Posted: 10:01 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014
By Matthew Fairburn
Will college success translate into NFL success for AJ McCarron?
Two national championships, 36 wins as a starting quarterback and more passing yards and passing touchdowns than any other quarterback in Alabama history. AJ McCarron has quite the resume on paper, but will it translate into NFL success?
His entire career, McCarron was surrounded by some of the most talented players in the country. He fit well into the scheme and spread the ball around efficiently, but rarely did he elevate the play of his teammates. Winning in college doesn't translate to winning in the NFL, and McCarron will need to improve in a handful of areas before he's ready to start for an NFL team.
Accuracy: In a word, McCarron's accuracy is inconsistent. His placement on crossing routes was often hit or miss and he is a quarterback who needs to get into a rhythm in order to be successful. He tends to throw accurately to the sideline and shows a fair amount of touch at times, sometimes too much. He loses a lot of accuracy when the pocket is messy, however.
Arm strength: McCarron's lack of arm strength will limit his NFL potential. When throwing vertically down the field McCarron rarely hit his receivers in stride and he struggled when trying to drill footballs into tight spaces. The intermediate and deep areas of the field weren't kind to McCarron's ball placement either. The farther down the field he throws the more inaccurate he tends to get.
Decision making: Throughout his senior season, McCarron was praised as a quarterback who was careful with the football and didn't make too many poor decisions. While that was mostly true it also shows that he was often unwilling to take shots down the field, instead settling for check downs. His decision making is certainly one of his plus signs, but again when under pressure he doesn't always make the best decisions. He also could stand to take more shots down field.
Field vision: McCarron tends to see the field fairly well. He moves through his reads at a reasonable rate and, as noted above, usually makes smart decisions with the football. One question mark I have is whether or not McCarron has the anticipation to throw his receivers open. He needs to see a wide receiver come open before he is willing to pull the trigger. He struggles to anticipate windows opening up and taking advantage with high velocity throws.
Mechanics: Overall, McCarron has sound mechanics. He occasionally fades away and throws off his back foot, but he mostly does this under pressure. He throws over the top with a quick enough release to get rid of the ball in tight spaces and distributes his weight well throughout his release.
Pocket awareness: This is one area where McCarron is going to have to prove himself. He played behind one of the best offensive lines in college football throughout his career. As a result, he hasn't had to work within a messy pocket as often as most quarterbacks. Still, McCarron has shown an inability to recognized or anticipate the blitz pre snap. He struggles when reacting to pressure as well, often bailing on the pocket too soon or allowing the pressure to screw with his mechanics and decision making.
Pro Comparison: Matt Cassell: Like Cassell, McCarron can succeed when surrounded by a lot of talent and within a scheme that allows him to get rid of the ball quickly on simple timing routes. When asked to do too much, McCarron could turn into a turnover machine and be a detriment to the offense.
Final word: It's tough to endorse McCarron as anything more than a day three pick based on his skill set and lack of room for growth. He skipped out on the Senior Bowl, which would have been a chance for him to silence some critics. Some team could fall in love with his attitude and take him on the second day of the draft. Based on his talent, however, McCarron looks like a fourth round pick at best. He is the No. 11 quarterback in our latest rankings.