A.J. McCarron Flies Under Scouts’ Radar
Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 00:02
This year’s NFL draft will host a slew of former collegiate superstars May 8 in New York City. From Jadeveon Clowney to Johnny Manziel, some of the biggest names and most famous players in recent college football memory will be present. But the one player who had the most successful career of them all is, in my opinion, highly underrated and slated to be the biggest steal in this year’s draft. His name? Alabama’s very own A.J. McCarron.
It is mind boggling that NFL scouts continue to underrate the 6-foot-3 inch, 204 pound McCarron, even after his strong showing at the NFL Combine on Sunday.
Per NFL.com’s scouting profile, his weaknesses include being surrounded by and relying on an NFL-caliber supporting cast, being protected by an exceptional offensive line, having weak or average arm strength and sometimes making bad decisions with the football. In their “bottom line” section, they note again that he is “more often dependent on a terrific supporting cast” and that he “grades out most highly for his intangibles.”
Arguing that McCarron was surrounded by exceptional players in college is a point that is null and void because, simply put, he won. With a career record 36 wins and 4 losses — including being part of three BCS National Championship winning squads — it is clear that good things happened for the Crimson Tide when number 10 was under center. Seeing as it is fairly safe to say that he will be surrounded by NFL-caliber talent in the NFL, his winning track record should be indicative of future performance.
But let’s not just look at the fact that he did win. Let’s look at where he won. McCarron led the Crimson Tide through an SEC schedule, always posting winning seasons against the toughest competition that college football has to offer.
While Alabama was stacked with NFL talent, the likes of LSU, Florida and Auburn were just as well endowed, and Alabama more often than not came out on top. He was not playing with the boys like quarterback Kellen Winslow from Boise State and racking up records in the Mountain West Conference; McCarron played with the men in the Southeastern Conference.
His wins speak for themselves, and scouts and teams will definitely notice that. But they also notice his athleticism and arm strength, noting that he “does not have a big-time, vertical arm, is an average athlete and makes occasional bone-headed decisions.” NFL scouts, however, are not always right. Here’s an excerpt from a similar quarterback’s scouting report in the 2000 NFL draft — let’s see if you can note any similarities:
“Poor build. Very skinny and narrow. Ended the 1999 season weighing 195 pounds and still looks like a rail at 211. Looks a little frail and lacks great physical stature and strength. Can get pushed down more easily than you’d like. Lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush. Lacks a really strong arm. Can’t drive the ball down the field and does not throw a really tight spiral.”
The scouting report you just read was about Tom Brady. He has spent his entire career with a chip on his shoulder after being overlooked following his statistically impressive and winning Michigan career. McCarron, both in his physical attributes and collegiate statistics, possesses a striking similarity to the three-time Super Bowl champion in his draft projection.
McCarron even addressed the possibility of being drafted by the New England Patriots and playing behind Tom Brady, which many experts see as an ideal fit. “I love the Patriots organization,” he said. “If I had the chance to go there and sit behind Brady for however long and learn from one of the best to ever play the game, that’d be an awesome experience.” He went on to add that, “It’s almost like New England is the Alabama of pro football. Coach Saban learned under Coach Belichick. So it’d be almost like deja vu in a way.”
Wherever McCarron lands, it is clear he is not the most polished prospect in this year’s draft. Even the most highly touted NFL quarterback prospects, though, have had to make adjustments upon entering the league. Peyton Manning, one of the most highly rated draft prospects ever, struggled during his first season and ended up with more interceptions than touchdowns. Whatever team ends up with McCarron will need to show patience and commitment to a player who is hungry to win.
Ultimately, McCarron just needs one team to want him. He is currently projected as a mid-round pick, but his stock is on the rise after his NFL Combine performance. One lucky NFL franchise will end up with this top-end, motivated, and high-character signal-caller in May.
Matt Castaldo is a junior in the College. More than a Game appears every Tuesday.