Ever wonder why almost all of the casual fan’s entire pool of knowledge regarding the upcoming NFL Draft each season is based on the ratings of two guys, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay? In the age of the internet where EVERY opinion, statement and comment are subject to question and snarky counter comment, these two talking head’s views are almost treated as gospel. It blows my mind that almost nobody considers that each NFL team has it’s own scouts… yet McShay or Kiper have never been hired by an NFL team to evaluate talent. Despite that, they have so much sway that they actually change the decisions of actual NFL front office personnel during Draft Month (by the time Roger Goodell is done, the Draft will last a full month, mark my words). This is scary when history shows that they, especially McShay, are often terribly wrong. Let me start with a little story about McShay and a now forgotten quarterback named Jevan Snead. Snead (who despite the way his name sounds is paler then your local massive headed irishman) was a highly rated high school prospect that went to Texas and was beat out for the starting quarterback job by Colt McCoy. Snead transferred to Ole Miss where he was solid, but unspectacular. This resulted in Ole Miss being everybody’s favorite underrated team to the point where they became overrated, as is always the pattern with Ole Miss. Due to him sitting out a year pursuant to NCAA rules for transfers, he had an extra year of eligibility remaining in 2010 the year that Clausen, Bradford, Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow and others were in the draft (by the way, what a disappointment they have all been). Snead would have been considered one of the best QBs in the country had he stayed at Ole Miss for the 2010 season and would have been a Heisman candidate. This did not happen of course.
For some unknown reason, Todd McShay decided to tote Snead as the best QB in that class and insisted that he would be drafted in the top 5 (OVERALL, not just among qb’s). It was the subject of many a debate between Mel and Todd on the ESPN talking head segments. Mel thought Snead was not better then Bradford, Clausen, or Colt (which would only make sense because Snead couldn’t beat out Colt at Texas). Because people just bow down to the talking heads of media, the needle began to move on Snead (this is not unlike the phenomenon described in the story posted by Dazzle on the Skins team name “controversy”). Here is where the story becomes tragic. Snead listened to McShay and left school early to declare for the draft hoping to cash in on that first round money. Remember, this was before the new CBA so first round QBs were making mega-bucks. Snead did not get picked in the first round. He didn’t get picked in the second either. In fact, HE WENT UNDRAFTED. All because McShay wanted to have an interesting debate with Kiper on TV. You can check out the backlash to McShay’s absurd prognostication here or here.
This is not the only story of McShay completely overvaluing a QB. In 2007, McShay’s deep sleeper was Andre Woodson out of Kentucky. McShay thought he was the best QB in the draft and would be a top 10 pick. Woodson went in the sixth round and was out of the league in two years. Bottom line? It’s really hard to predict NFL success based upon college performance. If it wasn’t, there would be no such thing as Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, or any other high profile draft bust. So many things go into being an NFL success, such as being on the right team in the right system and not getting hurt. For every guy that makes it, 10 don’t. My point is simply that we shouldn’t take Kiper or especially McShay’s evaluation as the final word. Instead, you should consider the Lion’s evaluation as the final word (for the record I think Mike Mayock is actually the best evaluator among the football press other than myself). Upon Skillz’s request to do so, lets look at the college ranks and see who I think might be the players best equipped to play on Sunday.
To give you an idea of what I am basing my evaluations on, I look at four categories;
- Important Statistics (I will explain later)
- Accomplishments, and of course,
- The Eye Exam
I think all four are important when making an evaluation. Lets start with offensive skill players because that is who people watch and that is who will be drafted on fantasy teams. (The EX-OL and D player in me must add: OFFENSIVE SKILL PLAYERS ARE LESS THAN A QUARTER OF PLAYERS DRAFTED)
Let me start off by saying that QB might be the hardest position to evaluate because it is dependent on so many variables. Also, it really is extremely hard to play the quarterback position well at the NFL Level. I came across an old interview the other day with Charlie Weis back when he was an OC in New England and he basically said that there aren’t 15 guys in the world at any given time that have the skill set to play QB “well” in the NFL. Think about it for a minute, you need to be able to “make all the throws,” have incredible footwork to elude some of the scariest athletes in the world flying at you to try to take your head off, all while keeping your eyes down field. You need to consume massive amounts of information on the fly and besides making decisions before the snap, you need to make split second decisions after the snap that can really only be reactions. You are essentially a fighter pilot. To quote Lt. Pete Mitchell, “You think, your dead.”
Besides that you have to be able to take a beating and clear you head immediately and get back to it. You also have to be one of the most likable guys on the team and you have to get the guys on the team not only to believe that you can win for them but also to want to put themselves in harms way for you. Sound hard? Well not only do you have to do all of those things, there is literally NO way to prepare for playing QB in an NFL game. The way teams practice these days, you don’t go full speed more then a few times in the preseason. QBs are also NEVER hit. This is why you get guys that look great in shorts and in practice sticking around in the league for years (see Josh Freeman, Matt Flynn, Derek Anderson, etc). To make it even harder, as I have discussed with TheJekfest’s QB expert Dazzle, even if you can play well in the NFL at the QB position, all it takes is an injury or a crappy offensive line to take away your confidence and maybe you start “thinking.” Or maybe you just hesitate for a moment. Or maybe you start looking at the line instead of down field for a second. You turn into Carson Palmer or Matt Schaub or David Carr or most famously, Cap Rooney in Any Given Sunday.
My point, it’s really hard to find a good NFL QB. You have to make a calculated bet as a GM, taking into account your current QB situation, the state of your offensive line, and the skills of the QBs in the draft compared to where they might be drafted before you roll the dice on one. So with all of that in mind, I will attempt to do the nearly impossible, decide which college QBs will play QB well in the NFL.
Overall, this year’s class is probably a little better than last, both at the top end and in depth. There are a lot of guys who will make NFL teams and play in the league, (probably as backups) for a long time. The top end has Teddy Bridgewater, who is probably better than Geno Smith or EJ Manuel, the only QBs drafted early last year. The biggest problem is due to the influx of young talented QBs in the NFL right now, there aren’t that many teams looking. Let’s look at some of the so called top prospects.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville. He is everybody’s consensus #1. I don’t disagree. First off, Teddy has the perfect measurables. He is 6’3 about 210. Good arm and fairly mobile but not explosively so. He is about as fast as Geno Smith. He kind of took the college football world by storm last year, winning the Big Least and then beating up on Florida in the Sugar Bowl. This year he came in with a lot of hype and has not really disappointed against admittedly inferior competition. If you look at that ESPN QBR rating he is third behind that dude who puts up video game numbers in Baylor’s offense Petty and that dude Winston from FSU. The stats I look at are that he completes 72% of his passes in a pretty pro-ish offensive system, and has only thrown 2 picks in 214 attempts.
From a pure human eye standpoint, he has hung tough to deliver passes in the face of pass rush, showed mobility on rollouts, demonstrated good arm strength and been scarily accurate. I like that Bridgewater has played well on third downs, too. He has shown great poise in the pocket on a number of throws and is patient enough to let his receivers work themselves open. My one big read flag on him is that I have never seen him win a shoot out. He has lost every close game I have seen him play. Its not necessarily his fault when UL losses, but I want to see him take the team on his back and win a game he maybe shouldn’t before I claim him to be an elite QB. I think he will be the first QB taken, and that it will be in the first round. As far as how I think he will do? On the right team with pieces around him I can see him being pretty good, but he is no Andrew Luck or even a Cam Newton. Strangely, the QB he reminds me the most of is a pre-battered to a pulp Sam Bradford (Yes I do cross racial comparisons). Best case, I see him having the success that Russell Wilson has had so far, even for a worse team because I think Bridgewater has a higher ceiling. Worst case, (which is always more likely) Josh Freeman.
The Scrambler/Run Threats:
These guys all are getting a lot of attention but I am not sure how their game translates to the NFL.
Marcus Marriota Oregon: This guy is probably the Heisman favorite right now. He has surprisingly good measurables. He is listed as 6’4 (I don’t believe that though) and 215. He is pretty fast and probably runs better than he throws. I expect him to run a low 4.6 high 4.5 40 yard dash. This year, he has destroyed teams regularly and has not been tested. Statistically I see a big red flag. He is only completing about 60 percent of his passes in an offense which does not require him to throw the ball down field much. He has not thrown an interception which is nice. Not even sure he will come out as he is a redshirt sophomore, but he needs to show passing ability before he sells me on the NFL. If he does come out, I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes to Chip Kelly’s Eagles and continues to run that Oregon offense. Best case Marriotta shows he is a Kaepernick type player, worst case, Tim Tebow.
Johnny Football: You know him as the biggest douche in all of sports. You love him as the guy who slays 10’s for sport. The biggest negative on him is probably his measurables, or lack thereof. He barely stands taller than the Dazzle at 5’11” although I doubt he’s even that tall. He is also probably 2 bills soaking wet. He is both pretty fast and elusive, wouldn’t be surprised if he ran a sub 4.5 40. His running is what gets a lot of attention but he is surprisingly accurate. He is completing 73% of his passes and he throws the ball downfield often in his offense. He does have a NFL receiver to throw to (more on him later). He does have 7 picks in basically the same amount of attempts as Bridgewater. He can get a little careless but that is the price you pay when you are given the keys to improvise. The thing that impresses me the most about him is his ability to keep his eyes downfield and scramble at the same time. He is a pass first scrambler like a young John Elway or Steve Young. He is nowhere near as big and strong as Elway, nor does he have that kind of arm strength. He also has a questionable work ethic and character. Ultimately his size hurts him the most. Even though his ceiling with the right coach is maybe a Drew Brees, I see him much more as a Doug Flutie. I also could see him as a Colt McCoy getting concussed right out of the league. He is also only a redshirt sophomore but if he comes out he will get drafted in the first 2 rounds.
Braxton Miller OSU: Please. He is Troy Smith. Exactly the same as Troy Smith. If you have to think for a second about who Troy Smith is, that’s really all you need to know.
The Flawed Headliners:
These guys are at the helm of big programs but have clear flaws.
Tajh Boyd Clemson: He just kissed his Heisman Trophy potential goodbye after a beating by FSU last week. The thing about Boyd that jumps out at me is that nothing about him jumps out at me. His measurables are just ok. He is 6-1 225, and not particularly fast or elusive. Arm strength is above average but not spectacular. He sort of does everything well but doesn’t wow me. He completes just over 60% of his passes (to be clear, I am looking for over 65% in a non-gimmick offense to be impressed). He benefits from having amazing WRs. The biggest red flag to me is his yards per attempt. The above mentioned guys all are over 10 yards per attempt. Boyd is a measly 8. I don’t know what to say he just doesn’t get me excited. I see him as Aaron Brooks or David Garrard at the very best, likely a solid career backup for 10 years in the league which is actually really good relative to most.
Zach Mettenberger LSU: This guy struggled for years and seems to finally have it together. He is big and strong at 6-5, 235. Big arm. He is completing passes at a higher rate then Boyd and is also over 10 yards per attempt. He also has some stud WRs and a great running game. Here is my big red flag with him, is he just a late bloomer who has developed under the tutelage of Cam Cameron as his new OC? Or is he the next Jevan Snead (Mettenberger transferred from UGA because he couldn’t beat out this next guy)? I need to see more out of him before I would take an early draft pick on him. He could go anywhere, but I see him as a Ryan Mallet or Mike Glennon. A big armed guy getting drafted in later rounds who just might catch on.
Aaron Murray UGA: I am a personal fan of this guy because he has carried his team on his back while his teammates have dropped with injuries one by one. He is 6’1, 210. While not a runner by any means, he is quick in the pocket. I think he throws a very catchable ball. His stats are eerily similar to Boyd although against a much better schedule. Going into last weeks debacle with Vanderbilt, he was completing 68% of his passes, but now he is down to 63%. I personally would rather have him than Boyd because of the intangibles, but I see him as another guy who will hang around the league for a long time although maybe not in a starting roll.
AJ McCarron Alabama: All this guy does is win. At 6-3 220, he is a more prototypical NFL pocket passer. He is another guy who does everything well but nothing that blows you away. I like that he completes 70% of his passes and I think ultimately although he may get drafted in the later then some of the guys above him, he may be best prepared to manage an NFL offense and maybe even catch on as a starter. What’s the difference between him and Andy Dalton? If McCarron got in Dalton’s situation I would expect similar results, although that is probably his ceiling. Most likely he will be another backup who has a nice long career as he is really just a better Greg McElroy, his predecessor at Bama who has bounced around as a backup.
The West Coast guys you don’t know about who the NFL probably likes:
Derrick Carr Fresno: David’s little brother. This is very unique because while I joked that Braxton Miller is Troy Smith above, Derrick Carr really is exactly like his underwhelming brother David. He is having the same college career as his big brother so far. Plays for the same team, has basically the same stats. He is 6’3 210 and built like his brother, (a little smaller). He looks exactly the same on the field. His bro was the number 1 pick overall to an awful Houston expansion team where he got beat up so bad he never had a chance. I do think that had David been put on a team that could keep him upright he may have been at least serviceable. I wouldn’t be surprised if a team thinks along those lines and takes a chance on Derrick. He is a guy I am interested to see in the combine. I see him with the potential to be a top 5 qb in this draft.