After watching nine quarterbacks go off the draft board ahead of him, Tanner Lee is eager to show he’s got more than just the physical tools to play in the NFL.
Fortunately for him, the Jaguars are willing to give him a shot to show it after selecting him in the sixth-round during last week’s NFL Draft.
Lee, 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, combined to throw for 6,744 yards and 46 touchdowns at Tulane and Nebraska, but his draft stock took a hit because of accuracy issues.
He threw 16 interceptions for the Cornhuskers in 2017 and achieved only a 55-percent completion rate in three seasons, which included his first two years as a starter at Tulane before transferring in 2016 to Nebraska.
Regardless, the Jaguars are open to keeping three quarterbacks on the roster with Lee competing with Cody Kessler for the backup spot behind Blake Bortles.
″He’s an accurate passer when he has time like most of them,″ Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. ″He was under a lot of duress this year at Nebraska. We feel like he can come in and he’s got a high ceiling because of his arm strength, accuracy and the quick release.”
Lee will be reunited with his former offensive coordinator at Tulane, Eric Price, who is an offensive assistant coach with the Jaguars.
″He was huge for me when I was at Tulane,″ Lee said. ″It is going to be a blessing to be reunited with him because of our prior relationship. I am really looking forward to getting out there. My game is fit for the NFL more than anything. My ability to process information and to understand the game of football and, learning two separate NFL offenses, there are things that will translate well into the NFL.″
The Jaguars apparently took more interest in Lee, the 203rd overall pick, after his Senior Bowl performance and they also interviewed him during the NFL Draft Combine in March.
Coach Doug Marrone said they liked what they saw on film with Lee, particularly his quick release and ability to make all the throws.
″I felt good about the meetings that I had with them,″ Lee said. ″I had a good feeling that they had a need for a quarterback and that I was a good fit there, so it was a perfect opportunity.”
Five quarterbacks were selected in the first round, including Baker Mayfield, whom the Cleveland Browns selected as the No. 1 overall pick. The Jets selected former USC quarterback Sam Darnold as the No. 3 overall pick.
After the Baltimore Ravens selected Lamar Jackson with final pick in the first round, it wasn’t until the third round before the next quarterback was selected when Oklahoma State’s Mason Randolph went to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The New York Giants selected Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta went in the fourth round and Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White was a fifth-round selection by the Dallas Cowboys. Washington State quarterback Luke Falk went four picks ahead of Lee in the sixth round.
″We had some quarterbacks we were interested in,″ said Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars executive vice president of football operations. ″There were obviously some runs on quarterbacks (and) we were a little bit worried that the run after Falk would take place, but we were fortunate. We were very interested in being able to draft him (Lee) and develop him here in Jacksonville.″
Three things to know about Lee
1. He is a Destrehan, La., native, a suburb of New Orleans, but was forced to transfer from Tulane after the school hired former Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz. “The new athletic director came in with a new coaching staff and they were running the triple option,″ Lee said. ″They said if you have some other options out there then you might want to take advantage of those. I was forced to make a change.″
2. Lee’s father, Phillip, played football and baseball at Troy State, while his grandfather, Jimmy Lee, played football at Alabama.
3. Lee was the only Nebraska player to be selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s also the first Nebraska quarterback to be selected since 2002 when Eric Crouch was selected in third round by St. Louis as a receiver. Until Lee, the last Nebraska player to be drafted in the NFL as a quarterback was Keithen McCant in 1992 by Cleveland in the 12th round.