How Often Do Tall, Big Armed QBs Pan Out?
HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Quarterback is the most important position in the NFL. Yet after 92 years of existence, finding one in the draft is still the league’s most inexact science.
There have been plenty of theories on how to best predict a successful quarterback. Ones that sound great in principle. But when you light up the Bunsen burner and put those ideas into practice, many quarterbacks fare like this:
Hey…general manager, coaching staff, and scouting department…
If there actually was a real formula to predict success, imagine how much better the life of the average sports fan could be.
Cleveland wouldn’t have to resort to self-deprecating tourism videos. If either the Bills, Dolphins, or Jets had stumbled upon ONE great quarterback, Patriots fans would likely be significantly less obnoxious. And the Texans wouldn’t be stuck with the first overall pick in 25% of the time.
There’s no clear formula to drafting a quarterback. Yet NFL media scouts typically gravitate towards college signal callers who 1 – are tall and 2 – have cannons for arms. Those factors led to guys like Blaine Gabbert and Josh Freeman vaulting up draft boards AFTER the season was done. And at least in those two cases…flame the hell out. This year’s “Blosh Gabman” candidate appears to be Pitt prospect Tom Savage.
Looking the part is nice. But I’m of the opinion that playing the part on the field should be the ultimate factor used to judge a quarterback prospect.
That said, I’m no NFL scout. So I sifted through the heights and scouting reports of every quarterback selected in the last ten drafts.
There have been 124 quarterbacks taken since 2004, with an average height of 6’3.31. With that in mind, I focused on all of the quarterbacks listed as 6’4 and above. And after reading their reports (courtesy of NFL.com, PFW.com, and SI.com), the following “field generals” were considered to have strong arms:
- Ben Roethlisberger (Picked 11th overall by Steelers)
- Per SI.Com “Possesses a big arm…Drives deep passes downfield.
- Andrew Walter (Picked 69th overall by Raiders)
- Per SI.Com “Fires the pass between defenders, easily gets the ball downfield and zips the outs”
- Dan Orlovsky (Picked 145th overall by Lions)
- Per SI.Com “Well-sized pocket passer with a big arm”
- Derek Anderson (Picked 213th overall by Browns)
- Per SI.Com “Big, strong pocket passer with a live arm.”
- Vince Young (Picked 3rd overall by Titans)
- Per SI.Com “Gets the ball downfield with a flick of his wrist. Possesses a quick release and can throw all the passes.”
- Omar Jacobs (Picked 164th overall by Steelers)
- Per SI.Com “Has a powerful arm and effortlessly drives the ball downfield”
- JaMarcus Russell (Picked 1st overall by Raiders)
- Per SI.Com “Big, powerful pocket passer with tremendous arm strength.”
- Jordan Palmer (Picked 205th overall by Redskins)
- Per SI.Com “Strong-armed pocket passer”
- Joe Flacco (Picked 18th overall by Ravens)
- Per SI.com “Strong armed pocket passer…Throws with a quick powerful release…easily drives the long throws”
- Kevin O’Connell (Picked 94th overall by Patriots)
- Per SI.Com “possesses the arm strength to get passes downfield”
- Andre Woodson (Picked 198th overall by Giants)
- Per SI.Com “the ball explodes out of his hand”
- Josh Freeman (Picked 17th overall by Buccaneers)
- Per SI.com “easily drives the passes. Zips the outs, powers the ball through the tight spots, and quickly gets the pass into receivers…Throws some beautiful deep passes.”
- John Skelton (Picked 155th overall by Cardinals)
- Per SI.com “Classic pocket passer with excellent size and arm strength. Easily gets rid of the ball with a flick of his wrist, fires the pass into targets or easily drives passes downfield”
- Cam Newton (Picked 1st overall by Panthers)
- Per SI.com “Possess a strong arm, powers the ball into targets, and gets passes through the very tight windows.”
- Blaine Gabbert (Picked 10th overall by Jaguars)
- Per SI.com “Displays the arm strength to make all the throws”
- Colin Kaepernick (Picked 36th overall by49ers)
- Per SI.com “possesses a strong arm…Drives the short and intermediate throws, gets the ball through tight spots, and hits deep receivers in stride”
- Ryan Mallett (Picked 74th overall by Patriots)
- Per SI.com “has tremendous arm strength…Easily gets the ball through tight spots and powers passes into receivers when necessary”
- Nathan Enderle (Picked 160th overall by Bears)
- Per PFW.com “Outstanding size and arm strength to drive the ball into tight spaces”
- Brock Osweiler (Picked 57th overall by Broncos)
- Per SI.com “King-size pocket passer with an NFL arm…Has a quick release and throws darts”
- Mike Glennon (Picked 73rd overall by Buccaneers)
- Per SI.com “Tall strong armed quarterback…he has the big league arm to make every NFL throw with ease and can really drive throws into tight windows”
- Sean Renfree (Picked 249th overall by Falcons)
- Per NFL.com “Strong arm, can make all the throws”
It’s a list littered with a lot of mediocrity – much like any list of quarterbacks you could put together. There are some hits (Roethlisberger, Flacco, Newton, Kaepernick), misses (Young, Russell, Freeman, Gabbert), and the rest were likely never more than projects.
Still, seeing guys like Tom Savage – whose name I only knew because I had the unfortunate task of covering Big East Football in my prior job – escalate boards the way he has concerns me. Roethlisberger, Flacco, Newton and Kaepernick were on everyone radar WHILE they were playing on Saturdays. Russell transformed into the greatest QB prospect of his class after a massacre of massively overrated Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, while Freeman and Gabbert saw their stocks rise after their seasons had wrapped up.
I’m a quarterback snob. Not a quarterback expert. I still think Teddy Bridgewater is the best in the draft. And I wouldn’t mind if the Texans took Johnny Manziel in the first OR Jimmy Garoppollo in the second this weekend. As for Tom Savage at the top of round 2?
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