KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 30:  Joe Milton III #7 of the Tennessee Volunteers warm up before the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Neyland Stadium on September 30, 2023 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Volunteers defeated the Gamecocks 41-20.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 30: Joe Milton III #7 of the Tennessee Volunteers warm up before the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Neyland Stadium on September 30, 2023 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Volunteers defeated the Gamecocks 41-20. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Joe Milton III: GO BIG OR GO HOME

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Watching Joe Milton III playing quarterback (QB) for Tennessee is like watching some sort of superhero cartoon character or character from the video game Mortal Kombat.

You hear this voice, “FINISH THEM!”

Out comes Milton and with a flick of the wrist he throws the football 70 yards. Milton easily has one of the strongest arms I’ve ever seen. It’s effortless.

The most aggressive and strongest personality on the football field tends to be an edge rusher, a defensive tackle, or perhaps a big mauling offensive lineman.

Not the case when Milton is on the field. Milton is the strongest personality out there.

Hardest evaluation I’ve ever done

That’s quite the statement, but it’s true. I’ve evaluated thousands of football players since I started scouting when I was 17 years old.

What made Milton so challenging?

He has the size and arm strength worthy of being the top pick in the draft. However, he has the accuracy of a fifth-round pick. He had 29 passes that were broken up in 2023 (2.42 per game average).

However, despite “rough patches” in the first half of the season in 2023, there were noticeable improvements in his ball placement and ball security down the stretch once he settled into the starting role. All along ⎯he’s shown consistent development on film. His completion percentage also has been going up over the past three years (51.6%, 64.6%, and 64.7%).

Going to the right system

It was disappointing how much Tennessee tried to get him to play ‘dink-and-dunk’ football.

Seriously?

It was like watching Babe Ruth bunt.

You don’t do that with a Joe Milton. Let him air it out. Chances are he’ll get a touchdown or a pass interference call.

Qualities of a starter

If anyone thinks all Milton can do is throw it a football mile, they’re missing the rest of the picture. He has attributes that translate to what’s been proven to succeed at QB in the NFL (often went through progressions and showed a relatively quick release).

However, when we do an apples-to-apples comparison between Milton and the Colts’ first-round pick QB Anthony Richardson, it’s interesting. Both played 12 games in their final college season.

Richardson had 176 completions out of 327 attempts (53.8%) with 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

Milton had 229 completions out of 354 attempts (64.7%) with 20 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

Richardson was the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Milton’s arm strength makes Richardson look like a Happy Meal toy.

There were a ton of quick short passes this season for Milton, but then again, there’s QB Trevor Lawrence (2020: 69.2%), who was the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

#7 Joe Milton III 6-foot-5, 235 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s 2024 NFL Draft Grade: First-Round (I would select him)

Projected by 2.3% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of December 24, 2023 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

Joe Milton III First Round Arm Talent (3 games evaluated in 2022 and 1 game evaluated in 2021)

Game film reviewed (2023): Virginia, Austin Peay, Florida, UTSA, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama, Kentucky, UCONN, Missouri, Georgia, and Vanderbilt (click to view games watched to form this evaluation)

Good fit: Steelers

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Star power prospect who drives the ball downfield with authority. Inconsistent rhythm and timing. The coach had to set the tempo. Fluid and poised setting up shop in the pocket. Dominant pocket presence. Pass rushers are like annoying flies in the house to this guy. Not easy to bring down due to his imposing size and athletic ability (sacked 16 times in 2023). Fluid mechanics, but has unsettled footwork. More accurate moving around rather than traditional dropbacks. Most consistent short range. Focused under pressure. Eyes downfield. Ball can sail high or get overthrown due to a higher release point and his left leg locking up when releasing. Lacks finesse. Deep ball 32% (9/28 charted). Trevor Lawrence 2020 deep ball (51%). Had 78 carries over 12 games, but he’s not a runner by nature. Gets physical and bullies defenders. Perfect in a system featuring a moving pocket and the deep ball.

Final words

This one is a calculated leap of faith.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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