2012 NFL Draft: Why Kellen Moore and Russell Wilson Can Succeed in the NFL
I tend to agree—his measurables leave something to be desired at the next level. The Boise State product's height is the major issue as he stands at 6'0" and 197 pounds soaking wet, and he does not possess great athleticism.
Similar questions dog Russell Wilson coming out of college. While he is more athletic and bigger-armed than Moore, he is even shorter for the position, not even cracking 5'11". The only active quarterback under six feet tall is Seneca Wallace, and the list of quarterbacks that size is not very long in general.
Of course, they would not have been successful in college without the skills to do so. Do Moore and Wilson possess skills to overcome their limitations?
Size Matters, but How Much?
Matt Waldman had this to say in a breakdown of Russell Wilson for his Rookie Scouting Portfolio:
One of the bigger questions about Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson will be his height. Measured at 5'10", 204 lbs., Wilson will be one of the smaller quarterbacks in the NFL. Journeyman Doug Flutie was a legit 5’9″, fellow journeyman Jeff Blake might have been 6’0″. The common knock on quarterbacks under 6’2″ is that they have difficulty playing from the pocket because they won’t be able to see over the line of scrimmage and they’ll have a higher rate of deflected passes.
Which of these quarterbacks will succeed in the NFL?
Certainly a quarterback under 6’2″ has to bring an extra dimension to the table. Michael Vick brings speed, agility, and a fantastic arm. Drew Brees brings uncanny accuracy, anticipation, and athleticism.
Of course, these are exceptions, not rules. Rarely do quarterbacks under 6'2" succeed in the NFL, and it is clear they must have elite skills to do so.
That is where these quarterbacks set themselves apart.
Perhaps Moore's best quality as a passer is his accuracy. He clocks in at nearly 70 percent in career completion percentage, and he was impressive at 74.3 percent in his senior season.
Like Brees, Moore has excellent anticipation as a thrower. This helps him overcome some arm strength issues because he releases the ball earlier than other quarterbacks would. It also does not hurt his accuracy.
Russell Wilson was almost as good at 72.8 percent in his final season, but it was an interestingly big jump for him—his completion percentages from his first three seasons were 54.5, 59.3, and 58.4 respectively. To put it into perspective, his predecessor and NFL third-stringer Scott Tolzien completed 72.9 percent of his passes in 2010.
Still, transferring from NC State after three seasons to Wisconsin seems to have been a boon for Wilson. He was able to utilize play action effectively because of the Badgers' stellar running game, and it helps that he had fellow draft entrant Nick Toon to target.
Even if Wilson's body of work is less indicative than Moore's, it is not easy to pass with 70 percent accuracy or above.
Statistics are not everything, however. Drew Brees never completed over 63.4 percent of his passes in college, but he is one of the NFL's most accurate passers today. What matters is the ability to get the ball to receivers with accuracy, and both of these quarterbacks have shown they can do that.
I will bypass Moore here because this is an area in which he is lacking—for all that he brings to the table, speed and arm strength are not part of that package. Not so for Wilson, however.
Drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round of the MLB draft in 2010, Wilson boasts an excellent arm to go along with his speed and agility. The Wisconsin product is arguably the most athletic quarterback in the 2012 class.
The highlights above are cherry-picked from his time with the Badgers, but most of them showcase his excellent athleticism. Not only does Wilson show superb escapability, he also flashes accuracy and vision on the run.
It is this type of athleticism that can overcome height issues. Wilson thrives outside the pocket, and he can get there with ease using his superior legs.
Also of note is that, even though he is shorter than Moore, he is actually heavier at 204 pounds, which should help him withstand the rigors of the NFL.
Boise State won 50 games with Kellen Moore at the helm, setting a NCAA/FBS record for wins as a starting quarterback. Part of that is due to resilience and longevity at the position—he was a four-year starter after all—but a 50-3 record is quite the feat however you slice it.
A major part of the reason he reached such great heights in college is that he is a smart football player.
This road victory over Georgia highlights Moore's intelligence. Almost every throw is a smart one, even the ones that almost or did get picked off. This game was just a microcosm of his career at Boise State.
Wilson is no slouch in the brains department—after transferring from NC State without having the requisite redshirt season, he learned Wisconsin's offense quickly enough to be the starter on day one of the regular season.
Not only did he pick up the offense, he drastically improved his statistics en route to leading the Badgers to a Rose Bowl berth.
Aside from high football IQs, both quarterbacks are natural-born leaders. Not only did Wilson learn Wisconsin's offense in a short time, but he was elected a team captain after joining the team in July of his senior season.
At 50-3 for his career, Moore oozes the type of winning leadership that Tim Tebow brings, albeit in a more subdued manner.
All in all, if both quarterbacks land in the right developmental situation and given an honest chance to succeed, they can buck their critics and shine in the NFL.
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