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After trading for Carson Wentz this offseason and despite drafting Jacob Eason in the fourth round last year, the Colts pulled the trigger on a quarterback prospect to compete for the backup role.
Here’s what draft analysts had to say about Ehlinger:
Dane Brugler, The Athletic (draft guide): “A four-year starter at Texas, Ehlinger operated out of a zone-read scheme in Herman’s offense, which prioritized movement to utilize the quarterback’s mobility. He finished second in school history behind childhood hero Colt McCoy in numerous categories, including completions (923), passing yards (11,436), passing touchdowns (127) and total touchdowns (127). The term “gamer” tends to be overused for tough-yet-flawed quarterbacks, but it sums up Ehlinger perfectly – it felt like the Longhorns always had a shot in close games because of his gutsy, resilient spirit and versatile skill set. As a passer, he has an adequate arm, but is often tardy with his decisions and needs to see things quicker if he is going to make plays through the air in the NFL. Overall, Ehlinger is not an anticipation thrower and his pocket presence leaves a lot to be desired, but his competitive toughness and dual-threat ability give him a chance to be a backup in the right situation, similar in ways to Jalen Hurts’ evaluation in the 2020 NFL Draft.”
Lance Zielein, NFL.com: “Highly touted dual-threat quarterback from the Austin area who put together four solid but somewhat unspectacular years at Texas. They don’t come much tougher than Ehlinger at the position, and his intangibles are as good as you could ask for. He’s a very average passer, but can deliver most throws with good enough accuracy and velocity to hit the open target. He doesn’t have a plus arm and could struggle to fit throws into tight windows or make big completions throwing on the move. His deep ball accuracy is a step below average but he’s fairly effective throwing with anticipation on intermediate routes. He’s not an explosive runner, although he gets tough yards on a consistent basis as a scrambler and on called runs. His 2019 tape is a better study of his potential, but career backup looks like his ceiling.”
Jordan Reid, The Draft Network: “Ehlinger is the billboard definition of a quarterback who’s good for the college game but will face many challenges on the next level. With below-average arm strength and hit-or-miss accuracy, he will have to be surrounded by targets who have a wide catch radius, just as he was at Texas. The Longhorns’ offense was able to mask many of his deficiencies with half-field reads that allowed him to run if his first few options weren’t available. At the top of his dropbacks, Ehlinger can be real indecisive with where to go with the ball. There are lots of passing concepts that lack timing because of him hitching up in the pocket multiple steps prior to throwing. If unable to develop at QB, there may be some teams that approach him about a position switch elsewhere because of his build, physicality as a runner, and leadership qualities.”
Ian Cummings, Pro Football Network: “Ehlinger is a leader and an absolute gamer. Multiple times, he put the Longhorns team on his back in competitive games, most notably this past year in a four-overtime loss against Oklahoma. The Texas quarterback is a respectable fighter. Also, as a two-time captain and a three-time Academic All-Big 12 selection, he offers impeccable locker room traits that will translate to the NFL. However, that’s only half of the NFL equation. The other half consists of physical qualities, and there, Ehlinger comes up short. He lacks an NFL arm, both in terms of strength and elasticity. And he’s not as athletic as a dual-threat quarterback should be. Ehlinger’s experience and mentality should lend him an NFL career, but he’s almost certainly a Day 3 pick. Similar to fellow Texas legend Colt McCoy, Ehlinger best profiles as a long-term backup. His competitive edge also gives him a chance in spot-starting situations.”
Bleacher Report Scouting Department: “Sam Ehlinger plays the quarterback position with toughness, and while he is an adequate athlete, his lack of consistency and elongated mechanics limit his throwing upside. Ehlinger flashes some burst in the pocket to move away from defenders and get moving down the field, but he will try to do too much with his play that leads to some poor throws and decisions. You appreciate Ehlinger’s toughness and willingness to get dirty with the ball in his hands. He has a good build, but this play style is hard to do at the NFL level without the ability to consistently operate from the pocket. Ehlinger has adequate arm strength, but he has an elongated throwing motion and does not consistently anticipate his receivers. He is on the shorter side and needs to see his guys coming open, but NFL defenders will take advantage of this. Overall, Ehlinger is a late-round backup QB candidate that could stick in the NFL due to his intangibles and adequate athleticism, but his lack of defining trait as a passer will be hard to overcome.”
Mike Renner, Pro Football Focus (draft guide): “While Ehlinger steadily improved over four years as the starter at Texas, there was never a “next level” to his game. He scrambles far too often for a quarterback who just won’t be able to get away with that in the NFL, and he rarely fit balls into tight windows down the field. He’s the type of prospect who’s not going to be coveted because of his tools. At that point, you have to perform better than he did this past season to catch the NFL’s eye.”