What skills do all successful QBs have in common? Leadership skills, accuracy, good decision-making, and pocket presence.
Everyone wants to look at how fast a QB is, how big he is, how far he can throw the football, but none of that really seems to matter for great NFL QBs.
Think of the great ones in today's game: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Eli Manning. Some of these QBs are big (Big Ben), some are small (Wilson, Brees). Some are fast (Wilson, Kaep), some are painfully slow (Brady, Manning). Some have rocket arms (Kaepernick), and some throw ducks (Manning). But despite these differences in athletic skill-sets, every single one of these QBs has each of the four skills mentioned above.
So which QBs in the upcoming draft have all four of these skills? And which current QBs do they play like?
Teddy Bridgewater - Yes (Aaron Rodgers)
Johnny Manziel - No, his decision-making skills on and off the field need work (Tony Romo)
Blake Bortles - No, while a great athlete, his pocket presence is poor (Jake Locker)
Tajh Boyd - No, decision-making is poor against quality opponents (Tarvaris Jackson)
Zach Mettenberger - No, routinely throws interceptions against quality opponents (Mike Glennon)
AJ McCarron - Yes (Tom Brady)
Jimmy Garoppolo - Unknown
Brett Smith - Unknown
David Fales - No, locks down on one receiver and has poor pocket presence (Christian Ponder)
Aaron Murray - No, throws far too many interceptions (Chase Daniel)
When people knock AJ McCarron, it's usually because of:
1) He doesn't have a cannon
2) He plays on a great team with a good O-line
3) He is not the athlete that Manziel, Bortles, or Boyd are.
When Tom Brady was coming out of Michigan, he had similar knocks. His left tackle was Jeff Backus and his left guard was Steve Hutchinson, so he really did play with a stacked O-line. Additionally, his skill position teammates were thought to have made Brady look good. Everyone thought that Anthony Thomas (A-Train anyone?) was the next big thing at RB (Trent Richardson, anyone?). Additionally, his receivers were thought to be amazingly talented, but none really made it in the NFL. It remains to be seen if Alabama's WR core will do any better. It's true that Brady didn't have a cannon, but again, you don't need one to be an elite QB.
But what was undisputed with Brady, and now is with McCarron, is his leadership, work ethic, decision-making, accuracy, and pocket presence. Same thing with another sleeper QB, Russell Wilson. All of the knocks against Wilson were physical, but none of that ended up mattering. Like Brady before him, and McCarron after him, Wilson has every intangible you could ask for.
It is for these reasons, why I believe the Vikings should go for a defensive stud in the first round, and go for McCarron in the second. I think we could have a pretty special team with leaders like McCarron and Zimmer at the helm. I sure hope Spielman feels the same way.