I am not an expert by any means. There are scouts in the NFL who are amazing at what they do. They see things in prospects that the untrained eye can’t see. On the other hand, there are a lot of guys who are terrible at their jobs. There are decisions made that are head scratchers. Anybody with an inkling of common sense would have known otherwise. Like Blaine Gabbert being hyped as the best QB in his draft. A 28-year-old Brandon Weeden going in the first round also. Christian Ponder being drafted period.
Initially, this post was named “Why does the NFL love trash ass white quarterbacks” but this doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. But seriously, while I will attack the black QB stigma here, there are outliers. EJ Manuel went top 15 for crying out loud. Tavaris Jackson went early in the second round and he’s so inaccurate that his wife yelled “You Better be accurate because you ain’t accurate on the field!” while a gun was pointed at her. And Akili Smith…don’t even get me started.
Still, there’s a strong enough correlation in NFL scouting circles to at least figure out how they typically think.
Let’s debunk some of my favorite QB scouting myths.
The Prototypical NFL QB
This guy went to a big name college, probably was a three/four-year starter, and has cushy stats. He wows coaches during interviews, handles the spotlight well, and most importantly he LOOKS like an NFL QB.
No, seriously, these guys get points for simply looking like an NFL QB.
This guy is typically 6’3-6’6 and between 230-250 lbs. He has a “strong arm” and can “make all the throws”. He shoots up the draft boards after skipping the combine to have a scripted private workout in front of NFL coaches. See Mark Sanchez.
Yes, let’s completely ignore flaws in mechanics or the fact that these guys played with a host of 5-star recruits. Let’s ignore the fact that they often lack minimal athleticism required of a professional athlete. Let’s ignore this all because they look like a “prototypical NFL QB”.
This guy is usually thrown into the fire immediately and ends up bouncing around to 3 or 4 different teams by the end of his career.
[Unrelated note: Logan Thomas was almost this guy. I’m so glad he didn’t go in the 1st round. SO glad]
The Fixer Upper
This guy is still the prototypical NFL QB but isn’t quite an elite talent. This guy usually has the template of the prototypical QB but it hasn’t trasnlated into production. Yet, coaches are willing to take a risk on him because they think they can fix it. There are many flaws with this. So many that I don’t even know where to begin.
First point: NFL coaches are simply better, that’s why they’re NFL coaches. They can get the best out of a player.
Counterpoint: Jeff Fisher is gainfully employed by the NFL.
Second point: Some players blossom later than others. Maybe he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. (File with: “Tremendous upside”)
Counterpoint: Um yea, if you suck in college you’re likely to suck in the NFL. ESPECIALLY at QB.
Third point: WE CAN FIX HIS MECHANICS! HE HAS THE PHYSICAL TOOLS!
Counterpoint: I don’t fricking have one because it’s stupid.
This one makes my ass itch the most. This is like taking a 20% three-point shooter and saying “well he has the range, maybe we can fix his entire throwing motion and he’ll be great”. IF HE SUCKED IN COLLEGE HE WILL SUCK IN THE NFL.
Let me show you an example.
Tom Savage was drafted in the 4th rd of the NFL draft. The story here isn’t where he was drafted, it’s the fact that he was even drafted at all.
He began his career with Rutgers where he had a blazing 14 TD and 7 INT season. His sophomore season, he was tearing up with Big Ten with 2 TDs and 3 INTs before he was injured. He was replaced with a freshman and transferred due to permanently losing his job. After sitting out a season at Arizona, he then transferred again because there was no way in hell he’d have a chance of winning the starting position in Rich Rod’s system.
He then transferred to Pittsburgh where he had a decent season (no sarcasm this time) with 21 TDs and 9 INTs.
For some reason, this career was ignored and he was labeled as a draft sleeper. He was a 3rd rounder in most mock drafts. Some mock drafts even teased him as a second rounder. He previously stated, he was drafted in the 4th round.
How is he doing now? Well, he couldn’t beat out TJ Yates, Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden or Brian Hoyer last year. That should be good enough as your answer.
This year’s fixer upper is Christian Hackenberg. Let’s ignore the fact that this guy had a season where he threw more INTs than TDs, let’s ignore the fact that he holds the ball for too long and takes too many sacks, let’s forget the fact that he’s committed the worst turnovers in this year’s draft. Why? Because he looks like a QB! He’s 6’4 235 lb (sound familiar?) has all the tools and can be fixed! [Update: As I type this, Hackenberg 26 pass attempts and only 33 yards. You have to try incredibly hard to suck that bad]
How’s he doing now? Well, he hasn’t played a single preseason game yet. Meanwhile, 4th rounder Dak Prescott is poised to be a starter after proving he can run a first team offense efficiently.
Evaluators tend to ignore real life production in favor of potential. Well, what they think is possibly potential anyway.
Next example is Brett Hundley.
Now we can make statistics say whatever we want to say. But looking at his numbers in 2013 to 2014, what’s the assumption to be made here?
I’d look at these numbers and say hmmm, he increased his completion percentage slightly, had less INTs, less rushing yards also, so maybe he began relying on his legs less and started to trust his passing abilities.
Although 2013 was a Heisman-worthy season (he was in the convo but not a finalist) 2014 is seen as the worse season.
He’s scouting reports reads that he lacks basic QB skills, struggles to understand the position, can’t read coverages, etc.
Hackenberg was taken in the 2nd round. Hundley in the 4th.
The biggest lie NFL coaches tell themselves is that they can fix a bad college QB and turn him into a good NFL QB. It happens EVERY SINGLE YEAR.
The Dual Threat QB Stigma
I could call this the black QB stigma but there’s some black QBs who received some love. But I chose to call this the Dual Threat QB Stigma because usually, the evaluation of black QBs (and many other dual threat QBs in general) fall into this same category of lazy evaluation.
I’d like to jump straight into a scout’s report of Theodore E. Bridgewater II.
Adequate athlete. Is not an overly elusive scrambler —
I’m not sure why this would be listed in the scouting report of a pro style QB. Once again, this isn’t a stigma delegated to black QBs only. Much ballyhoo was made over Marcus Mariota’s inability to read defenses. Tannehill also gets the same flack although I admittedly think he sucks ass.
A guy I’d like to highlight who was shafted by the dual threat QB stigma was Tyrod Taylor. Ok, yes, he’s only 6’1 215 but you can’t ignore what you see on the field. Aside from being a damn good scrambling QB, he shows tremendous poise in the pocket. His feet are always active and he’s typically aware of his surroundings. He zips the ball with tremendous force by always setting his feet on passes.
Let’s ignore the crazy athleticism. When he takes off, he keeps his eyes upfield. Most “scrambling” QBs would’ve simply taken off. Even when he does his crazy twirly whirl, he instantly sets his feet, pops his head up then delivers a TD.
As we all know, Tyrod sat behind Joe Flacco for the first couple of years of his career but took advantage when he was given his time to shine.
Add 568 rushing yards and 4 rushing TDs and that’s a pretty good season for an offense that wasn’t that great (to no fault of his).
Even with this good season, pundits still wanted the Bills to take Christian Hackenberg (LMAO DEAR GOD NO) because Tyrod doesn’t seem like a franchise QB.
So why does the NFL suck at evaluating QBs? Same reason why your college girlfriend wouldn’t leave you even though she knew you were bad for her: They fall in love with potential. Scouts, coaches, and GMs see the “prototypical QB” characteristics and throw the clipboard out the window. QB is the position with the laziest evaluations. It’s also the position given the most leeway (if you meet these prototypical QB characteristics). This is why you have Brock Osweiler getting a huge contract after only starting for half a season of Game of Thrones.
Most coaches are extremely stubborn when faced with changes in the landscape fo the game. They’re dinosaurs of a bygone era when a QB looked and played a certain way. I don’t think QBs are lacking development at the college level, for the most part, they’re not played to their strengths in the NFL. Not saying teams have to go full spread in the NFL, but if spread concepts were added (which is slowly happening, YAY!) then more of these guys would have success. QBs like Russell Wilson are outliers but there should be many more. Yes, we can call Colin Kaepernick a system QB, but something is to be said when he had his best seasons when his college coach was the advisor for the 49ers who installed the EXACT offense he ran in college.
If a guy isn’t adept at playing a certain type of way (under the center) then he’s instantly labeled as unprepared before he’s even closely examined.
Judge ye quarterback by the content of his highlight tape, not by potential he may never reach.
Hopefully, QBs are put under the microscope more in the future so guys with legit talent can get a chance. Instead of making a QB fit into a system, maybe QBs are given more freedom to play within systems that highlight their strengths. Maybe put more effort into developing QBs who are actually talented instead of wasting time on the Hackenbergs.
Until then, the hats in the NFL will continue sucking at evaluating QBs.
[Update no.2: Christian Hackenberg finished 11-31 with 54 passing yards and 1 interception. Jesu Cristo]