Scouting Report: Sean Renfree


Sean Renfree

Here is my breakdown of the Falcons final pick in Duke quarterback Sean Renfree:

Height: 6-3 1/8
Weight: 219
School: Duke
Class: Senior
Speed: 4.76 (estimate)

Was recruited by Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, but ultimately chose Duke when Andrew Luck landed there. Became the starter as a redshirt sophomore. Showed improvement with his production every year, culminating in career highs in completions, completion percentage, and touchdowns as a senior. Posted his best record as a starter that year, leading Duke to a 6-6 record and their first bowl appearance since 1994. Nearly led the Blue Devils to a win over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, but a last minute touchdown pass lifted the Bearcats over them. Wound up injuring himself on the last play of the game, getting hit and tearing his pectoral muscle. That torn pec led to him not throwing in the off-season and not working out at either the Combine or his pro day. Is expected to begin throwing at some point in May before training camp begins. Renfree was coached by David Cutcliffe, a noted QB guru, at Duke. Pretty much every starting QB that has played under Cutcliffe since 1991 has played in the NFL: Heath Shuler (1991-93), Peyton Manning (1994-97), Tee Martin (1998), Romaro Miller (1999-00), Eli Manning (2000-03), Brady Quinn (2005), Erik Ainge (2006-07), Thad Lewis (2008-09), to Renfree. He was a three-time Academic All-ACC selection as well as served as Duke’s team captain his final two years.


2012: 12 GP/12 GS, 297 comp., 441 att. (67.3%), 3113 yds, 19 TDs, 10 INTs; 1 rush TD
2011: 12/12-282-434-65.0-2891-14-11-4
2010: 12/11-285-464-61.4-3131-14-17-4
2009: 5/0-34-50-68.0-330-4-2-0
2008: redshirted

– Missed 1 game in 2012 with an elbow injury
– tore ACL in 2009, missing final 2 games of season


  • at Wake Forest (9/29): Short (<10 yds): 19 of 23 (82.6%), 99 yds (4.3 YPA), 129 YAC, 0 TD, 1 INT, 0 poor throws, 0 drops, 1 throwaway; Deep (10+ yds): 3 of 5 (60%), 105 yds (21.0 YPA), 26 YAC, 0 TD, 0 INT, 1 poor throw, 1 drop
  • at Virginia Tech (10/13): Short: 14 of 18 (77.8%), 98 yds (5.4 YPA), 62 YAC, 0 TD, 0 INT, 2 drops, 2 throwaways; Deep: 6 of 15 (40%), 137 yds (9.1 YPA), 37 YAC, 1 TD, 1 INT, 4 poor throws, 2 drops
  • vs. Miami (11/24): Short: 28 of 41 (68.3%), 175 yds (4.3 YPA), 117 YAC, 1 TD, 0 INT, 4 poor throws, 3 drops, 2 throwaways; Deep: 8 of 18 (44.4%), 261 yds (14.5 YPA), 105 YAC, 3 TDs, 0 INT, 4 poor throws, 3 drops
  • vs. Cincinnati (12/27): Short: 29 of 31 (93.5%), 215 yds (6.9 YPA), 183 YAC, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 1 throwaway; Deep: 7 of 17 (41.2%), 138 yds (8.1 YPA), 20 YAC, 1 TD, 1 INT, 6 poor throws, 2 drops, 1 throwaway

These are general skills required for his position and relative to not only top collegiate prospects, but also NFL players. Grades are based on a 10-point rating scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite

Arm Strength (6.5) – Capable of making all of the throws. Shows some decent touch on some of his vertical throws, particularly deep posts or seam throws. Has a nice quick release that can get velocity on the ball coming out on his intermediate throws. Shows potential to drive the ball if he can step into his throws, but rarely does on the vertical routes. Has a tendency to put a lot of air on his deeper throws, floating some throws which can allow defenders to make plays on it. Underthrows his receivers quite a bit on intermediate/deep routes, but then will also overthrow them at times, particularly when he’s asked to throw towards the sideline on wheel routes.

Accuracy (6.0) – Has decent accuracy. Shows some anticipation and good accuracy on some throws, throwing before his receivers come out of his breaks. Will lead guys over the middle at times. At times will throw away from the defender, able to put the ball where only his guy can get it. But doesn’t do that consistently. Too often will throw behind his receivers and make his guys work extra hard on what should be short, easy throws. Can be late on some reads and throws. His accuracy is erratic when he’s asked to throw intermediate/deep passes.

Mobility (4.5) – Has nice athleticism for his size. Comfortable on the rollouts and bootlegs as he can throw on the move. Occasionally will tuck it on the zone read and make a defender miss on the edge. Willing to tuck the ball and run to pick up yardage when the play isn’t there. Has some ability to climb in the pocket and slide to avoid pressure, but not a guy that really is going to avoid pressure in the pocket consistently at the next level.

Decision Making (7.0) – Generally makes good decisions with the football, although on occasion will make a poor read and throw into double coverage. Understands how to manage the game. Doesn’t show great field vision however as most of his throws and off one read. Isn’t asked to read entire field as the majority of his throws are quick throws such as WR screens, throws into the flat, designed to get the ball out of his hands quickly and towards the perimeter due to a porous offensive line. Is rarely asked to go to his second progression besides a checkdown, and when he does his effectiveness dips. But he’s certainly a smart guy that his bad decisions are rare and may only happen once or twice a game.

Mechanics (5.0) – Has a nice, sound release and throwing motion. But needs to improve his footwork. Much of his struggles there might stem from playing so much out of the shotgun and can often be a catch and release guy with his quick throws and reads. Does take some snaps from center and shows good footwork when he does. But doesn’t consistently play balanced and some of his issues with accuracy might stem from that. Will throw off his back foot at times, and doesn’t do a good job stepping into his throws downfield. Putting him into a dropback offense and refining his footwork should improve his ability to throw downfield as well as his accuracy.

Pocket Awareness (4.0) – Shows some ability to slide and move to avoid pressure in the pocket. But has a tendency to get happy feet when his initial read isn’t there and will try to escape the pocket too often when asked to go to his second progression. Takes more sacks than he needs to because of that lack of ideal pocket mobility and his eye level dips in the face of pressure. Doesn’t keep his eyes downfield consistently, especially when he’s dealing with interior pressure.

Intangibles (6.0) – Should get a lot of credit for helping Duke to their first bowl game in 18 years during his senior year. Showed some ability to come back in games where they were down, and didn’t show a tendency to press in those situations. Noted for his character and toughness, as his former college coach compared his competitiveness and work ethic to the Manning brothers.


Renfree has the tools to compete at the NFL level with good size, arm, and decent athleticism. He is more of a game manager than a guy that possesses the physical tools to be a playmaker at the position. He is smart and can be a solid developmental backup. He needs time to polish some of the kinks of his game, but has enough upside to be a competent No. 2 quarterback. That merits a late round look, but his lack of long-term upside as a starter probably means he’s best coming off the board in the sixth or seventh round.

Grade: 2.8 – These players may have enough in one area to think he might be able to contribute as a reserve, but more than likely their ability to stick will largely depend on their ability to play on special teams. They can be developed as depth, but have almost no upside to be a starter. Click here to read more on my grading system.


Renfree has some potential. His accuracy and arm strength should be able to be improved at the next level, particularly if his footwork is refined. Playing in a shotgun heavy offense that utilized a lot of zone read, I think didn’t help him develop that. He shouldn’t have a major issue transitioning to a more traditional dropback offense like the Falcons run.

He has the ability and potential to develop into a long-term backup for Matt Ryan. There’s a lot of his game that reminds me of Ryan but his arm might be slightly stronger. The biggest negative on Renfree is his ability to stand up to pressure. That’s something he struggled with, particularly interior pressure. Ryan has the same issue, and like him, Renfree is going to have rely on his brain to get him out of those situations rather than his athleticism like Dominique Davis. Thus, Ryan is a good mentor for Renfree to have because potentially you’re trying to mold him into a similar player. Renfree isn’t lacking in intelligence, so it shouldn’t be a major issue grasping the Falcons offense. If he has time to learn the offense, it will help in his development.

One of my major concerns about Renfree is durability. In all four games I watched from him this year, he left at one point with an injury. Some of them were minor which forced him to miss a play or two here, or perhaps a series there. And the fact that he was unable to work out all off-season due to the pectoral injury doesn’t exactly make me any more confident about his durability going forward. That’s going to be a key issue if he’s going to be developed into a reliable reserve, since the whole point of a backup quarterback is someone that can come in when your starter is injured. If the backup is also frequently injured, then he’s not going to be a reliable No. 2 player.

If Renfree develops, he can be an effective stopgap starter that can do similar things to Ryan. As long as he receivers that can win on the outside (which he currently has in Atlanta) and can be protected, he should be able to win games in the event that he is starter. But he ideally needs at least two years of development to polish up his footwork and learn the offense before you can expect that sort of production.

He should be able to come in and push Davis for the backup job, but I would not expect him to win it right away, not unless Davis performed poorly. The more interesting battle should happen in 2014 after Renfree has a year to recover from his injury, add some muscle in the weight room, and learn the offense. They represent two different types of players and it would be interesting to see which eventually wins out as the long-term backup to Ryan. If Cutcliffe isn’t blowing smoke about Renfree’s work ethic and competitiveness, he probably represents the more traditional No. 2 that you see around the league. Due to his intelligence, he should be ideally suited to being the backup since so much of that during the season is taking mental reps. But again, before that becomes a possibility I’d like him to get a year or two to really polish some of the physical kinks out of his game, particularly his footwork.

About the Author

Aaron Freeman
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