Ryan Mallet leads Arkansas into the Liberty Bowl today against East Carolina - will it be his last game for the Razorbacks? Nobody seems to know Mallett's intentions at the moment. We do know he's appealed to the draft committee for information on his grade and he's certainly left the door open with a series of 'no comment' remarks when asked about the NFL. I've said on this blog for weeks that I felt one of Jake Locker or Mallett would declare, I think it's almost certain Mallett will be available in April.
I don't think an announcement will be made immediately after today's game. Expect Mallett to go away and use the time available to him to discuss things with coach Bobby Petrino and his family. Underclassmen have until January 15th to file their papers. I'm not sure what the best decision would be for the former Michigan transfer. On the one hand - nobody has staked a real claim to be the first quarterback taken this year. There are lingering durability concerns with Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen - despite a lot of hype and good stats this year - has a questionable throwing motion and hasn't convinced me he's worthy of a top pick.
Mallett has prototype size (6'7", 230lbs) and decent mechanics. He has the kind of arm that has scouts drooling. They are the positives. On the other hand, he's incredibly raw. Having watched him against Florida and Auburn, Mallett showed he can make the long bomb downfield but his short term accuracy was all over the place - particularly in the red zone. In the Florida game in particular, his issues deep in Gator territory potentially cost Arkansas the upset of the year.
Let's look at the stats. On the year Mallett recorded an impressive 3425 yards and a TD/INT ratio of 29/7. His completion percentage was at 52.7%. That all looks fine. However, when you look at Mallett's stats against tougher opponents, it paints a different story.
vs Alabama - 34.4%
vs Florida - 44.4%
vs Ole Miss - 35.3%
vs LSU - 43.6%
Now let's look at Mallett's stats against the weaker opponents on the Razorbacks schedule:
vs Troy - 76.7%
vs South Carolina - 85.2%
vs Eastern Michigan - 87.5%
vs Missouri State - 77.3%
Obviously these stats are not solely on Mallett, but I think it hints at the issues I have with him. He lacks polish that an extra year in college would improve. But we say that about every underclassmen quarterback - by now we understand that these guys will declare and who can blame them with the kind of money on offer in the NFL?
If he is available in April, whoever drafts him will have to work on his footwork from day one. I don't think he'll be able to take snaps under center. That's something Joe Flacco did tremendously well when he was taken by Baltimore, but a lot of credit also has to go to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Mallett will need a similar mentor.
He then has to work on that accuracy issue. Can it be fixed? Possibly. But then that's what separates the top quarterbacks in the NFL and the rest. Jay Cutler has the arm, the size, all the tools. So why has he never been in the post season? Mallett likewise has everything you want from a quarterback, but unless that short range accuracy improves he won't justify first round investment. Such is the draft though, it wouldn't surprise me if Mallett went in the top half of round one. This is a quarterback league, after all.
Arkansas take on Eastern Michigan at 5:30pm EST. So will he declare? Should he declare? Let me know in the comments section or email firstname.lastname@example.org