Is Ryan Nassib the Best Fit for the Buffalo Bills?
New Bills head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett worked with Nassib at Syracuse, making them uniquely qualified to evaluate the potential first-round pick.
Nassib's familiarity with their offense could potentially make for a smooth transition to the NFL.
But is he really the best man for the job?
To determine if Nassib fits in Buffalo, first let's take a look at the type of offense Doug Marrone is likely to run in the NFL.
While Marrone has served as an offensive coordinator in the league, it's difficult to take anything away from his time with the Saints. Sean Payton called the plays during Marrone's tenure in New Orleans, giving us limited insight into Marrone as a play-caller.
But at Syracuse, Marrone and Hackett collaborated on the offense.
According to Smart Football's Chris Brown, by way of NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, Marrone and Hackett ran an offense based off a pro-style scheme, but implemented some read-option plays to keep the defense on their toes.
This scheme, implemented prior to the 2012 season, was designed specifically for Nassib. And given the rise of the read-option in the NFL, it could certainly be carried over to Buffalo.
While Nassib lacks the mobility to post Robert Griffin III-like numbers on the ground, he is athletic enough to make the read-option work in small doses—especially when he's able to catch the defense off guard.
But the key to Nassib's game, and what makes him best-suited to run Marrone's offense, is his consistency when throwing the football.
Marrone's more traditional pro-style plays called for a standard mix of throws at varying depths.
As the chart shows, Nassib was asked to attempt a fairly standard array of throws while at Syracuse.
While it's noteworthy that Marrone and Hackett trusted Nassib enough to call a standard NFL-style game for him, what really matters is how he handled these throws.
And this is exactly where Nassib stands out.
Nassib's accuracy percentage (a statistic I calculate when charting games, giving credit for any pass on which the receiver had a reasonable chance of making the catch) remained steady at each distance.
The chart on the left compares Nassib's accuracy percentage by distance to another potential Bills target, Matt Barkley.
Clearly, Marrone had good reason to trust Nassib with a standard array of NFL play calls. His accuracy remained steady up to 20 yards, and only slightly dipped on the deeper throws.
For another evaluation, let's consider Nassib's accuracy percentage based on Pro Football Focus' calculation.
PFF's accuracy percentage is less subjective, only giving credit for completed passes and dropped passes. Based on this formula, Nassib's accuracy percentage was an even 50 percent in the games I charted.
When evaluating Nassib, it's also worth noting that he was surrounded by a very limited supporting cast at Syracuse.
In the three games I charted, Nassib's receivers dropped 13.9 percent of his pass attempts.
According to Pro Football Focus, Nassib's drop percentage would have led the NFL by a considerable margin—Blaine Gabbert was the most victimized at 9.7 percent—and was nearly double the rate Bills' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick endured (7.3 percent).
In addition to the obvious drops, Nassib will also benefit from an improved supporting cast based on NFL receivers' ability to adjust to the deep ball.
For a great example of how many of Nassib's pass attempts were wasted, let's take a look at Syracuse's game against USC in September 2012.
This play occurs from the USC 20-yard line with just 10 seconds remaining in the first half. Nassib throws a simple go route to sophomore receiver Jeremiah Kobena, who ends up in favorable man coverage on the outside.
Nassib lofts a well-timed pass to the end zone, which would have been caught by many NFL receivers. However, Kobena takes an incredibly passive approach to the ball, allowing the USC defensive back to deflect the pass.
Had Kobena even attempted to attack the ball at its highest point, he would have had a reasonable shot at coming down with a touchdown. But by waiting for the ball to come to him, he allows the defender a clear path to the football.
While the Bills receiving corps could certainly use some tweaks, it's safe to say Nassib has never played with the likes of Stevie Johnson or T.J. Graham. Their ability to get downfield and make plays on the ball would open up a new dimension to Nassib's downfield passing attack.
So is Nassib the man for the job?
An argument could certainly be made for other prospects such as Geno Smith or Mike Glennon, who possess similar attributes. But Nassib's familiarity with the Bills' offense is a unique quality which may set him apart.
While he isn't the big-name prospect some fans may have been hoping for, Nassib has all the tools necessary to excel in the NFL, and Buffalo just may be the perfect place for him to achieve immediate success.
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