Saturday, 12 September 2009

Bradford, McCoy, and Tebow - An Introduction

Turn on SportsCenter during the 50 seconds a week they’ll talk draft this time of the year, and chances are Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and/or Tim Tebow will come up. They’re all very successful college quarterbacks playing at big programs that win a lot of games, so the national spotlight is drawn to them. However, that does not mean they’ll be good NFL QBs – from what I have seen from scouting their 2008 games, all three have significant work before they reach they level of Matt Stafford or Mark Sanchez.

Working alphabetically, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma will start us off. The 2008 Heisman Award winner, owner of two extremely impressive seasons (2007 and 2008… 2009 didn’t get off to a good start) for the high-powered Oklahoma offense. Bradford has the least amount of experience in the group, and arguably the best results. Bradford has excellent height, good mobility, good pocket awareness, superb short accuracy, ability to make touch throws, an arm that can flash power, and a pretty deep ball. Those are all valuable skills that are almost a requirement to play QB in the NFL.

Unfortunately, Bradford has some big problems he’ll need to correct. He is a mechanical mess. His release is quick, but the ball leaves closer to sidearm than over-the-top. He throws off his back foot a fair bit (sadly, not as often as the following QBs), with poor balance, and almost never strides into his throws. If he fixed his mechanical issues, he would be the owner of a pretty strong arm. Like the other top QBs, he played out of an offense that limits his reads and responsibilities (he does show the ability to locate secondary and tertiary receivers). He does have more experience dropping back, but there will be an adjustment in the NFL. He also has a thin frame that could struggle to hand punishment at the NFL level. All in all, he enters 2009 as the top QB on this list, but somewhat by default.

Colt McCoy of Texas could make a convincing case that he deserved to have won the Heisman and play for the National Championship last year. He is as well positioned as anyone in the country to win the Heisman this year. McCoy is an accurate passer with the legs to move the chains when the defense forgets about him. He has a quick release on his short tosses. He has shown the ability to get the ball downfield on occasion, though with a significant wind-up.

Unfortunately, that was really all the good I saw from McCoy. In general, his arm is weak and his short passes lack zip after about 12 yards. He makes more throws within 5 yards of the LOS than Bradford and Tebow combined. He’s probably not a good enough scrambler to run consistently against NFL defenses. He throws off his back foot far too often, though he’s less of a mechanical wreck than Bradford or Tebow. He is probably 6’2 210 and honestly looks smaller than that, but he has done a good job getting bigger since he arrived at UT. He played out of a wacky offense that makes very few NFL throws, and I doubt his ability to make them. Dropping back could present some problems for McCoy. Right now, I’m not sure I’d take McCoy before the 6th round – his potential is fairly low due to lack of amazing physical gifts, and he has a lot of work to do to reach that low ceiling.

Tim Tebow of Florida might get the most press, and has an impressive resume. In 2006, he won a National Championship as a part-time QB. In 2007, he won the Heisman as the 1-man team for Florida. In 2008, he won another National Championship and made arguably the most famous speech of the 2008 college football season. The lefty QB is a tantalizing mix of size and speed, with a strong arm to boot. He could go down as the most successful college quarterback ever. He has shown pretty good accuracy and runs hard. He has made big progress in every year (he was a far better QB in 2008 than 2007, despite the lower personal statistics), and appears to be one of the more determined players in his draft class.

Unfortunately for him, Tebow is also a mechanical mess. He has a very long release, though the ball leaves his hand at a high point. His arm strength is hurt when he doesn’t stride into his throws, which is far too often. He isn’t as fast as some people seem to think, though he will be able to buy time, pick up 1st downs, and run QB sneaks. His offense has little in common with an NFL offense, and he has a lot of work before he is even ready to take the field. His reads are 1, 2, and run, and sometimes the second target doesn’t get much more than a cursory glance. He plays on the most talented team in the country, so there are some concerns about what his team does to make him look good. With that slow release, he’ll probably never fit into a timing offense, but he could still have a future as a successful starting QB in a downfield passing attack… 3+ years from the 2010 draft. Tebow has more potential than Bradford or McCoy, but he is also the least ready for the NFL. Personally, my own draft philosophy says projects with high potential are 4th round picks at best, but some teams are willing to gamble a lot earlier.

None of these guys look like players who could start for Seattle from Day 1. Bradford is the guy I’d take earliest, but there are a lot of concerns with his game. Tebow is the guy I’d take as a project (if Seattle plans to ditch the WCO entirely), but there are a lot of mechanical issues with him. And McCoy is the guy I’d spend a 6th round pick on in the hope he develops into Jeff Garcia before his rookie contract ends – not terribly likely, to be honest.

These QBs have had big success at big programs, but none of them are terribly appealing NFL prospects at this point in time. If Bradford goes from a mechanical mess to pretty good, he’ll probably be deserving to go #1, but it isn’t easy to change the way you throw when you’ve been throwing one way since puberty.

I haven’t had the chance to look at QBs like Jevan Snead (Ole Miss) or Tony Pike (Cincinnati), but they are definitely worth paying attention to and might end up as the best QBs in this class.


Patrick said...

Great write up! I will admit I am a fan of Tim Tebow. Watching the game today against Troy, he looked great, but I do realize that he would need a lot of work before he's ready. I also know I am biased because I just love his character and would just be excited to have him on the Seahawks. I guess I just feel like it would work out well because Seattle doesn't seem like it's in a position where we would need a QB to start day 1. With Hasselbeck hopefully having a year or two left, we could actually take an investment like Tebow and give him time to adjust. My question is, how did you rank Mike Teel last year? I mean how would you compare these 3 QBs to him?

Kyle Rota said...

Thanks Patrick,

First off, Tebow. We're an ideal situation in the sense that we don't need him right away, as you said, but we're a poor schematic fit for him. Even if he works out his lower-body mechanical issues, his windup would get him killed in a timing, short-passing offense. Or, rather, it'd get him picked off because corners get extra time to jump those routes.

If he could shorten his sundial release, then he'd be a good project for us (I believe the dropback/read issues are minor if the QB is allowed to sit and learn for at least a full year). But if I'm Tim Ruskell, I am very hesitant to say "we can fix his release" with a draft choice on the line.

(Standard Scheme Disclaimer: Since we are running a new offense and new defense, I could be completely wrong as to what "fits"...)

As for Teel, I never sat down and scouted him. I am a small Rutgers fan though (in the sense that I like the program... I have an opinion on every program), and I've seen Rutger games in previous years. I felt like he always held the team back by missing open targets, but that was just a general feeling from casual watching games, not true scouting. He's not a bad late-round gamble, though, simply because the number of pro-style (I use the term loosely) QBs with NFL arm strength can usually be counted on 1 hand every year.

Patrick said...

Thanks again for your input Kyle. I never really got into the draft much before last year, so I never really paid too much attention to mechanics. I see Tebow or Bradford as stars and it's easy to forget a star in college does not neccesarily make a star in the pros. I do love Seattle's position whether we choose a QB this year or not, with the ability to have our future QB sit and watch. If you had to compare Bradford and Tebow to current NFL players, who do you think they would be?

P.S. This is unrelated to the Seahawks, but what is your opinion on the football program at the University of Central Florida? I'm actually a junior at UCF and just curious on an outsiders opinion.

Kyle Rota said...

So, for me comparisons are about styles of play, not quality. So if I compare a guy to LT, that's just because I see a lot of similarities. I'm not saying he will be LT.

Bradford reminds me of Phillip Rivers. Tall, funky delivery, very accurate, decent arm strength, super-productive, play in an unconvential offense for the era, competitive. Bradford is more mobile, Rivers bigger and stronger and will use his legs when he throws.

Tim Tebow is a lot tougher. The best I can think of is Ben Roethlisberger. Both are big and strong (Ben is bigger, Tebow is as strong though), can run (Tebow is overrated from a speed perspective, but he's probably faster too), have sundial releases, can shake off sacks, strong-but-not crazy arms (when Tebow learns to stride more consistently, they'll be similar strength), and seem to be good leaders.

As for UCF, I have respect for the program. IIRC they've only been FCS for a few years, and they're already better than a lot of programs. Leary is a great coach and of course you could do worse for recruiting. I don't particularly love watching them, nothing about them is really "special", but I don't dislike them either. IMO, they're one of those teams that, if the right situation presents itself, could win a bunch of games and play in a legitimate bowl.