Ryan Finley, QB, 6-3, 210, 4.84 (40 yards), redshirt senior
Expectations for 2018:
Jared Goff. Jalen Ramsey. Joey Bosa. Those three players, among many others, were part of the 2013 recruiting class and are entering the third year of their NFL careers. Ryan Finley was also a member of that recruiting class (No. 31 pro-style quarterback in the 247Sports Composite), but instead of studying a NFL playbook this summer, he is preparing for his sixth season of college eligibility and North Carolina State's season opener vs. James Madison.
Finley, who turns 24 in December, will leave college with three degrees, including two master's degrees from N.C. State.
Finley showed steady improvement from 2016 to 2017, taking care of the football and distributing passes in N.C. State's quick-strike offense. Over the first seven games of last season, he accounted for 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions, amassing a streak of 339 passes without an interception (longest streak in the ACC since Russell Wilson).
But over the final six games against the meat of the Wolfpack's schedule (like Clemson and Notre Dame), Finley's touchdown-to-interception ratio dipped to 6-to-6 with N.C. State playing .500 football over the back half of the regular season.
Finley, widely considered a top-three senior prospect at his position entering this season, is competing with Missouri's Drew Lock, Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald, West Virginia's Will Grier and others to be the first senior quarterback drafted next spring.
NFL scouts know Finley can be a facilitator, but can he put the offense on his back independent of play-calling and be more of a playmaker down the field? Can he overcome mistakes to lead his team over top competition on the schedule?
Clemson is the toughest opponent on the schedule, but N.C. State vs. West Virginia on Sept. 15 in Raleigh will be earmarked by scouts early in the season to check out Finley and Grier.
What the 2017 tape says:
Finley's familiarity with the offense was a guiding reason for his transfer to N.C. State, and that comfort level in the Wolfpack's quick-strike attack is clear on tape. He makes quick decisions with his eyes and shows the ability to make anticipatory throws, delivering catchable balls before the receiver is open. When he attacks downfield, Finley shows terrific touch to drop the ball in with a parachute.
Finley isn't much of a gambler downfield, which is a positive and negative for his scouting report.
On one hand, his downfield attempts are mostly calculated, low-risk throws, which cuts down on the mistakes and turnovers. However, his trigger isn't as quick on vertical patterns as opposed to horizontal reads. Where Finley finds trouble is when he predetermines throws and leads defenders to the intended target with his eyes.
While he stays calm in the pocket with his eyes downfield, Finley would benefit from added urgency in the backfield, helping mask his lack of ideal escapability. He can deliver on the move, but he isn't as effective when required to shuffle his feet and rely on his upper body to fire the football into tight windows.
Overall, Finley has a workable frame, good-enough arm and the quick-thinking approach that will serve him well in the NFL. He is an older prospect who returned as a senior to iron out the issues that were evident on his 2017 tape. There is plenty to like with Finley; improved consistency in 2018 will only bolster an already-solid pro scouting report.
A three-star recruit out of Paradise Valley High School in the Phoenix area, Finley was a finalist for the 2012 high school player of the year award in the state of Arizona as a senior. He finished his final prep season with 3,442 passing yards and 35 touchdowns, adding second-team all-state honors as a combo guard in basketball, helping lead the team to the 2012-13 state title.
Finley signed with Chris Petersen and Boise State, where he redshirted in 2013. After spending the 2014 season as the backup, he earned the first-string job out of fall camp in 2015 and started the first three games before an ankle injury ended his season. Brett Rypien stepped in and played well, earning first-team All-Mountain West honors and making a strong case for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart moving forward.
Following spring practice in 2016, Finley elected to transfer, picking N.C. State over North Texas, largely because of Wolfpack offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz, who was the Broncos' play-caller during the 2015 season. With his undergraduate degree in hand, Finley was immediately eligible and was also granted a sixth-year of eligibility after missing most of the 2015 season.
With Jacoby Brissett off to the NFL, N.C. State's starting quarterback competition was wide open during 2016 fall practice, with Finely eventually fending off Jalan McClendon for the job. He started all 13 games that season and posted 60.4 percent completions, 3,055 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Finley's touchdowns (16) declined as a junior last season, but he improved his completion percentage (64.0) and passing yards (3,200), leading the Wolfpack to a 9-4 record and their first Top 25 ranking since 2010.