Ian Book proved one thing at the college level: He’s a winner.
The quarterback won more games (30) than any other Notre Dame starting quarterback. He led the Fighting Irish to two College Football Playoff appearances in three years. He wasn’t the highest-recruited prospect out of high school, but it didn’t matter. He won the starting job as a redshirt sophomore and kept on winning.
Now, as he prepares for his NFL journey, he is once again being overshadowed by others. Book is likely a late-round pick in the 2021 draft. ESPN’s currently has him ranked as the No. 221 prospect in the draft – about a sixth-round pick.
The Bears are a team that could be looking for a quarterback late in the draft. They aren’t likely to draft one at No. 20 overall because the best QBs will be long gone by then, and they have multiple needs. The Shaw Local Bears Insider podcast is exploring some of the lesser-known quarterbacks in the 2021 draft. Previous episodes covered QBs Trey Lance, Kyle Trask and Jamie Newman.
Joining Bears reporter Sean Hammond this week to discuss Ian Book’s draft outlook is South Bend Tribune reporter Tyler James. James has covered Notre Dame for nine years and watched Book’s entire college career. His work is available at NDInsider.com and he is on Twitter @TJamesNDI.
A short snippet of the discussion with James is available here in Q&A form. The entire conversation can be heard on the Shaw Local Bears Insider podcast at shawlocal.com, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever podcasts are available.
The following has been edited for clarity and length.
What about Ian Book’s game might translate into the NFL?
James: “He’s a good athlete. Even during his Pro Day, the broadcast was talking about him being a deceptively good athlete. He ran a solid 40-time. He’s run and showed his legs against the top competition and is a good scrambler. He’s not the biggest guy, he’s only a little over 6-foot, a little over 200 pounds, so that may hurt him at times, in terms of seeing over the middle of the field and seeing over the offensive line, but I think he has worked through that. He doesn’t have the strongest arm by any means, but he can make a lot of the throws. I think sometimes it’s that hesitancy that maybe he doesn’t let it rip as much as he could at times.
“He will be tested at the NFL level. I don’t think he’s necessarily a starting quarterback early in his career. Maybe ends up being a career backup, but I think he’s a valuable guy, he’s a good leader. Guys like Ian Book.”
It’s not super common, but we have seen some successful 6-foot quarterbacks in the NFL before. In your reporting, have you ever asked him about his height?
James: “I feel like I’ve asked him about it. Now, Ian is not a guy that’s going to admit his weaknesses necessarily. He’ll talk about, ‘Yeah, I can be better at this,’ or ‘I want to keep improving at this,’ but he’s not going to say, ‘Yeah, it’s harder for me to see the middle of the field because I’m short.’ He’s not going to be up front with that, so I don’t know if that’s true or not. My guess would be it is something that inhibits him a little bit. I’m not sure how that impacts what you’re seeing down the field on deep ball passes. He certainly is agile enough where he can move around in the pocket and find those throwing lanes.”
Could he develop into a starter someday?
James: “I think it’s possible. I wouldn’t rule it out. Part of the frustration for Notre Dame fans was there seemed to be a few steps left there for him to reach as a quarterback and develop a little bit more. He never quite reached what maybe his peak would be. Maybe his peak is lower and people were expecting too much for him, but I still do think there’s more he can get about the game, processing information, making the right decisions down the field, that I think if he were able to master that he could have some success.
“I don’t know that it would be long-term success, but I think he could be a guy that comes in and starts and wins some games for a team, especially in a pinch if your starter goes down. I think plenty of teams could do a lot worse than throwing Ian Book in there.”