Andy Dalton is not a first round pick

Andy Dalton a first round pick? Not for me.

Twelve months ago, Colt McCoy was a late first round pick. He was a winner in college, setting records galore for Texas. Forget the faults because this guy could win.

I was never a fan and thought he deserved a late round grade, but would probably settle in the fourth round due to the reputation and ability to ‘win’. During the season only Mel Kiper stuck by a high grade, consistently keeping him at #25 on his big board despite a largely negative view every else. He wasn’t really on the radar as a high draft pick because the flaws were pretty obvious.

He had a slow start to the off season having spent a large portion of it recovering from an injury picked up in the BCS Championship defeat to Alabama. Yet once McCoy recovered and participated in his pro-day, the hype machine kicked into gear. Suddenly he was being talked about as a late first round pick. Really? What about the tape? We’d all seen it and nobody really considered McCoy a first round talent previously. Physically not great, not accurate enough to compensate, too many mistakes. What gives?

Peter King was one of McCoy’s fans, touting him as a late first rounder. When asked in his MMQB article one week about the possibility of Tim Tebow going in the first round, King replied:

“I probably would pick McCoy if I had the choice. I think he’s getting vastly underrated entering the last round of evaluations of the quarterbacks.”

Todd McShay was at McCoy’s pro-day and filed this report for ESPN (see video below). Notice the term ‘West Coast Offense’.

Mary Kay-Cabot from the Cleveland Plain Dealer had this piece on McCoy before the draft:

“Most experts have McCoy ranked behind Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, and projected to go in the second round. But if the Browns hope to land him — and there are strong indications they’d like to — they might have to either trade back from No. 7 or up from No. 38 to secure him late in the first round.”

22% of fans voting in this Minnesota Vikings poll wanted the team to draft McCoy at #30 overall, second only to Devin McCourty (29%) (well, they actually call him Derrick – I’m not sure how good Derrick McCourty is).

Draft Nasty mocked McCoy to #30 as well, stating:

“With the uncertain future of current quarterback Brett Favre, the Vikings may look to take the most accurate quarterback in the 2010 NFL Draft class.”

Draft day arrived and by that point more and more people were projecting McCoy as a possible first round pick or at worst, an early second rounder. Mike Mayock from the NFL Network believed he would be an early second round pick. For two rounds McCoy waited. He saw Sam Bradford go first overall, but as this video shows– the patience was perhaps starting to thin out when Tim Tebow was the second quarterback off the board. The words used when Jimmy Clausen was the first quarterback taken on day two? “It’s crazy… nothing’s ever been easy.”

He lasted until the end of round three and was taken by the Cleveland Browns. Remember them? One of the teams supposedly who might be trading up into the bottom of round one.

When all was said and done McCoy went in the range the initial evaluations suggested – right in the middle of draft, perhaps a couple of rounds earlier than he probably should’ve done. He was a project without the great physical talent. Cleveland were starting a new era with a west coast offense, managed by Mike Holmgren as team president.

Fast forward a year and tell me the difference between the McCoy hype and all this ‘Andy Dalton in round one’ talk?

It started when John Clayton touted the possibility of Seattle taking one of the second tier quarterbacks in round one, including Dalton. It was a surprise but not so much in the context Clayton was debating. His view was that a reach may be necessary to fill the most important position and clearly taking Dalton there was a reach. My surprise was based around the thought that Dalton wouldn’t be there at #57. After all, this was a guy generously being talked about as a possible third or fourth round pick – perhaps later still.

Then came Trent Dilfer’s contribution.

“One of the reasons why he hasn’t generated as much momentum and hype is because what personnel and coaches do at this time of the year when they’ve kind of settle on who they want, they’re going to shut up about that guy. You’ll hear a lot of good stuff about (Arkansas’ Ryan) Mallett in the next couple weeks because they want to use him as a smoke screen. You’re going to hear a lot of good stuff about (Florida State’s Christian) Ponder because they want to use him as a smoke screen.

“At the end of the day, the good quarterback people in this league — I will not be wrong here — are going to be wanting Andy Dalton late in the first round or early second round if he happens to fall that far. I’ll be shocked if I’m wrong here. Andy Dalton will be taken in the first round.”

The hype season was upon us. It’s probably worth adding that Dilfer has back tracked on those comments just today, suggesting now that Dalton will probably go in round two.

Nevertheless, other people have projected Dalton to Seattle at #25. Don Banks in his last two mock drafts has gone in that direction.

We’re starting to hear the same things said about Dalton that we heard about McCoy. He’s a west coast guy, he’s a winner, he’s got ‘moxy’, the stats are good. Etc etc.

History is repeating itself.

For whatever reason, we get to this time of year and quarterbacks like Dalton get a sensational press. They’re considered the safe alternative to the big name quarterback – yet how many of these guys ever go on to be full time starters? It’s not impossible, but it’s very difficult. You can have all the wins in college, nice stats coming out of a spread offense and you can be a great guy. When all is said and done, you need physical talent and you need to be accurate.

Let’s hit the tape, courtesy as always of the impeccable Aaron Alosysius:

The tape shows every snap involving Dalton in a blow out win over San Diego State. The third and fourth passes in the video against are Christian Ponder-esque and will lead to picks at the next level. There are a lot of similar play calls, option to the running back and a short screen or slant to the left designed for yards after the catch.

What Dalton does well, as emphasised here, is a strike to the outside on a medium level route. He does generate some velocity on those passes and is generally accurate. The first two touchdown passes are well executed, a fade in single coverage and a quick throw to the right which the receiver takes advantage of. At the same time, neither is a particularly difficult pass to make. I actually prefer the third and fourth touchdown passes, when he zips a slant to the outside in tight coverage perfectly and completes a tougher fade to the outside.

However, there are a lot of throws that seem to miss high or wide that aren’t that difficult. On one play he throws about 10-yards out of the end zone on a roll out. The guy isn’t a lost cause by any means in terms of accuracy, but it’s not consistent enough. Let’s also remember the level of competition he’s facing.

One thing that’s not evidenced here and is something I’ve picked up on watching several other TCU games in 2009 and 2010 is Dalton’s inability to remain focused after an error. There have been times when he’s made a poor decision or turned the ball over and let it get to him. This was a bigger issue in 2009 and it hit his confidence during a game. He improved the following year, but it’s something I’d feel I had to monitor at the next level because he can be fragile at times.

So here’s how I judge Andy Dalton – he needs to try and become Matt Hasselbeck. That is the peak for him. Get into a strict and defined offense that is based on timing and short/intermediate routes. Master the offense over 2-3 years on the sidelines and hope for time and patience as a starter when you finally get that shot. Then you have to execute.

Hasselbeck was fortunate enough to spend all of his early career with the same coach and the same system and he had that drive and determination to master the scheme. It’s maybe one of Hasselbeck’s most under rated qualities that he’s a pure football guy with a very good grasp of the game. He worked hard to become a NFL starter as a 6th round pick, but he also understood and followed the information well enough to go with the ideal coaching.

When his career didn’t start brilliantly in Seattle, he had further opportunities. When the Holmgren offense was at it’s best in Seattle, Hasselbeck was at his best too. It was only a short window, but for a period he was among the top QB’s in the league.

Dalton needs all of the same fight, all of the same consistency in coaching and the time. Even then he’s going to struggle like crazy, because there aren’t many Matt Hasselbeck’s who make it in the league. So are you taking this guy in round one? Of course not. He’s not a physically gifted athlete with mind blowing potential. He’ll need an abundance of time and coaching. He’s not a faultless decision maker with great accuracy to make up for the lack of pure physical talent.

He’s the very definition of a mid/late round flier. Round one? Not for me.

The Seahawks are not going to invest their future in a guy like Dalton in round one. Could they see him as an option after that? Perhaps, but I suspect they want someone who can be a much greater x-factor presence on a much quicker time frame. Whatever your views on Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker, they are light years ahead of Dalton in terms of physical ability and having seen all three on the board, I believe they are also above Dalton in terms of understanding a pro-system.

I don’t want to labor this point too much, but look at Dalton in his discussion with John Gruden (see video below). He gives his favorite play as a basic ‘all-go’ route with essentially a deep read and a checkdown. It is such a simple play. As Gruden points out when the roll the tape, he doesn’t notice the easy checkdown that would’ve provided a solid 25-35 yards. Instead he forces a throw deep and should be intercepted. To quote Gruden, “Ed Reed is dunking that ball over the goal post.”

Ryan Mallett makes that check down. I’d urge people to watch his piece with Gruden and compare the white board breakdown to grasp the differences between the two in terms of that pro-understanding. Gruden hates rookie quarterbacks – it aided his departure from Tampa Bay – but look at his face light up when Mallett runs through a play and practises a hard count.

There’s the difference between what you would tentatively call a pro-ready quarterback and a guy who needs to spend a lot of time with a quarterbacks coach. A first round quarterback needs to be ready to start these days. If they aren’t, then they at least need to have a high ceiling with limitless potential. Dalton is neither.

Essentially I think he’ll end up in that round 3/4 range, as did McCoy. Maybe the lack of free agency does tempt a team to take him in round two? I just think if there is going to be a quarterback reach from the second tier, it’ll be on a guy like Colin Kaepernick who at least has the physical tools to match the production and ‘winning‘. If I’m wrong and Dalton does find a home in the late first round or the early second, I’ll have no issues coming onto the blog and admitting I was flat out wrong. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks when the 2011 draft kicks off. Until then I’m standing by the stance I’ve always had – Dalton at #25 is not going to happen.


  1. Dave

    I hope your right

  2. caleb

    Haha, haven’t even read the article yet. Just saw the title, scrolled down, and here i am saying thank you for putting this one to bed Rob. Nothing is more embarrassing than listen to people say Dalton is a first rounder. “Andy Dalton is not a first round pick” just about sums it up. Well done, in advance.

    • Rob

      That’s pretty funny – hope you enjoy the piece!

      • Matt

        Amen. Thanks for this article Rob. It’s funny because every draft publication I own calls him a “career backup.” Media people greatly differ from the football people if you read the breakdowns.

  3. McDavis

    I agree w/ the McCoy comparison and definitely would be upset if for some strange reason the Seahawks drafted Dalton (and really think Clayton should stay out of the draft since he makes awful projections based on his horrible scouting and people give it weight assuming he “knows something”). That said, the comment “Let’s also remember the level of competition he’s facing” is unwarranted and misleading. SDSU was 20th in the nation in pass efficiency defense last year and actually caused some difficulties for Blaine Gabbert, intercepting him twice. For comparison only two of the vaunted SEC defenses, Alabama and Florida, were better against the pass than SDSU. Not sure it changes the analysis much but just felt it should be noted that this was the toughest pass defenses TCU faced all year and was one of the better pass defenses in the country.

    • Rob

      I hadn’t studied SDSU’s defensive record, so fair point. Even so, it’s a pass defense based on games against Wyoming, Nicholls State, Utah State, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, and UNLV. Sure, they played well against Missouri – but we’re not talking about a top end defense in my opinion. Put a SEC defense in against those teams and what happens?

      • McDavis

        Also a fair point. SDSU may not actually be an “elite” pass defense (note that I’m just talking pass defense b/c SDSU wasn’t strong against the run) but they were average at worst and probably aren’t a good example of a team where Dalton should have performed better b/c he was facing weak competition (and I have no affiliation with SDSU or the mountain west). Again great write up and other than that brief quibble, I completely agree with your grade of Dalton.

  4. tom page

    Nice piece Rob. Dalton reminds me of John Beck or Graham Harrell so I agree with you, not first round material. I am warming up to Mallett, my biggest concern is foot speed. I believe he is slower than Tom Brady so we are talking about sloth like speed for the NFL. Mallett throws a serious fast ball, I was just watching NFL Science, and he delivers a 20 yard pass in .7 seconds. His arm strength is elite. Dan Marino had a strong arm but he was pretty slow so he slid to the end of round one. I’m not saying Mallett is going to reach a Marino level, but slow guys with great arms can make it in the NFL.

    • Rob

      Absolutely they can and too much is made of Mallett’s straight line speed for me. He’s not completely hopeless at avoiding pressure, the tape shows that. Brady, Manning, Rivers – these guys are not much faster if at all. He’s a pure pocket passer, but can he run an offense similar to that in San Diego? Of course.

      • tom page

        Darrell Bevell is our new offensive coordinator. He called plays for Brett Favre the past two years. If Brett Favre and Ryan Mallett raced in the 40 yard dash, who would win? Got to go with young legs, Bevell has proven he can win with a QB with limited mobility.

        • Rob

          Agreed Tom. The Seahawks can’t afford to pigeon hole what kind of quarterback they can draft (and they won’t).

  5. Rob

    By the way – Peter King (quoted in this piece as backing Colt McCoy as a first rounder 12 months ago) just tweeted that Andy Dalton will be in the first round of his mock draft. No surprises there then.

    • Cash

      I think it’s interesting that guys who rely on league sources rather then their own scouting (King and Clayton) are the ones who praise 2nd and 3rd tier guys right before the draft.

  6. Cliff

    I think its funny how over the past few weeks I’ve been hearing many things you’ve been saying for months now. Today i finally heard J Smith is a top 10 talent and P Amukamara should be rated below him and possibly below B Harris as he is very limited against top competition.I haven’t heard a ton about Miller but have heard he is a one trick pony. Have heard Jordan Cameron is a top ten talent among many other things you’ve been saying.
    I think all the QBs and many other players are being over rated as teams are essentially letting their scouts leak false information to the top draft gurus who end up feeding it to the masses to cover up who the teams are genuinely interested in.
    Really how many teams are interested in a QB? Around 10 maybe 11? And yet there’s about eight QB’s with 1st-2nd round grades (really about 5 if you consider Ponder a 2nd rounder) but what happens after the first 5 are taken? Do they really think the remaining 5 teams will just eat up the other 3 so quick they have to be taken all in the 2nd? You would think they might drop into the 3rd and 4th rounds like you’ve been saying especially if they’re so limited.
    Essentially way to go Rob, solid work as you and the other seahawks writters provide a sane voice before the draft.


    I gotta say, I was so-so on Mallet during the 2010 season, but with all the articles that I have read and the tape that I’ve now watched, I would be so excited if we landed that guy. The guy is going to be a great quarterback, whether for the Seahawks or another team. I don’t see how he makes it past Miami, though. If I see it and you see it, you gotta believe that the quarterback hungry teams see it. Trade up, Seahawks, trade up!

  8. Morgan

    Hallelujah. To me, Dalton seems to have McCoy’s sub-average arm but not his above-average escapability. Someone needs to tell Dilfer that there is a bit more to being a QB than being an ‘alpha male.’

    • Matt

      Haha amen. Alpha male is important but not everything. Not to mention, everything I have seen from Dalton screams everything but “alpha male.” May seem rude or petty but the bright red hair really is a detractor.

  9. Matt

    Here’s my take on Dalton (realistically)…

    Pete Carroll had his choice of any QB he wanted at USC. Do we really think he’s going to spend a first rounder on Andy Dalton? I mean really? His fate is tied to a first round QB and after having the likes of Palmer, Leinart, Sanchez, Barkley, he’s going to spend a first on Dalton? Won’t happen.

    Dalton is clearly a media darling because when you actually read what “football guys” say, it’s not very glowing. As a matter of fact, every football publication I’ve read that has a scouting report tied to it, they clearly label him a 3rd or 4th round prospect and a “career backup.” Not to say he can’t turn into a starter, but like Rob so eloquently lays out, he has to be Matt Hasselbeck. And that’s hard because the lack of physical tools makes your margin of error so much smaller that your decision making, timing, and accuracy has to be elite. I am not spending a first on a guy who has that little room for error.

  10. Brandon Adams

    Dalton looks like somebody dunked Spock in tomato juice.

    • Matt

      Hahaha….(tipping my cap fine sir). Well done.

  11. Dan

    Clayton went on Brock and Salk again this morning and was talking about how the Hawks rate Dalton and Ponder ahead of Locker, and he said that the Hawks wouldn’t even take Mallett if he was there at #57 the other day too. Is he on crack, or is he just spewing the misinformation the Hawks are leaking a la their interest in Clausen last year?
    Either way, it’s really making me anxious. If they take Dalton or Ponder with #25, it will be a worst case scenario for me. I could live with just about any other selection, but that would really be depressing.

    • Matt

      Couldn’t agree more Dan. I just can’t see them drafting those 2 at 25. A 1st round QB directly determines their fate in Seattle. I can’t imagine any Head Coach or GM tying themselves to Dalton or Ponder in round 1. That’s a horrible gamble. Once again, I go back to the fact that Schneider was around Favre and Rodgers in GB while PC was around all his stud QBs at USC. Why on earth would Dalton or Ponder appeal to them after having the horses they had? Especially spending a 1st rounder on either guy? Makes close to zero sense for me.

      • ChavaC

        When was the last time we saw a QB who profiled as a WCO guy go in the first round? Your prototypical smart, mobile, physically limited guy goes in the second at earliest. You can always find these guys later on or in FA so I can’t really understand dropping a first either.

        I agree totally with the Bevell / Schneider profile. The moment we hired Bevell people started mocking us these noodle armed cerebral quarterbacks… where has he ever chosen one of those guys? When has Schneider ever bee associated with one of these guys? I see Farve, Farve, Farve, Rodgers, Webb, Tavaris Jackson, Farve.

      • ChavaC

        Favre*… heh

  12. awm

    I would flip out if they blew that 1st on Dalton or Ponder. Only Mallet or Locker are worthy there, otherwise Smith, Luiget, Pouncey or maybe Taylor. All gone….. Seek out a trade down please!

  13. Vin

    First off Rob, the SDB is the one thing I look forward to EVERY day, and then I end up looking at Fieldgulls & 17 power. So thank for that. I appreciate your time and efforts on the blog.

    Now as far as Andy Dalton goes, Id much rather ride CBJ next year, even if it means we take a step back. I really, really want Mallet, and then Locker. Simple as that. You bring a QB, and then mold the rest of the O around him, not the other way around. And for all those who say that games are won/lost in the trenches….its true to an extent. But like Brandon Adam wrote on 17power, the superbowl finalists did not have elite Olines, they had elite QBs. So if it takes #25 & #57 to get Mallet or Locker, I would do it. The hawks cannot be afraid to fail in picking one of those 2. I read that the success rate of 1st&2nd rnd QBs is 40%. We’ve gotta roll the dice, we’ve gotta be bold.

    And in my opinion, and just like some others have said……good to great QB will take your team much farther than say a quality OG (Pouncy), a quality CB (Smith) DT (Liuget), etc, etc.

    Im sorry, I know I went way off the subject on some of this, but I read some of the other posts & couldnt help myself but throw in my $.02 for all of it.

    Again, thanks Rob & Kip. I look forward to tomorrow (and the next day & the next day)

    • Rob

      Vin – I completely agree with you. There’s one way to win in this league – good quarterback play. Even the team’s with elite defensive players (Pittsburgh, Baltimore) they’ve only ever gone as far as their quarterbacks will take them. You don’t need to have Peyton Manning to win, but you do need a guy who can put points on the board, be productive and keep you in a game. The Seahawks have an absolute dearth of talent, but every other need is insignificant while the QB position remains the big issue. Trading up and using the #57 will be expensive, but it’s a one-year hit to try and get that problem solved. I truly believe this is the year to take that chance.

      Thanks also for the kind remarks about the blog. It really means a lot to hear feedback like that. Spread the word!

    • Matt

      Great post and completely agree. If anything PIT and GB had relatively mediocre O-line play which only further points to the importance of QB. There seems to be a disconnect in Seattle that a great O-line deters a defense from stacking 8 in the box. I’m no math major, but 8 vs 5 is lopsided no matter how good those 5 are. A great QB and a perimeter threat will open up the running game more than a great LG and mediocrity everywhere else.

      Great little write up and I couldn’t be happier to see contributors on this site agreeing with this notion that QB is paramount and you need to do what it takes to get one (that you like) and subsequently build to their strengths. Mallett and Locker for sure would be great.

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