Last season a man by the name of Cam Newton did something that could change the course of the NFL. Up until this point, the Dual threat QB has always been associated more with high school and college than the NFL. Scouts and analysts always question the accuracy and decision making of most of the elite athletes that enter the draft at the QB position and so as a result you have guys like Brad Smith and Armanti Edwards who change their position and inevitably struggle to find their way in the NFL. Before Newton, only Michael Vick has regularly had success as a dual threat option, but now Cam and Vick have re-opened the door, showing coaches around the league how terrorizing a dual threat guy like that can be. This could not come at a better time because the 2013 draft is not only one of the deepest QB drafts that I have seen in my lifetime, but it is also one of the most athletic. When I look at this draft, I see 4 guys who, if they have a strong senior campaign, could potentially emerge as the “Next Cam Newton,” so today, I want to break down the top 5 dual threat QB’s of the 2013 draft
Manuel has been a highly touted player since his high school days when Rivals had him ranked as the #2 Dual Threat QB behind only Terrelle Pryor, and FSU fans were waiting anxiously for him to take the reigns from Christian Ponder. Last season, Manuel stepped into the starting role and produced when healthy, but did not exactly live up to his hype. Manuel enters the 2012 season healthy, ready to deliver, and will most likely battle Logan Thomas for the #1 spot in the dual threat QB category. Let’s dive right into it and break down our #1 ranked dual threat QB.
- Arm Strength- Manuel possesses elite arm strength and can make any throw you ask of him. I remember a particular game last season against UL Monroe when Manuel dropped back from the right hash and threw a deep out to the left side. Manuel threw it on a rope and did so without having his feet set, now that is arm strength. Manuel can straight up spin it and as a result can fit the ball into tight windows that a weaker armed QB could not
- Pocket Presence- Despite being incredibly Athletic, Manuel is actually a pocket passer. Even at the high school level, it was evident that Manuel would rather pick a defense apart with his arm rather than his legs. Truth be told, Manuel probably belongs in the top 5 Pro-style QB category, but he is so athletic that he is a threat to run on any play. Manuel does not always use his athleticism to run, but he will use it to by time in the pocket, ducking defenders and getting out of the pocket where he can make a throw on the run. However, when possible, Manuel stands tall in the pocket and will deliver a strike even if it means taking a big hit.
- Mechanically sound- Manuel has exceptional mechanics. His footwork in the pocket is good and he usually sets his feet before throwing. Manuel holds the ball high, and does not let his elbow drop on his release which results in high velocity and accurate throws.
- Accuracy- Manuel displays elite accuracy on the short, intermediate, and deep routes. He hits his receivers in stride, and when throwing into coverage, will place the ball where only his guy can get it. Manuel knows when to take some velocity off the ball and displays great touch on over the top throws and goal line fades. He will always have a high completion percentage. Bottom line, the guy is a good passer and can make some throws that most other guys in college football right now will not make
- Decision Making- After reading the list of his strengths, you may be wondering, “are there any weaknesses?” There are, and it starts with decision making. Manuel needs to make better decisions with and learn to protect the ball. He will force throws he should not and as a result cause turnovers. Manuel tends to hold onto the ball too long at times, trying to let a play develop when he’d be better served tucking and running. This has also lead to forced throws and fumbles in the pocket.
- Football IQ- Manuel needs improvement on his football IQ and route progression. That is not to say that he is not good at reading the D, but things are much faster and more intricate at the NFL level and that could become a struggle for Manuel. Due to his limited starting experience, Manuel has not played a lot of top end competition, and last season, in his only game against an elite level team, Manuel struggled. Against Oklahoma, he threw 0 TD’s, 2 INT’s and then got injured. It will be good to see how a healthy Manuel will play against top competition in 2012.
- Injuries- It’s too early for Manuel to develop the label of “Injury Prone” but after an injury last season which knocked him out of a big game, forcing him to miss another, scouts will be keeping an eye on his health. If Manuel can stay healthy this season, than I believe those doubts will be erased, leaving Manuel as a high-end prospect.
There may not be a more intriguing prospect in this years draft in the terms of pure ceiling potential and if Thomas makes a few strides in the passing game, not only will he rise to #1 on this list, but he could also become the potential #1 pick of the draft. However, at this current moment, Manuel is ahead of Thomas in terms of who is the better passer, but it may not stay that way for long. Thomas has been shooting up draft boards ever since piecing together a solid campaign in 2011, his first year as a starter and now we’ll take a look at what makes Thomas such an intriguing prospect.
- Measurables- Thomas is an absolute monster in terms of his size-athleticism ratio. I fact, physically, he is practically a clone of the panthers star. Thomas stands at 6’6 and weighs in at roughly 254 lbs. He can see over all the defenders and will not get many balls batted down. He has monster hands which allow him to maintain a good grip on the ball even under rainy conditions and as a result, ball security is not really a concern. He has been reported as running anywhere from the high 4.5′s to the low 4.6′s in the 40 which when combined with his size is quite impressive. He has a great first step and displays the lateral burst necessary to make a move on defenders in the open field.
- Mechanics- Thomas has a smooth and fluid release. He hold and releases the ball high, and does not have any hitches in his throwing motion. He squares his shoulders very quickly on roll-outs and he can get the ball out of his hands quick.
- Arm Strength- Thomas has a big-time arm. He can throw the ball deep down field, both in the pocket and on the run, and does an exceptional pocket of putting velocity on the ball when rolling against the grain. His throws get on his receivers very quickly, and he has no problem throwing deep outs and other throws outside the numbers.
- Accuracy- Displays great touch on the deep ball and can drop it over defenders into the waiting hands of his receiver. He understands the speed of the game and displays an exceptional ability to throw his receiver open. He puts the ball high and outside on deep outs, and often hits his WR’s in stride.
- QB Experience- It’s not necessarily that Thomas has only had 1 starting season at QB thus far, Manual only started 1 year too. But Thomas came to Virginia Tech wanting to play TE at first. He needs to progress more as a passer and learn to develop as a pocket passer. His passing number may suggest he is more NFL ready than he actually is because Thomas dealt with a lot of easy read, meaning, many of his plays would be designed to work on one side of the field rather than the whole field. Thomas would then be in a situation I like to call the one-read-and-tuck, in which he has a specific read to make, and if it’s not there, than he will tuck the ball and run. There are many ways for a coach to make the offense easier for a QB, that is why Carson Palmer was able to start in Oakland with practically no time to learn the playbook. It will be interesting to see if VA-tech really opens up the playbook for Thomas. If they do, Thomas will need to work on getting through his progressions as he tends to lock in on one receiver, and when he does looks for his second guy, he often looks like he is panicking.
- Over-touch- This category requires a little story. When I was a kid, I was playing in the yard with my friend and we saw a bid standing on the fence. I was like “I am gonna hit this bird with a rock” and I picked up a rock and chucked it at the bird, not actually trying to hit it, just throwing naturally and messing around. Well…I drilled the bird. I tried many times after to hit a bird again with a rock, but I never managed to do so. Animal cruelty aside, the moral of this story applies to Thomas. He tends to try too hard on some throws, over thinking his accuracy and as a result, making a poor throw. He needs to learn not to try so hard to be accurate, but rather to relax and just play the game. When he does, ther will be few QB’s in this years class who will be as accurate.
- Durability Concerns- Thomas is not injury prone by any means…not yet. But he loves contact. Thomas lows his shoulder regularly and bulls over defenders. Although it’s fun to watch, NFL teams do not want that. Even at 6’6 254lbs, Thomas’s body can only take so much and every time he takes a big hit he is at risk of injuring himself. He needs to learn when its time to slide or run out of bounds.
- Arm Strength- Geno Smith possesses elite arm strength and an arm that sort of confuses you as you watch him throw. He makes it look as if he’s barely putting effort into the throw and yet the balls spins off his hand with great velocity. He shows a quick,wrist snap that enables him to get a lot of zip on the ball. It’s often been compared to a Michael Vick type of release in the way that he flicks his wrist and releases a rocket. Smith can make all the throws, outside the numbers, inside the numbers, posts, corners, you name it and Geno can throw it.
- Anticipation- Smith understands the game from the QB’s prospective and it shows on the field. He can throw the ball before the receiver breaks and hit him in stride. Smith also possess the ability to throw a receiver open and can throw the short/intermediate routes as good as anyone in this draft class. Smith displays good touch over the top, and knows where to place the ball.
- Productivity- Smith already has two years of starting experience under his belt and has been very productive in both. He has completed at least 64% of his passes in both seasons and has thrown 55 TD’s with only 14 Int’s, and a 4:1 TD/INT ratio is quite impressive. Smith is poised and has played well against top competition. He lit up Clemson in the orange bowl and no doubt will look to ride that wave of success into this season.
- Poise- Smith is very poised in the pocket and looks very comfortable stepping up to make throws. He will get into a rhythm in the pocket and becomes near unstoppable. He does not look panicked when going through his progressions and he can stand tall and make a hit. LSU reigned down the fires of hell on him in their 2011 match-up, and even though it was a losing effort, Smith stood strong and kept fighting until the end.
- Scheme- Geno’s scheme under new coach Dana Holgorson is not an NFL type scheme. Smith works from a spread, Air-raid style offense that will inflate his passing numbers and consists of a lot of screens and short throws, so NFL scouts may want to test out Geno’s arm strength for themselves to make sure he has what it takes to make the NFL throws. However, it should be noted that Browns first round Draft pick Brandon Weeden also played under Holgorson and his draft stock was not affected
- Stubbornness- Geno Smith does not by any means want to be considered a running QB. He is a pure pocket passer and he has made that known. As a result, I have seen plays where Geno held onto the ball too long or forced throws when he would benefit from just tucking the ball and letting his athleticism take over. What I want to see from Geno is simple; forget about the labels and play to your strengths, the guy was blessed with exceptional athleticism and if he learns to use it, he will become even more dangerous.
- Footwork & Release- These are not major concerns, but they are cause for worry. Smith’s footwork get’s a little sloppy from time to time in his drops and one some plays when he rolls or needs to reset his feet, he had a heard time squaring up. He does not always do a good job of squaring his shoulders when rolling against the grain and that leads to some aired throws. Smith’s release is a double edge sword in the manner that, he holds the ball high and really snaps the ball, putting a lot of velocity on it. As a result, he doesn’t always have the quickest release out there. This is not the biggest concern in the world, but on some throws Smith’s release moves too slow which hurts his accuracy and timing. When rolling out, he will dip his elbow too low which affects his rhythm, accuracy, and velocity
Price, Like Thomas, is an underclassmen and may or may not opt to enter the 2013 NFL draft. He was exceptionally productive as a first year starter last season and broke Washington’s single season touchdown record with 33 td’s. Price may benefit from staying in college another year, but if he does opt to enter the draft, and NFL team is going to have to take a look at him. Let’s break down why.
- Feet- Price has, in my opinion, the second best feet in this draft behind USC’s Matt Barkley. He displays quick footwork in his drops and steps up in the pocket comfortably. He is nimble on his feet and can elude the rush with easy, re-set his feet, and deliver a good throw.
- Pocket Presence- Price shows great poise in the pocket, especially for such a young player. He stands strong in the pocket and let’s his plays develop. Unlike most young athletic QB’s Price will not automatically duck and take off when he senses pressure coming off the sides. He has a good feel for where his blockers are and will step up into the pocket to buy more time for his receivers to get open.
- Throwing on the Run- If Price decides to enter the draft, he will instantly become the best QB option in terms of throw on the run ability. PRice looks very comfortable when plays break down, he can make defenders miss and always keeps his eyes down field while scrambling, looking for a receiver to get open rather than taking off and running. Price has a variety of release points and delivers accurate throws off his back foot as well as when running to the right and left. He doesn’t need to re-set to make good throws on the run and he does an exceptional job of squaring his shoulders to make a throw when running against the grain
- Short/intermediate Accuracy- Price shows excellent touch and accuracy on the short/intermediate routes. He hit’s his receivers in stride and can drop the ball into small windows. Throws a great fade route and is also the best in the draft in terms of throwing a swing pass or a WR screen. People think that screens and swings are easy throws, but not always true, Price throws the ball ahead of his RB or WR on the swing and screen routes so that they catch the ball on the run rather than when standing still and that can make the difference between an 8 yard gain and a 30 yard gain.
- Arm Strength- Price does not possess an overly “live” arm and struggles to get that “next level” velocity on his throws. He pushes his deep outs and as a result the ball tends to sail on him. He has to really step into his deep throws and as a result it will take him longer to get the ball out of his hands than a guy like Geno Smith who can flick his wrist and get the ball 50 yards down field.
- Release- Price shows a variety of releases and is very inconsistent with his release point. It works to his advantage when on the run, but in terms of making throws in the pocket, Price’s inconsistent release affects his accuracy and velocity. Price has a little bit of a wind up in his delivery and dips the ball before his release. On short throws, Price will release the ball high, but on long throws, where Price needs to get more out of his arm, he tends to dip his elbow even lower. This creates a much longer wind up and results in Price releasing the ball lower which when teamed with his height will drastically increase the chance of having passes batted down at the next level. Overall, there is a lot of wasted motion in his release which hurts his accuracy and velocity
- Recognition- Struggles with recognizing defenses and tends to make-up his mind pre-snap which results in forced throws into coverage and turnovers. He is slow with his progressions and sometimes is only capable of working on one side of the field at a time. Needs to improve his overall knowledge of the game
- Size- Price is going to face a similar struggle as Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Price is short, 6’1, and thin, 195lbs. He will struggle to see throwing lanes and is a risk for having passes batted down. Needs to bulk up some to keep himself from getting hurt.
Is he an NFL QB, or will he be a WR/Return guy? Let the great debate begin. There were a few other guys I looked at for this spot, I like Colin Cline from K-state as a dual threat guy and I think that Marqueis Gray made some strides last season and may still have his best football ahead of him, but I had to give this spot to Robinson. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has voiced many times that he feels Robinson has no business being an NFL QB, he even said that Robinson’s lack of throwing ability hurt Junior Hemingway’s draft stock, but if I was a Lawyer battling for Robinson’s right as an NFL QB, there is one argument I would have to make, and that is: There is a major precedent that shows that Robinson could not only play QB in the NFL but could shock the world and become the #1 pick in the draft. No one hates to make this comparison more than me, but for Robinson’s sake, it has to be made. In 2001, Michael Vick was drafted #1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, and although Vick is a much better scrambler than Robinson, Robinson has greater success on scripted runs like a QB power rather than making big runs when the play breaks down, the two do compare favorably. For Starters, Robinson already has far better passing numbers than Vick. If you compare Vick’s College Career numbers with Denards, here is what you get: Vick completed 187 passes on 332 attempts, a completion percentage of 56%, for 3,279 yards with 21 TD’s and 12 INT’s. He also added 1,216 yards rushing on 223 attempts, 5.45 YPC and added another 17TD’s. In Robinson’s last two seasons, he has completed 324 passes on 549 attempts, 59.1% completion percentage, and has amassed 4,743 yards, with 38 TD’s and 26 INT’s. Robinson has also added a staggering 2,882 yds on the ground and an additional 30 TD’s. The number show that Robinson has better passing numbers than Vick and he still has another year to develop. Also, Robinson is expected to time faster than Vick in the 40. Now let’s break down Robinson’s game:
- Athletic Ability- This has to be listed as Robinson’s #1 strength as it is what really makes him a special player, Robinson possesses rare blazing speed and has another gear that most guys can’t reach. His agility on the run is exceptional and he has the wiggle to fit through tight areas and make any player on the field miss. In fact when sports science did a segment on Robinson, they found he can decelerate to a complete stop in 2 tenths of a second. There are not many guys out there who can pull something like that off.
- Throw on the run- Denard can throw on the run exceptionally well. He is a weapon on the roll out and can release the ball off one foot if he has too. He will extend plays with his feet and can make something big happen on any play.
- Arm Strength- Robinson actually has good Arm strength, it is just hurt by his mechanics. When he set’s his feet and really plants that back foot to throw, Robinson can deliver the ball with good velocity. He can also push the ball down field on deeper throws. If you remove the flaws in mechanics and inconsistency and just look at his raw arm strength, Robinson can make all the throws.
- Touch- Robinson does display tough on some of his throws and has shown the ability to drop the ball into his receivers hands. He throws a great jump ball and trusts his receiver to make a play, and he can throw a could fade route and wheel route.
- Throwing Motion- Robinson’s throwing motion is very inconsistent, and it shows in a lot of his throws. He tends to let his arm get too wide on some throws which creates a hybrid side-arm style delivery. At his height, Robinson needs to learn to keep the ball high and release it high so he can get the ball over oncoming defenders.
- Footwork- For a guy so athletic, you would think footwork would come naturally, but Robinson struggles with it greatly. We’re not talking footwork on runs, this is solely in the passing game. Robinson looks lost on some of his drop backs and his feet are all over the place. He often does not set before throwing and rarely steps into his throws. He loses a lot of accuracy and even more velocity as a result and it has cost him in the terms of INTs. He throws way to many balls while backpedaling.
- Recognition- Robinson is very raw in terms of recognizing what the defense is doing in the pass game. He doesn’t get through progressions and is a half-the-field type of QB. He usually looks to make one read and if it’s not there, he’ll take off running. When he does try and get through progressions he looks unnatural and panicky.
- Accuracy- Robinson’s accuracy is all over the place. He’s actually been the most frustrating prospect to evaluate thus far and as I said, a lot of it is tied into his footwork and release. Throws outside the numbers tend to sail on Robinson and he’ll miss a couple guys on in routes. He also tends to under-throw deep routes, although some have suggested he does it purposely because he trusts his receivers to make a play.
Overall, Robinson is an extreme wild-card. He will draw the obvious comparison to Vick as I have mentioned, but he needs to show us a little more to be considered a Vick-like prospect. Vick has always had eyes in the back of his head, he spins out of sacks other guys wouldn’t see coming and moves very fluidly. Robinson needs to improve his pocket awareness and show the NFL scouts that if needed, he can stand strong in the pocket and deliver a strike. Last season was a transition year for Robinson as he had to learn a new offense and work from more of a pro-style scheme. With one year under his belt, and a reportedly great spring, Robinson looks to prove his doubters wrong and for him the sky is the limit. I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up following in the foot-steps of Vick and becoming the #1 pick and yet at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he went un-drafted. Only time will tell
NFL Comparison: Michael Vick