Quarterback evaluation can be a frustrating process at times. (AP)
Quarterback evaluation is a fascinating process. One can easily make the argument that the process of studying and analyzing college quarterbacks says more about the person doing the evaluating than it does about the quarterbacks themselves. Bill Walsh told me years ago that when he received a quarterback breakdown from a scout or a coach on his staff, the first thing he did was to consider the evaluator. Walsh first wanted to understand the method and manner by which the individual went about the evaluation, and what that person looked for as he transitioned the player from the college game to the more rigorous NFL game.
It’s a captivating point, one that I’ve never forgotten. It was the starting point as I began my own process of evaluating quarterbacks. Using the NFL as my foundation, since the objective is to project college quarterbacks to Sunday football, I began to develop a template by which to assess what it takes to play the position well at the NFL level. I continually noticed specific attributes and traits that were clearly demanded to perform consistently well. These characteristics were tangible, identifiable and quantifiable. Different quarterbacks possessed them in distinctive and varying degrees, but at some level, they were necessary to have.
[Podcast: Cosell evaluates the 2013 draft class QBs]
You study enough film in fine detail, you learn to distill the subtle nuances of quarterback play. Think about it this way: what makes a quarterback good, or great in the NFL? He must be able to do certain things. And those things are all manifested in physical ways that are evident from comprehensive analysis. It’s all there on the tape. Even though we frequently focus on what we perceive to be intangibles, which by their very nature are indefinable, the reality is you have to make throws, often in difficult situations against challenging defenses. You need definitive traits to do that.
First and foremost, a quarterback must be able throw with accuracy -- or, as I’ve always believed to be the more descriptive term, precise ball location. If you can’t do that, you have no chance to be a quality NFL quarterback. You can see that on film. It’s measurable. The more I watched Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib as his senior year progressed, the more it was evident that ball location was a positive as he transitions to the NFL. One further point: receiver run-after-catch is almost always a function of the quarterback’s ball placement.
Again, think about the NFL. How many times do you see the top quarterbacks make decisive throws in critical situations with the pocket collapsing and with bodies around them? You must be able to stand and deliver in a muddied pocket. That’s an absolutely necessary attribute. That’s why size is a trait, although it’s never talked about that way. Taller, stronger quarterbacks can respond to the pocket closing down far better than shorter, lighter quarterbacks. Visualize Ben Roethlisberger or Andrew Luck. Both are big, physical men who can wait in the pocket as long as it takes to make a throw.
We know, of course, that size by itself does not automatically correlate to success. Tyler Bray of Tennessee is 6-foot-6 and 232 pounds, yet he reacted poorly when the pocket was squeezed. His mechanics broke down, he rushed his movements, and he had a tendency to fall away from his throws. All this negated his big arm, the strongest in this draft class. Bray is what I call a functional space passer. He needs room to step and throw. His inability to react well to pressure, in addition to his scattershot accuracy, were clear red flags as you project him to the NFL.Read More »from Cosell’s Take: The quarterback paradigm