One of the prospects I'm most looking forward to watching in 2011 is Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. I had a chance to watch the Razorbacks a few times last year and knowing there was a possibility he'd declare early, kept an eye on Mallett. Regular visitors will know I've been equally critical and praiseworthy of his performances to date. Consistency has been an issue and he's yet to truly pair touch and finesse to his obvious physical talents. A rocket arm and above average size (he's a well built 6'7") will interest scouts, but he still has a lot to do to really put himself in top ten reckoning (although he's fully capable of that).
A great game to watch if you can is last year's Florida vs Arkansas encounter. In all honesty, the Razorbacks should've won the game and ended Tim Tebow's dreams of an unbeaten season a lot earlier than the SEC Championship defeat to Alabama. Mallett was wildly inconsistent on the day. On one play, he delivered a picture perfect long bomb downfield for a huge touchdown, catching his receiver in stride. I'm not sure any other college QB right now could've landed that play. However, on a closer venture into the Gators red zone, he over shot a wide open full back in the end zone for a sure-fire six points.
You just got the feeling in a close game that ended 23-20, Mallett left some points on the field that day.
Indeed it was the big games he struggled in mostly last year. Against teams Arkansas were expected to dominate, Mallett enjoyed a solid completion percentage and racked up the bulk of his 30 TD's. Against the like of Florida, Alabama and Ole Miss - he registered completion percentages of 44.4, 34.3 and 35.3 respectively. That has to be better in 2010.
Mallett's also still recovering from a broken foot which has kept him from working out fully this spring. Arkansas and Mallett will deny the impact this has had on his growing development, but only results will give us a defining answer.
Sean Bartlett has featured the Razorbacks QB in ESPN Insider's most recent prospect review: "For all Mallett's ambition of becoming a complete, cerebral QB like Peyton Manning, there will still be hints of instinctive, Favre-like gunslinging in his game, so long as his arm will allow him to put balls in windows other QBs wouldn't even consider. If he hits on just a few more of those bombs this season, Mallett won't have to wait long to shake Roger Goodell's hand on draft night."
A good year could put Mallett in the top ten reckoning. He's very much in any discussion that involves Jake Locker, Andrew Luck or any of the other big name quarterbacks expected to be part of the 2011 draft. None are a lock and Mallett is no different. If he can become more consistent and find that level of touch to compliment the cannon, he'll go early next April. Whatever happens, the tools (rightly or wrongly) might stop him falling too much - but he has plenty to work on.