Is Collin Klein the Next Tim Tebow?
If you're a fan of college football, you've undoubtedly heard of Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein. He's a likely Heisman Trophy candidate, and at 6'5" and 226 pounds, a bit of a physical freak under center.
Fans of Tebow must excuse me, but your poster boy has become synonymous with great college quarterbacks who aren't good enough passers to make the transition to the NFL. Klein falls into that category for evaluation, and you can't ignore the sheer physical similarities between the two.
So, is Klein the next Ben Roethlisberger or Tebow?
The most important aspect for a passer—at any level—is accuracy. You either have it or you don't. There's a wide-ranging argument in coaching and scouting circles about whether you can teach accuracy.
Jake Locker with the Tennessee Titans is an interesting experiment in attempting to coach-up accuracy, and on a much larger scale, so was Tim Tebow. I'm using the past tense there because three seasons in, we've seen that his changed mechanics and coaching haven't improved his ball placement.
Klein is a career 64.1 percent passer in games he's started. During that time he's also run the ball 439 times (compared to just 278 passes) and in each of the last two seasons he's run for more touchdowns than he's thrown. Equal parts runner and passer, Klein is exciting, but accurate is one thing he's not.
Klein is a better passer from a mechanical standpoint than Tebow was at Florida (or even in the NFL), but the result is largely the same. Klein's accuracy isn't on-par with more legitimate NFL quarterback prospects.
See above, where Klein is attempting a throw on 2nd-and-6 early in the first quarter against Oklahoma. Klein has a wide-open receiver off to his right, good for a first down, but he can't connect on a simple pitch-and-catch throw. This is a throw that an NFL quarterback has to make 100 times out of 100, but Klein doesn't get it done. This is but one example of many throws that miss the mark.
Klein isn't helped by an offensive system that hasn't developed him as a passer.
The Kansas State offense is based on two things—the shotgun formation and a zone-read from Klein in the backfield. Supporters will point out that Kansas State is throwing more in 2012, and that Klein's numbers are up, but the majority of his passes are high-percentage throws following play-action. That works in college where defenders are terrified of Klein's running ability, but in the NFL it's a gimmick. And one that would be exposed quickly.
Perhaps most importantly, Klein has no experience in an offense that even slightly resembles an NFL system. Kansas State has taken football back three decades with its single-wing offense, and NFL evaluators want innovation. They want players who can fit into their schemes right now. Klein won't be able to do that.
Will he get a shot to play quarterback in training camp? Yes. Will that last? Doubtful.
Klein is too athletic to be left out of the NFL, but the Tim Tebow Project by the Denver Broncos and New York Jets actually hurts Klein. NFL coaches and scouts have seen what a player like Klein can do when translated to the NFL as a quarterback, and it's quite telling that only the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars were considered seriously interested in Tebow once the Broncos were willing to trade him.
Klein isn't Tebow. He is a more mechanically sound passer, but NFL teams have seen this before, and for Klein to make it in the NFL, a position change must happen.
When Tim Tebow entered the draft it was unknown whether that style of play could work in the NFL, and Josh McDaniels foolishly drafted Tebow in the first round of the NFL draft. This time around, NFL teams will be wiser, and Klein will have to wait until the draft's third day before he gets selected.
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