For this series on scouting each position, I began with quarterbacks, because they’re a natural place to start. They are scrutinized as much as any position on the field, and yet, they were the position I had the most questions about as far as what the process is.
I had been to several spring workouts and was watching coaches base offer-decisions seemingly off of seeing kids throw in a basketball gym with no pass rush and no defense. I also wondered how you grade off of a highlight tape when that is simply all of their best throws.
For awhile now, I’ve maintained that I could put together a great highlight video of mediocre NFL quarterbacks and put it side by side with a highlight tape of Tom Brady’s and you might not know the difference if you didn’t know the two. How do you judge the things that set the Mannings and Bradys of the world apart â intelligence, consistency, cool under pressure, etc. â if you’re watching a highlight tape that only shows the best throws and doesn’t let you know down, distance and game situation?
That’s why I went to the experts.
What’s the first thing they look for on film?
"From a watching film standpoint on a kid," one coach says, "I look at a kid’s release and look at his feet. Is he able to put his foot in the ground and get the throws out, or does he always have to hitch forward? In other words, when he decides to throw, how quick does he get it out? For me, that’s one of the first things I notice."
"The things I think are important are accuracy and arm strength," another added. "It’s sometimes hard to tell on film on both of those, but overall, I also want to know, does he ever get to a second or third read? Which, again gets hard because some of the coaches aren’t coaching guys to get to their second or third read. Will they check it down or are they always throwing the ball deep?"
"I think the first thing in general," a third coach explains, "is something has got to jump out to get your attention, and usually, you’d simply say ability to throw the football, and guys that are mechanically sound, they might make the list there."
There are quarterbacks of all shapes and sizes who make it. Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortels, two very different body types, both went in the 1st Round. You won’t find two more different quarterbacks than the two who started the Super Bowl: Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning.
One issue now is the early nature of recruiting forces coaches to evaluate players earlier and earlier, and at quarterback, that can be very hard to do. In speaking with several coaches and personnel directors, they believe that is the reason for the number of quarterbacks who slip through the cracks. The MAC for instance, always seems to have great quarterback play. Part of that is they are able to wait a little longer on evaluating kids, but even at this stage today, most MAC schools already have their commitment for 2015.
"The hard part now is, teams offer, then do you have to offer to get in? But really, do you know how good he is yet? You want to be right because you only take one."
"It’s not just us… everybody is like this now, but quarterback is different than every position we’re recruiting because kids make decisions before we can evaluate them in the spring. How many kids are committed now before April 15? The hard part is, how do we get to know these kids when we can’t go see throw personally during their junior year? How much different are they six months from now? Now we’re looking at sophomores."