J.J. McCarthy Scouting Report
By Charlie Campbell
- Good skill set
- Strong arm
- Throws well outside the numbers
- Can make all the throws required
- Easy velocity
- Can sling fastballs into tight windows
- Can toss touch passes
- Throws a catchable ball
- Capable of lofting the ball downfield
- Can make throws off platform
- Can hurt defenses on the ground
- Can pick up yards on the ground
- Plays hurt
- Has some feel as a passer and in the pocket
- Hard worker
- Good character
- Lacks passing instincts
- Field vision needs development
- Can be late throwing down the middle, leading to incompletions
- Can be reckless, careless with the ball
- Poor decision-making
- Needs development
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh had a number of top quarterback prospects recruited to Ann Arbor and eventually settled on McCarthy as the starter for the Wolverines. McCarthy saw some action in 2021 completing 34-of-59 passes – 58 percent – for 516 yards, five touchdown and two interceptions. In 2022, McCarthy became the starter for the Wolverines and had a strong debut, completing 65 percent of his passes for 2,719 yards, 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. McCarthy led Michigan to the college football playoff before a loss to TCU.
In 2023, McCarthy played a weak schedule prior to the end of the season, but he was able to avoid any meltdown performances to spoil the year. The Wolverines did not ask McCarthy to do a lot because they fielded a ground-based offense alongside a very good defense. On the year, McCarthy completed 72 percent of his passes for 2,991 yards, 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. He notched three rushing touchdowns as well. McCarthy was efficient and did a good job of managing the game to help Michigan get the critical wins over Ohio State, Alabama and Washington to go undefeated and win the National Championship.
There is no doubt that McCarthy has next-level talent with the skill set to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He has a strong arm to go along with running ability.
There is no doubt that McCarthy has a strong arm capable of making all the throws. With a quick release, McCarthy can fire the ball down the field and attack defenses at all levels. McCarthy shows the power to drive the ball to the sideline and throw the deep out with ease. He also has the ability to fire fastballs into tight windows in the short to intermediate part of the field. While McCarthy has a good arm, he also is capable of lofting in passes and putting air underneath the ball. Many quarterbacks with plus arm strength can have a tendency to throw flat passes, but McCarthy avoids that and will throw catchable passes.
McCarthy is a good runner who can hurt defenses on the ground when things break down. At the end of his college career, McCarthy made key plays with his legs, and he used them to come up with some clutch plays in the National Championship Game. McCarthy shows some athleticism to dodge defenders in the pocket, and he has impressive speed to rip off yards while scrambling upfield. Looks can be deceiving concerning how fast McCarthy is for a quarterback.
McCarthy also has good intangibles. He is a tough athlete who will play injured. Two years starting at a high-pressure environment will help him for taking on the rigors of being a starting quarterback in the NFL. McCarthy has the reputation of being a hard worker and having leadership skills.
There also are a lot of areas of improvement for McCarthy entering the NFL as some sources said late in 2023. An AFC director of player personnel told WalterFootball.com:
J.J. is similar to [Will] Levis, but J.J. has better feel in the pocket than Levis did …. J.J. has a strong arm, is pretty good throwing outside the numbers. But I question his vision and instincts. He’s late throwing down the middle of the field, and that leads to some misses. He misses quite a bit vertically because he’s late on throws. I’m not sure what he’s looking at so we will have to find that out in the interviews …. I don’t like the decision-making, and he can be careless and reckless with the ball, which is surprising for a Harbaugh guy. J.J. is more talented than a game manager, but the instinctive issues are concerning.
As a result of these concerns, McCarthy could be the fourth or fifth quarterback taken in the 2024 NFL Draft. In speaking to sources from multiple NFL teams, they view McCarthy as an early-round prospect but one with some flaws. Thus, he could go in Round 1, or he might slide to Round 2, like Levis did. McCarthy has starting quarterback ability, but needs development at the pro level to be a good starter.
Daniel Jones/Will Levis. Some team sources compared McCarthy to Jones, while some others said Will Levis. McCarthy reminds me of Jones in terms of athleticism, running ability, and quality arm talent. However also like Jones, there are a lack of passing instincts and some stretches of play when he does not make plays as a passer.