After yesterday's story where I briefly went into the flaws of each of the five favorite quarterbacks in this year's NFL draft I received several emails and tweets. Some were affable and in agreement with my quick rough assessments, others weren't so nice in their own assessment of me and quite a few simply wondered why certain qualities were an issue. Thanks for the love folks, thanks for the hate and in response to those wondering why I'll take you through a "build a prospect", Frankenstein session explaining why each of the following characterstics is as important as the next.
We hit on a series folks and this is the first installment in the ten weeks before the draft: Building A Prospect. We'll start with the quarterback and work our way through a football team.
Physical Make Up
We'll start with the "aesthetic" as this is what will get your foot in the door with NFL scouts and GMs. Ideal height is 6' 3" and above as it gives the quarterback the ability to see over the offensive line and deliver the football over the offensive line. Remember folks, Drew Brees and Doug Flutie before him are the exception not the rule when it comes to quarterbacking. Being able to throw the football over the line is crucial and while Brees is a wizard at finding throwing lanes in the pocket if he was four inches taller he'd be even more deadly delivering the football.
read more for the rest of the anatomy of a quarterback...
To go with that height we'll add some weight, around 220 lbs is a great base. Sure there are a couple guys, including Brees, who tip the scales at sub-220 but the bulk of your successful quarterbacks carry 220 lbs or more. This weight is the safeguarder of durability and longevity within the NFL. Sure guys where flackjackets, pads and helmets as protective equipment but in the end being strong enough to endure the punishment of 6'4" 270 lbs defensive ends, 6'2" 325 lbs defensive tackles and the like hitting and laying on them play in and play out.
Speed is not the biggest factor here as your prototypical quarterback is never going to be the fastest man on the football field. Rather quickness and the ability of the waggle for a positive gain is the goal, in short "being an athlete" is what counts. Ben Roethlisberger, Mark Sanchez, Tony Romo are among the top of this scale as they scramble routinely to pick up positive plays for their team. The ability to move outside of the pocket also creates the ability to add bootlegs, waggles and roll outs to the arsenal.
Athleticism doesn't just include the speed aspect as strength is a major player in the equation. Drew Brees, though small, showed his strength in evading the rush, shaking off would-be sackers and delivering the football while being dragged to the ground. Eli Manning sent every quarterback to the weight-room with his heroic play in the Super Bowl, making it clear that a signal callers ability to dislodge a defender is a necessary quality.
Speed, quickness and strength will mean nothing without arm strength. This is a much debated topic and some folks debate the true importance of arm strength while others drool over a quarterback with a cannon. ITB's general stance is: get a quarterback with the arm strength to fit your offense, don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole rather tailor your system to the quarterback's strength.
There are several NFL caliber throws; the deep dig, deep out, skinny post and the corner route are the most obvious arm strength tests and if a quarterback can make those throws consistently they've got adequate strength in their arm.
Strength in the cannon is nice but control and mechanics are better. Proper mechanics increase accuracy and when both are acting in concert with arm strength you've got a quarterback who is deadly. Sacrifice the arm strength but maintain the mechanics and accuracy and you've got guys like Chad Pennington, Jeff Garcia and the like who can still get the job done in the west coast offense type system.
The tangibles of height, weight, speed, strength and accuracy are nice and plenty of quarterbacks possess those qualities but still end up doing absolutely zero at the next level, see Jamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf amongst others.
Truth be told quarterbacks have to have it together between the ears in a myriad of ways to be successful. Reading defenses, playbook knowledge and decision making stand out as must haves for a quarterback to be successful.Reading defenses starts in the film room and then carries out to on the field diagnosis. A good quarterback not only knows the intricacies of the coverages but also when and how each particular team utilizes their mixture of blitz packages, coverages and fronts. Diagnosing the coverages and fronts shows the quarterback whether to audible, run or pass as well as what side the play should be ran towards.
I'm sure you've heard of a "package" or a team "trimming down the playbook" and while they benefit players short term in the end they're gross handicappers that truly limit a teams ability to win. NFL teams break down film to a science, they know tendencies and if you're operating with a 35% or a 50% playbook that means the same plays and formations are popping up repeatedly in film.
A quarterback must master the playbook quickly in order to command his team and give coaches the confidence to be creative. Peyton Manning the golden ticket in this respect as he clearly has mastered the playcalling but he's not the only quarterback with playbook mastery. Guys like Brady, E. Manning, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Brees and Palmer have all got a great handle on their plays and allow their coordinators to truly gameplan.
Putting the team in the right play is just the beginning decision making is where a true quarterback shows his colors. There's always someone open, whether it is a receiver deep or intermediate, a tight end in the seam or a back in the flat there are always windows to hit people; how quickly a qb anticipates this and reacts is the difference between an interception or a sack and a positive gain.
Hearing quarterback coaches talk to their charges about what "open" meant was always a treat as there's "high school open" (5+ yards of green around him, often no one else in the film footage wide open), there's "college open" (2-5 yards of separation) and "NFL open" (2-3 steps OR favorable body positioning). A quarterback has to anticipate this and make a decision.
Send your emails in to InTheBleachers @ Gmail (dot) Com with which position you'd like to see built for the draft in the coming weeks.