Coming into the 2012 season, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib was an afterthought in the battle to be among the top quarterbacks drafted.
That battle was supposed to be between USC’s Matt Barkley and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, who were the two favorites to be the No. 1 overall pick before the season began. Their top competition was expected to come from Virginia Tech junior Logan Thomas, Tennessee junior Tyler Bray, Georgia junior Aaron Murray and West Virginia senior Geno Smith.
Barkley and Wilson, however, both had very disappointing senior seasons and although they are still likely first-round picks, they are far from locks. Smith had the best year of any senior quarterback and has become the favorite to be the top quarterback drafted, but even his flaws were highlighted late in his senior year. Two of the juniors returned to school for their senior seasons, while Bray entered the draft but did not show expected progression this past season.
That has left the door wide open for other quarterbacks to make a big move up the draft board and potentially shake up the first-round quarterback picture. Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib took advantage of that with an impressive senior year, and is in great position to be among the first four quarterbacks selected.
What Scouts Should Love About Nassib
In a class without a star quarterback prospect, Nassib has as much potential as anyone to be the best signal-caller in the class. He has good arm strength, good size (6’2”, 227 lbs) and has shown he can make any throw on the field.
Although Nassib worked mostly out of the shotgun, he did play in a pro-style offense: his head coach from the past four years, Doug Marrone, is now the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. As a result of that, Nassib consistently had to make the tough intermediate and deep throws he will have to make at the next level, and has shown the ability to hit tough routes, especially outs and comebacks to the sideline.
One trait that stands out about Nassib is the zip that he puts on his throws. With the velocity he puts on his throws, he is able to fit throws into tight windows, which he has to do to succeed at the next level. At times, he puts too much zip on the ball, but can continue to work on that as he develops at the next level.
Nassib is not a dual-threat running quarterback, but he is a good scrambler. Nassib has good athleticism for a pocket passer, and he does a good job not only rolling away from pressure, but throwing while on the run.
Nassib’s feet are not only good outside of the pocket, but inside the pocket as well. He will need more experience dropping back from under center, but he has very clean footwork. He is very good at stepping up away from pressure and into his downfield throws.
Nassib has clean mechanics. He is very good with both play action and pump fakes, holds the ball well, has a clean release and throws a strong spiral.
Another great aspect of Nassib is his toughness. He does not shy away from contact when stepping into his throws, and can bounce back from a big hit. A great example of his toughness came when he was leveled by an unblocked pass-rusher in the Pinstripe Bowl, but came back in the game just two plays later.
What Nassib Must Improve Upon
Although Nassib can put more velocity on the football than possibly any other quarterback in the 2013 draft class, he is not a very good deep-ball thrower.
Nassib’s zip does not transfer into his deep passing game. Rather than driving the ball downfield, he tends to hang passes up deep, which often result in underthrows, broken up passes and interceptions.
He has the arm strength to hit receivers deep downfield, but lacks the touch. His passes are too often underthrown or overthrown. He must become better at driving the ball downfield, but with touch, to excel at the next level.
Nassib’s propensity to mistakes is also concerning. While he sometimes makes great throws under pressure, the pass rush also causes Nassib to make puzzling decisions at times.
Nassib needs to become better at throwing the ball away or checking down to short passes when under pressure. Many of his interceptions and passes broken up last season were a result of trying to force passes between multiple defenders when under pressure. Additionally, he needs to develop better pocket awareness, as he occasionally holds the ball too long and takes sack when he could have thrown the ball away.
Altogether, Nassib’s biggest issue is inconsistency. He has the talent to make any throw on the field, but his downfield accuracy fails him at times—hence a stagnant 62.4 completion percentage each of the past two seasons.
How Nassib Can Develop Into a Franchise QB
Physically, Nassib has the tools to be a very good NFL starting quarterback. Whether he can put it all together, and how quickly he can do that, will determine whether he meets his potential.
He may never become a great deep-ball thrower, but should improve in that area if he can take advantage of his arm strength. On intermediate throws, Nassib does a great job stepping up in the pocket and putting zip behind his balls — if he can transfer that to the deep game, and take control of his velocity to avoid overthrowing receivers, he will be able to make big plays with his arm talent.
With clean mechanics, great footwork and experience under an NFL coach, adjusting to an NFL offense shouldn’t be too problematic. If Nassib fails to become a franchise quarterback, it will likely be because of continued flaws with his decision-making under pressure.
With the feet to elude pass-rushers, the throw velocity to make tight throws and the ability to throw on the run, what Nassib needs to gain is composure. He has to learn when to throw the ball away or check down to a short pass, but also needs to trust his ability to make the tough throws.
Where Nassib Should Be Drafted
While Nassib certainly has his flaws, they are flaws that he shares with most of the draft class’ top quarterbacks. Smith’s struggles with decision-making under pressure, inconsistent downfield accuracy for Wilson and subpar deep-ball passing by Barkley are among the flaws that keep those quarterbacks from grading out as sure first-round draft picks.
Overall, Nassib grades out as a second-round talent, and the No. 4 quarterback in the class.
With good athleticism, mechanics and footwork and the ability to make any throw on the field, Nassib has the tools to be a very good starter. But although a potential franchise quarterback, expecting him to start right away may be too much to ask, as he has a number of tough but coachable flaws in his game that he needs to overcome through development.
That said, Nassib could easily be drafted ahead of Smith, Wilson and/or Barkley, and be among the top three quarterbacks drafted.
Three potential fits for Nassib are the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, who hold consecutive selections from No. 7 to No. 9 in Round 1.
With his strong arm, size and athletic ability, Nassib could draw physical comparisons to Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger, which should intrigue Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. Coming from Syracuse, Nassib has obvious links to the two QB-needy New York teams, especially in Buffalo with Marrone being the Bills’ new head coach.
Dan Hope is an NFL Draft Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.