BY LUKE EASTERLING
Derek Carr’s feet
Nobody in this year’s QB class made a bigger overall improvement between 2012 and 2013 than Carr, who clearly spent much of the off-season correcting multiple mechanical issues. The result was a senior season in which he steamrolled the Mountain West Conference to the tune of 5,082 yards, 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. And though there’s still the trusty “inferior competition” argument against his production, it’s not what concerns me most about his ability to translate to the next level.
For all of the mechanical fixes that Carr managed to make heading into his senior campaign, one area that still needs major attention is his footwork. Carr routinely pulls the trigger without fully setting his base, causing his ball placement to be effected negatively on a consistent basis. Especially on catch-and-shoot-type throws (screens, quick hitches, etc.), Carr doesn’t even look like he’s trying to set his feet before letting the ball go. Getting the ball out quick is important, sure, but not at the expense of accuracy. He may have been able to get away with it in the MWC, but the NFL won’t be nearly as forgiving.
A.J. McCarron’s ability to handle pressure
One of the biggest concerns about a quarterback in McCarron’s situation is, “Would he be as successful if he wasn’t surrounded by such superior talent?”. Any NFL team looking at McCarron has to be afraid that he’s nothing more than the next Ken Dorsey, a mere shadow of his collegiate self without the best players in the country surrounding him at nearly every position. Turns out we might have gotten an early peek at what that will look like in Alabama’s disappointing Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, during which McCarron was pressured early and often, to a degree that he hadn’t seen in maybe his entire collegiate career.
McCarron looked incredibly uncomfortable any time the pocket began to break down, and he lacks the athleticism to make plays outside the pocket. Even when the pressure came from the edges and the tackles did a decent job of carrying the rusher up the field, McCarron chose to leave the pocket anyway instead of stepping up. This led to multiple passes being thrown away needlessly, including a costly intentional grounding penalty. If McCarron is to succeed at the next level, he’ll either have to improve greatly in this area, or hope he gets drafted by a team with a superior offensive line.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s small hands
I love everything else about this guy. I loved him on tape, loved what I heard coming out of the Shrine Game practices, and I was thrilled to see him earn a late invite to the Senior Bowl. However, once in Mobile, Garoppolo’s hands measured in at just nine inches, and he reportedly had multiple issues handling the ball during the first day of practices.
His week of work at the Shrine Game had put him in the 2nd-round conversation, but he’ll have to finish out the Senior Bowl week strong, particularly when it comes to ball security, to convince scouts that his hands won’t be an issue.
The ACLs of Zach Mettenberger & Aaron Murray
Two of the most successful passers in the nation’s best conference suffered devastating blows late in the season, as both Mettenberger and Murray each tore an ACL. They’ll be spending a good portion of the off-season rehabbing, and while players like Adrian Peterson have proved that returning to a high level of play is still possible after such an injury, for every one of him there is an RG3. Teams will be paying close attention to the medical reports on these two, and depending on the outcome, both could end up being serious steals if a team can grab them late enough without risking too much. But if a team gambles on Day 2 and gets damaged goods, it’ll be a tough pill to swallow.
The risk of missing – or missing out – on Johnny Manziel
He’s the ultimate risk/reward pick in this entire draft. We’ve all marveled at his play-making ability over the past two seasons, both as a runner and a passer. There are a million different reasons why every GM in the NFL should snatch him up as soon as possible, and a million more why doing so could put their head on a platter by season’s end. Will his passing ability be enough to succeed at the next level? Will his athleticism not be superior enough to allow him to make the splash plays that were a dime a dozen every Saturday in College Station? Will any success at the highest level, combined with a huge payday, make him into an even worse off-field monster than we’ve seen so far? Let’s just say I’m glad my job isn’t on the line when it comes to this decision, one way or the other.