I’ve evaluated 66 quarterbacks during Senior Bowl week over an 11-year period. When it comes down to evaluating where they fit in at the next level (high-end starter, average starter, or backup), I’ve been wrong about on about six or seven of them (one of these days I’ll revive the reports on those I was wrong on. See Philip Rivers, for example.)
I truly believe getting to see a quarterback up close (we can get as close as 50 yards away) in a live setting –even over just a three-day period—can tell you plenty about them. You can see arm strength, mechanics, pocket movement and much more. It’s truly an organic environment where you get to see how these quarterbacks perform under conditions where they usually have not worked with these WRs, TEs or coaches.
I stopped going to Thursday’s practice because the players are usually in t-shirts or jerseys and the quarterbacks are not usually under any pressure. The players are in pads from Monday through Wednesday. Thursday’s practice is similar to a Friday practice in the NFL—very light since its two days before Sunday’s game. So evaluating the first three days is the best course of action as I quickly discovered many years ago.
And these evaluations are strictly based on what I viewed this week, as I’ve done since 2002 during my time in Mobile.
Here's an inside look at the QBs I’ve ranked four through six with comments and overall numerical ranking of 5 (highest) through 1 (lowest) in each category for the three days of practice:
4) Landry Jones/6035/221/Oklahoma
Arm Strength: 4.25
Comments: I didn’t see much of an issue with his arm strength this week. Jones can make just about every throw. However, at times, he didn’t drive the ball where the ball needed to be. This generally was due to footwork
Comments: Jones was up and down with his accuracy all week. He would make a few really solid throws in a row then make throw that went over the head of his passing target or too far off target. Most quarterbacks struggle with footwork in Mobile because it’s often different than what they were asked to do in college.
Mechanics/Pocket Awareness: 3.5
Comments: Like with the two quarterbacks ranked below him, Jones struggled a bit with his footwork in each practice. And because of this, his accuracy on plenty of passes was impacted.
Numerical Grade: 11.5/15.0
Round(s) Target: Late 2nd/Early 3rd
Comments: At times, Jones looked the part of a really strong developmental quarterback. But like most of the signal callers in Mobile this week, his accuracy dropped him down a peg or two.
5) E.J. Manuel/6043/237/Florida St.
Arm Strength: 4.25
Comments: While his accuracy -- even on shorter passes -- clearly was an ongoing issue, Manuel has a strong arm. He made a few outstanding downfield throws in each practice. However, because of his inconsistent mechanics, some passes came up short of his intended target. Inconsistent footwork will reduce a power thrower into an average passer, as I’ve seen time after time over the years when evaluating quarterbacks.
Comments: Manuel simply was not consistent enough with his mechanics and footwork. And because of this, his accuracy was impacted in every practice. When he lined up his shoulders and feet correctly, Manuel had no issues hitting his intended passing target.
Mechanics/Pocket Awareness: 3.50
Comments: Manuel certainly looks the part (body type/movement ability), but on post-snap developments, he’s very inconsistent with footwork and mechanics. When he was able to set up with a proper base and turned his shoulder into passes, Manuel was very effective. However, he was unable to accomplish that consistently during the first three days of practice, which are really the only days needed to evaluate quarterbacks in Mobile other than the game.
Numerical Grade: 11.0/15.0
Round(s) Target: Mid 3rd/early 4th
Comments: If Manuel is selected higher than the third round, the reasons will be based on two likely factors; upside and his ability to run/move. And with so many teams going with spread formations, Manuel’s draft value could certainly increase as coaches get more involved in the scouting process. I’m looking forward to watching tape of him from this past season.
6) Zac Dysert/6027/224/Miami (Oh.)
Arm Strength: 4.0
Comments: Dysert clearly has better than average arm strength. Throwing with power is not an issue. However, squaring up and turning his shoulders with a good base were issues for him from time to time during the first three days of practice. When he squared his shoulders correctly and lined up his feet correctly, passes came out of his throwing hand (right) well.
Comments: The right-handed passer’s accuracy was up and down during the week, but it got better over the last few days. For Dysert, it’s a matter of setting up his feet properly and staying on balance.
Mechanics/Pocket Awareness: 3.25
Comments: At various times during practice, Dysert held onto the ball a bit too long and waited for his intended passing target to get open rather than throwing with timing and anticipation. Had the quarterbacks been allowed to be hit, Dysert would have taken some sacks. He needed to practice with a clock in his head; meaning Dysert needed to throw with a bit more urgency.
Numerical Grade: 11.0/15.0
Round(s) Target: 4th
Comments: He showed me enough that he’s worth taking a shot on later in the draft based on some of what I saw in Mobile this week. Tape study will tell me a lot more about him.