MOBILE, Ala. — As Will Grier held court in front of a small army of reporters in an end zone Tuesday afternoon at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, his teammate and buddy — receiver David Sills V — stood a few feet away, amused at the quarterback’s cool demeanor.
“He’s a cool customer,” Sills said, looking at Grier and shaking his head. “He’s got the slicked-back [hair], the fade … he’s over there chillin’, man. He’s cool.”
In a place like Mobile, it wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, for a quarterback like Grier, a projected second-day pick, Senior Bowl week should be the first step toward winning a team’s heart and sliding into the first round. Especially in a year like this, when several other top quarterbacks came here to compete and give teams a chance to compare them, side-by-side, on everything from arm strength to demeanor.
The probing questions reporters fed Grier — about his arm, his past suspension from Florida for performance-enhancement drug use, his transfer and his decision to skip the Mountaineers’ bowl game — were expected. And Grier was intent on making one thing known with his answers about each:
“I don’t understand some of the things that have been put out there [about me],” Grier said, when asked by Yahoo Sports. “I’m the best quarterback in this draft.”
Several other quarterbacks are projected by many to go higher than Grier, including Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and two others who are in Mobile this week (Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones).
The 6-foot-2, 218-pound Grier has some discernible strengths, ones that should be attractive to NFL teams seeking a quarterback this spring. Start with his 65.8 career completion percentage, which is impressive regardless of the “Air Raid” scheme he played in that allowed him to throw for 71 touchdowns and 20 interceptions the past two seasons.
“People don’t say he’s a dual threat, but he’s a playmaker, he makes things happen,” Sills said. “When the game is on the line, he’s finding a way to make a play.”
And of course, teams won’t forget about the confidence that naturally seeped through him when asked Tuesday about the concerns league talent evaluators may have about his arm.
“I don’t think arm strength has ever been [a problem]… I mean, ask my receivers, ask the guys at Florida, ask the guys I played against if arm strength was a problem,” Grier said. “It doesn’t necessarily make me mad; I think my play speaks for itself. That’s why I’m here. I think people can see my arm strength out here.”
While early reviews of Grier’s first two days of practice were mixed — especially regarding his accuracy, particularly on deep throws — his arm strength has popped.
“I have no idea why that’s been a question,” Sills told Yahoo Sports. “It’s been a question through the media — I haven’t heard many NFL scouts talk about it. He can throw the ball with anybody, he can make any throw. He’s gonna prove it the rest of the week.”
Maybe he will. During Wednesday’s practice, Grier ripped a gorgeous downfield throw to — you guessed it — Sills that made the ESPN television crew gush.
Beyond questions about his arm strength, Grier also had to explain his transfer to WVU, which stemmed from a positive PED test in the middle of a 6-0 start to the season. Grier says it was for a banned supplement called Ligandrol, which he obtained from a nutritional shop at the suggestion of a store employee. He did not clear the substance with Florida’s athletic training staff. He left Gainesville two months later.
“I think [NFL teams] all know, for the most part — I’ve talked with a lot of them this week, the story’s out there,” Grier said. “I pride myself on outworking everybody, and it was really rough on me — I felt like I let my teammates down.
“I’ve been on thousands of drug tests since then, never had another issue — that’s just not who I am. And I would never let my teammates down in any circumstance again, that’s one of the things I learned from it.”
In the same vein, Grier insisted he didn’t play in the Mountaineers’ bowl game due to a sprained ankle — not because he was healthy and didn’t want to risk injury before the draft. Grier added that he and coach Dana Holgorsen sat down and agreed it was important for him to sit and get healthy so he could prepare for his NFL dream.
“It’s better — it’s not 100 [percent],” Grier said of his ankle. “It hurts doing some certain things, but I’ll be full-go at the [scouting] combine, looking forward to it.”
Grier will participate in combine throwing drills, an event some quarterbacks skip. Given the doubts about his arm, Grier can’t wait to prove his arm strength. In fact, when told the strong-armed Patrick Mahomes hit 62 miles per hour — one of the best marks in years — Grier good-naturedly made a prediction of his own.
“Mahomes is a freak,” Grier said with a laugh. “Mahomes has some genetics to him.”
“I’ll be up close to 60.”
Grier can also expect to have his memory tested by evaluators wary of the fact the Mountaineers’ offensive verbiage isn’t as extensive as NFL teams. He says the West Virginia staff gave him a lot of freedom on the field, which was huge for his development, and the coaches also let him contribute to the gameplan and sit in on their meetings.
“We were calling a lot of the same plays,” said Grier, the son of a football coach. “It was just not as wordy.
“I feel very confident in my abilities and also my knowledge of football. It should be an easy, seamless transition to the NFL and I’m looking forward to it.”
And while that’s a big statement — “easy” and “seamless” are rarely words associated with a quarterback’s transition to the NFL — the thing you have to understand is that Grier believes it, which explains why Sills greatly enjoyed watching his quarterback’s mass interview Tuesday and why he thinks Grier is going to back it up.
“Sometimes with guys who want to emerge as leaders, you can tell that it’s forced,” Sills said. “[With] him, people naturally gravitate to him, which I think is a great trait for an NFL quarterback. Obviously, it’s a great trait for a college quarterback. And I think that’s really what separates him.”
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Paylor: Chiefs’ Reid facing biggest decision of his career
• Harassed NFL refs moved from hotel after bad call
• Wetzel: For St. Louis, this is a nightmare Super Bowl
• NFL prospect chooses Senior Bowl over child’s birth