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Posted Aug. 10, 2009
The Vince Young Lesson
Prior to the 2006 NFL Draft, I gave Vince Young a second-round grade because I simply thought he was a ridiculously overrated quarterback.
However, to be completely fair, I also thought Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush would be outstanding players in the NFL (oops).
Whenever I make a mistake on a player in the NFL Draft (or a success for that matter) I always go back to re-evaluate my projection. From Leinart and Bush, I learned not to be swallowed into the ESPN/Internet hype. This has never happened to me since. Leinart taught me to pay more attention to arm strength and pure talent as opposed to looking at statistics, collegiate accolades and the talent around a quarterback. Bush taught me to pay more attention to a tailback's assertiveness when running between the tackles.
I had a pretty good feeling Young would bust in the NFL, and I will get to that in a second. Like everybody else, I loved his athleticism and potential, but that was pretty much all he had and therefore I gave him a second-round grade.
Here are some tips on how to evaluate the quarterback position in college and to not fall in love with the athletic quarterback with great stats whom everybody else seems to love:
1. Mobility is pretty overrated. Mobility is important; do not get me wrong. If all receivers are covered, a quarterback needs to make plays with his legs. A quarterback needs to be able to step up and around the pocket, and make throws on the run. However, most of the great runs you see in college are scripted. These plays are designed for an athletic quarterback to succeed and simply will not be run in the NFL unless it's out of the Wildcat (and this isn't a reason to love a quarterback in college).
A lot of these great traits you see from a college quarterback like Young, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy simply do not translate to the NFL because they have to work through progression reads, analyze a defense and be aware of the timing of a complicated offensive system.
Young has been shellshocked in the NFL. His mobility was a greatly overrated trait coming out of college. Without his athleticism, Young would have been a third- or fourth-round pick, and now we can see that was his true value in hindsight. Don't make this same mistake in the future and avoid falling in love with a quarterback's athleticism.
2. Spread option quarterbacks should scare you to death. How many current highly regarded NFL quarterbacks ran a zone-read scheme at the collegiate level? I don't think I can recall any who did. When zone-read quarterbacks who rely on their legs in college get to the NFL, they have a very hard time adjusting to an NFL playbook. The vast majority of the time, an elite work ethic can't overcome this adversity. The timing a quarterback needs when dropping back (awareness, footwork, vision, etc.) isn't developed at some schools in college. They don't make true coverage reads or go through multiple progressions. Usually, if the first option is not open, the quarterback ducks his head and runs in a gimmick scheme.
Young's confidence went through the crapper because he was overwhelmed by how difficult this was. I also don't see Alex Smith doing anything of importance in San Francisco, and he was said to have elite work ethic and intelligence. This lack of making professional passing reads and understanding West Coast concepts is almost impossible for a quarterback who runs an option-based scheme in college to overcome.
3. Avoid quarterbacks with horrendous mechanics. Young really lacked even average footwork, and as I mentioned before, didn't do many things at Texas that he was expected to do in Tennessee in terms of handoffs, dropping back under center, and reading defenses. When a quarterback needs a year or two to develop this in the NFL, then he is so far behind, it is impossible to catch up to the point where an NFL franchise can get a return on their investment.
4. Don't get swallowed into the ESPN/Internet hype. ESPN analysts are paid to hype up collegiate players so you come back to the channel and watch their games. Not many of them have the eye for talent and instead fall in love with every single player. For example, how hyped up were Graham Harrell and Chase Daniel last season? They both went undrafted. Just because 99 percent of people say a player is great doesn't mean they are right. At one time, everybody in the world believed the Earth was flat and the sun revolved around the Earth. The only way to judge if a player is any good is to shut out other people's opinions and objectively evaluate that player yourself. Were the television experts right about Young? They weren't even close, and some said he should have gone No. 1 overall ahead of Mario Williams.
5. Statistics are important, but they aren't a means for evaluation. A lot of times, when I read people hype up Colt McCoy on other NFL Draft websites, they usually mention statistics as a means for backing up their "evaluation." Whenever an analyst relies on statistics constantly, you know to ignore everything he is saying because he doesn't know what the hell he is talking about. Graham Harrell threw for 5,111 yards, 45 touchdowns and nine interceptions. These gimmick zone-read and run-n-shoot systems exaggerate a quarterback's actual ability.
I hope you read this article and changed some of your views in terms of how to evaluate the quarterback position in college. A big reason why I wrote this article is because some quarterbacks eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft run zone read systems, but are being heavily hyped by self-proclaimed experts.
Don't buy into the Colt McCoy/Tim Tebow/Dan LeFevour hype going into the 2010 NFL Draft. They rely on their mobility, run spread option offenses, lack footwork proficiency, are heavily hyped by the media, and have inflated statistics in the passing game.