Niners' Newest Quarterback Took Roundabout Route to Draft

Sixth-round pick Jeff Driskel went from top college prospect at Florida to injury and finally stardom at Louisiana Tech in 2015

Chances are, Jeff Driskel is no Tom Brady. He’s probably not Matt Hasselbeck, either.

But Driskel, the 49ers’ sixth-round choice in the recently completed 2016 NFL draft, is beginning his pro career just like Brady and Hasselbeck. Each of the Super Bowl quarterbacks – one a future Hall of Famer – was picked in the sixth round on the final day of the draft, Hasselbeck in 1998 and Brady in 2000.

Driskel comes to the 49ers via a roundabout route, starting at the University of Florida where he was supposed to be the second coming of Tim Tebow, and then Louisiana Tech, where he finished out his college career.

He has all the physical tools to be an NFL quarterback, but will begin his pro career deep on the 49ers depth chart, behind Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, Dylan Thompson and Thad Lewis.

After selecting Driskel Saturday, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said he had been impressed by Driskel’s skill set.

“He’s a heck of an athlete,” said Baalke, who’s only drafted two other quarterbacks with the 49ers: Kaepernick and B.J. Daniels. “You look at the numbers, he’s a young man who’s over 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds. He comes from two high-caliber programs. There’s a lot to work with there.”

Driskel started at Florida as a sophomore, but then had a rough patch that included a broken leg and a medical redshirt year. He eventually transferred to Louisiana Tech for his final collegiate season, throwing for more than 4,000 yards with 28 touchdown passes vs. just seven interceptions.

Based on his speed and his ability to move in the pocket, Driskel could be a good fit for new head coach Chip Kelly’s spread offense.

“Driskel has the size, arm strength and athleticism that made him a top-rated quarterback coming out of high school, but he hasn’t experienced enough growth at the position due to his rocky path to the draft,” wrote Lance Zierlein for in Driskel’s scouting report leading up to draft day. “… He’s not where he needs to be yet. With his upside and traits, Driskel is worthy of a Day 3 selection and could yield dividends with patience and coaching.”

Driskel reportedly had a great day of throwing – even in windy conditions – at his pro day for NFL scouts.  Driskel told the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows that he ran a no-huddle, fast-paced offense at Louisiana Tech, where he ran for 323 yards and five TDs.

“Obviously I don’t know the ins and outs of coach Kelly’s offense,” Driskel told Barrows. “Looking forward to doing so. But I just think my pure athletic ability, my ability to throw on the run and the ability to get the ball out quck is something that will help me in that offense.”

Said Kelly, after the 49ers drafted Driskel: “Love his athletic ability. … He’s got a unique package that you can kind of work with. So that’s exciting to me.”

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