I’m not a scout, and I don’t claim to be. But since I watch a lot of football, invariably I make some conclusions about college players and their paths to the pros. Sometimes they’re right – for example, I believed Jevon Kearse and Brian Urlacher would emerge as all-star defensive players, and they did. Sometimes, they’re dead wrong. (Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning, anyone?)
In this draft, I have a few strong convictions, but none is stronger than my belief that Ryan Mallett will not be a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. Mallett, who holds his pro day at Arkansas today, isn’t the top rated quarterback – that falls on Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert – but he is in contention with Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kapernick for first-round consideration.
The pros for Mallett are obvious. He’s huge – 6-foot-7, 250 pounds – and has an incredibly strong arm. He fits the prototype of the dropback passer, and he got pro-level coaching from Bobby Petrino at Arkansas. Mallett threw for more than 7,000 yards in his two years as a starter at Arkansas, and he had 30 and 32 touchdown passes in those seasons. Mallett also showed improvement between the years, raising his completion percentage by 10 points.
But that completion percentage is what worries me about Mallett. While I haven’t watched every game he played, my overwhelming perception is that he is inaccurate. I believe the Arkansas system masked this a little bit for Mallett, because Petrino’s such a good play caller. But Mallett, especially when pressured, sprayed the ball around way too much for my liking.
Moreover, when Mallett got knocked out of the Auburn game, backup Tyler Wilson stepped in and looked almost as good as Mallett had moving the offense. That raised a red flag for me, because it raises the question of how much of Mallett’s SEC success is on him, and how much is system-based.
Other off-the-field questions are circulating about Mallett, and if true they raise even more red flags. But even if Mallett was as squeaky clean as Tim Tebow, I wouldn’t spend a first- or second-round pick on him. The lumbering, big-armed passer doesn’t fit the trend in the NFL, and Mallett’s inaccuracy under pressure is a recipe for failure. It may seem like I’m pounding Mallett unnecessarily, but there’s no way I see him developing into a quality quarterback.