Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scouting the 2014 NFL Draft: AJ McCarron

AJ McCarron is the white sportswriter's dream. A quarterback (because other positions don't matter). A white quarterback (because white people don't have athleticism, so they must survive on grit and determination). A white quarterback who is a winner (you gotta be a winner). A white quarterback who is a winner with an attractive girlfriend (the girlfriend helps them fill out their word count). He's everything they could hope for, and they don't need to watch a single snap to know that he is what is right with quarterbacks. None of this is his fault, unless you want to blame him for having an attractive girlfriend, which I am not about to do. To win multiple national championships, you have to have an incredibly gifted quarterback, ideally one of the best 100 in the world, and AJ McCarron is no exception. But how good is he? Can he be a winner in the NFL? I was curious to find out, so I looked at the BCS National Championship game against Notre Damethe shootout against Texas A+M, and his less heralded game against Virginia Tech.

One thing that surprised me was how good McCarron was at throwing on the move. He did a few designed rollouts and would occasionally roll out to avoid pressure and he showed really nice accuracy while on the move.

This is a nice ball where he leads his receiver to help him gain additional yardage after the catch.

The biggest issue that I noticed with McCarron is his accuracy, especially on short-to-intermediate routes. He was very inconsistent in properly leading receivers and a lot of times he gave his receiver no chance to make a play. This should be an easy throw as his man has his defender beat towards the middle of the field on the slant. Instead, AJ McCarron misses and throws it behind his receiver.

The only good news is that it was such a bad throw that the defender was unable to make a play on it.

This wasn't a one time issue either as he was very inconsistent on routes that should be routine.

There is no reason for him to be missing his receiver that badly on that short of a throw. Those are both easy throws and necessities to be even a competent quarterback in the NFL. The fact that he can miss this badly on short throws is a huge red flag.

Another question I have about him is his ability to quickly scan the field. He never really had to do this at Alabama, since his first option was almost always open. On the rare times that he wasn't, he usually had enough protection to not be in a hurry. There were a few cases where he was caught holding onto the ball too long in the Virginia Tech game, but from the sideline view, it is really hard to see if this is a vision issue or just very good coverage from the Tech secondary.

This is a great toss by McCarron that shows what type of talent he has with his arm.

This is a really nice throw 20 yards downfield right along the sideline. He actually looks better in that 15-20 yard range than he does in the 5-10 yard range.

He looks a little awkward when throwing this deep ball, but he does a nice job of placing them. He lays this right into the receiver's hands for an easy touchdown.

Still, his deep ball definitely floats a little bit as he doesn't drive through when delivering the ball. He didn't need to on this throw as there was no safety to come over the top. Still he shows good deep ball accuracy that is better than most college quarterbacks.

This was probably my favorite play from McCarron. He does a nice job of avoiding the pressure with a simple step to his left. He also originally was looking left, but after the rusher had passed, he looked to his right and fired a beautiful pass to a wide open receiver for a touchdown.

That is him showing the peak of all of his best qualities, all in one play. When he does stuff like that, it is easy to see why people get excited.

I was a little surprised from what I saw of the McCarron tape. It is surprisingly blah. His arm strength is fine, but it's not great. His awareness was fine, as he moved well in the pocket, but did not seem to do much of a job at scanning the field when his original target was covered. His accuracy was disappointing in the short-to-intermediate routes, yet it was more impressive as he threw it further down the field. Since I can't really decide what type of leader he is unless he somehow reads this post and wants to refute anything (invitation is open, AJ), I can't put much stock in that one way or the other. But when it comes to the package that I see on tape, I come away from it very uninspired. I'm putting him between Mettenberger and Boyd, and I believe he is much closer to the latter. I probably wouldn't feel comfortable spending a pick on him until the 5th round, as his inconsistent accuracy really worries me about his chances of succeeding in the NFL.

Here are my quarterback rankings for the prospects I have looked at so far:
1. Teddy Bridgewater - Louisville
2. Blake Bortles - Central Florida
3. Jimmy Garoppolo - Eastern Illinois
4. Zach Mettenberger - Louisiana State

5. AJ McCarron - Alabama
6. Tajh Boyd - Clemson

7. David Fales - San Jose State
8. Logan Thomas - Virginia Tech
9. Brett Smith - Wyoming
10. Aaron Murray - Georgia

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