There’s something about Ryan…

Ryan Mallett is probably the most intriguing prospect in the 2011 draft.

I’ve long maintained on this blog that Mallett is a very talented player with big pro-potential. People love to talk about the negatives and often the positives of his game are lost in the mix.

In 2009, he completed 56% of his passes. He struggled badly against stronger opponents – averaging just a 41% completion rate in games against Florida, LSU and Ole Miss. His overall numbers were significantly helped by big wins over Troy, Missouri State and Eastern Michigan. None of his seven regular season wins were on the road.

He opted not to declare for last April’s draft and stayed at Arkansas. A broken foot hampered his ability to practise during the summer, but he was still able to significantly improve several areas in his game. He’s generally been more accurate, his decision making has improved and he’s not invested too much trust in his cannon arm. The numbers are evidence to that:

-Mallett has increased his pass completion percentage from 56% to 65% in 2010   

-His overall QB rating has improved from 152.5 last year to 163.5 in 2010   

– Mallett led Arkansas to impressive wins on the road against Georgia, Texas A&M and South Carolina – and a big win at home to LSU

Of course we can linger on what could’ve been – but for a fourth quarter collapse, you could include a victory over then unbeaten #1 Alabama to the list. A late interception cost Arkansas the chance to win the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State after an impressive second-half comeback.

We hear a lot about those two games and why Mallett’s mistakes (and mechanical flaws) were the determining factor. What’s not talked about as much are the games Mallett won for his team.

A lot of scouts asked for improvement in 2010 in terms of accuracy, touch and they wanted to see him win tough games on the road. He managed that and deserves some credit. You could argue there’s no reason why this improvement cannot continue – after all, 2010 was only Mallett’s second year starting for Arkansas having transferred from Michigan.

I appreciate and understand what needs further improvement. His footwork in general is patchy when he’s asked to move around in the pocket and he struggles to re-set his feet and drive into his throws. The deciding interception against Alabama was a perfect example of this, when he threw off balance and had no velocity or direction on the pass. Footwork always seems to be one of the main things rookies have to work on in general.

We see a lot of complaints about his release. It’s true that he takes a long stride into his throws but I think a lot of it is overblown. Mallett gets the ball out fairly quickly with no wind-up action, it’s an over-the-top release point and the ball flies out of his hand.

Overall I think he’s a top-10/15 talent on the field. Based purely on watching snaps I’d have no problem with my team drafting Mallett. The strength of his arm is unmatched in this rookie class and it’s one of the best I’ve ever scouted. He progresses through his reads better than nearly every college QB I’ve watched. He has made improvements and he’s capable of taking what a defense gives him, as well as being an extreme playmaker.

Clearly, there is something about Ryan Mallett.

The concerns I have are all off the field. Talent and a big arm on game day won’t make up for a half-hearted work ethic in the film room at the next level. You watch Mallett’s body language and you see an often petulent character. Is he mature and ready to walk into a locker room full of veterans? Forum speculation cannot and should not be taken seriously, but there’s enough out there for NFL teams to do their research and really quiz the guy during the combine.

Benjamin Allbright published this article at NFL Draft Monsters following up those same serious allegations of drug use.

Other draft pundits have also raised questions:

On the 23rd September, Wes Bunting from the NFP tweeted the following:

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

A day earlier, Tony Pauline made the following remark in his TFY Podcast
The feeling down in Arkansas is that he’s just a different type of person
Walter Cherepinksy regularly touted character issues with Mallett in his updated mock drafts, at one time suggesting the following:
Major character issues will eventually surface regarding Ryan Mallett. Let’s just say that he won’t be too focused when watching game film at the next level.   

Benjamin Allbright published this article at NFL Draft Monsters following up those same serious allegations of drug use.

Judging Mallett in a negative way for his off the field personality would be harsh and unfair without spending considerable time in his presence and without sufficient investigation. We cannot do this, but NFL teams can and will.

He didn’t come across poorly in this recent interview with the Loose Cannon’s:

It’s also a time when he surely is being coached to handle the media. He chose his words carefully in that piece – note the predictable references to Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers.

A lot of people make comparisons to Jimmy Clausen and the way he fell (most presume because of character concerns). The feeling is – guys like Clausen and Mallett have a sense of entitlement when they enter the pro’s, the kind of which you don’t see from humble characters such as Sam Bradford.

For me – Clausen fell in last April’s draft purely because he’s a really limited physical talent. He played in a high percentage offense which limited mistakes. His mechanics were not good (side arm throwing motion), he had average arm strength and he floated the deep ball with alarming regularity. At no point last year was I convinced Clausen could beat NFL defenses with his arm and his talents. I feel somewhat vindicated by his performance level as a rookie, but also appreciate it’s difficult for any young starting QB – more so on a 2-14 outfit.

Mallett is a much more capable quarterback. He won’t struggle to get the ball downfield, fit the ball into tight windows or progress through a series of reads.

So why do I mock him outside of round one?

You can’t underestimatete the effect of a negative press and Mallett is getting just that at the moment. Everyone is down on him. I think there are legitimate questions that need to be asked about this ‘off the field’ speculation. If any of it is true, it could be a stock killer. If Mallett’s body language is as poor in meetings as it sometimes is on the field – it will scare teams off. While there are plenty of teams in the top 10-15 who could draft a quarterback, there aren’t as many teams after that (Seattle being an exception). If the teams at the top of the draft pass – regardless of character concerns he could still fall.

However, I do not understand those who are suddenly dropping him like a stone based on ‘tape’.

What has Mel Kiper really learned in the last week that he didn’t see during the season? Kiper had Mallett just outside the top ten of his big board for some time and received gentle teasing from Todd McShay for the judgement. A few weeks later, Mallett isn’t even in the top-25. Here’s the explanation:

Kiper’s first 2011 mock draft had the Seahawks drafting Mallett with the #25 pick:

“It’ll be asked, but my sources tell me the Seahawks prefer him to Washington’s Jake Locker — at least right now.”

This at a time when Kiper was still supposedly high on Mallett’s talents. Is he dropping him now based on not-forthcoming information off the field? Or is it genuinely a drop based on further game tape? It just seems like a dramatic fall from grace for someone previously rated so highly on Kiper’s big board – and the issues he raises (release, long stride) were there for all to see earlier in the season when Kiper was studying Arkansas’ game against Alabama.

If I could sit in on any one meeting during the combine – it would be when a QB-needy team interviews Mallett. Those meetings will define his stock. If he can come across well, I suspect one team will take a chance on his talents in round one.

Seattle’s offensive scheme isn’t changing much – Pete Carroll expressed as much during his end of season press conference. Many media outlets and journalists have assumed (wrongly for me) that the removal of Jeremy Bates and appointment of Darrell Bevell will lead to a more prototype west coast offense. I never saw evidence of that system in Minnesota during Bevell’s five years as offensive coordinator and they drafted mobile QB’s (Tavaris Jackson, Joe Webb). This is more akin to what the Seahawks were preaching last off season.

Carroll specifically quoted his preference for the QB to aid the running game by getting out of the pocket and using bootlegs/play action. A tenuous link between Bevell and Green Bay/Holmgren is not enough to believe the Seahawks will change too much going forward. This is Pete Carroll’s plan – on offense and defense. It is not Darrell Bevell’s and it isn’t Mike Holmgren’s. Improving  and establishing the running game will be the key although I suspect very little will change regarding the pass offense.

Jeremy Bates didn’t trade for Charlie Whitehurst – Pete Carroll and John Schneider did. He has a big arm and sufficient mobility skills to get out of the pocket.

Mallett isn’t close to Whitehurst’s agility, but he has the arm. I suspect that the lack of mobility would not appeal to the Seahawks top-brass. However, with a focus on the running game going forward Mallett is adept at play-action fakes and he’s more than capable of managing an offense. A solid running game would also create plenty of downfield passing opportunites.

So I wouldn’t rule Mallett out or in at #25 at this point – and again it could come down to the character issue. After all – this is the team preaching the ‘I’m In’ mentality.

Judging his stock is tough but he’s perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the 2011 draft. An unquestioned talent, but also something of an enigma.


  1. Alaska Norm

    I keep hearing character issues regarding Mallett but never really what exactly are the issues. To me they could mean almost anything. Does he swear at little ol ladies, does he fall asleep in meetings, does he not tip well? What exactly do the scouts and bloggers mean about character issues? If it is a case of just being an immature kid, hopefully that is something he will grow out of, especially if he spends a season or two learning from a veteran like Hasselback. If he really has a poor work ethic…. or worse, and it is documented, then that may be a red flag. I hate hearing about character issues with some of the prospects without back up. I can think of many who have dropped because of so called issues and then went on to have HOF careers. There are also a few, Ryan Leaf and Jeff George come to mind that never “got it”.

    Keep up the great work, and thanks for helping me with my Seahawks draft fix.

    • Rob

      I’ve linked to one forum in the article which makes some very strong accusations about Mallett. I would stress nobody speaks about these in the comments section, but considering they are part of another internet forum there’s no issue with linking to them.

  2. Ralphy

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I hope we get him. It’s risky but not as risky as it would have been if we were picking in the top 10. The things that he is good at are difficult/impossible to teach. The things he struggles with can be taught. I think he stands out on tape and will be a stud at the next level.

    • plyka

      I for one agree with you. The hawks need to use this “character issues” negative, to their advantage. This guy may have been the first qb off the board, and now you get a chance at him at 25? I think you take the risk, unless the teams due diligence uncovers some bad stuff. Can anyone have worst character then the two time super bowl champ big Ben, now with a chance to win his third?

      • Charlie Stager

        Honestly plyka, i know winning is important, but i could never be happy with a guy leading my team who allegedly raped two women, ben almost got cut from the team for his actions, and no amount of superbowls will stop that from happening in the steelers organization if hes accused of it again. that is alot worse IMO than what mallets allegedly done, but the accusations on mallet aren’t much prettier.

        • plyka

          The key word here is “allegedly” and you used it. I don’t want to get into ethics, but how can you just stamp guilty on someone’s forehead due to allegations? If i alledged that you raped someone, should everyone do the same to you? I would agree if there was concrete evidence and the guy was convicted in court, but he hasn’t been. Until he has, or at least some charges are pressed, I have to give people the benefit of the doubt.

  3. Kyle

    Nice post. Mocks aside, I don’t see Mallett being there at 25. These character issues aren’t anything tangible like smoking dope, knocking over liquor stores, fighting with coaches, or cheating on tests: critics all read something profound into obscure body language or rely upon gossiped secrets that no one will reveal. It almost smells like a smoke screen to get Mallet to fall to one’s desired position, doesn’t it? Actually, if that’s the case, yeah, he’s a jerk. Nobody should touch him in round 1!

  4. FWBrodie

    My buddy listened to him on ESPN radio yesterday and they asked him how far he could throw. His response was something along the lines of “at least 80, I know the exact number but I don’t want to be bragging.”

    He’s another one of those guys that stands out on film, more so than any QB in this draft as a thrower. Sounds like a tool off the field though.

    • plyka

      That doesn’t sound worst than “we want the ball and we are gonna score” now does it?

  5. Brandon Adams

    Mallett will need to drop his sense of entitlement, and quickly, if he’s to be drafted by Seattle. Carroll didn’t hesitate to cut players for that very thing.

    I hope he does grow up, though, because Mallett’s the closest thing to NFL-ready. Whitehurst has all the tools that Bates wanted but can’t read defenses or handle pressure. Give me accuracy, read, and touch any day.

    The linked article isn’t something I’d trust. I wouldn’t dismiss it either, but I’ve seen too many bald-faced lies and mis-rumors floated about top prospects to take such things seriously. People will just flat-out lie to get attention.

  6. Turp

    Good summary Rob. I liked reading an article that focused on his talents instead of his oft-publicized negatives. I’m surprised Mallett isn’t considered to be more desirable considering that his skill at read progressions should set him apart from other college QB’s that run 1 read spread offenses.

  7. Cliff

    I wonder if Mallet and Lock both fell to us at 25 and we pass how far they could continue to fall. I don’t think they’d be available to us at our second round pick pick if that were to happen it’d be amazing. McCoy was supposed to go to the Browns in the beginning of the 2nd but fell to the 3rd before they drafted him. If both are available it could happen?

  8. Patrick

    I honestly think if Mallett is there at #25, I would be thrilled. I would love to see Seattle grab Mallett. I think Sanchez is a great comparison as well. Sanchez really changed perceptions right before the draft. Prior to that, there were plenty of character concerns. I hope Mallett does the same and he is wearing Seahawks blue.

  9. Frank

    I just hope Mallet gets some good life coaching in this draft preperation and takes it to heart. If you show that type of improvment on the field hopefully you can apply that dedication to the rest of the traits a QB needs, poise, leadership, dedication. Although I am warming to Locker he’s just so personable and hard working. Tough call if they were both there at 25.
    Crazy world, if we let them both pass how far could they slide? I don’t think Locker could leave the first, some one would trade back up. A no trade projection bills at 34 grab Locker, and Bengals grab Mallet at 35 so they can trade Palmer.
    Big ups Rob on the readers choice nomination, I’m voting for you.

  10. Misfit74

    Too much physical talent and flashes of great QB skill not to take a flyer on Mallett. That’s all I’m concerned with: can he become a great NFL QB in the next few seasons? Does he have the leadership to succeed in his position? We can’t know those things for sure, but we can see what he did at Arkansas.

    What he or she or this or that analyst says matters not. It’s easy to get inundated with group-think, smoke-screens, and blatant lies by teams and their staffs – especially this time of year. It’s important to disregard the Mel Kipers and similar popular mouthpieces of the world. You rarely get truth or accurate info about what they’ve heard or their opinions. Speculation and hyperbole is rampant. Facts, statistical evidence, and better sources for information must be focused on in order to avoid buying in to what the popular media is selling. Channel 5 News could give me their draft-board and would you listen?

    We need a QB and Mallett has shown skills in college that are tangible and can be supported. Hopefully, our front office does their homework. They won’t be drafting or not drafting Mallett because of what ESPN or similar networks have said. They’ll draft him because he fits the most important need in the most important position on our team.

    • Chris

      I have to believe that they will do their homework and more. Remember last year they took Okung out bowling to get him out of his comfort zone and see him really interact with them on a personal level. These guys know how to find out who the person is. If they feel they have a shot at him they will know all that they need to know. Also they are not afraid to take a risk if the price is right.

  11. Matthew Baldwin

    Off topic, but Rob can you spark a conversation/analysis on some possible late round gems?

    Charles Clay – 6′ 3″ versatile FB/TE Tulsa
    Allen Bradford – 235lb bruiser of a RB USC
    James Carpenter – RT Alabama with a solid Senior Bowl
    DeAndre Brown – 6′ 5″ 239lb WR cheaper than V-Jax


    • Rob

      Will do this week, Matthew. I’ve spoken a lot about Carpenter on the blog – I was a big fan throughout the 2010 college season. It’s guys like him which make you realise there’s absolutely no need for Seattle to spend a R1 pick on a RT.

  12. Brian

    Although the Ryan Leaf-esque personality bothers me, I can’t help wondering how many successful QB’s in the NFL are jerks and we just don’t know about it. Does hitting on their teammates’ girlfriends/wives, ignoring coaches, etc. really prevent QB’s from developing, or do we only hear about it when QB’s struggle?

  13. Jim Kelly

    Most of what I wanted to comment on has already been said. So I’ll just say this: Doesn’t Ryan Mallett, especially in this picture, look like the bad guy from Beverly Hills Cop?

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