Scouting Report: AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
Ready for the next level
A.J. McCarron is a quarterback with a lot of critics. For a guy who has won so much and lost so little, he has more vocal critics than I’d ever have predicted. This is a player whom draftniks and the media love to beat up on. The group-think line that you hear over and over is that McCarron’s winning history doesn’t make him a good quarterback. They go on to point out that he won because he played on the best team. And you know what? ... they have a very strong point. No other quarterback in the country had the overall support that McCarron did. Therefore, to establish him as a next-level player, you need to find specific things that McCarron brings with him to the NFL. Let’s do that.
McCarron’s wins and losses do matter a little bit to us, but not much. His critics are right on this one. He wasn’t in too many fair fights over the years. That doesn’t mean the Alabama experience is not one of high value. It is. McCarron has experience handling the the spotlight and playing in front of big crowds both friendly and hostile. He’s performed consistently under tremendous pressure and media scrutiny. He’s been raised in a fine program--spending five years at Alabama which includes a redshirt year in 2009. He ended up throwing over 1,000 career passes and completing over sixty six percent of them. All of these things are good things. Of course, none of it means much if McCarron can’t play outside of the ‘Bama Bubble.
A.J.’s game is not awe inspiring. He’s not going to posterize anybody with his feet in the open field and he’s not going to wow you with his arm. His positives are a bit more on the subtle side.
McCarron definitely earned some points by going to the Combine and participating fully. “I just felt it was a good choice for myself. I’m healthy. Better than I’ve ever been. I know free agent week starts the same time as our Pro Day. So some teams’ coaches and GMs might not be able to come down. So I felt this was the best opportunity to showcase what I’ve been working on since our last game.” The guy was very calm and relaxed at the podium. He projects confidence.
McCarron's Combine numbers were about what we expected.
- Height - 6’3”
- Weight - 220
- Hands - 10”
- 40 - 4.94
- Vertical Jump - 28”
- Broad Jump - 99”
- 3-Cone - 7.18
- 20 YD Shuttle - 4.34
So we have a good sized quarterback with sluggish agility measurables. That's about what we see on film, though McCarron moves better in the pocket than his measurables might indicate. You can see how AJ's numbers stacked up against the competition right here at Draft Breakdown.
What we like about McCarron’s game.
- Size - He’s big enough where size shouldn’t be an issue and he’s got a thick enough build to take some hits.
- Eyes - All the experience and the coaching shows up here. McCarron is quick and disciplined with his reads and is generally very responsible with the football. He has the neck-up skills that NFL evaluators are looking for.
- Arm - His arm is up to NFL standards though he’s a little maxed out at times and you don’t want him making too many pure arm throws. He displays nice touch in the short to intermediate passing game.
- Timing and accuracy - A.J. is a bit of a rhythm thrower and he’s very good when he gets it going. Has good throwing rhythm out of the shotgun unlike a lot of this year’s class. Nice calm feet.
- Pocket presence - A.J. has poise in the pocket and though he had good protection for the most part, he also faced enough tough defenses to evaluate him in this area. He can make NFL decisions under fire, and slides around well in the pocket.
- Leadership - McCarron said this at the Combine and from by all accounts, it’s accurate. “I’m a leader. First one in, last one out. And I feel like I’ve always put us in a good situation to win the ballgame.” He’s a player who is already accustomed to paying the price in practice and the film room.
- Production - He was solid every year and compiled a very nice 77 to 15 touchdown to interception rate.
Here’s a look at McCarron in one of his few losses. I think you see plenty of NFL caliber throws in this game.
Here’s a look at last year’s game versus LSU.
There's a host of good film available on McCarron at Draft Breakdown, so dig in and do your own analysis. While we grade A.J. as one of the more game-ready quarterbacks in this draft, we still think he would benefit from a redshirt year in the NFL.
McCarron's body could use a bit of a make-over, much the same way New England molded Tom Brady into what they wanted through their strength and conditioning program. McCarron could also use a year off from the rigors of Alabama and the SEC. Nick Saban puts his athletes through a grinder as we all know. If McCarron can get a little quicker and a little stronger, he’ll have a chance to be an even better pro. The time will also be put to good use in the film and quarterback rooms. This is a player who will do very well if you allow him to fully absorb his new system, and he will do just that if he's afforded the time. He’s already got the work habits and he’s played in a pro style offense.
We’ve watched a ton of film on McCarron. We think he looks like an NFL quarterback whose skill set leans toward the old game manager classification, but he’s got legit ability leading an offense. We’re not saying he’s in the Trent Dilfer mold. He’s got a higher ceiling than that. He can even be a throw-first quarterback in the right offense, and he can most definitely survive outside of the 'Bama Bubble.
For fantasy purposes, McCarron, like most other pocket passers, will need a good home to be fantasy relevant. We’ll update him after the draft.
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Other 2014 Scouting Reports:
- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
- Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
- Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
- Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
- Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
- Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
- Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
- Terrance West, RB, Towson
- Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
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