2014 Draft “First Look”: AJ McCarron, QB, Ala

May 1, 2013

QB, Scouting

Mcarron2It’s never too early to start scouting for the 2014 NFL Draft, and with the college football season a little more than three months away, there’s no time like the present to get a look at next year’s crop of talent.

FRG Scouting will be conducting a baseline analysis of 2-4 games (2012 season) on the prospects that we cover in the “First Look” series.  It’s important to note that our First Look breakdown is NOT a scouting report or final evaluation of the player.  It’s simply a starting point in the scouting process for next year’s crop of talent.

Player BreakdownAJ McCARRON, QB, ALABAMA

Complete Games Scouted:  Mississippi St (2012), Tennessee (2012)

First Look:

AJ McCarron is a player that will likely have a wide range of pre-draft grades next Spring.  He plays the highest-profile position on the highest-profile team in the country and is surrounded by teammates with first-round talent both on offense and defense.  Players like McCarron are a tough challenge for evaluators, as you have to see through the success of the team and focus solely on the prospect and his likelihood for success in the NFL.

Physically, McCarron is every bit the prototype for the quarterback position in the NFL.  Standing at 6’4″ and weighting 210lbs, his size won’t be called into question.  I anticipate McCarron being closer to the 220-225lb range by the time the scouting combine rolls around.

McCarron isn’t going to wow anyone athletically.  While he has enough movement skills to slide around the pocket and avoid pressure, he certainly isn’t going to win a lot of foot races.  McCarron will be graded as a pocket passer and a one-dimensional player.

McCarron is a seasoned and experienced player for the position.  He has started every game at quarterback for the Crimson Tide in the 2011 and 2012 seasons and has played in a number of big games, ranging from SEC rivalry games to the National Championship.  There’s no doubt that McCarron will be ready to handle the NFL stage, as he’s been playing on the national stage and with extreme levels of pressure and expectations during his time at Alabama.

McCarron hasn’t only been a winner (24-2) during his time as a starter; he’s also been a productive player.  His last two years totaled 46 TDs and only 8 ints while completing nearly 67% of his passes.  He led the nation in efficiency rating in 2012.

That said, McCarron still has a lot to prove as we enter the 2013 college football season.  While watching his tape, I noted the following positives and negatives:

POSITIVES:mccarron3

  • Plus accuracy on short and intermediate throws.
  • Very good decision maker.  Doesn’t force throws, takes what defense gives him.
  • Able to avoid rush when protection breaks down.  Keeps play alive in pocket.
  • Total command of the offense.  High football IQ.
  • When given time, can drop the ball in a bucket on deep corner routes and long distance throws. Note:  inconsistent on deep ball.

NEGATIVES:

  • Rarely challenged or under duress.  Has all day to throw resulting in an incomplete evaluation.
  • Rarely pushes ball downfield.  Would like to see him showcase his arm more.
  • Flourished in play action pass plays.  Relied heavily on success in run game.
  • Tends to underthrow receivers at times.  Gets bailed out by athletically superior wide receivers.
  • Plays with big leads allowing for some wide open receivers in the passing game.  At times, he tries too hard to make the “perfect” throw, resulting in weak or underthrown balls.

SUMMARY:

AJ McCarron is going to be in the discussion all season as a Heisman Trophy candidate and will be hyped by the media as a potential first round selection next April.  And he may very well be.  But the following three things need to be showcased on his 2013 film:

1)  Push the ball downfield.

McCarron has to show scouts and talent evaluators that he has enough juice in his arm to squeeze the ball into tight windows.  He has to prove that he can spin it at the level of that which is expected from a potential high first-round pick.  I’d like to see him play a more aggressive style, focusing on  intermediate and deep balls than the quick outs, shallow crossing patterns, and check downs.

2)  Play under fire.

It’s not McCarron’s fault that his starting offensive line in 2012 had five players with pro talent.  That said, his line will have three new starters this year, and it’s likely that he will face more pressure than he did in 2012.  I want to see how he handles it.  Will he maintain his accuracy?  Can he put the team on his back and rise above chaos?

3)  Make everyone around him better.

The biggest thing working against McCarron is the fact that he plays on a loaded team.  He will be the victim of the “everyone around him made him better” argument.  And that might very well be the case.  It’s critically important that McCarron have “moments” in the 2013 season where he clearly takes control of a game and makes his teammates rally around HIM (rather than the other way around).

Stay tuned for the full AJ McCarron scouting report sometime in the late-fall.

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About Bryan Perez

Managing Editor of Bears Wire, an entity of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group | Publisher of Draft Breakdown | Focused analysis on the Chicago Bears and the NFL Draft | Follow me on Twitter: @BryanPerezNFL

View all posts by Bryan Perez

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