This was a typical performance from the 2011 version of Robert Griffin III – big plays downfield, a dramatic finish and further evidence of star potential. We’ve said it many times before, but his development from year to year at Baylor is quite phenomenal. In my first mock draft of the year I put him among the top ten picks (#8 Miami) and he could go even higher still.
Even so, I’m still trying to work just how good his deep ball really is. Yes, Griffin has completed a large number of downfield passes for big touchdowns. The Bears, somehow, keep exploiting defenses with the sheer quality of deep speed within their group of receivers. There may not be a faster core of athletes in college football and Kendall Wright in particular will light up the combine next year. More often than not Griffin is throwing into a huge window because of the separation and speed of his targets. Check out the plays at 0:06, 3:08 and 6:18 and tell me those are difficult throws for any quarterback with above average arm strength. The pass at 6:08 was inaccurate and should’ve hit the wide out for another touchdown. There have been instances of just flat out missing a wide open downfield pass at times this season, but you offset that with a number of good plays too.
It’s not that Griffin III is inaccurate in that sense, but there are a lot of examples where he’s throwing to wide open receivers that maybe overplay is deep ball. The pass at 2:28 is over thrown into double coverage – technically he’s plaing it safe putting it in an area where most likely nobody will get it, but perhaps his reciever with elite downfield speed will make an incredible play? In the NFL, if you take away the easier wide open throws are we going to see more of these over thrown ‘no turnover’ passes rather than big downfield completions, as Griffin compensates for not having speed advantages downfield?
Just as you’re starting to wonder whether Griffin’s downfield passing ability is slightly overrated, you see a pass like the one at 4:48. That is just about as accurate as you can get throwing downfield, into a tight window with double coverage. It’s perfection and should’ve been caught for one of the touchdowns of the year. That isn’t just a top-10 draft pick delivery, it’s a first overall pick bomb that very few current NFL quarterbacks are capable of. The pass at 7:17 is a further example of a difficult throw with the necessary pace to find a receiver for a big play.
There are other examples of similar quality too. The pass at 2:42 shows good awareness to sense the pressure and he adjusts his angle to throw a quick strike to his receiver. This is where Griffin’s release and arm strength may be most important, because it enables him to make a quick completion in a difficult situation. Once Wright receives the ball in space, he’s able to make a huge play but it all starts with Griffin getting the ball to his playmaker. At 4:27 he flicks his wrists and delivers a rocket spiral to the sideline for a first down.
For arguments sake we have to point out the negatives. The throws at 1:29 and 5:04 flash inaccuracy and the passes at 1:40 and 8:30 are bad decisions, the second of which should’ve ended in a turnover. Some people have complained about the change in his throwing angle in certain situation. Considering it’s usually part of an improvisation to complete a pass rather than a bad habit he’s developed, I think that’s a little harsh. Most of the time his release point is good enough for the next level, it’s his footwork that requires the most work.
We know about the athleticism and ability to move around in the pocket to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes firmly downfield. We see great examples of this at 6:32, 6:40, 7:02 and 10:09. The other well known feature of Griffin’s play is intelligence, which really shines at 8:23 to deal with a difficult snap and throw the ball back to the LOS in order to avoid a big loss and an intentional grounding flag. That’s an under rated play.
But really this game will always be remembered for one play, and one play only. This is Griffin’s highlight, the thing people will always come back to when discussing his time at Baylor. With the game heading to over time at 38-38 and with 17 seconds remaining he creates space by moving to the left and then throws across his body to deliver a pass of such accuracy, incredible touch and unmatched athleticism it deserves to win any game. Fast forward to 10:34 and watch that play a few times, because it’s what will make Griffin a high draft pick next April. I’m still not sure how he finds that receiver at the back of the end zone, especially considering his body position to throw and the decent coverage. Scouts, coaches and GM’s will replay that many times between January and April.
On a side note, how under rated is Kendall Wright? Deep speed, good hands and playmaking qualities that will improve any NFL offense. He’s fourth in college football for receiving yards with 1281 and has ten touchdowns. That’s more yards than Justin Blackmon. I have Wright going to Cleveland in my first mock draft with the 19th overall pick, but he could easily go earlier than that. He could be another Mike Wallace.
Many thanks to JMPasq for supplying us with the tape