When he went to Indianapolis to participate in the National Football League’s combine last month, one has to wonder if he had planned what to say beforehand.
Standing at the podium, AJ McCarron was asked by a reporter what’s his best attribute. The former University of Alabama quarterback didn’t hesitate in responding, “Being a winner.”
He certainly didn’t say that for the sake of the media or the fans watching on television, many of whom thought the three-time national champion (two as a starter) came across as kind of cocky and were critical of his claim of being “disrespected” for playing with so many talented players.
Yet one can be sure that it certainly got the attention of numerous front-office personnel, to whom "winning" is a highly coveted intangible trait.
There’s still roughly six weeks until this year’s draft, and while we’re all in the middle of the disinformation stage, when smoke screens are commonplace and draft experts are playing catch-up, here’s one thing that everyone can look forward to in the near future:
At some point before the May 8-11 draft, McCarron’s status will be on the rise.
The reasons why are numerous, beginning with there being so many differing opinions on the top three quarterbacks of Blake Bortles (Central Florida), Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), and numerous teams with early first-round picks in need of a franchise player to run the offense.
What Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Minnesota have to weigh is whether they should immediately grab one or take a player at another position and then use their second pick on a quarterback. The Browns have the No. 26 overall selection as well, and have already released Brandon Weedon and Jason Campbell, but the longer those teams wait the greater the risk others might jump into the fray.
Tennessee’s Jake Locker has injury issues. Arizona’s Carson Palmer is 34 years old. Oakland and Tampa Bay might be looking for some insurance in case recently acquired Matt Schaub and Josh McCown, respectively, don’t pan out.
A lot of these teams might target one player in particular, and although Fresno State’s Derek Carr and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo have turned some heads through this whole process they simply can’t match McCarron’s resume.
It’s not so much that he threw for 9,019 career yards; McCarron had 77 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions while playing in the nation’s toughest conference. In 2012 he led the nation in passer efficiency, and while the Crimson Tide didn’t have to ride his arm to many victories, he also didn’t do things to cost his team wins.
In a lot of circles that means a lot more than the statistics, and last year Coach Nick Saban trusted him to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
“He gets us in and out of the huddle quickly and calls the plays when we need it,” wide receiver Kevin Norwood said. “He’s great at getting us where we need to be and it’s up to those receivers to get open for him.”
Meanwhile, nearly everyone’s been quiet about what was thought to be the big concern with McCarron, arm strength. After skipping the Senior Bowl he worked with a quarterback coach on his release, and subsequently had strong showings both at the combine and during Alabama’s pro day earlier this month.
“It felt great, from hearing about arm strength and deep outs and comebacks, I felt like today should silence all that,” he said after Alabama’s Pro Day. “I threw it deep early on in the workout and I threw it deep later on so it was a good day.”
So might be May 8, when the first round of the draft takes place, and no one would be surprised to see a team with an early pick in the second round move up to get the quarterback it wants.
Maybe that’ll be McCarron, maybe it won’t. But considering how important the position is in the NFL it only makes sense that the one with the proven background will get the longest looks.
Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama Crimson Tide football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.