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Given the success of recent non-first round dual-threat quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaerpernick and most recently Dak Prescott, teams are taking longer looks at athletic passers like Dobbs, who struggled with consistency early in his career but quietly ended his senior season on a roll, tossing 12 touchdowns against just one interception and leading the Vols to a win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl.
Dobbs sparked the Vols to a 4-1 finish after taking over for injured starter Justin Worley in an Oct. 25 loss to Alabama during the 2014 season and went on to secure the starting job for his final two seasons.
In his first full season as the starter in 2015, Dobbs threw for 2,291 yards and 15 touchdowns against just five interceptions, while adding 671 yards and 11 touchdowns on 146 carries. His production jumped significantly as a senior, when he completed 63% of his passes despite averaging a career-best 8.25 yards per attempt - approximately 20% higher than any other season. Dobbs was essentially a one-man wrecking crew for the Vols in 2016, setting career-highs with his arm (2,946 yards and 27 touchdowns) as well as his legs (831 yards and 12 touchdowns at a 5.5 yard per rush clip). His 3,781 yards of total offense (2,946 passing, 831 rushing, four receiving) in 2016, in fact, ranks second in Tennessee history only to Peyton Manning's 3,789 in 1997.
As he had throughout much of his career, Dobbs struggled with consistency early in 2016, tossing nearly as many touchdowns (15) as interceptions (11) through October. After bottoming out in a loss at South Carolina (completing a season-low 46.2% of his passes), however, Dobbs caught fire down the stretch, accounting for 19 touchdowns (seven rushing) over the final five games of the season and turning heads with his natural tools at the Senior Bowl.
Dobbs completed 61.5% of his passes for 7,138 yards and 53 touchdowns (against 29 interceptions) over his career, guiding the Vols to a 23-12 record, including a sterling 3-0 in bowl games.
There is no denying that Dobbs' production was inflated by Butch Jones' spread attack and that he is reliant upon his legs to keep defenses honest. He is certainly a project but one with the raw tools and intangibles to warrant late round consideration.
STRENGTHS: Dobbs shows impressive understanding of the offense and where his receivers are, often resorting to second and third targets rather than relying on pre-snap reads. Has a calming presence in the huddle along with mental toughness. When he is throwing on rhythm, the ball comes out of Dobbs' hand like a rifle shot with a tight spin that makes it easy for pass-catchers to track. He's especially accurate on in-breaking routes like crossers and posts but also shows the ability to place the ball low and away from defenders on deep-outs, a required throw in every NFL offense. He is a true dual-threat at quarterback, showing balance, agility and good speed to impact the game with his running ability. Dobbs accelerates smoothly and his long strides can be deceiving to would-be tacklers. Highly intelligent and charismatic, helping his cause in interviews with clubs at the Senior Bowl. Dobbs has shown a commitment to the weight room, adding more than 25 pounds to his lanky frame since joining the Vols.
WEAKNESSES: Simply too erratic with his accuracy. Displays inconsistent decision-making and erratic ball placement from within the pocket. Has a slight hitch in his delivery and doesn't consistently enough step into his throws, failing to re-set properly when he is moved from his spot, impacting his accuracy. Even with the additional mass, Dobbs still is relatively thin, especially in his legs, which will raise plenty of concerns about his ability to hold up in the NFL. Further, he often leaves the pocket earlier than necessary because he's such a gifted runner. Must improve ball security, too often holding the ball with just one hand and fumbling a couple of times on tape.
IN OUR VIEW: The lack of consistency will likely keep him from being anything more than a developmental option in the NFL, but Dobbs' intangibles and physical traits will appeal to some NFL teams.