Breaking down Ryan Lindley (QB, San Diego State)

Ryan Lindley has some talent but there's enough concerns to temper expectations

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.


  1. Doug

    Good looking QB ! Except for when he sucks. Could be another example of a guy with all the tools, but no brain. Young, but no improvement over 4 year. But, his receivers drop a LOT of his passes. I would throw a 3rd at him for sure, not sure about a 2ond though…

    Seems like there should be a lot of 6-4 QB’s available in the draft, but finding a smart one is the hard part.

  2. Shaun

    Hey Rob,

    I really like Lindley; been following him for a few years now. I think a lot of the mocks have him around the 4-6 range. I’d say if he’s there in the 3rd, he may be worth a pick, but 4th would be ideal. Not that their playing styles are similar, but he reminds me of Mike Kafka in that he’s a guy that’ll prob be drafted in the middle rounds who is under the radar, and in a few years, he could either be a starter or traded for a higher pick.

    In response to to Lindley’s low completion %, keep in mind that he played in a pro style offense for most of his college career, and he is not afraid to make down field throws. That being said, he is not the most accurate QB, but not as bad as his 53% senior year completion percentage suggests. Also note: he lost his 2 best wideouts last year to the NFL – Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson, and was playing with a bunch of subpar receivers.

    One more thing that I gathered from interviews, he seems to have a good head on his shoulders and is a team leader. Not to mention, he has an awesome beard. Charlie who? Ha.


  3. Shaun

    Is there any talk about Dan Persa as an NFL prospect? I’d assume he is way too small as an NFL QB, but maybe he could be a slash type player, or even the next Julian Edelman? I have not heard much about him being an NFL player, so just thought I’d throw this out there… Thanks for you great work. Shaun

  4. Rob

    Hey Shaun thaks for your insight above, appreciated.

    On Dan Persa – I’ve seen Northwestern once this year and didn’t focus on their QB. I might have a game saved so I’ll dig it out, but not a player who I’ve picked up on or know a lot about.

  5. Tom

    I really thought Lindley had a chance to shine and become a potential pro prospect because he has the measurables but the decision making and accuracy just aren’t pro ready.

    There’s a reason that every QB drafted outside of round 1 the past 10 years has been pretty much garbage except for Andy Dalton. (Skelton in rd 5 could be another exception) A lot of potential that amounts to absolutely NOTHING over a 10 year period.

    We don’t have a veteran QB or a need to groom some mid-round prospect that won’t amount to anything. When you have a scouting staff that can find Kam Chancellor’s, KJ Wrights and Richard Sherman’s in rounds 4 and 5, why just throw it away on a guy like Lindley who has decision making and accuracy issues to be cut in a few years?

  6. Shaun

    It’s hard to disagree with Tom’s assessment that not much has been found at the QB position over the past 10 years outside of round 1. It’s usually that when a scout/gm misses on a QB, it’s that they over-value them, not under-value. And, we’ve seen way too many teams draft mid to late round QBs, only to cut them or place them on the practice squad and loose them. I’m actually a Bears fan, and can’t stand Jerry Angelo because he’s done this the past few years – wasted picks on marginal QB prospects – when the team needs help at just about every position, outside of QB! None of these guys are going to replace Cutler, so why waste a pick? As for Seattle, their weakest position is QB. If they can’t get one of the top guys, might as well take a flyer on a QB like Lindley whose played in a pro style offense, is a leader, and who has the arm to play in the cold. And, contrary to some of his decisions, he seems pretty intelligent.

    I’m not saying that Lindley will ever be a pro bowl type player, or even a starter, but he’s probably the best of the second tier guys, and a team in Seattle’s situation should give him a strong look.

  7. Morgan

    He reminds me waaaaay to much of Kyle Boller.

  8. dave crockett

    @ Tom: “There’s a reason that every QB drafted outside of round 1 the past 10 years has been pretty much garbage except for Andy Dalton. (Skelton in rd 5 could be another exception) A lot of potential that amounts to absolutely NOTHING over a 10 year period.”

    :: (Mildly off-topic semi-rant on NFL owners in 3… 2…) Tom’s statement is, to me, as much of an indictment of NFL ownership and coaching as you’ll ever read. We all know the numbers on non-first round QBs. The reasons they don’t develop are many, but they’re not all about how hard it is to play the position in the NFL. Are we to believe that it is impossible for teams to develop 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-drafted QBs into above-median starters or at least starter-capable backups. These are typically 2nd and 3rd round picks we are talking about.

    It’s by far the single most important position in the sport, but among the least developed. One of the least discussed reasons for this is that NFL owners border on criminally self-destructive. They frequently over-promote assistants into head coaches (because they’re cheap) and then show little patience with when they struggle. Coaches can’t make development a priority. They’re year-to-year, which leads to perverse incentives.

    A prime example is Jacksonville with Blaine Gabbert. I saw just about every game Gabbert played at Mizzou, and his flaws were obvious even to this untrained eye. Most any Mizzou fan could have told you, Gabbert was toolsy but raw for COLLEGE ball much less the NFL. He didn’t even play four years of prep (because of injury). He should not have seen game action under ANY circumstances this season, especially off a short off-season. JAX should have just signed another street free agent to replace Garrard. But, you had an owner looking to sell and a coach trying to save his job.

  9. Michael (CLT)

    I wonder what the success rate is of the draft versus undrafted players. Seems you take a risk with every pick. All QB’s are flawed. Hell, Luck’s pick six against USC is near unforgiveable if you lose that game.

    Seattle coaches have proven they can teach. Lindley’s floor is Whitehurst, and ceiling may be Bledsoe. But why not. If you are willing to risk EJ Wilson in the 4th… or Kris Durham (over Doug Baldwin!), why not a guy with the tools and some youth.

    Teams cannot have it both ways. If a guy like Dalton does not fit due to lack of tools, are you not then required to draft the toolsy guy?

  10. Tom

    The Hawks aren’t in a position to develop a QB into a backup. That’s what Tavaris Jackson has developed into. TJack shows a flash here or there of being a starter but that is what a bonafide backup is, a flash here and there and a guy that can play game manager if something happens to your starter but they don’t take you to the promise land of hoisting a Lombardi.

    Isn’t that why they play the game? Isn’t that what we want to see Pete Carroll hoist to the diehard Hawk fans and to Paul Allen?

    If I had a buck for every QB debate I have annually, I’d have filled a brinks truck by now.

    It’s a Dan Lefevour this, a Tony Pike that, look out for Brian Brohm, hey, Drew Stanton and Trent Edwards could develop. Kellen Clemons, Brody Croyle.

    Let’s stop with the non-sense. These guys don’t pan out, they’re just another wasted draft selection searching for that genie in a bottle. Unfortunately, the cork is too tight on that bottle and Barbara Eden isn’t appearing anytime soon.

    I hope we make a play to move up the board for RG3 and don’t waste annual draft selections hoping Barbara eventually eases that cork out. The chances are slim.

    Sounds pessimistic and makes for some good draftblog conversation, sure, but let’s look at the reality of the situation. It’s rare so let’s not hope to develop a QB into a backup but move up and get a legitimate playmaking QB that can carry our offense while our youthful defense continues to gain experience and starts to knock the snot out of the opposition.

    It’s time to go win a Lombardi and it won’t happen without that elite QB.

    Go Hawks! Go Pete and John!

  11. Charlie

    Hey Rob, I remember you mentioning Logan Thomas as a possible sleeper on the rise? Did his season fall short of expectations?

  12. fudwamper


    Honestly I think we don’t see development QB’s because there is no development. There is no time or reps in practice. The only time is training camp and that is limited too. How many QB’s really develop?

  13. Rob

    Tom – I agree with your point about QB’s, Seattle really needs to find one who can be productive quickly. It’s not an ideal situation to find themselves in, but without that QB they’ll never take the next step. However, it’s also the end of the year and we’ve got four months to fill so we have to cover all bases which is why we’ll look at other QB’s. Seattle will have to make an expensive move up the board to get RG3, a move they may or may not have any interest in. If they have no interest, then they’re probably going to be looking at the other QB’s so it makes sense to do a bit of homework.

    Charlie – I think generally he had a good season. I wondered if he’d have a ‘Cam Newton’ style year and explode while leading VT to the title game and although he didn’t come too far away, he never gained much national attention. He’s one to watch for the future – he has two more years of eligibility. This was a fine first season starting for Logan Thomas and he has all the tools, he’s grounded and he has a pro-future. He could be a high pick in 2013 if he keeps developing.

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