By Mark Sluis, Staff Writer
7. Aaron Murray UGA
Strengths: Murray throws a great ball and consistent spiral due to his fluid throwing mechanics and high release. He is very accurate on short passes and shows the ability to hit receivers in stride down field. He is a solid athlete and can pick up yards on the run and easily take off to avoid the pass rush.
Weaknesses: At 6’1 he has trouble seeing over his line at times and has passes batted down. His decision making needs to show slight improvement and make safer choices. He threw 14 picks last year.
The Take Home: Murray is a tough prospect to gauge. Is he the quarterback who shows he can stick it between defenders and hit receivers in stride with a perfect spiral? Or is he the classic short but productive college quarterback whose skills just don’t translate to NFL success? Unfortunately the latter may be the case, though opinions on him seem to oscillate between potential starter and career backup.
At 6’1 every other part of your game must be flawless if not spectacular, or at least have a couple traits that are truly elite. Russell Wilson had a similar set of question marks before this year’s draft. Wilson is noticeably shorter at 5’11, but excelled in most other respects. Wilson has a big arm, showed great accuracy and even better intangibles, yet was pegged by many as a career backup.Murray’s arm is good, even above average and he’s generally an accurate passer but neither are in the elite category in comparison to his peers and fall short of Wilson’s abilities.
His decision making is questionable at times and tends to force throws into coverage. While not the most flattering comparison, his game resembles that of Rex Grossman coming out of Florida. Both are around 6’1 with above average arm strength. Both put up great numbers in the tough SEC. But both also have a reputation of less than stellar decision making. Murray has the tools of an NFL quarterback, but he may be a (very solid) backup capable of winning a few spot starts a year.
8. E.J. Manuel FSU
Strengths: Manuel is physically imposing at 6’5 and a chiseled 245 lb, yet is also a smooth athlete. He has a high release point and gets good zip on the ball with a strong right arm. He displayed the ability to throw guys open and fit it into tight windows (though not on a consistent basis).
Weaknesses: He didn’t show the ability to consistently perform as a quarterback. He had trouble being reliably accurate from play to play. His overall production of 2,666 yards passing with 18 TD and 8 INT shows he didn’t dominate his college competition so far at least through the air. He’s generally a raw prospect from a passing standpoint.
The Take Home: Manuel’s physical traits are striking. He is massive with a strong arm and the mobility to be a dangerous running threat. His feel for the passing game comes and goes, however. He displays the ability to throw his receivers open and had a solid 65% completion percentage last year. He also held onto the ball a little too long and took way too many sacks with 33. His throwing motion isn’t textbook, but has a high release and the ball comes off his hand fluidly. His accuracy comes and goes as well.
Manuel shows he can do anything and everything a QB should be able to do physically, but the consistency isn’t there yet. He still has room to grow and could shoot up draft boards if he becomes more reliable and shows he can be mature and savvy enough to lead a team. At this point he is raw and needs considerable refinement, but the talent is there.
9. Keith Price UW
Strengths: Price is absolutely an elite athlete at the quarterback position with good arm strength and a fluid throwing motion. He’s a dual-threat college quarterback and can easily avoid pressure and a real threat to take off and gash defenses. He’s elusive in and outside the pocket with good change of direction skills. He throws a good deep ball as well.
Weaknesses: He desperately needs to add some bulk and lacks the height scouts want to see. He had a tendency of over-throwing receivers when rolling right and needs to improve his precision passing. He needs better ball placement when on the move. He wasn’t consistently tested against top competition and generally threw to open receivers in space, not tight windows.
The Take Home: Price is a very exciting prospect. Although he’s undersized at 6’1 206 lb he has all the other tools needed to play quarterback and is a game-changing talent. He is definitely more than simply an “athlete” or dual-threat quarterback and possesses the arm strength, proper mechanics and throws a nice ball. Having said that, excitement is not necessarily indicative of NFL quarterbacking skills.
Price was very productive for the Huskies in 2011 with 3,063 passing yards, 66.7% completion rate and 33 passing TD and 11 INT. The concern is that against bigger and more athletic NFL defenses his athleticism may be neutralized to some degree and without being able to use his scrambling prowess as a crutch he could struggle to consistently perform in the pocket. He has yet to show he can fit balls into small windows and against tight coverage, but rarely got the chance as his combination of improvising on the move and ability of his receivers ability to get open never forced him to make those tough throws.
His height is a legitimate concern, but his tendency to make plays outside the pocket means he’ll spend less time trying to see over his linemen. He has the ability to turn a sure sack into a 15 yard gain by pump faking defenders and using his athleticism and elusiveness to head down field. To be a top flight prospect he needs to be more precise as he misses open receivers at times despite his stellar completion percentage. He has a high talent level and has produced very solid numbers across the board thus far suggesting there is some concrete ability behind the potential he clearly shows.
10. Mike Glennon NC STATE
Strengths: Glennon has the prototypical height and arm strength of a pro prospect at the quarterback position. He throws a tight spiral with tremendous velocity expending very little effort.
Weaknesses: Speed and athleticism are not his strengths and he’s not a running threat. He could improve his accuracy a bit and some may want to tinker with his throwing motion.
The Take Home: Glennon did a nice job stepping in and producing after Russell Wilson left for Wisconsin. He has terrific arm strength and always throws a perfect spiral with plenty of velocity and it appears effortless. His arm tends to drop a bit and his release isn’t perfect, but the ball comes off his hand correctly so only minor changes may be necessary. He seems to throw in the direction of receivers without placing the ball away from defenders giving them a chance to make a play on the ball and break up the pass.
He is definitely a pocket passer, but isn’t a statue in the pocket either and can shift within the pocket to avoid the pass rush. If he can improve his precision and ball placement, he has the height and arm to make scouts take notice. He is a real natural thrower of the football. He should improve this year and further his development in his second year under center.
11. Casey Pachall TCU
Strengths: Pachall is a confident individual and plays with moxie. He has a live arm and is a good athlete with solid speed and coordination as well as good height at 6’5.
Weaknesses: Recently admitted to police he used cocaine and ecstasy while at TCU. Maturity issues have been raised. He needs to set his feet and step into throws when under pressure more often.
The Take Home: Pachall had a great first season as the Horned Frogs starter throwing for 2,921 yards, 25 TD, only 7 INT, a 66.5% completion rate and was sacked only 13 times. He never had a game last year where he threw more picks than touchdowns, but he exploded against Baylor and TCU in particular with 9 TD and only 2 picks in those two contests combined. Unfortunately, while he was explosive in the big-play department he had four games in 2011 where he failed to reach 200 yards passing. From a pure talent perspective, he has the goods.
A whole new can of worms was opened when news broke about his drug use. There was a huge drug culture mess going on in the Dallas Fort Worth area involving TCU, resulting in suspensions and dismissals including Pachall’s roommate. He reportedly said that cocaine and ecstasy was a one time thing and you could argue that his honesty is at least commendable as many would have covered up anything that would generate criticism. Then again a guy who has sported both flowing long locks and a Mohawk as the team’s most visible member isn’t too concerned about appearance.
Unfortunately for him he plays QB, the most important, scrutinized position in sports where you are expected to be a leader of the team while being held to a higher standard on and off the field. It doesn’t help when you are following a professional, clean-cut, well liked and incredibly successful quarterback like Andy Dalton. He followed Dalton admirably though, with impressive numbers and flashed real potential and the ability to hit receivers in stride for big plays down field. I think he’s poised for a big year on the field as TCU heads to the Big 12, but his leash just got a lot shorter.
12. AJ McCarron ALABAMA
Strengths: McCarron has a good arm, fluid mechanics and is capable of throwing with high velocity. He displays good footwork and stands tall in the pocket. He did a good job limiting turnovers and threw only 5 INT all year.
Weaknesses: He didn’t get a chance to throw the ball as much as most prospects resulting in only 16 TD. He is not a great athlete and isn’t a threat to run. Played behind the best offensive line in college football and wasn’t faced with consistent pressure.
The Take Home: In Alabama’s run heavy offense Heisman quality backs like Ingram and Richardson dominated the ball and the praise. McCarron didn’t light up the scoreboard and threw for 2,634 yards and only 16 TD. McCarron’s role was to manage the game, make smart decisions and make a play when needed. He really couldn’t have done it any better as the Crimson Tide rolled to a National Championship.
McCarron wasn’t just a figurehead though, and showed some nice potential. He played very smart football, highlighted by his 5 picks thrown all year, and was willing to dump it down for a short gain when nobody was open. As far as the physical tools a QB needs, McCarron has them. He has very solid arm strength, good mechanics, throws a tight spiral and can drive the football with pace when the situation calls for it.
Certainly not as flashy as most prospects, but McCarron has ability and is comfortable under center while being a hard worker, great leader and proven himself in the physical SEC. His ability to make smart choices is a valued NFL trait without being featured on highlight films. Look for him to showcase himself even more this year as he leads a relatively depleted offense; well maybe just for Alabama high standards anyway.
13. Brad Sorensen SOUTHERN UTAH
Strengths: Sorensen has a big arm and showed nice touch. He has good bulk on a nearly ideal frame. He showed solid footwork, balance and steps into his throws nicely.
Weaknesses: He isn’t very mobile and struggles to avoid defenders. He played against inferior competition and was rarely under duress.
The Take Home: There is little available tape on this FCS stud from a small school in Utah (BYU transfer). I analyzed his highlight package where he should and did look impressive. He threw effortlessly all over the field and used tremendous velocity when necessary. He seemed calm in the pocket and was able to set his body correctly on almost every throw.
The arm strength, velocity, height and bulk are traits that should transfer from the FCS to the NFL. The real issue is how calm can he stay with NFL sized defenders running at him full speed. Can he make the proper reads and display enough pocket awareness to avoid sacks and make throws with and without his feet set? Is his apparent poise due to a lack of pressure? His lack of mobility makes his position predictable for defenses so he will need to be very comfortable with the offense in order to make quick decisions as well as identify blitzes. He did show the ability to shift around and escape pressure, but it may have been a product of avoiding much slower and less athletic FCS defenders.
He rarely had happy feet in a collapsing and instead showed clean footwork and set his feet to throw, which is a great sign that he truly does have good pocket presence and stays poised under pressure. The story could change when faced with more of a pass rush at the next level. He’ll have a huge adjustment to make and it’s very difficult to prognosticate his future, but he passes the eye test and will certainly be on scouts’ radars.
14. Jeff Tuel WASH ST
Strengths: Tuel has a big right arm with the ability to drive the ball. He showed great touch on the deep ball and stepped into throws well with solid footwork. He’s a very tough kid and has good athleticism to pick up yards and is not afraid of initiating contact.
Weaknesses: He is nowhere near a finished product and has an injury history (played in two games last year). 2010 production isn’t stellar throwing 18 TD and 12 picks.
The Take Home: Tuel has a big time arm with a fluid over the top motion. He also displayed great touch and hit receivers in stride on vertical routes down field. Tuel is a physically tough player who is more than happy to take on defenders and has the mobility and athletic ability to turn a busted play into a solid gain.
With the positives out of the way there are also major concerns. Nobody questions his toughness and in fact talked his coaches into allowing him to play last season while fighting the flu, but managed to stay healthy (not really) for two games. He ended last year with a broken clavicle and an injured leg and suffered a dislocated knee cap his freshman year.
While his debut as a freshman was promising as he showed legitimate arm strength and mobility, his best year as a sophomore wasn’t great in terms of production with 18 TD and 12 picks. Part of that may be due to his relatively poor supporting cast. If healthy he has the physical tools and stature of a pro prospect and with Mike Leach in town he could explode numbers wise in the quarterback friendly offense.