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Posted Oct. 23, 2009

Quarterback Mobility

It's becoming very clear to me that even some of the highly regarded minds in the football world don't even know how to evaluate mobility to the NFL and don't really understand what it is.

Many NFL Draft experts in the media have Colt McCoy rated in their top 20 prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft. We are also hearing what scouting services like BLESTO and National think. These are two scouting services that several NFL teams use to evaluate prospects.

We are also hearing what NFL scouts and front office execs think because many NFL Draft experts in the media have sources within organizations.

Yes, I am calling out a lot of NFL scouts in the world right now - but I'm not going psycho and saying I am better than they are - and maybe I am just talking about the minority of scouts.

The bottom line is Colt McCoy shouldn't even be regarded as an average talent. He is a very poor talent. I think there is a 99-percent chance McCoy busts in the NFL. He doesn't have any talent to translate to the NFL game.

When you hear NFL Draft analysts discuss McCoy, you can read that McCoy's biggest strength is his legs.

Hello? Did I miss something? Am I the only football fan in the universe who knows Vince Young and Alex Smith have been epic failures in the NFL?

Not only am I going to tell you what to look for when it comes to quarterback mobility, but I am going to tell you what not to look for - how not to get fooled by watching a quarterback and fall in love with something that simply doesn't translate to the next level.

Don't feel alone if you like McCoy. Tons of NFL Draft experts in the media do - but they are dead wrong.

First, let's evaluate what McCoy is known for and then see if it really translates to the NFL or not.

1. He escapes pressure in the pocket. This is true. I will give McCoy credit for escaping in the pocket as I did in Colt McCoy's scouting report I compiled three months ago before the season even started. However, he isn't going to elude pressure in the NFL. Vince Young isn't escaping any pressure. Yes, he did as a rookie, but once teams got tape on Vince Young and they anticipated it, he was exposed as a one-dimensional quarterback. If you don't have Michael Vick and his freakish athletic ability, you aren't going to consistently elude pressure. McCoy has good athleticism, but he doesn't have great athleticism.

McCoy won't be eluding pressure in the pocket in the NFL not just because there is a tremendous jump defensively in terms of athleticism, size, strength, technique, intelligence, instincts, etc., but also because he will be a deer in headlights going from the shotgun, zone-read spread to a more pro-style, West Coast system.

In Texas' offense, McCoy has one read, and if that read isn't open, he ducks his head and runs. He can't throw from the pocket. He isn't going to get away with this in the NFL. He'll face a lot of pressure and begin to second guess himself. Not only this, but the progression and coverage reads are much, much, much more complex. Going from his offense at Texas to, for example, Jacksonville's offense, is like learning to read Chinese Mandarin in one year. It takes more than one year to learn a new language (or football language/playbook for this analogy). McCoy will likely never be able to pick up an NFL offense to the point where he could be a consistent, multi-year starter.

2. He has good athleticism/speed. I'm not saying athleticism at the quarterback position can be a bad thing - look at quarterbacks like Jay Cutler or Donovan McNabb. I'm just saying, if you can't throw the ball from the pocket, it doesn't matter if you run a 4.2 40. I love Jake Locker's athleticism and fluid movement to get outside of the pocket and make plays. The difference with Locker is he doesn't tuck and run (keeps his eyes downfield to make plays in the passing game) and he isn't one-dimensional like Vince Young, Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, etc.

Yes, Tampa Bay's Josh Johnson's speed definitely helps him out, but he also ran a 4.44 (I doubt McCoy cracks a 4.6). Let's also not forget that Johnson's footspeed isn't helping out his passing skills. He is completing only 55 percent of his passes for an incredible 5.3 yards per pass attempt (sarcasm), three touchdowns, and five interceptions. When you are a pocket passer, you aren't running; speed doesn't help you throw the football. Just look at Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

Athleticism can help you elude pressure, but like I said, if you don't having the passing skills, which McCoy doesn't, then it doesn't matter how good you are as a runner. Quarterbacks aren't running backs. You need to be able to throw the ball to play the position. If you can't, you won't make it in the league.

3. Scripted runs make McCoy look better than he is. Quarterbacks don't run draws in the NFL. They just don't. They don't use zone reads and run the option. When fans see McCoy take off for a 10-yard gain on an option or draw, what they don't realize is he will never do this in the NFL. You can take these highlight plays and just throw them in the trash - it isn't happening at the next level.

We need to learn the difference between what translates and what doesn't. Mobility isn't about running for first downs and big yardage plays. Yes, occasionally this happens, but mobility in regard to the quarterback position is so much more.

Now that you know why McCoy is such a ridiculously overrated talent in terms of his legs, which is his No. 1 strength, we are going to look at now what quarterback mobility really is.

1. Mobility is being able to maneuver inside the pocket to extend plays. This is where quarterback awareness comes into play. A quarterback senses outside pressure, sees an opening towards the front or front diagonal of the offensive line where the defensive tackles go too far upfield, and a quarterback steps up in the pocket to get the throw off. Watch this play (starts at 2:47) by Peyton Manning - isolate your eyes on the feet and do this multiple times. Focus on the defensive ends and offensive line; get a sense for what Manning's awareness was.

Believe it or not, this is mobility. Mobility isn't just running for first downs. This was a 51-yard play by Manning to Dallas Clark, but it wouldn't have happened if Manning didn't step up in the pocket. If he didn't step up, then he would have gotten sacked.

I don't know about you, but I'll take a 51-yard pass over a 12-yard run any day of the week.

2. Mobility is being able to maneuver outside the pocket to extend plays. Again, a quarterback uses his sixth sense for the pass rush to move outside the pocket to extend a play. It is important I stress that this mobility applies to the passing game; not the running game. Move to 0:22 to watch Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger senses the pressure from the defensive line and where it is coming from. He also identifies to what area outside the pocket he can go to to get a clean pass off. Roethlisberger's athleticism isn't shown here. It is an extremely subtle movement that helps out his passing game. Notice how he keeps his eyes downfield. You don't see McCoy or Tim Tebow do this.

Of course, you know who running for first downs is mobility, but it so important that I stress this is a very overrated quality (running for first downs). Sure, you want a quarterback that decides to run for an obvious first down rather than throw the ball into double coverage, but this is more decision-making than it is mobility.

How far does speed get you as a quarterback?

Go ask Vince Young, Alex Smith, Dennis Dixon, Chris Leak, Omar Jacobs, D.J. Shockley, Tee Martin, Akili Smith, etc.

It doesn't matter how good you are as a runner in college. If you don't have the ability to throw the football, your running skills as a quarterback are meaningless. Don't make the mistake of evaluating ESPN highlight reels and start evaluating how a quarterback's mobility helps his passing game because that's what it all comes down to at the next level.

I am not perfect; I have had my fair share of brainfarts as an analyst/scout; it's just impossible to be perfect. However, I did not think Alex Smith or Vince Young were first-round talents. I'm highly confident that Tebow and McCoy will make no impact in the NFL as passing quarterbacks.

Please learn to evaluate the position for yourself instead of just feeding into what the media is telling you. When you start just believing what people feed you without being to back yourself up, you aren't using your own brain - and I believe that fans are much more perceptive to the game of football when they want to be.

When analysts start telling them what to look for they get better - if you continue to read my articles - I GUARANTEE you will see your own scouting abilities improve. All it takes is a little logic and a little effort. This isn't rocket science - it's just football.

Matt McGuire's Recent NFL Draft Blog Entries:

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Kentucky 2010 NBA Draft Prospect Blog - 6/1
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