Former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron won't be selected in Round 1 of the 2014 NFL draft, but the experienced signal-caller will offer immense value to the lucky team that does pick him up.
McCarron doesn't possess the raw athleticism and charisma of Johnny Manziel, doesn't have the size and strength of Blake Bortles and isn't as deadly accurate as Teddy Bridgewater. In fact, there isn't a single thing he brings to the table athletically that ranks among the elite.
But when examining the entire package of what McCarron offers, it's clear he has what it takes to become a viable NFL starting quarterback, given the right situation.
He possesses good size, at 6'3" and 220 pounds, but McCarron's arm strength is limited in similar fashion to current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. He can make some nice deep throws on touch passes, but he'll never scare anyone by dropping dimes on long-distance bombs.
B/R's Matt Miller puts it like this:
His intermediate accuracy and timing are spot on, and he does put the ball up in the air on deep balls with nice touch and placement. But it all comes back to accuracy and arm strength with most NFL scouts, and those are the two areas McCarron struggles with the most.
Unlike Smith, however, McCarron isn't a strong runner. He prefers to stay in the pocket and progress through his reads. But this is not a bad thing. Far too often, young players tend to take off and run at the first sign of trouble rather than making that extra read and delivering to a wide-open receiver.
This isn't to say he's not capable of leading a strong passing attack, however. McCarron showed up well during the field drills at the combine, and he rightfully felt good about his performance throwing the ball, even though his 40-yard dash time of 4.94 seconds was exceedingly slow:
He'll fit in perfectly with a team that features a strong running game like the Minnesota Vikings, running a pro offense from under center with Adrian Peterson lining up directly behind him.
B/R's AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst has another idea:
In either situation, McCarron would have a chance to thrive. All he needs to succeed is good protection, a strong running back behind him and talented receivers running routes down field.
The former Alabama quarterback is also an experienced leader who has played in plenty of big-pressure games. More often than not, he's found a way to thrive in those situations, and when he hasn't, the Heisman finalist always loses gracefully.
Chances are, McCarron will have a chance to start early in his career unless he's picked up by a team with an established veteran already in place.
Wherever he lands, he'll quickly become a valued player for his new team, and nobody should be surprised if the former Crimson Tide star ends up becoming a full-time starter within his first two seasons as a pro.
Some of the teams picking at the top of Round 1 who need a quarterback could easily opt for one of the other talented non-quarterbacks to open the draft, knowing McCarron and others, like Zach Mettenberger, will still be available in Round 2 or later.
If McCarron ends up landing with one of those teams, then he'll have a chance to start immediately in 2014. Given the way he succeeded in college, nobody should expect him to do anything differently in the NFL.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
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