By Justis Mosqueda
This year I plan to dig deep into the quarterback class. In the first installment of my "Pre-2013 Scouting Report" series I'll be looking at A.J. McCarron, Alabama's quarterback.
2009: Redshirted while Greg McElroy won the starting job.
2010: Sat behind Greg McElroy, a senior, as the #2 QB. Only other QB to throw a pass besides McElroy.
2011: Beat out Phillip Sims (highly touted coming out of high school, transferred to Virginia afterwards) to be the 2011 starter.
2012: Started his second season and earned 2nd team SEC, behind Heisman Winner Johnny Manziel.
2013: Projected to start for his third year.
I know most people don't take into account of stats when scouting, nor should they, but I wanted to look into "advanced" statistics of the major prospects in this class, so that I could get some numbers that were on about the same field. Those metrics are YPDB (yards per drop back, Yards/DB), TD % (touchdown percentage, TD/DB), Int % (interception percentage, Int/DB), Sack % (sack percentage, Sack/DB), and DB (drop backs, Attempts+Sacks). Nothing too complicated.
McCarron's TD% and Int% reflect what I saw on tape. He's efficient. He scored best in those two categories, doing better than Tajh Boyd, Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray, Logan Thomas, David Fales, Stephen Morris, Bryn Renner, and Derek Carr. I actually caught all three of his interceptions when watching him. One of the three was a bounce off a wide receiver's hands (in the TAMU game) that ended up landing right into a defenders palms. The other two were in goal line situations when he just forced it. Against TAMU he threw another interception on 4th and goal from the 5, which was ripped out of his target's hands and ended the game.
To put in perspective, McCarron's Int% was 0.89%, the next closest is Stephen Morris's which is almost double at 1.60%.
McCarron could play the "game manager" role really well at the NFL. He's got good short/medium accuracy and makes good decisions with the football. What I'm most worried about him, though, is his ability to throw the ball down-field.
His game against Texas A&M could have been his worst in 2012. He threw two of his three interceptions in the game, and Alabama received it's sole loss of the season. In that game McCarron had four plays that were sure fire huge plays/touchdowns if he would have hit his guy in stride.
Michael Williams is being covered by the S, who had his eyes stuck in the backfield. Michael Williams becomes the deepest man on the football field and the S turned his back to McCarron.
As McCarron is passing, Williams still had the space to make the play.
The ball gets to Williams, but it didn't get to him at the right speed. Williams had to slow down for the ball, which gave the S enough time to catch up and turn to make the deflection.
Here's a closer look at the deflection.
The next play involves Amari Cooper. Cooper is running a deep route when the CB, who was on an island covering him, slips and Cooper is left wide open down-field.
When the pass is made Cooper has plenty of space to make a play after the catch.
The pass was behind Cooper, who has to slow down and turn back for the catch. The DB catches up to him at the 45 and Cooper gets very little YAC on the play due to the pass being behind his stride.
Unlike the last time McCarron had Cooper open, he hit him perfectly in stride.
It resulted in a touchdown.
This is the biggest mistake McCarron had, in my opinion. Kenny Bell broke coverage with around 4 minutes left in the forth quarter, when the Crimson Tide were down 4 points.
McCarron again put too much air under the ball. Not only did one defender catch up to him, but two did. Bell went down as soon as he caught the ball.
After that catch, Alabama was set up with a 1st and Goal in a "must get a touchdown" situation. They failed to make it in their first three tries, leading to a do or die 4th and Goal situation. McCarron threw a strike to the right-side of the endzone, which resulted in that interception where the DB ripped the ball out of the WR's hand that I talked about earlier. If McCarron would have hit Bell on that pass, it's easy to assume they would have gone up 2 with less than 4 minutes left, instead of falling to Texas A&M's feet on a goal line interception.
McCarron really only threw a good pass on one of four coverage fails by Texas A&M. Even though he connected on three deep passes, he left potential points on the table three out of four times.
He needs to become more consistent on the deep throws. His arm strength just isn't up to par in that part of his game. While he can get the ball to a target on deep plays, a majority of the time it's rainbow throws with too much air underneath the ball. If you look at short, accurate throws like swings and screens, you can also see his lack of velocity on the ball, there.
McCarron does have really nice accuracy, though, and is extremely well off of the play action and to the right side of the field. I'm not sure there is someone I would trust working on the right sideline more than him this class. Working outside of the pocket on rollouts might be better for him. He's not speedy, per se, but he's mobile enough to make some plays (often tries to make something out of nothing and ends up getting nothing, though) and seems more comfortable throwing deep passes while rolling left.
While he throws mostly out of the shotgun, I wouldn't be surprised if he succeeded in an action heavy under-center offense on the pro level. Very rarely do you see shotgun heavy guys transitioning better in an under-center pro offense, but he could be the exception.
Besides hiding his deep ball behind the talent of his teammates, there is a question of what he'll do under pressure, just because his offensive line was so good. The strong running game of Alabama also kept defenses more honest, which meant fewer blitzes for him. When he is pressured, he tries to do too much with his legs, instead of making plays with his arm against the defense with less than idle amount of men in coverage.
Alabama lists him at 6'4" 214, which is a little skinny, but not bad for a quarterback.
Overall, he's a solid quarterback that needs to work on his deep ball, but he could be a solid "game manager" at this point. If he plays like he did in the National Championship every game he could easily be a first round pick, but he hasn't shown enough consistency with the deep ball. There are rumors that he scored in the 3rd-4th round range in the Draft Advisory Board's projection, which is a little low for me. I think he is most likely a Day 2 prospect, but we'll learn a lot more about McCarron in 2013, after losing his starting RT, LG, C, TE, and RB in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Justis Mosqueda's current 2013 quarterback rankings:
1 David Fales San Jose State 1st Round grade
2 A.J. McCarron Alabama Late Day 2/Day 3 grade
3 Tajh Boyd Clemson Late Day 2/Day 3 grade
Justis Mosqueda is a Journalism student that writes for DraftFalcons.com, Packers-Backer.blogspot.com, and cuts videos of NFL Draft prospects for DraftBreakdown.com
You can follow Justis on Twitter: Twitter.com/justismosqueda