Sunday, April 20, 2014

Late Round Running Backs

The day of the 30 carry per game running back has passed. Running backs have short shelve lives and NFL teams are devoting more snaps to the passing game than ever. As a result, wide receivers, tight ends and offensive tackles have all seen the value of their respective positions increase over the last decade. The running back positions haven't been as fortunate. The fullback position is on the endangered species list, but there aren't any NFL wildlife reserves for players built in the mold of Vontae leach. The halfback position will never go the way of the fullback, but teams are starting to understand that you don't need a workhorse running back to have success on offense. More and more teams are going with the platoon strategy at running back. And if a team is going to plan on splitting carries between multiple backs, they can't afford to overpay either of them. So now we're starting to see more and more teams look to find value at running back in the later rounds of the draft. And that's what I want to talk about today. Who are the best running backs that will be drafted on day three (rounds 4-7)? With that, let's get started.

1. Isaiah Crowell (Alabama State)



Isaiah Crowell was ESPN's top ranked running back recruit in 2011 and he ranked fourth overall (behind only Jadeveon Clowney, Anthony Johnson, and Cyrus Kouandjio). Crowell played his freshman season at the University of Georgia. During his freshman season Crowell carried the ball 185 times for 850 yards, 5 TDs, and averaged 4.59 yards per carry. Crowell was named SEC freshman of the year. But during the off-season Crowell was arrested on weapons charges. He was pulled over driving a car with three other football players and police found a hand gun with the serial number scratched off. Crowell was immediately dismissed from Georgia. The charges against Crowell were eventually dismissed due to a lack of evidence tying Crowell to the weapon. Crowell transferred to Alabama State and was able to play immediately because Alabama State is not an FBS school. In his two seasons at Alabama State, Crowell carried the ball 329 times for 1,963 yards, 30 TDs, and averaged 5.97 yards per carry. 

Strengths:

Size/Strength- Crowell measured in at 5'11", 224 lbs at the NFL scouting combine. Even as a freshman at Georgia he was very hard to bring down. And he's only gotten stronger. Crowell has the size and strength to carry the ball between the tackles and run over defenders when necessary. He finishes runs the right way.

Agility/Acceleration- Crowell is extremely agile for a back of his size. He makes aggressive cuts that you don't usually see from backs of his size. Crowell has also displayed great acceleration at times. It doesn't take him much time to get up to full speed.

Weaknesses:

Long Speed- Crowell has more than adequate speed to play running back at the NFL level, but he isn't going to outrun most NFL defensive backs in the open field. 

Ball Security- During his freshman season at Georgia, Crowell fumbled the ball four times on 193 touches (once every 48 touches). But during his final season at Alabama State, Crowell only fumbled the ball once with 177 touches so it would appear that Crowell has corrected whatever issues he was having. But the drop in the level of competition might have had a part to play in his improved ball security. 

Overview- In my opinion, Isaiah Crowell is the most talented back in this year's draft. He has first round talent and I think he's just flat out better runner than Carlos Hyde, Bishop Sankey and Jeremy Hill. The big question is whether or not he's going to make good decisions when he's not on the field. But there's no doubting this guys talent. I think he's going to be one of the biggest steals of this draft.


Branden Oliver (Buffalo)




Branden Oliver is fun to watch. He's only 5'8" (if that) and weighs somewhere in the 200 lb to 210 lb range. But he's as quick as they come. The first player that comes to mind when I watch Branden Oliver is Darren Sproles. The second player that comes to mind is Ray Rice. Oliver's physical ability falls somewhere in the middle. He's quicker than Rice but not as strong, and he's stronger than Sproles but not as quick. Either way, he's exciting to watch. 

Oliver played for the University of Buffalo for four seasons. During those four seasons he carried the ball 866 times for 4,049 yards, 33 TDs and averaged 4.68 yards per carry. Oliver also caught 75 passes for 655 yards and a TD. As a senior Oliver carried the ball 310 times for 1,535 yards, 15 TDs, and averaged 4.95 yards per carry. Oliver also caught 25 passes for 173 yards and a TD as a senior. Oliver only played in 7 games as a junior as a result of multiple injuries to his knees.

Strengths: 

Agility/Acceleration- Oliver makes defenders miss in the hole and if he's in the open field 1 on 1, forget about it.  

Strength- During Buffalo's pro day, Oliver did 26 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press. Those 26 reps would've tied Oliver for the second highest total by a running back at the scouting combine. His legs are very strong as well. He continues to churn his legs after contact and gets picks up a lot of extra yards as a result.

Pass Protection- Oliver is an aggressive pass protector. He attacks pass rushers and uses his low center of gravity to his advantage. He has also shown that he can execute cut blocks and chips. This should help him get on the field early in his rookie season.

Weaknesses:

Size- Oliver's weight is more of a concern than his height. There are plenty of successful running backs in the NFL that are short. Ray Rice and MJD are the most recent examples. But Oliver's weight could be a concern. NFL teams will have to decide whether or not he can handle the punishment that NFL running backs receive.

Speed- Oliver has adequate speed but I don't know that he'll bust a lot of long runs up the sideline.

Overview- Branden Oliver possesses elite agility and acceleration. He's built like a bowling ball, low to the ground and dense. I think it would be a mistake to peg him as a third down specialist just because of his size. That might be the quickest way for Oliver to get onto the field. But I think that given the chance, Branden Oliver could do a lot of damage on first and second down as well. He probably won't be selected until the middle of the fifth round at the earliest. If he ends up being selected that late it'll be a steal for one lucky team.


Andre Williams (Boston College)




Andre Williams led the FBS in rushing yards during the 2013-2014 season. Despite his impressive production as a senior, most draft pundits are tagging Williams with late round grades. Williams is a down hill runner with good vision and great power. He reminds me of Alfred Morris. He isn't as flashy as a lot of other running backs but he gets up field quickly and punishes tacklers at the conclusion of his runs. As a senior, Williams carried the ball 355 times for 2,177 yards, 18 TDs, and a 6.13 yard per carry average.

Strengths:

Size/Power- Williams measured in at 5'11" and 230 lbs at the NFL scouting combine. He's a very powerful runner who gets his pads low at impact. Williams is especially hard to bring down because he doesn't waste momentum by trying to move side to side. He gets the ball, makes his read, makes his cut, and gets all of that body weight moving forward. You're not going to see a lot of dancing when Andre Williams has the ball.

Vision/Patience- I kind of mentioned this already, but Williams has good vision which allows him to succeed as a one cut runner. Boston College ran a lot of zone blocked running plays and Williams excelled at making good reads and having the patience for holes to open up for him.

Weaknesses:

Pass Catching- Williams caught 10 passes during his four years at Boston College. Williams will enter the pass happy NFL as an extremely inexperienced pass catcher. That's not to say that he can't develop the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. But at this point, he's a step behind most of the other backs in this draft class.

Agility- Williams will make some defenders miss because they're usually expecting to get run over. But he won't shake too many guys out of their shoes.

Pass Protection- Williams needs to learn to be more aggressive as a pass protector. He has the size to be successful as a pass protector but he's a bit tentative when it comes time to commit to a block. 

Overview- Andre Williams is a one cut, downhill runner that is best suited for a zone blocking scheme. He has the right combination of vision, power, and acceleration to make him dangerous with a good line in front of him. He also has a second gear when he gets into the open field. I wouldn't be surprised if the Texans spent a fifth or sixth round pick on Williams after losing Ben Tate in free agency. They need someone to backup Foster and eventually take over.  


James Wilder Jr. (Florida State)



When Wilder committed to Florida State he was listed as an athlete. They considered playing him at several positions but landed on running back. Wilder measured in at 6'3" 232 lbs at the scouting combine. Wilder is raw as a runner but possesses elite physical stature. Wilder still has a lot of tread left on the tires after splitting time with multiple backs during his career, including Devonta Freeman. During his three seasons at Florida State, Freeman rushed 226 times for 1,363 yards, 20 TDs and a 6.0 yards per carry average.

Strengths:

Size/Strength- I've already mentioned how huge James Wilder is. He's built like a Will Linebacker or a strong safety. The only problem is that he hasn't quite figured how to use his power.

Pass Catching Ability- Wilder has great hands for a running back. Especially a running back of his size. 

Pass Protection- Wilder is a very savvy pass protector. He has the size to take on pass rushers one on one. He understands the importance of chipping as he comes out of the backfield. And he can execute the cut block when necessary but he appears to prefer taking pass rushers head on.

Weaknesses: 

Pad Level- Wilder runs very upright. Eddie George had an amazing career running very upright. Adrian Peterson tends to run upright as well. The thing that both of these backs have in common is that they get their pad level down at impact. Wilder will have to learn to do this if he wants to take advantage of his strength. He has the size and strength to punish defenders at the next level.

Speed- Wilder isn't going to blow anyone away with his speed. He's not a fast very fast and that's a fact.

Overview- James Wilder Jr. is a big, powerful back that can pass protect and catch passes out of the backfield. Wilder's ability as a pass protector and pass catcher will make him an asset on third down immediately. And one he learns to lower his pad level, he could be a weapon on short yardage situations as well as first and second down. Wilder is a unique running back prospect with a lot of upside. At the worst, he'll be a third down back that can contribute on short yardage situations as well as special teams. I would expect to see Wilder come off of the board during the 5th or 6th round.

That's all for now. As always, thanks to the guys at http://draftbreakdown.com for all of the work that you do compiling prospect video.

I'll be back soon with offensive and defensive line.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Quarterback Countdown- #1 Teddy Bridgewater- Louisville


Teddy Bridgewater has been taking shots from the media this entire off-season. Bridgewater began his junior season regarded by most as the top college QB in the country without any clear competition. All he did during his junior season was put up his best statistical year yet while leading his team to a 12-1 record (the team's best record in 30 years). You would think Bridgewater's performance this past season would solidify his position as this year's top quarterback. But after Bridgewater's highly criticized pro day performance, it seems like ESPN and NFL Network are determined to knock him down a few notches. But luckily for Mr. Bridgewater, there are still a lot of us who care more about his performance during the actual football season than his performance during the Underwear Olympics (also known as the NFL Scouting Combine) and his pro day. Teddy Bridgewater is still the best quarterback in this draft class and it's not close.

Teddy Bridgewater played in 39 games during his three year career at Louisville. During that time he passed for 9,817 yards, 72 TDs, 24 INTs, with a 68.4% completion percentage. In his final season at Louisville, Bridgewater passed for 3,970 yards, 31 TDs, and 4 INTs, while completing 71.0% of his passes. Bridewater had his best statistical year by far in his final season. His TD/INT ratio of 7.75 to 1 was the best of all my top 10 QBs. Bridgewater's most noteable performance of his junior season came against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Bridgewater went 35 for 45 for 447 yards, with 3 TDs and no interceptions.

Strengths:

Decision Making/Timing Routes- The most impressive facet of Bridgewater's game is his ability to get through his progression quickly. He not only makes the correct decision, he makes it quickly. On the majority of Bridgewater's drop-backs, he'll hit the last step in the drop, set and fire the ball. This is a testament to Bridgewater's mastery of Louisville's offense and his ability to make a good pre-snap read. Watch the video below and pay attention to how quickly the ball comes out of Bridgewater's hands after he reaches the top of his drop.




Footwork/Pocket Presence- Bridgewater has the best footwork in this draft class by a wide margin. His footwork is precise and deliberate. He gets away from the line quickly, gets a lot of depth, and when he reaches the top of his drop the ball comes out. If there isn't an open receiver, Bridgewater will climb the pocket and wait for a receiver to come open. Most QBs have a tendency to sit at the top of the pocket which makes the job of the left and right tackle a lot more difficult. Offensive tackles expect their QB to step up into the pocket. When an edge rusher tries to use an outside speed rush, tackles are taught to push the rusher past the QB. When the QB sits at the top of the pocket, the tackle may end up pushing the pass rusher directly into the QB. Climbing the pocket also gets the QB's momentum moving forward which adds velocity to the throw and reduces the distance that the ball has to travel. The plays in the video below all illustrate how comfortable Bridgewater is operating inside of the pocket.



Eye Control- Bridgewater understands how to use his eyes to manipulate the defense. He routinely uses his eyes to move safeties and linebackers. This is an extremely important tool to have at the pro level. You can see examples of this in the video below.



Throwing on the Run- After Bridgewater's pro day there were a lot of questions being raised about his ability to make accurate throws on the run. Kurt Warner and Mike Mayock went to town talking about how poor Bridgewater's throwing motion was on the run. If you go back and watch Bridgewater make these throws during an actual game, your doubts will be put to rest. See the video below.




Touch- Teddy has great touch. He's not quite on the level of Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo but he can drop the ball in when he needs to.



Weaknesses:

Deep Ball Accuracy- This is the only area of Bridgewater's game that really concerns me. He hasn't shown the type of chemistry with his receivers down the field that you would like to see out of a top QB prospect. Ryan Tanehill exhibited the same inability during college and it has continued to be an issue for him as pro. Teams will have to take a closer look at this in private workouts to determine whether or not they think this can be fixed.

Ball Security- Much like Manziel, Bridgewater has a tendency to hold the ball with one hand when he starts to scramble. Luckily Bridgewater doesn't scramble nearly as much as Manziel. This isn't a huge issue because Bridgewater keeps two hands on the ball whenever he's in the pocket. But it's something teams should keep an eye out for.

Overview:

Teddy Bridgewater is the best QB in this draft class, right now. His football IQ and work ethic are his biggest assets. He doesn't have prototypical size or arm strength but he more than makes up for these deficiencies with the strengths that I just mentioned. Derek Carr has the most upside of any QB in the 2014 class but Bridgewater is the most pro-ready. I think Bridgewater will be able to step in and start immediately.

Draft Projection- 1st Overall. Let me point out that this is where I think Bridgewater should be selected. With the way that things are going, I think Teddy will come off of the board between pick 5 and pick 8. But if the Texans do pass on Teddy Bridgewater for Blake Bortles, they will be regretting it for quite some time.

That's all for now. I'm thinking that I'll move on to profiling some receivers next but we'll see what happens.

And thanks again to everyone at draftbreakdown.com for all of the work you guys to compiling prospect video.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Quarterback Countdown- #2 Derek Carr- Fresno St.


 Derek Carr has the most upside of any quarterback in this year's draft class. He has elite arm strength, arm strength comparable to Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler. In fact, Derek Carr reminds me of Cutler quite a bit. Both have a similar build, electric arms, above average athleticism and both are fierce competitors. And like Jay Cutler, Derek Carr is a bit inconsistent. Before I get into Carr's strength's and weaknesses, let's look at his stats.

Carr played in 44 games in his four years at Fresno State. Carr passed for 12,843 yards, 113 TDs, 24 INTs and completed 66.7% of his passes. In his final season as a Bulldog, Carr passed for 5,083 yards, 50 TDs, 8 INTs and completed 68.9% of his passes. During his senior season, Carr ranked third in completion percentage and last in yards per completion among my top 10 quarterbacks. Fresno State's offense substituted run plays with screens. So naturally Carr's completion percentage was boosted while his yards per completion average was pulled down. Despite the fact that the vast majority of Carr's passes were short, he definitely has the ability to push the ball down the field. In fact, that might be Carr's greatest strength.

Strengths:

Deep Ball Accuracy- Like I said before, Derek Carr can push the ball down the field. He has the arm strength to drive the ball deep and he's accurate when he does. Watch the video below and keep an eye on how far the ball travels in the air. Derek Carr is going to give secondaries fits.



Touch-  In addition to having the best arm in this years draft class, Carr might also have the best touch. His ability to float the ball in on corner routes and fades is really impressive. It makes him deadly in the redzone. His ability to fit the ball in between the defender and the sideline is second to none. He just picks out the single coverage and lets the ball go. Watch the video below to see examples of Carr's touch.



Arm Strength- Carr has the velocity to make all of the deep out, comeback and dig throws that most NFL teams need their quarterbacks to make.



Mobility- Carr has above average athletic ability for a quarterback. He's no RGIII but he can move when you give him an opportunity.



Leadership- Derek Carr is a competitor. He's a vocal leader and he commands the attention of his teammates when he speaks. Carr's charisma and fire will help him win over the veterans on whatever team he goes to. He'll be the guy firing his teammates up before a game and he'll let them know if he thinks they aren't giving their best effort. His personality reminds me of a combination of Drew Brees and Jay Cutler. Not bad guys to be compared to.

Weaknesses:

Footwork- I watched 479 of the throws that Carr made this past season. Of those 479 snaps, Carr took one snap from under center. Carr will have to learn to play the position from under center which isn't that uncommon these days for college QBs transitioning to the pros. The bigger concern for me is the inconstancy in Carr's footwork. He has a tendency to let his feet get too close together. Once his feet are close together he uses a crow-hop to get his weight going forward. Other times he never shifts his weight forward and gets away with it because his arm is so strong. This inconstancy leads to inaccuracy. For Carr to reach his full potential he'll need to work on having consistent footwork.

Pocket Presence- Carr has a tendency to sit at the top of the pocket. It's a common problem and can be easily remedied.  But it's something that could get him in trouble if he doesn't address it. Quarterbacks who sit at the top of the pocket open themselves up for to more sacks and fumbles.

Overview:

Derek Carr is the most exciting quarterback in this draft class. His arm strength and touch allow him to attack every part of the field and that's valuable. When you pair that ability with his leadership and competitive fire, you get an elite talent with a ceiling as high as you can imagine. If Carr goes to a team where he isn't thrown into the fire immediately, I think he'll be very successful and we'll see him competing for rings for years to come.

Draft Projection- Pick 15-20- Carr has work to do with his mechanics but his ability is impossible to ignore. I think a team will fall in love with him and either trade up or trade back to take him here.

Thanks again to everyone at draftbreakdown.com for all of the work that you do putting together prospect video.

I'll be back soon with QB# 1, Teddy Bridgewater.




Monday, March 17, 2014

Quarterback Countdown- #3 Blake Bortles- Central Florida


There is a very good chance that Blake Bortles will be the first player selected in the 2014 draft. So why do I have Bortles ranked as my # 3 QB? Well that's a good question and I fully intend to explain. At the end of the 2012-2013 season it seemed impossible to imagine any quarterback other than Teddy Bridgewater being the first off of the board at the QB position. But scouts and critics have been chiseling away at Bridgewater's draft stock as is always the case with any top prospect playing in their final season. And with scouts raising questions about Bridgewater's potential, the door was opened for other passers to take the top spot among this class of QBs. Blake Bortles has done his best to seize that top spot including winning the head to head match up between the two signal callers. Bortles has prototypical size at 6'5" and 232 Lbs and can make plays with his legs. And what I keep hearing more and more about Bortles is that scouts and coaches think hthat he has the most upside out of the entire QB class. I disagree. That being said, I do think that Bortles has a great deal of potential as an NFL QB.

Bortles played in 37 games over three years at Central Florida. During that time Bortles passed for 7,598 yards, 56TDs, 19 INTs and a completion percentage of 65.7%. As a Junior he passed for 3,581 yards, 25 TDs, 9 INTs and 67.8% completion percentage. Bortles ranked 4th in completion percentage and second in yards per completion out of my top 10 quarterbacks. As a senior Bortles also rused for 272 yards and 6 TDs.

Strengths:

Reading Coverage/Using Eyes- Blake Bortles' ability to use his eyes to control opposing safeties and linebackers is top notch. He does a good job of diagnosing the coverage pre-snap and uses his eyes to pull the safety away from his intended target. Bortles is one of three QB prospects in this draft class that excels in this area. The video below illustrates Bortles' ability to use his eyes.



Touch- Bortles has shown the ability to apply touch to deep balls and intermediate passes. For a quarterback with Bortles' size this is impressive. Often times, larger quarterbacks struggle with touch because they naturally have more velocity on their passes. Bortles has the ability to take off as much velocity as needed to drop passes into tight spaces. Watch the video below to see examples of Bortles' touch.




Athleticism-Blake Bortles has exceptional athletic ability for a guy his size. Bortles has been compared to Cam Newton and Andrew Luck in terms of the combination of size and athleticism at the quarterback position. Those comparisons are a bit of a reach but Bortles is still very athletic for the position.



Weaknesses:

Footwork- I watched 174 of the passes that Blake Bortles threw during his senior season. 172 of those 174 snaps were taken from the shotgun. Bortles will have to learn to take snaps from under center and learn to make reads as he takes his drop. This is becoming a very common reality for college QBs making the transition to the pros as the number of college teams taking most snaps from the shotgun increases.

Release- Bortles has a prolonged release at times. He has a tendancy to let the ball dip far below his elbow, sometimes as low as his waist in a long, looping throwing motion. Bortles will need to shorten his throwing motion if he wants to succeed in the league. The split second that the looping motion adds to Bortles' delivery is all that NFL defensive backs need to make a break on the ball and take it the other way for six points. And pass rusher love to see QBs let the ball drop down low. NFL pass rushers understand how to jar the ball loose and given the smallest opportunity to do so, they'll take advantage.



Arm Strength- Blake Bortles is a big quarterback. Usually big quarterbacks have big arms. But when Bortles winds up and tries to throw a laser, I feel like his attempt at a fastball comes put looking like a change-up. There's a bunch of arm and body action but the ball comes out at half speed. I'm not sure what is causing it but it's definitely a concern. I definitely can't say that Bortles has elite arm strength. I don't even know that I can say that Bortles has above average arm strength.

Overview: Blake Bortles is a big, athletic quarterback who can manipulate the defense with his eyes. Bortles doesn't have elite arm strength or a quick release but his understanding of the defense that he's facing allows him to succeed. I think with some coaching on his mechanics, Bortles can be a very successful starting quarterback in the NFL. The thing that I disagree with most is the idea that Blake Bortles has the most upside out of all of the QBs in this year's class. The quarterback with the most upside in this class is my number two QB.

Draft Projection- Top 5-I don't think that Bortles should be selected before either of my to two QBs, who I'm sure you can guess at this point. But I think Bortles will be able to start immediately.

I'll be back soon with QB#2.

Thanks to all of the guys at draftbreakdown.com for all of the work you do putting together prospect video.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Quarterback Countdown- #4 Jimmy Garoppolo- Eastern Illinois


No player has ascended further up NFL draft boards this off-season than Jimmy Garoppolo. Despite his prolific stats this past season, most people considered Jimmy Garoppolo to be a 3rd-4th round talent. In the past few weeks I've seen him projected as high as the late first round. Garoppolo is an especially intriguing prospect because he attended such a small school. The football program at Eastern Illinois is probably most famous for producing Dallas Cowboys' Quarterback, Tony Romo. Naturally there have been quite a few comparisons made between the two. And there are definitely some similarities between the two passers. But before I get into that let's examine Garoppolo's collegiate performance.

Garoppolo played in 45 games during his 4 years at Eastern Illinois. During that time he passed for 13,156 yards, 118 TDs, 51 INTs and a 62.8% completion percentage. Garoppolo put up the best numbers of his career this past season as a senior. Garoppolo passed for 5,050 yards, 53 TDs, 9 INTs and a completion percentage of 66.0%. With a TD/INT ratio of nearly six to one, Garoppolo ranked 3rd among my top 10 quarterbacks in touchdown to interception ratio. But Garopppolo's statistical dominance comes with a caveat. Eastern Illinois is an FCS team, so Garopppolo didn't face the same caliber of opponent that the other top quarterbacks in this draft class faced during their careers. That being said, Garoppolo lead the FCS in passing yards as a senior. Regardless of the level of competition that Garoppolo faced, he made the best of it.

Strengths:

Reading Coverage/Using Eyes and Pump Fakes- The part of Garoppolo's game that impresses me the most is his ability to manipulate defensive backs and linebackers with his eyes and pump fakes. In fact, this is one of the similarities between Garoppolo and Tony Romo. Romo uses the pump fake more than any other QB in the NFL. But back to Garoppolo. At the collegiate level you don't see a lot of QBs use the pump fake because most quarterbacks have a hard enough time using their eyes to look off the defense. The way I like to judge a QB's ability to read/manipulate the defense is by answering a couple of questions. First, can the QB read the defense once the ball is snapped? Second, can a QB read the defense pre-snap? Third, can the QB use his eyes to manipulate the defense. And finally, does the QB use the pump fake to manipulate the defense? With Garoppolo it's easy for me to answer yes to every question. At this point in his career, Jimmy Garoppolo has already exhibited an elite ability to read and manipulate defenses. The video below is a compilation of plays in which Garoppolo displays this ability. Keep an eye on the reactions that linebackers and safeties have to his pump fakes. Also keep an eye on the position of the safeties once the ball is delivered.



Touch- Jimmy Garoppolo has repeatedly shown the ability to deliver passes with touch. He does a great job of putting just enough air on his deep passes to allow the receiver to run under the ball and catch it in stride. He also excels at dropping passes in between zone coverage. Watch the video below to see examples of the touch that i'm talking about.



Quick Release- Another similarity between Garoppolo and Romo is that they both have a very compact release. The ball stays high throughout the throwing motion which reduces both unnecessary movement and the amount of time that it takes the ball to get out of the hands. In addition to his compact throwing motion, Garoppolo's quick decision making helps get the ball out of his hands quickly. You can watch examples of this in the video below.



Weaknesses: 

Inexperienced Against Elite Competition- Garoppolo just hasn't played enough against top tier athletes to know how he'll handle the speed. Every QB making the transition from college to the pros has to adjust to the increased speed of the game.There will just just be a larger adjustment for Garoppolo than most.

Footwork- Out of the 180 throws that I watched Garoppolo make from the 2013 season, 166 (92.2%) of the snaps were taken from the shotgun. Garoppolo will have to learn to take snaps from under center and work on the footwork that comes with it. The other thing that Garoppolo will have to learn is to make post-snap reads while taking his drop. Like I said above, Garoppolo excels at reading the defense. But he has always read the defense from the shotgun. The change in perspective may take some time to adjust to. But there is no indication that Garoppolo should have trouble making the adjustment.

Overview:

Jimmy Garoppolo will continue to ascend draft board up until draft day. His ability to read and manipulate defenses is extremely developed for a college QB. The biggest question surrounding Garoppolo will continue to be whether or not he can continue to succeed against NFL caliber talent? I think that he will.

Draft Projection- Late 1st Round- Jimmy Garoppolo is a first round talent and team are beginning to realize that. I think that the Jaguars, Browns and Vikings re all candidates. The Vikings and Jaguars would have to either trade up from the second round or trade back from the first. The Browns are sitting in the perfect position to select Garoppolo if they are interested. Regardless of which team selects him, we should see Jimmy Garoppolo come off of the board in the late first round.

Thanks as always to the guys at draftbreakdown.com for all of the work you do compiling prospect video.

I'll be back soon with QB #3.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Quarterback Countdown- #5 Zack Mettenberger- LSU


Zach Mettenberger measured in at 6'5" and 224 at the scouting combine. He's a big guy, with a bigger arm and a lot of potential. Before tearing his ACL and spraining his MCL against Arkansas, Mettenberger was considered by some to be a potential first round pick. He suffered the injury in late November. He wasn't able to have surgery on his ACL until early in January because doctors wanted to wait for his MCL to heal. So it's very surprising to hear that Mettenberger plans to throw for scouts on March 27th at LSUs Pro Day, not even 4 months after his surgery. In addition to being a testament to Mettenberger's work ethic, being ready to throw at this point  should give teams hope that he'll be ready to play sooner than later. With that in mind, let's talk about some numbers.

Zach Mettenberger started his college career with the Georgia Bulldogs. After some off the field issues as a Freshman he was kicked off of the team and had to go play junior college ball. After a year playing JUCO ball Mettenberger transferred to LSU. As a senior Mettenberger passed for 3,082 yards, 22 TDs, 8 INTs and a completion percentage of 64.9%. Of my top 10 QBs, Mettenberger ranked 6th in completion percentage and 1st in yards per completion during his senior season. Mettenburger's yards per completion average was 16.1. The next closest QB was Blake Bortles with a 13.8 yard average. This is a testament to Mettenberger's ability to work the ball down the field.

Strengths:

Arm Strength- I remember hearing a story while Georgia was recruiting Mettenberger about him shattering one of his receivers eye sockets with a ball that he fired a little too hard on a slant. I didn't believe the story at first but then I watched Mettenberger in Georgia's spring game. I remember thinking after the game that his receiver with the shattered eye socket was lucky that his head was still attached. Mettenberger has a howitzer attached to his right shoulder. Watching him throw is like watching Usain Bolt run a 100 meter dash. Everyone else looks like they're running as hard as they can while Bolt looks like he's taking a jog. That's what Mettenberger's arm strength is like. There's not a lot of arm or body action but the ball comes out hot. I think all of his receivers would describe his passes ass heavy. He throws the type of ball that'll take you along for a ride if your feet aren't on the ground when it hits your hands. Aside from Derek Carr, Mettenberger has the strongest arm of in this years draft class. He can make the deep out and comeback throws effortlessly. Watch the video below to see the arm strength that I'm talking about.



Deep Ball Accuracy- Mettenberger has proved that he can connect on deep passes. He's a bit inconsistent with his setup and trajectory but he gets the ball into his receiver's hands. When he's under center teams have to respect his ability to go deep. That's something that will make him valuable immediately. With some coaching I think he could become an elite deep ball passer.




Pocket Presence/Footwork- Mettenberger took a lot of snaps from under center at LSU. Certainly a lot more than most college QBs do these days. For such a big guy, Mettenberger does a great job of getting away from center quickly and creating space between himself and his offensive line. He needs to start climbing the pocket more consistently. He stands tall in the pocket and isn't afraid of pressure. He routinely steps into throws even though he knows he's going to take a hit. For a guy that isn't going to make a lot of defenders miss, this is an important trait. Luckily Mettenberger has the size to absorb a lot of hits.

Awareness-Mettenberger always has the down, distance, field position, score and amount of time left on the clock running through his mind. He knows when a play is dead. He throws the ball away when he knows a play isn't going to work. He'll tuck the ball away and fight for a yard or two if it means staying in field goal range. It' not something that people will talk about much, but this is one of Mettenberger's biggest assets.

Weaknesses:

Mobility- Zach Mettenberger probably hasn't won too many footraces in his life. He's a big guy and he moves like one. The thing that concerns me about his lack of mobility is that he struggles with throwing on the run. It just means that teams will have to give him enough time to get the ball off because he's not going to make a lot of plays when he's forced to improvise. You can see some examples of Mettenberger throwing on the run in the video below.



Touch- It's pretty common for big, strong, Quarterbacks to struggle with touch. Mettenberger flashes the ability to put touch on the ball at times but in the 10 games I watched from his senior season, he seemed to struggle with putting touch on the ball more often than not. It's a skill he'll need to improve as he continues to develop as a QB. You can see what I mean in the video below.



Overview:

Zach Mettenberger is a big, strong armed quarterback, who makes good decisions. He needs to develop the ability to use his eyes to manipulate the defense. He also needs to work on getting the ball out of his hands on timing throws. But the guy has too much talent for those things to keep him off of the field. Zach Mettenberger will be a starter in the NFL and he'll be successful.

Draft Projection-  Late 2nd-Early 3rd Round- Before the injury Mettenberger might have been a late first round pick. I think he has second round talent but the injury and off the field issues are a concern. Assuming Mettenberger is done getting in trouble and that he stays healthy, whoever selects him will be getting great value.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Quarterback Countdown- #6 David Fales- San Jose St.


I'll start by saying that I surprised myself by ranking David Fales this low. When I started this process I had him a bit higher but as I kept going back and watching games for the second and third time he started creeping down the board. In fact it was more a case of other guys moving up the board then Fales moving down but it's all relative now.

Fales moved around a bit before finding a home at San Jose St. University. In his two years at San Jose St. Fales played in 25 games and threw for 8,382 yards, 66 TDs, 22 INTs, with a completion percentage of 68.1%. As a senior Fales threw for 4,189 yards, 33 TDs, 13 INTs, with a completion percentage of 64.1%. For only starting two seasons Fales accumulated some pretty impressive statistics. His career TD/INT ratio of 3:1 is especially impressive. The biggest question that I have is why was there such a large drop off in completion percentage from Fale's junior season to his senior season? His figures for yardage, TDs and INTs were very similar for both seasons so why the big change in completion percentage? Honestly I haven't been able to figure out what changed between his two seasons as the starter. My one thought is that the loss of his two favorite targets during his junior season, Noel Grigsby and Ryan Otten, forced Fales to develop chemistry with a new group of receivers. Grigsby and Otten combined for 129 receptions, 2,049 yards and 13 TDs during Fales' Junior season. So it's understandable that there would be some drop off in productivity. With that, let's take a look at what Fales' strengths and weaknesses are.

Strengths:

Touch- The most impressive aspect of Fales' game is his touch. Fales excels at throwing deep ball and the fade. He's especially effective throwing the back shoulder fade. The back shoulder throw is becoming an essential weapon for Quarterbacks in the NFL. I think that Fales ability in with this throw will be something  he'll use early and often during his career.



Intermediate Accuracy- Fales excels at throwing deep in and post routes. While there are questions about Fales' arm strength you would never know it when you see the zip that he can put on these passes.




Intelligence- Fales is a smart guy. He's not going to have any issues learning a new offense or getting through his progression.Whatever teams think he lacks in arm strength he certainly makes up for in this category. Fales isn't going to put his team in bad positions very often and that can be a valuable trait.

Weaknesses:

Arm Strength- I would categorize Fales' arm strength as on the bottom end of average. You're not going to watch him and have visions of Chad Pennington late in his career but you won't confuse him with Jay Cutler either. The important question regarding Fales' arm strength is whether or not he can make the deep out and comeback throws that many offenses rely on? I'm leaning towards no. That's my biggest concern with Fales. Arm strength buys you time in the NFL. Guys like Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford get a split second longer to make decisions than everyone else. Fales isn't going to have that luxury. He'll have to rely on anticipation and timing.

Overview- Fales is a smart passer with above average touch and average arm strength. At worst I think Fales will have a long career as a backup. But I think he'll more than likely he'll get an opportunity as a starter.

Draft Projection: Fales has 3rd-4th round talent and I think he'll be selected no earlier than that.

Thanks again to all of the guys at draftbreakdown.com for all of the work you do compiling prospect video.

I'll be back tomorrow with QB #5.