Whether it's as a draft pick, or an undrafted free agent, former WSU quarterback Connor Halliday will soon get his chance to prove he has what it takes to play at the NFL level. When Halliday first arrived at WSU, I don't think many would have been surprised to know he'd get a shot at the NFL in five years. The path he took to get there, though, was very unexpected.
From the moment he stepped on campus, it was obvious the 6-foot-4 Halliday had an NFL-caliber arm, and he took every opportunity he could to show it off. He put all of his tools on display during his redshirt freshman season, coming off the bench against Arizona State to throw for 494 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers were shocking at the time, but became fairly standard -- as crazy as that seems -- by his senior season.
The next four years were an up-and-down mix filled with unfortunate injuries, quarterback competitions, interceptions and the eventual molding of a damn fine quarterback.
Now, he will attempt to take the next step. This is what we know about his prospects at the next level.
What we like
Arm strength hubris: Halliday has an NFL arm. He can make every throw on the field. He also is very aware of this fact and at times trusts his arm too much. I'm not sure Halliday has ever seen a window too tight that he doesn't think he can fit a ball into. Early in his career, this was a major problem as he forced way too many throws which led to an abundance of interceptions. But late in his junior season a switch flipped and he started using his arm strength -- with solid accuracy and better decision making -- to simply dissect defenses. Defenses are going to make mistakes and the refined Halliday uses that NFL arm to make them pay, whether that's deep down the sideline or on a short crossing pattern. He plays with a confidence that is contagious and it all stems from unwavering belief in his arm.
Toughness: Halliday has never been a bulk quarterback and early in his career I'm not sure he packed even 180 pounds on that 6-4 frame. His slender build combined with an at times atrocious offensive line was not a very good mix. To put it in simple terms, Halliday took an absolute beating. Despite it all, however, he proved to be one of the toughest players, especially at quarterback, you'll see. He lacerated his liver in a game and still finished the rest of the game, using sideline breaks to "rest" on the shoulders of teammates.
It wasn't an uncommon sight to see Halliday complete a pass just seconds before getting rocked, then limp down the field calling out signals to teammates to keep the offense rolling. He was constantly bruised, battered and broken, but you had to drag him off the field. I'm sure if doctors would have allowed him to play in a cast for his broken leg, he would have.
What we're unsure of
Decision making and reading defenses: Early on decision making was an issue. Halliday was just as likely to throw an interception as he was to make a great throw in an impossible window. He curtailed those issues extensively during his senior season, but there are still some questions there. There is also the question of how he'll adapt to a pro-style offense and the responsibilities that go with it. Halliday mastered the Air Raid and knew how to exploit opposing defenses with the tasks he was assigned. Calling out protections and running a pro style offense will be at least an adjustment. There is no question he can adjust, but it did take time for him to finally get into the groove of the Air Raid and I'd expect a similar learning curve at the next level.
Is he accurate enough? Arm strength isn't a question, but accuracy may be a bit of one. There were times earlier in his career where Halliday was prone to some poor throws, especially on deep balls where he consistently overthrew receivers. He got much better as his career went along, but at the same time I wouldn't equate him as a pinpoint passer. The windows will get tighter at the next level and he'll need to continue to work on refining his accuracy.
A lot of Halliday's NFL prospects are built on his arm strength, but he's more than that. He's one of the most competitive quarterbacks to come through in recent years and has always been respected by teammates for his leadership. There is no question he wants to win when he's on the field and he carries himself with the confidence of a player who expects to win. That led to a dust up or two at WSU, but players also proved they wanted to play hard for him.
The strides he made even from halfway during his junior year to his senior year were tremendous. I don't care what offense you run, you don't throw for more than 430 yards per game without talent. He isn't purely a product of the system and has the talent to fit into other systems. He's not a plug-and-play starter, but he's certainly a player who could develop into a legitimate starting quarterback. At the very least he isn't going down without a fight and you're going to have to drag him off the field, something he showed time and time again.