Nine months ago, when Tom Savage had yet to earn coach Paul Chryst’s public blessing as Pitt’s starting quarterback, few people would have imagined this:
Savage has received the NFL’s invitation to attend the first day of the draft May 8 in Radio City Music Hall in New York, according to his agent Neil Schwartz.
But through hard work the past two years, diligence in his pre-draft workouts and an arm that is considered by many experts as the strongest available, Savage has a chance to sit among the nation’s elite draft prospects.
He hasn’t decided to accept the offer, but the fact that he has been offered an invitation is validation that he won’t need to wait all weekend to hear his name. NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, who knows more about draft prospects than anyone after a 30-year career as the Dallas Cowboys’ director of player personnel, rates Savage the 40th overall prospect. That puts Savage in the upper quarter of the second round. ESPN’s Todd McShay recently suggested that the Houston Texans would take Savage with the first pick in the second round.
Here is what Brandt wrote on NFL.com:
“Savage (6-foot-3 7/8, 228 pounds) is a good leader and throws a lot like Troy Aikman. He has a very strong arm and will put it where the receiver can catch it. If he played four years at one school he might be drafted in the top half of the first round.”
The Aikman reference is nothing new. Brandt first made the comparison in October not long after Savage threw for 424 yards (the most at Pitt in 20 years) and six touchdowns (tying an ACC record) at Duke, the eventual ACC Coastal Division champion.
And it wasn’t just Savage showing of his strong arm by throwing to speedster receivers Tyler Boyd and Devin Street, who combined for 14 receptions, 320 yards and five touchdowns that day. I recently watched a replay of the big third-down toss to Kevin Weatherspoon, lofted precisely over the receiver’s shoulder, coming down in his hands just before he went out of bounds. That was a game-saver because Duke was in the midst of a 20-point fourth quarter.
Savage consistently dodged the spotlight last season (he learned from Chryst, after all), and may not accept the Radio City invitation. There have been several examples of players invited to New York sitting there for hours, undrafted, under the hot lights of the TV cameras.
Despite what Brandt and McShay think, the draft is tough to predict and consists of many surprising variables that emerge as the proceedings unfold. I would not be shocked to see Savage go in the second round — or the fourth. But I’ll bet anything he goes before Tom Brady did in 2000 (No. 199).
Whatever he decides — and I can see both sides of the argument — Savage is well on his way to the NFL. It’s one of the best stories to come out of Pitt football in many years.