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Is AJ McCarron A Fifth-Round NFL Draft Pick?

My fellow Fansided writer Pete Smith at With the First Pick wrote a very detailed draft breakdown for AJ McCarron in which he surmises the Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback projects as a fourth- or fifth-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

While Smith does an excellent job assessing McCarron’s ability, I have to take issue with his ranking of one of the most decorated quarterbacks in Alabama football history. Let me first say my view comes from a pair of crimson glasses, but I stand by it until I see more evidence say otherwise.

My first real disagreement is Pete’s claim AJ McCarron is a third-day pick. Is AJ McCarron honestly worse than some quarterbacks taken early in recent drafts, such as the overhyped Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson?

Next, Smith says “McCarron’s deep ball is inconsistent,” causing receivers to slow down and wait for the passes, in turn giving defenders time to make a play on the pass. The one pass I recall like this was against Texas A&M. We now know McCarron played the last six games of the season with an injury he says involved three injured ribs.

Taking the injury into consideration, we can understand how McCarron may underthrow a pass to Kenny Bell late in the Texas A&M game. Also, look at what McCarron did in the last six games while injured.

McCarron seemed to put the ball right where Amari Cooper needed it on the game-winning touchdown pass against Georgia.

 

Smith says McCarron does not have good pocket awareness. I admit AJ takes too many sacks, but they aren’t for the reasons Smith provides. He says McCarron doesn’t feel pressure or he quickly gets uncomfortable.

From watching McCarron’s two seasons as a starter, I see his sacks being attributed to his wanting to make a play and waiting too long for an open target rather than throwing the ball away. McCarron is also a disciple of Nick Saban, who preaches that it’s better to hold the ball and take a sack than to risk a turnover with a desperation throw.

Here is what Smith’s breakdown has to say about McCarron’s decision making:

For the most part, McCarron’s decision making is relatively easy as he is often throwing into open passing windows or throwing short, controlled passes that are high percentage completions and low risk in terms of turning over the ball.  The Crimson Tide run a lot of play action passes where he turns around and is immediately throwing to his tight end or a pass in the flat.

McCarron will get himself in trouble when he assumes the route is going to be open and throws a pass without really reading what the defender is doing.  On a few occasions, this has resulted in having opponents jump routes and make interceptions as he simply takes his drop or executes a roll out or play action, turns and fires the ball without really taking notice of what is going on defensively.  Defenses who play Alabama will have defensive backs try to jump routes often which has worked out for them as well as opening up some opportunities for Alabama to make some big plays on double moves.

This is part of the reason that McCarron will look good when it comes to anticipating routes.  He is throwing like it is preprogrammed rather than really taking a read of the defense and making a decision or anticipating the route.  To McCarron’s credit, he can throw passes to a spot and before his receiver has gotten up on routes, which is most apparent on some of the flag and post corner type routes Alabama will run where McCarron is throwing to a spot rather than a receiver.

When McCarron makes multiple reads or the play breaks down, he is far less comfortable in terms of making decisions and finding the right place to make a throw.  He tends to throw passes late, especially down the field and can leave passes short as a result forcing the receiver to stop or even come back to make a catch and allowing the defensive back to make a play on the ball.

For a quarterback who throws a pass without reading what the defense is doing and has defenders jumping his routes, how does he only have eight interceptions in his three years of playing and almost 700 passes? Again, Smith mentions McCarron throwing passes late. I don’t see it, especially when considering his injuries.

When I asked Pete about the piece on Twitter, I said some folks consider McCarron to be one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Pete, Gil Brandt is clearly one of those people you disagree with. He says McCarron is the Heisman favorite and ranks him the second best senior quarterback in 2013.

Any of you HammerHeads think McCarron slips into the fourth or fifth round of the next NFL Draft? Where do you see him going?

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