The position of quarterback position can literally be evaluated in thousands of different ways. For that exact same reason it is most likely why you will read many different prospect evaluations and never see the same results twice. To give a quick glimpse of what I look for in a quarterback transitioning to the NFL, I’ve listed exactly what is most essential to me and why that trait is important. Keep in mind, this list can be different for everybody:
1) Pocket presence – Simply put, without the ability to stand in the pocket and deliver the football in the NFL, your career will never even have a chance to live up to your talents, no matter how much arm talent you may possess. Creating throwing lanes, buying yourself extra time and avoiding defenders with the intent to complete a forward pass all fall under this category.
2) Arm talent when making NFL type throws – Both accuracy and arm strength fall under one category for me. Can you place the football in tight windows where it needs to be? Sometimes the most accurate of quarterbacks can’t do so when forcing the ball just 20 yards downfield and sometimes a quarterback with a cannon for an arm can’t hit a wide open receiver sitting down in a zone. Can you make the types of throws that need to be made on Sunday to win games?
3) Eyes – Reading defenses, not telegraphing passes, holding the safety and keeping your eyes up all are extremely important in today’s NFL. What happens when your first read is taken away? Do your eyes ever come down to watch the rush rather then progress through the defense? Are defenders using the quarterback’s eyes to consistently take them right to the football?
4) Extra Dimensions – Do you specialize in something? Can you move the chains with your legs and just how dangerous are you taking off and running? Can you throw on the run or when the pocket has been moved? Throwing from different platforms is the name of the game in today’s NFL, and if you are a stand-still pocket passer who needs two feet set to make an accurate throw, your ceiling is very limited.
Now, onto the rankings. I will start at 10 and work my to 1.
10. Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Pros: Jones threw more than 2,100 passes in his college career, and with that kind of experience in a top-notch conference, you know you are getting a guy who won’t be overwhelmed with the type of talent he’ll see at the next level. My favorite thing about Landry’s game is his ball placement on throws 30-40 yards down the football field. He throws a very catchable ball with good touch and almost always puts the ball in a much better position for his receiver to catch. Defenders often would have had to go through the body of Oklahoma receivers if they were going to make a play on the football, which is why
Kenny Stills drew so many offensive pass interference calls over the last couple of seasons. Jones also throws the 10-15-yard sideline route with pretty good timing in 1-on-1 situations.
Cons: It didn’t take me long to realize Jones has a long way to go if he is even going to win a backup job in the league. If you are going to stare down receivers constantly, you better have plenty of zip on the ball to fit it in when necessary. Jones simply doesn’t have it. You can count on Jones’ first read being the intended target a very high percentage of the time.
In the first half of the Oklahoma vs. Iowa State game, I watched two consecutive plays that made me very worried about the potential of
Landry Jones. After avoiding an interception by throwing a mistimed sideline route, Jones proceeded to try and fit the ball in against a standard Cover-2 defense without once deceiving the defense in any manner. An Iowa State safety breaks on the ball early and it hits him right in the chest for the pick. Doesn’t get much worse than that. Until the next play when Jones is pressured, shying away from it, throws it to his first read which just happens to be an Oklahoma wide receiver surrounded by five Iowa State defenders. Ball gets tipped up into the air by a linebacker and intercepted again.
Jones is too slow to avoid pressure. Once he bails from the pocket, you can consider the play over. His best tool right now to avoid pressure is to backup, and while not a good idea for any quarterback, it’s an even worse one for a guy with only average arm talent.
Overall Outlook: The very last game of
Landry Jones’ college career was on a huge stage against the Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel in the Cotton Bowl. It was the most telling game of Jones’ career as well. The coaches asked a staple of their program and a four-year player to do very little. Very vanilla offensive gameplan. Swings, screens, dumps and one-man reads. For a virtual four-year starter? Very bad sign. Finally, in the mid-second quarter, Jones was asked to take a shot downfield very deep down the left sideline to
Kenny Stills and the ball is badly underthrown. For a guy with so many weapons around him, even when he did use play action pass, whenever he had to move his eyes even a little bit, he was off target. Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl put the nail in the coffin by simply dropping eight into coverage and jumping on Landry’s first read. He moved his eyes and threw a ball right to a defender waiting patiently for it. I wouldn’t even categorize it as a bad decision, rather just the inability to move his eyes and make plays. That’s a trait you’d hope he would have acquired with all that experience.
I saw nothing that even resembled a pro quarterback when I watched
Landry Jones. Couldn’t avoid pressure, couldn’t consistently make throws in the middle of the field and couldn’t move his eyes to read the defense. He should go undrafted.
9. Matt Scott, Arizona
Pros: Kept the Arizona Wildcats in football games against superior teams. Was the obvious leader of the offense and is very confident in his own abilities. An athletic guy who can pick up first downs with his legs when he breaks the pocket. Even better, when he does break the pocket, he can keep his eyes up. When asked to run play action out of the shotgun spread set, would bring his eyes up to scan the defense without locking on to the target he was throwing to. Safety is left flat footed at times because of the threat of the run, and Scott’s ability to give the impression he was looking down the middle of the field.
Matt Scott has solid arm strength, as well. Fits a few balls in that you think he won’t be able to. The more you watch, you’ll learn he doesn’t believe there are many balls he can’t fit in. There were even a few throws throughout this past season that have to be considered some of the best at the college level. There were only flashes, but scouts must take notice of such glimpses of ability.
Cons: Was not consistently accurate, especially on intermediate to deep passes. I definitely can’t say I didn’t see flashes of very good accuracy, but more often than not, I couldn’t rely on it. One of the reasons for this is because Scott is a ‘see it before you throw it’ type player. He wants to see his receiver open before he releases the football. He is able to cover this flaw up at times with his velocity, but many times his throws are too late and that is very concerning. You can say it is a combination of late throws and overall decision making, but either way it may have not been exposed on the college level as badly as it will be if he continues to try and fit balls in, which again, is a product of him being a half-second late with his actual decision to release the football.
When Scott really wants to wind up and throw the ball, the motion is elongated. More and more balls will start to get batted down at the line of scrimmage by defensive lineman seeing his motion start. Look no further than a hard-fought loss to Stanford, in overtime, when Scott had a ball batted down that ultimately cost them the game.
When throwing the deep ball, even when defenders are not around, Scott falls into the trap of raising up and throwing off his back foot. It is the only way he knows how to get the proper touch and loft on the ball. It is causing way too many underthrown balls, and, several times giving defenders chances to make a play on the ball during situations that pro quarterbacks would normally feast.
Matt Scott is the prototypical NCAA football spread quarterback and not much more. I saw a guy with above-average arm talent but nothing that jumped off the screen at me. His transition to the NFL will be a rough one if he continues to be the guy that badly wants to see his own color uncover before pulling the trigger. With his athletic ability, pretty good arm strength and confidence in himself, he warrants Day 3 consideration for a team like the New Orleans Saints, who can give him plenty of time to develop, backing up
Drew Brees, while fitting him into an offense that naturally spreads the field.