Garrett Shrader has, and has seemingly always had, a “yeah, but” included in every conversation about him since he became Syracuse’s starting quarterback. In 2021, it was he can run. Yeah, but he can’t throw. In 2022, it was he performed well against teams that were as good as or worse than Syracuse. Yeah, but what did he do against tougher competition?
Both of which were certainly fair. A 53% completion percentage, 6.2 yards per attempt and just nine passing touchdowns shouldn’t have inspired much confidence two years ago. Last season, games like UConn, where Shrader completed 20/23 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns, gave the impression that Syracuse had a real answer at quarterback for the first time in five years.
Then, there were games like Florida State in which he completed just six passes for 65 yards, albeit while dealing with an injury, but even NC State where he barely cracked 200 yards and threw two interceptions.
The analytics, however, love Shrader. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 86.1, which incorporates his skillset as a passer and a runner. That’s the 10th best out of all returning quarterbacks in the country, and third best in the ACC behind North Carolina’s Drake Maye, a projected top-2 pick in next year’s NFL Draft, and Florida State’s Jordan Travis.
So, is Garrett Shrader really going to be the third best quarterback in the conference next year? It’s not that simple. Clemson’s Cade Klubnik, a former top recruit, played well as a true freshman last year and will be even better this Fall. Duke’s Riley Leonard had a great year last year, better than Shrader when using traditional stats. Plus, Brennan Armstrong is reunited with Robert Anae at NC State, who he set all kinds of records with at Virginia.
The eye test on Shrader tells you he’s gotten much better since first taking over for Tommy DeVito. He’s much more accurate, especially in the middle of the field, throwing behind receivers in dangerous areas less than he used to. The touch on his deep ball was also much improved last year, and it should be reasonable to expect he takes another step forward this season.
Saying he’s the third best quarterback in the conference is a stretch, especially with the level of play that others can reach. However, don’t let that get you down. Instead, look at it this way: Syracuse’s quarterback situation is steady. There’s no drama going into the season, you know who’s going to start.
Shrader will, at least, provide conference average play and have some moments that can win games. There will be clunkers, probably against teams like Clemson, North Carolina and Florida State. However, Shrader will play well enough to beat the teams Syracuse is either supposed to beat or can reasonably beat. That doesn’t win you a conference title, but it does get you to a bowl game. Could it be better? Sure, but it could also be much, much worse.