Archive for July, 2011

A good read on the QB saga

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

I suspect most Seahawks fans are desperate for the lockout to end more so the ongoing ‘who will be the team’s quarterback’ saga ends than the actual celebration of guaranteed football in 2011. Even so, we also face a situation where there’s very little else to discuss. Given this lose-lose situation, you might as well read a quality piece of writing and commentary to make up for it.

Danny Kelly at Field Gulls has done a great job piecing everything together to get a read on the situation. I recommend checking out his latest piece which can be viewed by clicking here.

Summer quarterback grades

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

The forthcoming college football season will obviously have a large say in where the 2012 class of quarterbacks are drafted. There could even be a couple of prospects who come from nowhere to contend at the top of round one (see: Cam Newton). Those who are expected to go early, may drop off the map completely (Jevan Snead anyone?). However, I’ve had a chance to take a look at the latest batch of quarterbacks that could be available next April and I want to put the grades down now as a marker for comparison during the season. It’ll give me a chance to ask – Did anyone improve their stock? Did anyone fall? Who did we leave off the list?

There are also a handful of quarterbacks I can’t judge yet, for several reasons. I’ve included a few notes on those players at the end.

The big three

Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford) – 1st overall
A shoe-in to go first overall next year, even at this early stage there’s no doubt who’s name will be called first in 2012. Talent (and hype) have guaranteed his place at the top of the class.

Matt Barkley (QB, USC) – Top five
The big question is whether or not he decides to stick it out for the full four years in order to help USC challenge for the PAC-12. I suspect he will, but he’s the one player capable of pushing Andrew Luck.

Landry Jones (QB, Oklahoma) – Round One
He has all the physical throwing tools, but mobility is an issue. Needs to stand out more in a prolific offense to max out potential as a possible early pick.

The best of the rest

Kirk Cousins (QB, Michigan State) – Rounds 2/3
Neat and tidy quarterback, solid not spectacular. Ticks a lot of boxes without flashing incredible physical talent.

Austin Davis (QB, Southern Miss) – Rounds 2/3
Athletic and accurate, he could end up going surprisingly early next year. A definite sleeper pick.

Stephen Garcia (QB, South Carolina) – Rounds 4/5
Off-field drama could jeopardise any chances of playing in 2011, let alone being drafted. However, there is something there in terms of a potential pro back-up.

Ryan Lindley (QB, San Diego State) – Rounds 5/6
Inconsistency is the main issue. The potential is obvious and he isn’t lacking physically, but he doesn’t pass the eye test as an early pick.

Later round picks and possible UDFA’s

Brandon Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State) – Rounds 6/7
Slightly generous given he’ll be a 29-year-old rookie, but someone may be willing to make him a 4-5 year back-up.

Nick Foles (QB, Arizona) – Rounds 6/7
Limited physical tools and plays in a favorable spread offense which paints a deceptively positive picture of his ability.

Robert Griffin (QB, Baylor) – UDFA
Great leader, great athlete – but it’s impossible to see how he fits as a pro-quarterback.

Kellen Moore (QB, Boise State) – UDFA
Size is a worry and so is arm strength. Has a great grasp of his offense but you just cannot imagine him in the NFL.

Case Keenum (QB, Houston) – UDFA
Starting a sixth year at Houston and he has great stats, but so did Graham Harrell.

Prospects I’m waiting to make a judgement on:

Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
After converting from receiver mid-way through last season, it’s hard not to be impressed by the numbers Tannehill recorded. He’s athletic and mobile in the pocket and has surprisingly good mechanics and physical tools. There are also a few things that he needs to work on. I’ve not seen enough tape to make a proper judgement, but even so I think it’s only fair to judge the player when he’s had a full off-season preparation as the bona fide starter.

Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech)
It’s perhaps a stretch to consider that Thomas – after just one year starting – will end up declaring for the 2012 draft. However, he is a physical specimen at 6-6, 245lbs and he’s drawn loose comparisons athletically to Cam Newton. He will start on a team that maintains a solid base and should be competitive in the ACC. If he explodes during the season, he’ll be tempted by the NFL. One to watch with interest.

John Brantley (QB, Florida)
Last year’s sleeper as a potential high draft pick, Brantley was caught up in a mess of an offense last season in the post-Tebow system. With coaching changes having taken place, Brantley will be the main beneficiary. Charlie Weis is his new offensive coordinator and he specialises in making average quarterbacks productive in a simple offense that limits turnovers. Brantley’s stock could boom, even if it isn’t a fair reflection on his talent.

Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
He caught the eye when Arkansas almost ended Auburn’s unbeaten run. When Ryan Mallett left the game with a concussion, Wilson looked like a seasoned pro before a late collapse gifted the Tigers their victory. We still saw flashes of potential and working in Bobby Petrino’s offense, we know he’ll be well drilled. Arkansas still have some playmakers and Wilson may just surprise a few people.

ESPN pundits not enthralled by Terrelle Pryor

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Mel Kiper gives his verdict on Pryor’s pro-prospects:

Scouts INC have given Pryor a 5th round grade. Although he’s awarded an ‘exceptional’ mark for production and physical tools, his intelligence/decision making and accuracy are graded ‘below average’. On his accuracy in particular, they state:

“Flashes the ability to hit the strike zone but not nearly as accurate as the numbers suggest. Forces receivers to adjust too much, and footwork is biggest concern. Frequently throws flat-footed. Will open his stance too much, hindering his ability to follow through. Throws across his body and behind receivers too often. Floats too many of his vertical throws.”

On Pryor’s decision making:

“Flashes the ability to checkdown when his first option isn’t there but is mechanical and inconsistent going through progressions. Appears to assume checkdowns are open and throws into coverage at times. Tendency to press is biggest concern here. Throws the ball up for grabs far too often when getting pressured. Anticipation as a passer is below average and he is late on too many throws. Holds the ball too long, which gives defenses a chance to react.”

Pryor’s credited with being willing to “play through the pain” and is described as a “tough runner who is not afraid to initiate contact if it means picking up the first down or getting into the end zone.” However, this is qualified by the warning that, “NFL scouts are thoroughly investigating his maturity level and mental toughness.”

KC Joyner voices concerns about a lack of improvement against better teams during his time at Ohio State. He uses Cam Newton as a comparison and the way he performed against the likes of LSU, Alabama and South Carolina as he grew into a defining role as the Tigers quarterback. He had a passer rating of 195.0 in November, December and January as Auburn lifted the National Championship and Newton won the Heisman. When it mattered, Newton got the job done.

Pryor didn’t enjoy such success, particularly on the road with only 102.3 rating in 2010. His performance against Wisconsin – the one defeat OSU suffered last year – is highlighted by Joyner.

“Having an exceptionally poor stat line in what may have been the most important game on the Buckeyes’ 2010 schedule pretty much ended Pryor’s Heisman Trophy candidacy, and called into question his ability to step up during crunch time. When it is combined with the entirety of his mediocre big-game performances over the past two years, it shows why his best route to landing on an NFL roster may be via changing to the wide receiver position.”

Not exactly a glowing reference then from these three ESPN pundits.

Some thoughts on Terrelle Pryor

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Terrelle Pryor can run, but can he become a starting NFL quarterback?

I’ve had the opportunity to run through a couple of OSU games this weekend to have a look at quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He’s entering the supplemental draft whenever that takes place (we’re relying on a new CBA again) and it’s not entirely obvious what his future holds. His departure from Ohio State was shambolic and will concern teams just as much as any faults within his on-field game (and we’ll come to the actual football soon).

First the background on his exit from Ohio State.

Pryor was due to miss the first five games of the 2011 college season along with four teammates due to a NCAA sanction for selling memorabilia. As it turns out, that was just the start of the mayhem. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the NCAA and Ohio State would conduct an investigation over 50 cars bought by players, family members and friends. Sports Illustrated added that Pryor drove up to eight cars during his time at OSU. What’s more, it’s understood he was driving on a suspended license. ESPN have since published a subsequent report alleging that Pryor made thousands of dollars autographing memorabilia for a local booster, a charge which has been denied by Pryor’s attorney.

The end product of all this negative press is the decision to quit college football and head to the supplemental draft. To some extent it’s understandable – would Pryor’s suspension be extended pending further NCAA investigation? Could he miss a whole year? With coach Jim Tressell leaving and with so much negativity existing around the team, would it surmount to potentially a wasted season? All legitimate reasons to justify Pryor’s decision from a pure business point of view, yet you have to ask at the same time whether it’s a major cop out? With OSU being investigated and facing a huge task on the field, rather than face the music or stand by his teammates Pryor has simply bailed for higher ground.

It’d be easy to read too much into that, but teams do want to see responsibility and they want to see leadership from big name college quarterbacks. Perhaps you ignore certain things when you’re considering a low level investment in a talented running back or corner, but Pryor plays the most important position on the team. They need to know they can trust this guy to put the offense on his shoulders and drag it across the desert. They need to know that the day he becomes part of their franchise, football will win the day and not controversy.

Pryor’s agent Drew Rosenhaus has predicted at least one team is going to make a first round investment via the supplemental draft. Even if Pryor was such a talented quarterback to warrant that consideration, the off-the-field issues would render it a near impossibility. Which team is going to spend their 2012 first round pick on Terrelle Pryor before a ball has been kicked in anger to begin the new season? The answer is obvious. The question really becomes – at what point does Pryor go from being too much of a risk, to becoming a calculated gamble or even a worthy project?

When you throw on the tape it’s very easy to determine what is Pryor’s defining strength – evasiveness. When it’s third and ten, you’re pass rush has penetrated into the backfield and is just about to make the sack – he finds a way to avoid the pressure and make a gain instead of taking the loss. Sometimes, he even gets a new set of downs. He glides as a runner and looks every part an athlete – 6-6 and 235lbs of fluid, stylish running ability. Unfortunately, that is the one big positive.

As a passer there’s absolutely nothing to write home about. He lacks any kind of touch or feel with the football, often throwing a poor spiral or struggling to put the ball into the best possible place for his receivers. On several occasions he’ll get bailed out by his wide-outs fighting to make a play or just being better than the individual they’re competing with. Despite having great athletic qualities, there’s no great deep ball or velocity and certainly his accuracy downfield is patchy at best. The problem is, he doesn’t compensate with a tidy intermediate game. He’s a thrower, not a passer. When things get tough, sometimes he’ll just toss it up for grabs.

It’s hard to imagine any scheme where Pryor could fit in without major technique building. He’s being coached during this pre-CBA holding period by Ken Anderson who also worked with Cam Newton. That’s a positive, but I can’t stress enough the vast amount of space between Newton and Pryor in terms of their passing ability. Despite a lot of suggestions to the contrary, Newton is a much more established and polished passer than people give him credit for. He can make several pro-style throws with ease, he spins the ball effectively with good touch and he’s got a much better deep ball. Newton is what Pryor was expected to be when he started at OSU. Right now, they are incomparable players except for size and athletic ability. Newton is ready to play quarterback in the NFL, while Pryor isn’t close.

I could see a handful of different scenarios in the supplemental draft – one being that no NFL team makes a bid for Pryor and he’s left contemplating his next move. That is a very real prospect in my opinion. On the other hand, the athletic qualities are good enough for at least one team to bring him in for a late round flier and test him out. In that round 5-7 range you’re never expecting anything but potential and a chance of sticking around. At the very least, Pryor’s athletic brilliance should secure some interest. Anything higher than that for me is severe wishful thinking.

Would the Seahawks show interest? They’ve been willing to take on a project in the first year of the Pete Carroll regime and Pryor could do worse than get a shot somewhere where competition is the very nature of the programme. Carroll wants his quarterback to be able to move and extend plays, while also keeping a defense honest and being able to limit turnovers. Despite his sometimes careless nature, Pryor had 11 interceptions in both the 2009 and 2010 seasons but scored 45 passing touchdowns. The numbers are slightly deceptive though – Pryor had poor-to-average games against Miami (FL), Wisconsin and Iowa averaging 49% completions and recording a 2-3 touchdown-interception ratio. No such troubles of course against Marshall, Eastern Michigan or Indiana (75% completions on average, 10-0 TD-INT ratio).

It’s also worth mentioning that the eleven picks were spread out –  Pryor had only three regular season games in 2010 without an interception.

Whether that alone will be enough to put off the Seahawks entirely remains to be seen, although you imagine that like the rest of the league the OSU-exit and the lack of polished passing ability will do most damage. Even so, it may be Carroll who sees the potential which in fairness exists if only from a physical stand point. Putting him on the bench for a year behind a veteran or two and taking a slow approach may pay dividends down the line. Maybe. If someone is going to take a shot on Pryor, it’s as likely to be the Seahawks as anyone else. Pryor has to hope someone will be willing to take on that challenge whenever the supplemental draft takes place – otherwise he better prepare for the Canadian Football League.

Terrelle Pryor vs Arkansas – Sugar Bowl (Tape provided by JMPasq):

Jon Gruden meets Terrelle Pryor

Friday, July 1st, 2011