Ryan Mallett significantly improved his stock at the combine. What’s wrong with that suggestion? It goes against the media consensus but maybe it’s true?
Here’s the timeline for Mallett’s media massacre, dating all the way back to last year:
January 2010– Mallett decides not to declare for 2010 draft andreturns for a second year starting in Bobby Petrino’s offense. High profile pundits criticise his height, touch, accuracy, lack of mobility and ability to win tough games on the road.
February 2010– Breaks foot during conditioning drills and he’ll be forced to miss all of Spring practise. Critics voice concern about Mallett’s ability to work on his faults.
September 2010– Mallett, now fully healed, throws for 1698 yards in his first five games (4-1) of the 2010 season – scoring thirteen touchdowns in the process. Arkansas win key games at Georgia and Texas A&M, but defeat to #1 ranked Alabama sticks in the throat when a double interception in the fourth quarter leads to defeat. Critics focus on the key final pick when, under pressure, Mallett is forced to re-adjust his feet and throw off balance – costing Arkansas a chance to win.
September 2010 – Speculation begins surrounding potential off the field concerns. Wes Bunting from the NFP tweets: “I talked to a scout the other day that said, ‘I got stuff on Mallett that nobody knows about’ there are a lot of concerns on him personally.”
October-December 2010– Arkansas doesn’t lose another regular season game under Mallett’s leadership. The Hogs only defeat comes against eventual BCS Champions Auburn when Mallett is forced to leave the game early with a concussion. Impressive wins against Mississippi State (A), South Carolina (A) and LSU (H) lead to a first BCS bowl appearance in the team’s history.
January 2011– Mallett’s Arkansas lose the Sugar Bowl to Ohio State after a second-half comeback falls short. Deja vu strikes as Mallett throws another late interception off balance to kill the game, re-opening wounds from the Alabama defeat earlier that season. Critics continue to focus on the footwork problem despite a 3869 yard season that included 32 passing touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.
January 2011– By the end of the 2010 season, Mallett made major strides across the board. He improved his completion percentage from 56% in 2009 to 65% in 2010. His accuracy and touch had greatly improved, as did his willingness to check down. He continued to show strongly progressing through reads and didn’t rely as much on his big arm. Mallett controlled the offense and was given responsibility to adjust plays at the line of scrimmage. The other issue – wins on the road – was improved with Arkansas’ only official road defeat coming in the Mallett-less shoot-out against #1 Auburn,
January 2011– Mallett dramatically and suddenly drops out of Mel Kiper’s top-25 big board, despite being as high as #11 previously. Kiper claims mechanical problems are the issue, but the example he uses (vs Alabama) is a game he previously analysed in detail during the season.
February 2011 – Negative publicity continues as drug rumors pick up pace. ESPN 101’s Tony Softli regurgitates the speculation. Doug Farrar in his ‘Shutdown 40’ series states: “As much as I don’t enjoy writing profoundly negative scouting reports of draft prospects, Mallett has as many warning flags as any potential first-round quarterback I’ve ever seen.”
February 2011– Mallett heads to the scouting combine under a blaze of negative publicity. His introductory press conference is dominated by questions relating to speculated drug abuse:
Farrar labels the conference ‘a meltdown’, listed Mallett among his combine ‘losers’ and wrote, “the way he handled his abbreviated press conference didn’t just add to the questions; it also perpetuated the perception of Mallett as a person who is defensive in all the wrong ways.” This was an opinion shared by many. Evan Silva lists Mallett as his #1 combine ‘faller’, using the term ‘train wreck’ and suggesting he could fall into round three.
Follow the relevant media and you’d be forgiven for thinking Mallett’s last 12-14 months have been an utter train wreck.
It leads us to today, March 2nd, with the combine in the books. The name Ryan Mallett hasn’t been barely mentioned since he left Indianapolis on a plane having completed quarterback drills at the combine. Attentions turned obviously to the defensive lineman, linebackers and defensive backs – but the Mallett soap opera was still conspicuous by it’s absence after Sunday.
Am I missing something here? Is somebody sat on an enormous scoop that’s going to destroy the guy’s stock even more? This is a person the media have used as a pawn in their draft coverage – the evil villain so to speak among the Patrick Peterson’s, Von Miller’s and Prince Amukamara’s out there. After all – we need a bad news angle, right?
So why has the Mallett character assassination (is that too strong? arguably not) ceased to such a grand halt? After his perceived poor public appearance on Saturday, I felt sure we’d hear all about how teams were repulsed by his performance and how it carried on into private team interviews. This was a story that had legs, so why would it stop?
Len Pasquarelli at CBS Sportsline has a logical reason:
“Despite a Saturday afternoon media session in which some felt that quarterback Ryan Mallett was caustic and evasive when questioned about the drug allegations surrounding him, most league franchises that subjected the former Arkansas star to a closed door interview came away impressed with him. Three teams that met with Mallett at the combine said they had no problems with his responses to the drug allegations or with his demeanor.”
Admittedly this is focused on private team meetings and the media has no direct access to the productivity of those. Nobody is leaking that they went badly though and Pasquarelli’s sources suggest he actually performed well.
My take on the introductory presser was rather than suffer a ‘meltdown’, Mallett almost certainly dealt with it in the best way possible. It was a tough situation and he knew it – what exactly would’ve been a good way of dealing with it? Denying allegations only to be labelled a liar if they prove true? Admitting mistakes and making it a public talking point? Teams don’t want to see him discussing such loaded topics with the press. After five questions on the subject, he politely calls a halt to proceedings and leaves the podium – he hardly storms off the stage as some outlets have suggested.
Mallett performed well in drills – perhaps better than any other quarterback – and there have been no negative reports from his interviews. The conclusion? He’s poured ice-cold water all over the blazing fire surrounding his draft stock. Teams who may have had concern with his off the field persona might have been impressed with the way he handled himself.
I’ve always considered Mallett a top-15 talent on the field with doubts off it. I felt the combine would define his stock because if anything was going to come out into the open – it’d be now. That hasn’t happened, no skeletons leaving the closet. We still don’t know if the reported drug abuse is true or to what extent it may be true but nobody has been able to nail down exact details. No journalist or team representative has put credence to the speculation.
That in itself has to be constituted as a success. The fact he performed well and reportedly interviewed well is another significant bonus.
It doesn’t mean I think he’ll be a top ten pick all of a sudden – he may easily drop into round two as I’ve projected for some time. Perspective is vital though and I don’t see many others willing to consider the possibility that actually – Mallett had a pretty good weekend.
This tweet courtesy of ‘Sports by Brooks’ is interesting if unsubstantiated and lacking detail. Potential sabotage adds a nice twist to the tale, but it’s as ambitious at this point as those trying to claim Mallett suffered a meltdown during his presser.
What I want to convey and will represent in my next mock (published later today, so stay tuned) is the argument that Mallett did have a more positive experience at the combine than some believe. I’m not saying a fall isn’t still possible, but let’s not rule out someone acknowledging his on-field talents and being satisfied enough with his off-field personality to roll the dice on a player with big-time potential.