Smarts, high upside make Joshua Dobbs tempting draft gamble

Joshua Dobbs can run a few formations out of the Dak Prescott draft playbook: athletic SEC quarterback with big-play ability and intangibles galore faces questions about from-the-pocket acumen.

Not that he’s looking to run them, though. This is the same player who scripted his own pro day, which “some said was the best pro day they had been to,” Dobbs noted.

Within the first minutes of a phone interview amid his preparations for the 2017 NFL draft, the former Tennessee quarterback made clear he isn’t looking for empty validation.

“I don’t need any extra encouragement from my standpoint,” Dobbs said when asked about the Prescott comparisons as potential back-to-back midround picks. “There were a lot of discouragements and criticisms about Dak a year ago, and he took advantage of his opportunities. That’s my plan, too.”

In a draft in which many coaches and scouts believe there’s not a true first-round quarterback available, Dobbs presents an intriguing upside/stash option. Evaluations of the 6-foot-3, 216-pound Dobbs are all over the board. CBS Sports projects him as a sixth-round pick. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. says late second or early third isn’t out of the question.

“Nobody is smarter than Josh Dobbs; nobody will work harder,” Kiper said.

Dobbs is the draft’s top candidate to become an extra for "Good Will Hunting 2." He studied astronautics, propulsion and aerodynamics at Tennessee, a path born of childhood hours fixated on plane mechanics at airport terminals. Dobbs runs the 40 and the 4.0.

The classroom prowess coupled with his captaincy at Tennessee -- helping the Vols win nine games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2006-07 -- explains why Dobbs projects well in team interviews and blueprinted a 59-throw pro day with coaches from Florida-based IMG Academy.

The knock on Dobbs seems to be accuracy or decision-making from the pocket. Kiper said Dobbs’ tape includes “some inconsistencies.” While one NFL offensive coach questions Dobbs’ accuracy at the next level, one longtime personnel evaluator calls him a promising backup quarterback option who can possibly mushroom into more than that.

Dobbs completed 61.5 percent of his passes in four seasons at Tennessee. His 63.0 completion percentage in 2016 was fourth among quarterbacks in this draft, behind North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.

“Either you can or you can’t; I’ve put on film that I can make [all the throws],” Dobbs said.

Arm strength isn’t an issue. That can help him in private workouts with the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers, teams with established starters and offenses that emphasize the intermediate-to-deep ball.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were among teams that hosted Dobbs for a pre-draft visit. Pittsburgh would be an ideal spot for a quarterback who, as Kiper says, could use “two-three years down the road” to learn and develop into a starter.

Whether he sits or plays right away, Dobbs enters an NFL locker room knowing his strengths: mental toughness and consistency.

“I’m the same guy every day,” Dobbs said. “That’s how I play, and that’s how I carry myself. I like to get to know everyone on the team and create a relationship with them, using that influence in a positive way.”

Dobbs is smart, but not in an obnoxious way. After all, he’s smart enough to know how to process the silliness of draft season.

“A lot of criticisms come from people who have never been in my shoes,” Dobbs said.