Former Bison quarterback’s stock rises in Indy
Former North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick took part in the annual NFL Combine this past Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis, Indiana. The NDSU all-time leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense took the field alongside 17 other quarterbacks chasing NFL aspirations.
The NFL Combine represented the next step on Stick’s path to the professional ranks, and the former Bison rose to the occasion. Stick participated in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard short shuttle as well as on-field passing drills. That’s to say nothing of the psychological tests and interviews behind the scenes. The results were positive for Stick, who now directs his gaze to NDSU’s pro day, which will take place on March 24.
Entering the NFL Combine, Stick profiled as one of the more athletic quarterbacks participating. The Omaha, Nebraska native proved just that in his on-field workout. Stick clocked in at 4.62 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which ranked third among all quarterbacks at the Combine. The quarterback also ranked third in the broad jump with a leap of 9 feet, 10 inches and in the vertical jump with a height of 33.5 inches.
Where Stick really impressed was in the 3-cone and 20-yard short shuttle drills, which measure agility. He finished the 3-cone in 6.65 seconds, good for the second-best time by a quarterback at the NFL Combine since 2006. Stick clocked a time of 4.05 seconds in the short shuttle, fourth best at his position since 2006.
Stick also excelled in the various passing drills, throwing short, mid-range and deep passes. He demonstrated accuracy on intermediate passes and touch on the deep ball, two common themes throughout his years at NDSU. Among the second group of passers, one that featured Gardner Minshew and Jarrett Stidham, Stick had some of the best throws.
Much of the criticism around Stick centers on his throwing capabilities. Stick’s passing came under scrutiny at the East-West Shrine Game, where he had mixed results in drills. At the NFL Combine, however, Stick was able to change the narrative.
Still, “arm talent,” a favorite buzzword among media analysts, will still be a point of derision for Stick. Fortunately for the winningest quarterback in FCS history, there is an ocean of tape that dispels this notion. Some of the most memorable moments of Stick’s Bison career came through the air, including two 50-plus-yard touchdown passes to Darrius Shepherd in the 2017 and 2018 national championship games. In his senior season, Stick made a handful of pro-caliber throws in virtually every game.
A key area for improvement for Stick will be in his velocity and timing. Some of Stick’s passes lacked the same pace out of the hand that Stidham was able to showcase. Additionally, it was clear that Stick was out of sync with unfamiliar receivers, which is common at the event.
Stick’s last chance to impress scouts will come at the pro day, where he’ll have the benefit of throwing to familiar receivers such as Shepherd and Dallas Freeman. Being the center of attention will also afford Stick much needed repetitions to show off his proverbial arm talent in front of what ought to be a crowd of at least 20 NFL teams.
Outside of Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock, franchise-altering talent is in short supply in the 2019 quarterback class. This year’s crop of passers projects to be full of career backups. It’s the sort of role Stick is likely to find in the NFL.
After a positive showing at the NFL Combine, Stick’s stock should continue to rise among front offices. Stick’s highlights are littered with both designed and improvised runs, as well as evidence of a deep understanding of a pro-style offense. These are arguably his two best attributes and impossible to evaluate in drills.
As more scouts get the chance to evaluate Stick’s footage, they’ll come to learn what most Bison fans already know: even though Stick developed in the shadow of Carson Wentz, he’s a top-tier quarterback in his own right.