Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

Considering where those 4 teams are drafting, he's being either very optimistic or very pessimistic.

Posted by Kip Earlywine

As you might have guessed, Ryan Mallett was a man among boys as a kid and a heavily recruited quarterback coming out of high school.  This is why people were talking about Mallett a year and a half ago when he’d barely even played yet, and his on field performances had yet to be that impressive.  After a breakout 2010 campaign, you’d think that Mallett would be poised to be a top 10 pick, but rumors about being a “big man on campus” type as well as allegations of drug use have dogged Mallett through much of this offseason.  Many draft experts have written Mallett off, including Todd McShay who didn’t even include Mallett in his recent top 32 list.  You have to wonder though, how could teams overlook such a promising season by talking about Mallett so little?  Is it real, or is it a smokescreen?

In what is probably the most controversial quarterback class in recent memory, Mallett stands atop the heap in terms of dividing opinion.  Doug Farrar, who’s work I respect tremendously, has all but offered his soul to the devil in exchange for Seattle avoiding Mallett- comparing him to both Dan McGwire and Derek Anderson.  On the other side of the spectrum, our own Rob Staton has publicly pleaded that Seattle spend significant draft capital and trade UP to secure the Arkansas quarterback.

As always, I encourage our readership to form its own opinions and not simply take what we say as gospel.  We’re just ordinary fans exactly like you, and all we can offer is our own opinion.  If you are so inclined, you can scout Ryan Mallett for yourself by following this link, which provides full broadcasts of several SEC games.

I scouted Mallett for 4 games:  Auburn, Alabama, LSU, and UTEP.  All of those games were from 2010, but I don’t really feel like I need to see 2009 games to be honest.  Mallett has developed so much that it makes his first season borderline irrelevant.


  • Big, tall, tough, durable (only one notable injury, a concussion)
  • Ridiculously strong arm/upper body
  • Excellent short accuracy and completion rate, above average deep accuracy
  • Deep passes get downfield in a hurry, his deep throws have the same low trajectory that most QBs have on 15 yard passes
  • Student of the game/Coach on the field
  • Almost always checks multiple reads
  • Good, consistent release point with impressive arm speed
  • Decent pocket awareness
  • Comfortable in the pocket
  • Quick decision maker, doesn’t hold the ball or take coverage sacks very often
  • Makes decisions that are mostly good
  • Almost always finds a target- very few throwaways
  • Good performances against very highly ranked opponents
  • Excellent overall production in an elite conference
  • Good under pressure if he stays in the pocket, can sidestep and keeps his eyes downfield
  • Very competitive, for better or worse has a few “Favre moments” every game
  • Just isn’t hit very much, figures to stay healthy
  • Makes a good effort selling play action
  • Makes big plays with impressive regularity
  • Pro-style offense
  • Has probably the best chance of any quarterback to be good right away


  • Rumors of drug use and generally less than chivalrous behavior off the field
  • Might be too tall.  The history of 6’7″ quarterbacks is brutal
  • Very nonathletic due to his size
  • Long strider who not only conspicuously lacks speed and explosiveness, but it even fouls up his mechanics sometimes
  • Attempts some throws that Mike Holmgren would crucify him for
  • Big, awkward windup- very similar in appearance to that of Eli Manning.  Could lead to many sack-fumbles
  • Struggles outside the pocket, clueless about setting his feet when rolling left
  • Almost never ran bootlegs
  • A very awkward fit for Pete Carroll’s offense
  • Throws more picks going deep than you’d like
  • Benefited from good protection, an outstanding running game, and a solid defense
  • Some lateral accuracy issues on deep passes, too often he’ll throw behind a receiver when going deep


In every game I watched, Ryan Mallett was clearly the best and most critical player on a very good football team, with only RB Knile Davis coming even close to making an argument.  There were moments in 2010 where the lowly Washington Huskies were able overcome a shaky start by Jake Locker to taste victory, but that didn’t happen in any of the games I saw when scouting Mallett.  Arkansas is a good enough team to win with its running game and defense, but they wouldn’t have competed with the likes of Alabama, LSU, and Auburn without Mallett.  Even when Mallett’s backup came in for the 2nd half against Auburn and performed well on paper, you could just sense “that’s the game” the moment Mallett left.  Mallett scares the bejesus out of teams with his deep threat, and can score in a hurry.  It only took him 3 plays to score against Georgia at the start and only 2 plays to score against #1 Alabama to open the game.  That’s the kind of offensive firepower Mallett brings to the table, and it hints at MVP level potential in the NFL.

Let me show you what I’m talking about.  The first game I put on was against LSU.  You can find the game from the link above if you’d like.  Mallett sealed that game on a long TD pass on 4th and 3 that would make Jeremy Bates proud (117 min mark).  As halftime neared and LSU held the ball, I skipped ahead to the 3rd quarter and suddenly Arkansas had 1 more touchdown than they had with seconds left in the 2nd quarter.  Puzzled, I backtracked to the final 3 seconds of the 2nd quarter and witnessed this:

LSU almost ran out the clock before halftime, but had to punt the ball back to Arkansas with a meager 3 seconds remaining.  How many college coaches even try a pass at their own 20 yard line with 3 seconds left before halftime?  How many quarterbacks would make such an attempt even worth trying?

Of course, it wouldn’t have been a touchdown if not for the two defensive backs colliding, but it also probably wouldn’t have been a touchdown if not for perfect placement allowing the ball to be caught in stride.  Mallett does occasionally throw behind his receivers when going deep, but more often than not, his ball placement was exceptionally good.

As far as the negatives go, I have three main concerns with Mallett:

The first is how his lack of mobility and effectiveness outside the pocket could impact his fit in Seattle.  If the team decides to invest in Mallett, then its pretty much time to find a new offense.  When rolling left, Mallett has to completely stop, twist his body back, and set his feet very awkwardly before passing.  The whole thing looks like a solitary version of Twister.  Unsurprisingly, the throws he makes when doing that are horrible and dangerous.  Seattle’s current offense requires a quarterback to be a threat to scramble for extra yards and first downs, and that is something Mallett can only do in rare circumstances, because he doesn’t get very far.  You don’t want to see Mallett taking off on 3rd and 8.  Also, when Mallett leaves the pocket he loses… well.. the pocket, meaning that he’s fair game for any free defender that wants to chase him down, and Mallett’s speed won’t buy you as much time outside the pocket as we’ve been accustomed to even from an aging quarterback like Hasselbeck.  For Mallett to succeed, he needs to stay in the pocket as much as possible.

On a side-tangent, Mallett has a clunky long stride to his movement that sometimes interferes with his mechanics.  As mentioned before, it really shows itself when rolling left, but it can happen any time he’s throwing on the move.  The game sealing interception against Alabama wasn’t a poor decision- Mallett was trying to throw the ball away.  But because he was on the move and off balance, he didn’t set his feet correctly, and the ball didn’t leave with as much force as he’d like, allowing the Alabama defender to snag the interception right at the sideline.

The second concern is Mallett’s inconsistent deep accuracy.  This one is forgivable, as you don’t really expect quarterbacks to nail every deep pass as the farther you throw a ball, the more difficult it is to be pin-point accurate.  Mallett was mostly accurate going deep, and he’s outstanding at judging distance, almost never overthrowing or coming up short.  But in terms of lateral judgment, sometimes he’s off, and this frequently resulted in picks from the games I saw.  Its not a fatal flaw or anything, it just shows that Mallett is human and a deep passing attack carries risk.  I think like Eli Manning and Jay Cutler, Mallett will run higher than average interception numbers as part of the trade off for good overall production.

The 3rd concern I have for Mallett is some occasional lapses in decision making.  He only throws the ball away rarely, which while commendable, also leads him to forcing 2-3 throws a game he really shouldn’t.  Some of which he pays for, and some he gets lucky.  Still, they are throws that veteran quarterbacks not named Brett Favre avoid and for good reason.  This problem is coachable, and hopefully Mallett can learn that sometimes taking a sack or throwing the ball away a couple extra times a game isn’t so bad.

I guess a 4th concern for Mallett would be the character issues, but I simply haven’t heard anything yet that is concrete enough to judge Mallett on.  No failed drug tests.  No criminal record.  No solid evidence of almost anything.  Do I personally think Mallett did drugs in the past?  Given the way he’s handled it, probably, but it does appear to be something in his past and I think he’s handled this offseason wisely in regards to addressing that issue.  For anybody who says “but he’s the face of the franchise!”, I simply stop and point to Michael Vick.

Regarding mobility, Mallett isn’t a statue in the pocket and can avoid pressure within reason.  He is vulnerable to the blitz however, as you might have expected due to his lack of speed.  Thankfully, Mallett has a good ability to make quick decisions under reasonably comfortable circumstances.  He diagnoses coverage very quickly and with Peyton Manning like efficiency tends to get the ball out in 3 seconds or less most of the time.   He doesn’t hold the ball long and even when pressured usually has a plan for where he wants the ball to go.

Mechanically speaking, it would be nice to see Mallett put more of his legs and body into his throws.  I’m pretty sure Mallett could throw 60 yards on his knees, but that doesn’t mean he should do it on every pass.

Finally, it should be noted that while Jake Locker played in a pro-style offense, Mallett ran a pro-style offense, and that’s a very significant distinction especially for a team that is hoping for a quarterback to contribute as soon as possible.

NFL comparison: Kurt Warner

While Mallett falls far short of Warner in the living like Ned Flanders department, both are quarterbacks with limited mobility, great on the field intelligence, great deep balls, and an ability to pass for over 300 yards with regularity.  Warner of course won multiple MVP awards, and Mallett has that same potential if he pans out.  Of course, Kurt Warner himself wasn’t exactly a first round pick, and it remains to be seen how NFL franchises will weigh Mallett’s strengths against his faults.


  1. caleb

    First off, I would like to say that the ‘drugs’ mallet has done should not surprise or concern anyone. If it was weed he was enjoying, so what. Presidents, judges, most any college student and in all probability your mom have lit a splif. I live in canada, and we blaze in public cuz no everyone is super chill. In my opinion its less concerning than energy drinks, and we have to remember hes like 21 and the starting quarterback for a major college team, he faces pressures non of us can know. Decisions made, lessons learned.
    secondly, on your point about holding on to the ball for too long, doesn’t that contribute to his ability to make the plays and finish his reads as much as it does to forcing him to make shisty throws? From what iv seen, mallet isn’t afraid to take the hit, and has the body to endure that. Even in the above video he is as calm as a hindu cow when he launches that ball, even under imminent sack threat. He knows he has enough time to get that pass away, and makes sure he gets it to the receiver. no doubt it will lead to more INT’s but when you are tossing 30 something TD’s because you methodically go through all your progressions, i don’t really care. Our offense desperately some serious infusions of skill and power, and absolutely believe mallet is the man. It is bordering on serious man crush, but I am more excited about Mallet than any player in the last 4 or so drafts. sure hes got the trade offs, but very few QB’s don’t. It is after all our flaws which define our strengths. Limited mobility->bitchen pocket passer. Oh please let this happen, please, please, please….

    • FWBrodie

      Pretty sure the rumors have been coke related, which is more of a concern than just smoking a little weed as a 20 year old in college. Maybe they are completely untrue and maybe he simply went through an experimental stage that he has since grown out of, but that’s not something you want your franchise QB to be dabbling in.

      • Rob

        I would urge people not to speculate too much on this subject, because obviously there’s no evidence either way and the blog is wide open for legal action if someone thinks there’s a case. As far as I’m aware the rumors are just that. Even if certain allegations are true, people make mistakes. There’s a difference between experimenting as a kid and addiction. I haven’t met Ryan Mallett and I have no access to research his background. For those reasons, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt – as I would for anyone else.

        On the field he’s exactly what Caleb suggested – a playmaker. This team needs somebody who can open up the game with a two-play touchdown drive. It needs someone who can get you back into it from 17-0 down. It needs someone who can consistently put points on the board – even if it comes with a few errors along the way. What you see at Arkansas is what you’re going to get in the NFL. He’ll score 25-30 TD’s and he’ll have 10-15 INTs. Build him a line and give him some playmakers and your competitive. The guy can be the heart of this team.

        • caleb

          well stated rob,

          And i don’t buy all this cyclical rhetoric about building up a team before you bring in a qb. I think Mallet is the perfect example of a qb that should be built around rather than retrofitted to fit a pre-existing system. Clearly what he is doing is working for him, so if the hakws do t him, I would expect that they would model their offense around what the Chargers have done with Phillips. last year, they didn’t even have any clear cut #1 receiver with Gates hurt and Jackson abdicating, yet rivers passed for 4500 or so yards. My point is that like Manning last year, with a good QB on hand you can make it work, stellar o-line or not, dangerous receviers or not, effective ground game or not.

    • Kip

      To answer the question about Mallett throwing the ball quickly, its high praise, not criticism. Mallett isn’t getting rid of the ball quick because he’s scared, he’s getting rid of the ball quick because he’s already found a good place to throw it. That’s a trait shared by the elite QBs of the league.

  2. FWBrodie

    The “Caucasian street guy” version of Kurt Warner. I like the comp.

    Warner had a few games and even stretches in his career when a decent pass rush not only stopped him but caused some of the worst performances by a QB ever. Protect him and give him weapons and he lit up the scoreboard. Don’t, and he had no chance.

    Mallett is equally unathletic, but can his size help him to fend of pass rushers enough to be less helpless than Warner in those situations?

    • Rob

      The interesting thing about Warner is that he had an awful line during the Arizona Super Bowl run. What he did have was two good receiving targets. If the Seahawks can find a #1 receiver, alongside BMW your suddenly looking at a potent offense. If teams are scared to death in coverage, they’ll blitz less and suddenly even an average offensive line functions.

      • FWBrodie

        If nothing else, Mallett’s huge hands should help him to hold onto the ball a little better.

    • Kip Earlywine

      Exactly. Warner had a really rough stretch in the middle of his career because he didn’t have protection from blitzing and didn’t have elite WR. Similarly, I think Mallett will require either a decent pass pro line or great weapons. Thankfully, Seattle is not far off from possessing either. Obo and BMW are solid #2 caliber WR in my opinion, and Seattle’s line despite all its issues is very close to average in pass blocking.

  3. Matt C

    Just a question why Mallett’s wearing a pretty hefty knee brace in that LSU clip and the only notable major injury to him is a concussion?

    I admit that I haven’t watched a lot on Mallett but his lack of mobility or ability to create outside of the pocket really scares me in principle…agree the character concerns/drug-use has prob been pretty overblown by the draft process but the mobility issue seems warrented. The qbs who can still make plays and gain positive yards once the pocket breaks down have been the most successful in the league for the past few years. Guys like Rodgers, Brees, Vick last year, and as much as I hate to admit it, Roethlisberger, are very tough to bring down and are just as dangerous, if not more so once the pocket breaks down and they escape. They can extend plays and can make throws on the run or use their feet to pick up first downs. I don’t see Mallett being able to do this at all. He has “benefited from good protection, an outstanding running game, and a solid defense.” He’ll have none of that on the 2011 Seahawks and w only Charlie on contract right now, there’s a good chance he’s thrown in there early on if not on day 1. The surrounding talent should hopefully get better in the future but near term, teams will come all out at him to disrupt the pocket. And with the other note about his big, awkward windup, I don’t see him being able to get the ball away quick enough when pressure comes. Overall, I don’t think this guy fits our current scheme. I hope we pass on him and obviously don’t think we should trade up to get him…not against trading up, but if we do, I hope it’s for someone not named Mallett.

    • Rob

      I think a lot of QB’s wear those braces as a precaution. As far as I’m aware, he’s never had a serious knee injury. He had a broken foot after the 2009 college season but didn’t miss a snap because of it in 2010. The concussion was a precaution thing really. By half time he looked like he could be back on the field.

      Regarding mobility, it’s swings and roundabouts really. For every Vick, Roethlisberger and Rodgers there’s a Manning, Brady and Rivers. Mobility is like everything else – it’s a positive to have, but it’s not absolutely necessary to be succesful. If the Seahawks can find an explosive playmaker at wide receiver (admittedly, that won’t be easy) then teams will struggle to blitz too much because they’ll get burned deep. He gets the ball out quickly and he’s fine at avoiding pressure in the pocket, the problems occur when he’s flushed out.

      • FWBrodie

        Sidney Rice?

        • Rob

          That may cost a first round pick, unless they scrap restrictive free agency in the new CBA.

          • FWBrodie

            I kind of thought that was the common assumption for what would happen.

    • Kip Earlywine

      It would be nice if Seattle had better interior blocking, but I think our pass protection is close to being where it would need to be for a QB like Mallett. It needs to be better, but only a little better.

      As far as the windup, his throwing motion is 99% similar to Eli Manning’s, and other than perhaps leading to a couple extra sack-fumbles a year, I don’t think it will be any more of an issue for Mallett than it has been for Manning.

      • COHawk

        Mallet will need a whole lot better pass protection than you think. Our line is a wreck right now with perhaps only one or two linemen that we can pencil in as the starter, leaving three open spots left to fill. Let’s not kid ourselves. Mallet will need a damn good o-line to keep him healthy and provide time to throw.

        I like the idea of drafting Mallet at 25 if he’s there, but I hope he can sit his first year while Carroll and Cable fix this O-line. As talented and pro-ready as Mallet is, I still believe a year to sit and develop in the teams offense is beneficial.

  4. Nate Dogg

    Great breakdown.

    I’m curious where the idea that Seattle’s offense will require the quarterback to scramble for yards and first downs comes from. I know that Bates featured a lot of roll outs in his time with Denver and Carroll has talked about moving the pocket but I haven’t seen anything that makes me think they’ll want the quarterback to move upfield and gain yards. Thats goes against the point guard analogy that Carroll frequently uses for his quarterbacks.

    • Kip Earlywine

      Welcome to SDB, how’s fieldgulls?

      That’s my opinion based on the traits we’ve seen from the QBs this FO has targeted/acquired, and the general idea that Bevell *probably* isn’t going to represent a big shift away from Bates, a guy who really preferred mobile qbs.

      • Nate Dogg

        Yeah I get that, I just think they’re looking for someone thats more Jay Cutler mobile than, say, Cam Newton mobile. Mallett is far from being as mobile as Cutler is but I don’t see the affinity for a mobile passer being strong enough to keep them away from a quarterback with the kind of upside you describe Mallet having. At least I hope not.

        • Kip

          We shall see. If I was making the pick, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to draft Mallett and tweak the offense to work around him. Hopefully our FO sees it that way too.

    • Scott

      Well, Hass ran for how many touchdowns this season as compared to his previous seasons? I don’t remember exactly, but it was substantial.

      And the move for Charlie didn’t work out, but i remember them touting his wheels when they did sign him. A bootleg heavy offense will always give mobile quarterbacks opportunities to run a few extra times. Unless he runs a 5.4 40.

  5. woofu

    I was just reading at Sando some stats this morning on NFLW Qb’s compared to the NFL avg. boken down to Wr vs RB/TE. The NFL avg completion % was a full 10% higher to RB/TE’s than Wr’s. The Qb rating followed suit.

    Not that the data is unexpected as it is rather obvious accuracy is proportional to distance. A similar data set would be nice to see along with a projected draft grade assigned to the targets wether or not they are draftable, for this drafts Qbs..

    My guess is Locker had poorer targets at RB/TE and hence his accuracy problems would be less problematic in that light. It would be nice to see how they would all compare.

    • Blake

      Yeah Middleton (the All-State TE) was dismissed last summer from the team, and we hardly ever used TEs afterwards. Polk is a runninback that can run extremely well but is not thought of as a good receiver. That’s one thing Sark and Jake specifically point to when asked about why his “accuracy” (completion percentage) decreased his senior year-he had no TE. If you watch tape he’s accurate enough to be successful. It’s the guys that just look at the numbers that are his main critics.

      • Matt

        Agree and furthermore, if you take the approach of “this QB is inaccurate,” then chances are when you watch film, the bad passes stick out more than the good. It’s really just human nature.

        I’m sure if Andy Dalton was called inaccurate, then during the Senior Bowl, people would have murdered him for his horrible practices and actual game.

        I caution to those who look at completion % and call QBs accurate are making really risky assumtption s because the college game is so goofy with it’s gimmicky offenses. If a guy is dinking and dunking, then he better be completing well into the 60s.

    • Alex

      Sark basically admitted that they essentially abandoned the TE passing game.

      Another thing is that the Huskies don’t have a FB either and that has always been a key component within the USC offense Sark ran at USC. If Jake had a FB, he might have been able to avoid some of the unchecked corner blitzes by Stanford.

  6. Blake

    Love the way the new blog looks Rob. Kip, it’s Staton not Stanton haha.

    • Kip Earlywine

      Heh, I used to say “Grant Winstrom” many years ago as well.

  7. woofu

    According to this Sando report,


    ,,moving up for a Qb does’nt seem likely. In fact what John says makes it seem more probable that if the available Qb is not what they want at #25 they would be happier to trade down for picks in order to get “younger”.

    • Rob

      I’m not sure the team’s draft plans, if they were thinking of trading up, would be revealed here. That would bump up the price.

      I suspect there are many possibilities. Trading up, down, staying put. I’ve said from day one – I can see this team really liking Jake Locker. Can they trade up to get him? We’ll see. Would they consider Mallett? We’ll see. It’s a complete mystery at this point.

    • FWBrodie

      This could just as easily be a tactic to keep teams from feeling the need to move ahead of Seattle on draft day as it could be a blatant announcement to the media that they’re looking for trade partners. It could be both. Starting to get exciting though. It’s close.

  8. Fists of Fuhrery

    Doug Farrar is the same clown who was fellating Aaron Curry throughout the pre-draft process in 2009. I wonder if he was a paid schill for him or something. Literally thought dude could no wrong and was a combination of DeMarcus Ware’s pass-rush, Patrick Willis’s run-stuffing, and Brian Urlacher’s coverage abilities. LOL

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