by NFL Gimpy
The 2013 QB class is far and away the most interesting class we’ve seen in a long time. By interesting, I don’t mean great, awful, talented, or not talented; I mean there are so many opinions and possibilities that I’d bet a lot of $$ that no analyst comes even close to who goes where and when. That’s not to say a lot of analysts out there aren’t on top of their game, it’s just there are so many questions around these QBs that can’t be solved from an outside perspective.
The first question teams have to ask is whether or not a player’s flaws are fixable. Every player is flawed; there is no such thing as a perfect prospect. There are guys who are close (Andrew Luck for example) where it’s easy to see that their flaws are quickly fixed or worked around. The problem with this class is that there are a lot of players who are highly talented but they have glaring flaws in which you simply cannot determine if they’re fixable or not.
Take Geno Smith, whom most consider to be the #1 QB. Most of Geno’s throws are one-read throws in Dana Hologorsen’s offense. Screens and quick hits were a huge part of their offense and you can’t blame them at all when you have an incredible playmaker like Tavon Austin out there. Put the ball in Austin’s hands and magical things happen. Steadman Bailey is no slouch either. In the NFL, you can’t have plays with one read all game long. Geno is going to have to drop back and move to his third and fourth options all game long. This is something he can do but did not do frequently at WVU.
I don’t believe for a second Geno isn’t a hard worker. I firmly believe all of the sources I’ve seen that say he’s a film room junkie and a great leader. As a Pitt fan, when I say that, it feels like it should be gospel. I’m not exactly a fan of WVU to put it lightly. This makes the main question with Geno whether or not he’ll be able to improve his eyes. Can he drop back, scan the field through multiple targets, and throw the ball with anticipation? In the NFL you have to throw receivers open. Geno has the accuracy and arm strength to do it and the mobility to extend plays. But if he can’t go through his progressions quickly, he’ll never live up to his draft status. Whoever drafts him has to believe he can grow tremendously in that area with good coaching.
The main thing I’ve noticed with most of the other top 6 or 7 QBs is awful pocket presence. If I could choose any skill to give my QB, pocket presence may be at the top of the list. A cannon with perfect accuracy doesn’t do you any good when you’re jumping around in the pocket or getting smashed by the first guy through every time. Take Tom Brady, or any great vet QB like Peyton or Brees. Tom Brady is the master of the side step. With chaos all around him, he’ll take that one little step to avoid the pass rusher while keeping his eyes downfield. Brady’s accuracy and anticipation are thrown off if he doesn’t subtly move around the pocket. Tom doesn’t have the strongest arm, but his ability to manipulate the pocket gives him the ability to time his passes perfectly.
With this QB class, pocket presence is most likely a flaw, not a strong point. I’m pretty high on Ryan Nassib and I’ve had him as my #2 QB behind Geno Smith for the longest time. I think a little of this is based on how much I saw of Nassib in his time at Syracuse. A great follow on twitter, NFLosophy, pointed something out that I didn’t focus enough on due to my preconceived notions: Nassib jumps in the pocket way too much. I saw the sacks, but not the reason why. When I saw Nassib, I saw a guy who made consistently top notch reads. He gambled a bit too much but I love his confidence. He didn’t always have the best talent around him so he had to make things happen.
But a guy who’s jumping around too much in the pocket? That’s scary. Like I said with Brady, he takes a short side step, half a yard or so, and dodges the rush. Nassib would consistently move 1-2 yards to avoid the rush. The problem with this is that in the NFL the pocket is going to be smaller and he could easily step into another pass rusher. It’s definitely something you see a lot with younger/inferior QBs. They’ll make the first guy miss, but overcompensate and end up sacked by someone else. Can you coach Nassib to take shorter steps in the pocket? It seems doable but a lot of that stuff is instinct. If Nassib develops better pocket presence and shorter steps, he could end up a pretty good QB.
I won’t even bother going through EJ Manuel’s pocket presence. It isn’t pretty.
With all of that said, who your top QB is depends on which flaws you think are the easiest to fix or work around. Do you think it’s easier for Geno Smith to improve at working through his progressions or for Ryan Nassib to stop hopping in the pocket? Or would you prefer Matt Barkley’s solid mechanics and intangibles with limited arm strength and inconsistency when he can’t step into his throws? Maybe you’ll take a risk on Tyler Bray with his questionable work ethic or justify Tyler Wilson’s struggles in 2012 thanks to a complete collapse around him? Wilson had a very good 2011 and no one would have looked good last year in Fayetteville in his shoes. Whoever your top QB is, a huge factor in that determination will be your belief that his flaws are fixable. If you (as a fan/analyst) see flaws you don’t see as something good coaching can improve, you will drop that QB down. It all comes down to your preferences and belief.
With the 2013 NFL Draft, teams are picking their poison at QB. There could be only one QB in the 1st round or as many as 4. No one knows who covets who and what price a team is willing to pay. I lean heavily towards only 1 or 2 QBs in the 1st round due to what I said last week: I think teams are hedging their bets with mediocre QBs because they can’t trust any of these rookies to start Week 1 of the 2013 season. But I could be entirely wrong and I’m OK with that. The uncertainty around the QBs in this draft is going to make it exciting and shocking. This isn’t 2012 where we knew as soon as the Redskins trade that it was going to be Luck-RG3 at 1-2. Be honest, it’s more fun this way.
-What’s the deal with Rob Gronkowski’s arm? He has a possible infection due to the multiple surgeries he’s had. A problematic arm injury is very rare in the NFL. Most injuries that cause lingering issues involve the leg, knees, feet, or concussions.
-If the Bucs are truly offering a 1st, 3rd, and 6th plus a $15-16M/year deal for Revis, I cannot fathom why this hasn’t happened yet. Revis can void his contract after this season and the Jets cannot put any type of franchise/transition/restricted tag on him. He will be able to go anywhere. I don’t see how the cap strapped Jets can keep him happy. For Revis, it’s a great contract to take because with his knee injury last year, that type of $$ may not come if he’s not 100% in 2013. Something smells off about this report and I can’t figure out why. Maybe someone is trying to drive the price up?
-The Raiders aren’t going to be very good this year, but it looks like they’re going to be out of salary cap hell in 2014. A lot of dead money will be off the books and they’ll finally be free of the wasted draft picks on Carson Palmer (2nd round pick in 2013 still going to Cinci). While I doubt they’ll go crazy in free agency, they will be able to sign a few starters to reasonable contracts instead of picking off the carcass of what is left in free agency like they did this year.
-If the 2014 QB class pans out like it could, we may see 4-6 QBs go in the first round out of value and none will be a reach. Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd, Aaron Murray, and maybe even Johnny Manziel or a darkhorse like David Fales could go in the 1st round. AJ McCarron is another possibility. I’m very high on Teddy if he goes pro and would have made him my #1 QB this year. I don’t want to say Boyd made a mistake staying at Clemson, but I think he would have been the #1 QB this year over Geno Smith. Andy Reid may not have pulled the trigger on Alex Smith so quickly if Boyd were an option.
-RIP Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher. However, do yourself a favor and do NOT rent The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep. It was an awful movie that somehow made one of the most interesting politicians in modern history a boring movie mostly about her slipping into dementia and talking to her dead husband.
-The number of Pittsburgh Pirates runs scored in 6 games: 8. Runs scored by the Cardinals in the 4th inning yesterday: 9. I’m not much of a baseball fan but I’ll go to a few Pirates games because they’re cheap and PNC Park is worth the price of admission just for the view. They have only one hitter any other MLB team would want (Andrew McCutcheon) and the rest are good minor leaguers at best. On the bright side, my middle school self is pumped to see that Third Eye Blind is playing after a game in August, so tickets will be dirt cheap! Doodoodoo. Doo doodoodooo… (apologies if you don’t get that the doos are from Semi-Charmed Life).
-The NHL playoffs are so close! Playoff spots are starting to get clinched and the strike shortened season should make the playoffs even more interesting than usual.
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