position.


Still, evaluating players is not a science. It must take into account a myriad of factors and, in the final analysis, must answer one critical question — can this man perform on my team?


Requirements vary greatly by position, so here are some of the criteria and considerations I use when evaluating players at each position.




Ideal size: 6-3, 210


To become a great quarterback, there must be instincts and intuition. This is the area that can be the difference between a very solid quarterback and a great quarterback. This isn't an area you can do much with as a coach. You can certainly bring a quarterback up to a competitive standard, but to reach greatness the quarterback must possess that inherently, à la Billy Kilmer, Sonny Jurgensen, Ken Stabler and Warren Moon.


If throwing a ball were the only aspect of playing quarterback, then this would be an easy position to evaluate. However, because of the dynamic role he plays on the team, a quarterback must have physical, mental, emotional and instinctive traits that go well beyond the mere ability to pass a football.


Still, if he can't pass, he obviously won't be a good quarterback either. For now, let's assume our quarterback candidate has shown an ability to throw the ball.


Now, he must be courageous and intensely competitive. He will be the one on the field who is running the team. His teammates must believe in him or it may not matter how much physical ability he has. If he is courageous and intensely competitive, then other players will know and respect that. This will be a foundation for becoming a leader.


Naturally, he will have to perform up to certain physical standards to maintain that respect and become a leader.


Arm strength is somewhat misleading. Some players can throw 80 yards, but they aren't good passers. Good passing has to do with accuracy, timing, and throwing a ball with touch so it is catchable. This all involves understanding a system, the receivers in the system, and having great anticipation. It is a plus to be able to throw a ball on a line for 35 yards, but not if it is off target or arrives in such a way that it is difficult to catch.


Remember, the goal of passing a ball is to make sure it is caught ... by your intended receiver.


You look at how complete an inventory of throws a quarterback possesses — from screen passes to timed short passes to medium range passes and down the field throws. This complete range. For the scout, not having a complete inventory does not eliminate the quarterback. But you are looking to evaluate in all facets and distances and types of passes in throwing the ball.


There have been quarterbacks of greatness, Hall of Fame quarterbacks, who didn't have a complete inventory of passes. But you're looking to see the potential of the quarterback in each area. You can see where the emphasis of the offense would be if he were with your team.

A quick delivery , one that is not telegraphed to help the defense, gives the quarterback an advantage when he finds his intended target. That's when it is essential to get the ball "up and gone'' with no wasted motion. Some of this can be acquired by learning proper technique. But to a certain degree, a quick release is related to a quarterback's reaction time between spotting his receiver and getting the ball "up and gone.''


Touch is important, especially in a medium range passing game. One of Joe Montana's most remarkable skills was putting the right touch on a pass so that it was easily catchable by a receiver, who often did not have to break stride.


The ability to read defenses is not something that players have learned to a high degree coming out of college. Even if they have, the pro defenses are very different. But most systems require quarterbacks to look at primary and secondary receivers, usually based on the defense that confronts him. You can see if he locates that secondary receiver — or maybe even an emergency outlet receiver — with ease or with a sense of urgency.


This should work like a natural progression, not a situation where it's — "Oh, my gosh, now I must look over here ... no, over there.'' You can see which quarterbacks handle these situations with grace. These are the types who have a chance to perform with consistency in the NFL.

Mobility and an ability to avoid a pass rush are crucial. Some quarterbacks use this mobility within the pocket just enough so they are able to move and pass when they "feel" a rush. But overall quickness and agility can make a remarkable difference. As an example, there were some very quick boxers in Sugar Ray Leonard's era, but he was quicker than they were and because of that he became a great champ.


Quarterbacks must be able to function while injured. The pro season is about twice as long and more punishing than a college season. They are vulnerable to getting hit hard every time they pass. They must be able to avoid being rattled, get up and show they are in control and can continue to lead the offense.


The single trait that separates great quarterbacks from good quarterbacks is the ability to make the great, spontaneous decision, especially at a crucial time. The clock is running down and your team is five points behind. The play that was called has broken down and 22 players are moving in almost unpredictable directions all over the field.


This is where the great quarterback uses his experience, vision, mobility and what we will call spontaneous genius. He makes something good happen. This, of course, is what we saw in Joe Montana when he pulled out those dramatic victories for Notre Dame.




Thanks, Bill.


So how would you apply Walsh’s approach to evaluating this list of 2024 quarterback prospects?


2024 Draft Ratings by Position



Pos (Overall) Player, College, Position, Ht ., Wt., Class, Proj. Rd.

1 (1) Drake Maye, North Carolina, QB, 6043, 223, rSo, 1

2 (2) Caleb Williams, Southern California, QB, 6011, 214, Jr, 1

3 (3) Jayden Daniels, LSU, QB, 6032, 210, rSr, 1

4 (9) Michael Penix Jr., Washington, QB, 6022, 216, rSr, 1

5 (18) J.J. McCarthy, Michigan, QB, 6024, 219, Jr, 1

6 (30) Bo Nix, Oregon, QB, 6021, 214, rSr, 1

7 (107) Spencer Rattler, South Carolina, QB, 6002, 211, rSr, 3-4

8 (139) Michael Pratt, Tulane, QB, 6024, 217, Sr, 4-5

9 (185) Joe Milton III, Tennessee, QB, 6051, 235, rSr, 5-6

11 (231) Jordan Travis, Florida State, QB, 6011, 203, rSr, 6-7

10 (246) Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland, QB, 5106, 185, rSr, 7

12 (249) Austin Reed, Western Kentucky, QB, 6014, 220, rSr, 7

13 (265) Sam Hartman, Notre Dame, QB, 6011, 211, rSr, 7-HPFA

14 (278) Carter Bradley, South Alabama, QB, 6031, 213, rSr, 7-HPFA

15 (288) Devin Leary, Kentucky, QB, 6012, 215, rSr, 7-HPFA

16 (305) Kedon Slovis, Brigham Young, QB, 6024, 223, rSr, 7-HPFA

17 (321) John Rhys Plumlee, Central Florida, QB, 5116, 203, rSr, 7-HPFA

18 (325) Jack Plummer, Louisville, QB, 6043, 215, rSr, 7-HPFA




Latest Player Notes

Testing Buffalo Bill Page

Jun 14, 2024: Joe Horrigan knows the Buffalo Bills

Steelers positional analysis: Kenny Pickett stands alone in QB room

2/17/2024If the Steelers were concerned about the uncertain future at quarterback when Ben Roethlisberger retired, the outlook ...

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t deserve criticism since Super Bowl

Globe StaffUpdated February 17, 2024, 9:38 a.m.Kyle Shanahan has been on the defensive all week following the 49ers’ 25-22 ...

New Raiders GM expected to be aggressive in search for top QB

February 17, 2024 - 4:19 PMIf Tom Telesco’s past offers clues about his future, expect the Raiders’ new general manager to ...

Mark Kiszla: After hating on Russell Wilson, maybe Sean Payton should give Sam Darnold some love

Sam Darnold needs a second chance to prove his worth in the NFL almost as desperately as the Broncos need a quarterback.Could ...

Grading the Week: Broncos QB Russell Wilson sounds like he can’t get away from Sean Payton fast enough

2/17/2024Apparently, Russell Wilson and Ciara didn’t buy what Sean Payton was shoveling on radio row during Super Bowl Week.A ...

When Deshaun Watson will begin throwing; how he feels about new OC Ken Dorsey, and more: Browns Insider

cleveland.comCLEVELAND, Ohio — Deshaun Watson is on track in his rehab schedule from shoulder surgery — maybe even a little ...

Jay Harbaugh stepping out of family circle for first time with Seahawks

Seattle Times staff reporterIf Jay Harbaugh’s last name gives him a hefty family legacy to live up to, his new position with ...

What the 49ers said after coming back to beat Packers

16-20 minutes 1/21/2024The 49ers earned a wild playoff win in a rainstorm Saturday night at Levi’s Stadium, coming back to ...

Why 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw wouldn’t go down after game-winning interception vs. Packers

5-7 minutes 1/21/2024SANTA CLARA — Dre Greenlaw was running zig-zags with the joy of a third-grader dodging tackles at recess.A ...
See More Player Notes