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NFL Draft watch: Luke Falk aiming to break Air Raid stereotype at next level

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 21, 2018, 8:28 p.m.

After his career at Washington State, Luke Falk owned several Pac-12 Conference passing records. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
After his career at Washington State, Luke Falk owned several Pac-12 Conference passing records. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Luke Falk may have been one of few New England Patriots fans who found a silver lining in the Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s well-known by now the record-setting Washington State quarterback is a devout fan of the Patriots and avid admirer their Hall of Fame passer. Falk’s admitted to emulating his idol on the football field – imitating Tom Brady’s training methods and workout regimens – and off of it, all the way down to the QB’s dietary plan.

So if it weren’t Brady capturing the Super Bowl, perhaps from Falk’s perspective, Philadelphia’s Nick Foles was the next-best option. Foles may not be the same idol Brady is to Falk, but his success in the NFL should be monumental to the WSU signal-caller and other members of the Air Raid quarterback fraternity.

And the timing of Foles’ Super Bowl-capped playoff run – he becomes the first Air Raid QB to win the Lombardi Trophy – couldn’t be much better for Falk, who’ll try to continue Foles’ work of breaking the stereotype attached to Air Raid signal-callers at the next level when he gets his shot in the NFL.

“I do believe that Luke Falk has the intangibles to be successful in the NFL as far as leadership, intelligence,” said Rob Rang, a Senior Analyst at NFLDraftScout.com. “And I believe that he is accurate enough to be a starting NFL quarterback.”

By and large, Air Raid quarterbacks have sputtered more than they’ve soared in the NFL. If Falk can stick, he’d become the first of Mike Leach’s passers to truly thrive on the game’s biggest stage.

Rang and a growing network of analysts think Falk has all the tools to do so.

“I’m encouraged by him after watching him his entire career,” Rang said. “I’ve watched him win some big ball games and make some beautiful throws.”

The 2018 NFL Draft runs April 26-28, with round No. 1 taking place Thursday, rounds No. 2 and 3 Friday and 4-7 on Saturday. But Falk may not have to wait until the weekend to secure his next job.

On an ESPN conference call, analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who’d previously pegged Falk as a third- to fifth-round selection, said the quarterback elevated himself to the second or third round after an impressive week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

Falk elected not to play in the game because it overlapped with the California funeral of teammate Tyler Hilinski. But he drew positive marks during practices and training sessions throwing adjacent to some of the game’s biggest stars, such as Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen.

The week, Rang believed, was an essential one for Falk, who still needs to demonstrate the ability to make the throws Leach’s offense rarely asked him to make.

“I’ve always had some reservations about his pure arm strength, and by arm strength I don’t necessarily mean his ability to throw the deep ball,” Rang said before Senior Bowl week. “He’s got beautiful touch and accuracy on the deep ball. I mean on those deep outs where he’s got to drive the ball 15, 18 yards and never is, say, helmet level. That’s where I’ve seen some throws that he sailed.”

Behind Mayfield, Allen, the two Pac-12 gunslingers from Los Angeles and a few others, Falk ranks as the eighth-best available quarterback on Rang’s position board, which would make him a fourth-round selection.

But if Falk’s chosen before Saturday, there’s a small chance he could wind up on the same roster as his idol Brady. Quarterback is a position need for the Patriots since former backup Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to San Francisco. With four picks in the first three rounds, many expect coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots to snag a signal-caller – someone to back up Brady in the short term and become his heir apparent in the long term.

An article published in Saturday’s Boston Globe, titled, “Washington State QB Luke Falk may be Patriots’ best fallback plan,” delves into the “intriguing” possibility of Falk-to-New England, even drawing comparisons between WSU’s all-time wins leader and his role model.

Admittedly, any comparisons to the five-time NFL champion have be made cautiously, but Rang also sees parallels between the two.

“I think the ability to look off defenders and make the quick throws, I think that is certainly something that reminds you of Brady and their offense,” Rang said. “We use this term “pro-style offense” but New England of course, Tom Brady takes as many snaps out of shotgun as anybody in the league.”

Another reason they’re similar: Falk and Brady have never been called fleet of foot.

“In terms of athletic ability, yeah, Falk and Brady are kind of similar,” Rang said, “and they’re traditional pocket passers who aren’t going to really be able to make many people miss in the open field. But they’re savvy enough to buy time in the pocket and take the yards if defenses are going to give it to him.”

Falk, the Pac-12’s career leader in passing yards passing yards (14,496), total offense (14,086), passing touchdowns (119), pass completions (357), pass attempts (534) and total plays (2,306), will have a few more showcases in front of NFL scouts before the April draft.

He’ll work out at Utah State’s Pro Day on March 28 – the USU campus is minutes from Falk’s home in Logan – and also the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place Tuesday through March 5 in Indianapolis.

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