Thursday, May 23, 2013

Updated A.J. McCarron (QB Alabama) Scouting Report

by Justis Mosqueda

After spending some more time I wanted to do a little update on the pre-2013 scouting report I wrote on A.J. McCarron earlier this month.

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.

McCarron's size is good, in the 6'4" 215 range. While size usually is a factor in tipped passes, McCarron has a significant amount of his passes tipped compared to smaller quarterbacks. McCarron is listed as 6'4", but he's got more tipped passes than a guy like David Fales, who is in the 6'1" range. Part of this can be chalked up on the SEC schedule, but it's not going to get easier in the pros.

Obviously, McCarron's biggest plus is that he's efficient with the ball. He might not be hitting huge passes all the time, but he's got play-makers around him that can move the ball, after he throws it to them. McCarron is really safe with the ball. Having less than 1% of your drop backs intercepted on an SEC schedule is nothing to blow over. Also remember, he played in the SEC Championship and National Championship. I saw all three of his interceptions last year: one was a tipped pass off a targets hands in the Texas A&M game, another was on 4th and goal, in a do or die situation against Texas A&M, again, and the final interception was against Georgia in the left side of the end zone. In reality, I only put the fault of last one on McCarron. The other two you can't really blame him for.

A quarterback coached by Nick Saban will most likely have good mechanics and footwork. McCarron has both. Something that scares scouts is "The Saban Effect". "The Saban Effect" is a theory that because Saban is such a good coach, he gets the most out of his players, which means that who they are coming out of college is who they are going to be. No better, no worse. You get what you get, and there's very little upside. Outside of Julio Jones, it's hard to argue that any of the prospects he coached at Alabama don't support that theory. McCarron could easily fall under that umbrella. He's got everything but a big, strong arm. Unless he manages to improve arm strength by a significant amount on the pro level, there's not much more he can improve on.

His arm is the issue, though. He's got a problem hitting his guys in stride down-field because he puts too much air under the ball, and he puts too much air under the ball because he doesn't have enough arm strength to zip it in on time.

His game against Texas A&M could have been his worst in 2012. He threw two of his three interceptions against the Aggies, and Alabama received it's sole loss of the season. In the 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 with the rest of his game. While he can get the ball to a target on deep plays, a majority of the time it's rainbow throws. 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.

Actually, I charted six of his games and it reflected my thoughts on his left v right side passing:

Here's the combined chart:

And here are charts looking at his usage of the field:

He uses the right side of the field almost 40% of the time and throws the ball ten yards or less around 68% of the time.

For a guy that does a lot of good stuff outside of the pocket, 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 right. What's weird is that when he's running with the ball, he always looks like he's losing his balance. Looks really awkward running the ball.

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.

Overall, he's a solid, efficient college quarterback that needs to work on his deep ball, but he could be a solid "game manager" at this point. There are rumors that he scored in the 3rd-4th round range in the Draft Advisory Board's projection. That's basically where I imagine he would be drafted this year. He's got time to improve, though. I think he is most likely a late Day 2/Day 3 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:
David Fales San Jose State 1st Round grade
A.J. McCarron Alabama Late Day 2/Day 3 grade
Tajh Boyd Clemson Late Day 2/Day 3 grade
Aaron Murray Georgia Day 3 grade
Logan Thomas Virginia Tech Day 3 grade

Justis Mosqueda is a Journalism student that writes for, and cuts videos of NFL Draft prospects for

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