Leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine, many people questioned A.J. McCarron's arm strength, but after what he showed in the passing drills, there leaves little room for doubt—he can throw the dang ball. McCarron was one of the few top-ranked quarterbacks to throw at the combine, and he certainly boosted his draft stock because of it.
He threw some beautiful passes at the combine, but he especially impressed on one of the longest passing routes of the day:
McCarron's not nearly as athletic as some of the other quarterbacks in this class, and his tortoise-like 40-yard dash (4.94 officially) is a clear example of that.
That being said, a 40-yard dash should not make or break a quarterback's NFL outlook.
Granted, he didn't "wow" in the vertical leap or broad jump either, but those drills don't necessarily reflect on the ability of a quarterback as much as they do on other positions.
I mean, how much weight can those workouts really hold in determining McCarron's draft stock? Not much.
He impressed in the drills that mattered—the drills where the ball was in his hands and a receiver was split wide running routes.
McCarron showed off his tremendous accuracy and ball placement, and he proved he can put the ball anywhere on the field. His strength does lie in the short and intermediate routes, but he can push the ball downfield with accuracy.
McCarron's experience in a program like Alabama's makes him one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks of this class mentally. He is poised in the pocket and throws well on the run.
The three-time national champion has been projected to go in a number of different rounds in the NFL draft, but it's looking like he's ascending from a likely mid-round pick to somewhere in the second or third round.
Phil Savage, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, argues that McCarron would be a fine selection on the second day of the draft, but that will depend on the team he ends up on and the scheme it runs. He continued:
He's got the height. I think he's got enough arm. He does not have a cannon. I think he's got enough athletic ability. He's not an ad lib, run-around specialist. But the thing AJ does know how to do is play the quarterback position.
I think if he could almost have a redshirt year in the NFL, as a second- or third-round pick, we'll see where he can develop. He's got enough talent to do it.
There are a few teams that would make sense as a fit for McCarron in the second round, one of which may come as a surprise.
The New England Patriots aren't in need of a quarterback at this point, but drafting McCarron now in order to start him later would be a smart move. They do still have Ryan Mallett on the roster, but he's piqued the interest of other teams in the past, and he may be on the move this offseason—especially around draft day.
The Patriots could likely get another second-round pick if they find the right suitor for Mallett and could use either one of their second-day picks on McCarron. He's a proven winner who would get to sit and study behind one of the greats (and the man he compares himself to) until it is time for the torch to be passed.
His legitimacy as a well-rounded pocket passer has been an oft-argued topic over the past few months, but his showing at the combine was a reminder that he is for real. McCarron surely isn't the best quarterback in this draft, but he's showing that he's one of the best and has the potential to develop into a valuable player.
If he follows up the combine with a strong pro day, McCarron's draft stock may continue to creep up as May's draft approaches.