It’s not often that a quarterback class is defined more by the underclassmen that may or may not declare than the actual players that are guaranteed to come out, but we are seeing that more and more in the NFL Draft.
As Ben Allbright said on a recent podcast, if a player was good enough to come out as an underclassman, especially with the weak quarterback class in 2013, they would have.
That doesn’t mean that the seniors in this class don’t offer a lot, it just means that they may be at their perceived ceiling talent wise, and just need to sit and learn the NFL game in order to learn how to play to their strengths and mask their perceived weaknesses.
The first senior that truly jumped out at me this year though was someone I never thought would, and that is Aaron Murray of Georgia.
Aaron Murray Scouting Report
The tale of the tape as it would be won’t be a friend to Aaron Murray throughout the process as he is listed at what looks to be a generous 6-1 and 210lbs.
When Aaron Murray measures in at the Senior Bowl in January it won’t be a surprise to anyone if that number is closer to 6-0 or maybe less, but that genetic “flaw” may be something Murray can overcome with a little time and coaching at the next level.
Arm and Accuracy-
He has a short, compact delivery, but his arm slot is very robotic and you can see as the game moves on those defensive linemen are able to time themselves in order to get their arms up into the throwing lanes to tip or bat down throws.
While Murray doesn’t have the arm strength of some of his fellow seniors in this class, Mettenberger and Carr come to mind first, he does show the ability to get the ball out with an excellent zip on it in his short and intermediate throws.
What struck me about Aaron Murray was how he pushed the ball down the field often and at a fairly accurate clip.
In the six games charted using draftbreakdown.com Murray threw the ball over 10 yards in the air on almost 39% of his passes (note: Draftbreakdown.com now has a seventh 2013 game available on Murray that is not included in these stats).
Murray does a nice job on deep throws of leading his receiver, but he also makes good use of the sideline as an aid when throwing the ball deep, as well as throwing the now infamous back shoulder throw.
What he lacks in raw arm strength he more than makes up for in ball placement and doesn’t throw a lot of “hospital balls” that leave his receiver out to dry.
The accuracy is there and the stats back it up as in his six games charted he completed nearly 63% of his passes for 17 touchdowns and five interceptions.
That 63% was actually low, as there were 11 catchable passes that were missed by receivers, which pushes his true completion percentage closer to 69%.
He is very much a rhythm passer though, and when he gets hot you can ride him until he cools down, but when he’s off, he has a hard time getting a handle on the game.
One of the biggest flaws in Aaron Murray’s game is that he doesn’t seem to “see the whole field” but rather live off the levels concept on only half the field.
The Bulldogs usually flood one side of the field with route options in the short, intermediate and deep areas and Murray then only has to find the open man on that side of the field, usually not even looking to the other side with the single receiver.
If he does come back to the other side of the field it typically will be to throw the ball, without hesitation, no matter how covered the receiver seems to be.
This doesn’t mean that Murray doesn’t see the field well, without having intimate knowledge of the reads and progressions Murray is supposed to run through there’s no way of knowing for sure, but it is a “tick” to watch moving forward in Murray’s development.
The concern many have with Aaron Murray going forward, and something that is noticeable on film, is that he doesn’t always look entirely comfortable in the pocket, or getting rid of the ball.
He’s been sacked an inordinate amount of times in college, does this go back to the questions people have about his ability to read defenses, and when the pocket gets muddy, he doesn’t reset his feet and ends up floating a lot of passes.
Murray looks good in play action, roll outs, and when he does feel the rush, can move himself outside of the pocket, but too often he seems to get his feet jumbled and ends up taking himself out of the play, or throwing to a check down.
When Murray has time to come back from center, or to drop back out of the shotgun, and plant his feet and get a good throwing base, that’s when you can see the zip on those intermediate routes, but he needs to learn to move up into the pocket to create throwing lanes for his smaller stature, instead of looking to just “throw it up”.
Murray also needs to watch as much film as possible on guys like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, as they both do an excellent job of resetting their feet in order to give themselves the best possible throwing lanes for shorter throws in the middle of the field.
When Murray has to go down the field he typically is able to do so without problems with tipped passes, but when he looks to throw short, too often there are hands getting to the football and altering his throws.
What jumps off the page to me about Aaron Murray, and surprisingly so I must add, is that he has some workable tools.
He seems to have the arm to make throws, he’s athletic, he moves around outside of the pocket, throws on the run well, and has a general confident look about his game.
What he needs is to come in and sit behind someone, either learn how to read the hole field, or get comfortable doing it again, and then work on his footwork within the pocket, how to step up to avoid the rush, reset himself, and create throwing lanes for his smaller frame so balls aren’t getting tipped, or batted down at the line of scrimmage.
His physical skills may not have much more in terms of development, as he kind of is what he is at this point in arm strength and athleticism, but his footwork can be corrected, and improved, the main question is, can his vision?
He’s just not a guy you want to bank the franchise on.
Aaron Murray grades out similar to Colt McCoy, except he actually has the arm to make all the NFL throws you’d like a quarterback to make.
He seems to be a game manager with the upside to hit long balls and drive the ball down the field, but he’ll need to get a better understanding of how to fundamentally work inside the pocket and in close, tight quarters in the NFL.
(Note: Round grades are given based on where I would be comfortable taking a prospect, not where I think he will be drafted)
Grade: 3rd Round
Best Case Scenario: More athletic Jake Delhomme
Worst Case Scenario: Colt McCoy
All throws by direction clips are courtesy of draftbreakdown.com