Just before Christmas, Kip posted two excellent articles looking at later round quarterbacks that could be in play for the Seahawks. To see both pieces, click here and here. I wanted to continue this theme by taking a look at other options the front office might consider. I think it’s likely Seattle will draft a quarterback at some point, even if it’s not the top-end first rounder a lot of people are hoping for. I wanted to highlight Ryan Lindley (QB, San Diego State) as someone who’s drifted off the radar this season despite being one of the pre-season tips to get among the big name quarterbacks.
Back in September, Tony Pauline at SI.Com said Lindley, “could be the most underrated senior prospect in the nation.”However, a poor performance against Michigan at the end of the month led to this rethink by Pauline:
“Prior to the season I referred to San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley as one of the most underrated prospects from the senior class. After a fast start to his campaign, NFL scouts were of the same opinion. Yet Lindley faltered in Ann Arbor against Michigan one week ago, a game that was likely to be the toughest challenge he’ll face on the field this season. He completed just 48 percent of his passes and struggled to get the offense into the end zone. While this is far from the end game for the signal caller, several insiders from the scouting community have confided in me that Lindley missed a big opportunity to establish himself as one of the top senior quarterbacks available in next April’s draft.”
One of the big problems with Lindley is the low completion rate he’s endured throughout his four years starting at San Diego State. He threw over 420 passes in each season, but never topped 58% completions. In 2011 he actually recorded a career low 53%, ending with an average of just 56% overall. Teams want to see more than 60% completions, particularly if a player has had four years of solid starting time. As you’ll see in the video below, Lindley suffers from a lot of dropped passes. He’s also strikingly inconsistent, flashing definite pro-potential on several throws and just flat out missing on others.
Lindley has the size, arm and mobility that teams are looking for at the moment. Despite some negative reviews and all of the inconsistencies, he’s a player to watch as we get closer to April. At 6-4 and 230lbs he looks the part and there’s a chance he’ll impress at the Senior Bowl if he receives an invite. As a 5th year Senior, some of the mistakes are a little concerning considering he’s had plenty of time under center. He’s not raw, so scouts will study the tape and judge whether he’s capable of becoming a more rounded prospect with pro-guidance. I’ve included two pieces of game tape below – the aforementioned defeat against Michigan and the most recent New Orleans Bowl defeat to UL Lafayette.
There are a few throws here where Lindley really looks the part. Against Lafayette, look at the pass at 0:54 and the way he drops it into his receiver making sure he’s the only one who can make the completion. At 1:41 he extends the play by running to his right and doesn’t panic, before throwing a nice downfield pass to his tight end. The throw at 5:09 from deep inside his own endzone shows a lot of poise and confidence to get a difficult first down. The second touchdown pass at 6:10 is a thing of beauty – perfect touch and precision to find the back of the end zone and one of the prettiest passes you’ll see this season. The score that puts SDSU ahead with seconds to spare is also an excellent piece of quarterback play – high pressure situation, pinpoint accuracy to dissect two defenders for a touchdown.
Then you look at the throw at 2:16 where there’s an obvious breakdown somewhere and he almost throws it straight to the cornerback for a pick-six. At 4:03 he throws into thick coverage and has a pass tipped into the area that could easily have been intercepted. At 5:19 he’s basically throwing one up for grabs in a situation where it wasn’t warranted. It’s a bad read, a careless throw and should’ve led to a turnover. He follows it up with a near identical deep attempt that again could’ve been picked off. There’s nowhere near enough punch in that deep ball and throwing short from such a range is asking for trouble. By 8:18 he’s really pushing his luck with another pass that should’ve been easily taken by a defensive back. At 6:43 he has a receiver wide open for a touchdown and just has to hit him in stride but misses badly. He has to make that throw.
Against Michigan he flashes some arm strength with a nice cross-body throw at 0:10. After that though he really struggles to cope with the pressure created by the Wolverine front four. Although he doesn’t get anything like adequate protection from his offensive line, it’s visible how much the pressure impacts Lindley and he loses any level of composure and never regains any momentum. It’s hard to find many positive highlights in the game as he’s just off for most part. His sole touchdown at 4:34 asks a lot of his receiver, but a score’s a score.
When Lindley is making plays I want to say he’s the third best quarterback eligible for 2012. Then you watch one of his mistakes and you have to remember he’s a 53% passer who hasn’t taken any giant leaps as a senior. It’s worth noting he’s played for three different head coaches in four years starting and that has to have an impact on his development. In a more settled pro-environment with time to develop, could he settle down? He’s only 22 so there’s still time for him to sit for a year or two. My biggest concern, however, is that he will end up always being what we see now. In any given game he’ll make plays where you sit up and take notice, but he’ll likely follow it up with a drive-killing miss or a turnover. He needs to do a better job reading the field and judging when a pass isn’t on. Too many times defensive backs are gaining position on the receivers and under-cutting routes, only for Lindley to make a late throw anyway and almost get picked off. He only had eight interceptions for the year but it could’ve easily been more. He also needs to improve the consistency with his arm strength and get a better feel for velocity. Sometimes he takes pace off the ball when he needs to really drive it to the target, other times he’ll fire a bullet on a short range throw to his full back.
From a size, arm potential, frame and mobility stand point there’s a lot to like. There’s also enough to temper expectations and limit his stock. Having said that, if he can go to the Senior Bowl and show greater consistency and a strong arm there’s no reason why he couldn’t end up going higher than many people – including me – first thought.