2011 NFL Draft: Comparing Greg McElroy to the Elite Quarterback Prospects
It is a well-known fact that Greg McElroy majored in business marketing, is a very smart young man and would be a shoe-in working in the NFL, but as a player?
He would most likely be able to make more money as an NFL executive than if he was to actually play in the NFL, especially considering the deep talent in quarterbacks this year.
The question is, however, should some quarterbacks actually be ranked above him in draft prospects?
Greg McElroy didn't play football to pay for college. His father works for the Dallas Cowboys, and paying for school would have been no problem for his family. He played college ball because he loves the game, and he's good at it.
Would it be so far-fetched for Greg McElroy to do some time playing in the NFL before he's ready to move on to the greener pastures of air conditioning, a suit and a desk in the NFL?
I am not saying McElroy would or should be drafted above some of the following quarterbacks, but it is quite interesting to compare some numbers and success.
Let's look at some aspects of other top NFL draft-eligible quarterbacks this year and compare them to Greg McElroy.
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Let's get the ugly out of the way first. Greg McElroy let himself get sacked this year, a lot. Likely, less than half of Alabama's sacks allowed were a direct result of McElroy hanging on the ball, but he missed several opportunities to throw the ball away.
In his defense, however, his offensive line has been very bad this year. They were only able to clear the way for Heisman winner Mark Ingram to rush for barely 800 yards, half of what he accomplished last year.
The weak running game put a lot of pressure on McElroy to throw the ball against teams that were no longer loading the box as much.
Of the primary teams with NFL-possible quarterbacks, only Iowa allowed more sacks than Alabama. Now, all the quarterback prospects this year have very respectable completion percentages, so it's safe to acknowledge that not many passes had to be thrown away to avoid sacks.
What's interesting, however, is some of the passing efficiency leaders were sacked very few times. Kellen Moore, Andy Dalton and Andrew Luck are perfect examples. The WAC and MWC are weak conferences in general, and other than Oregon, Andrew Luck has not faced very tough pass rushing defenses.
SEC quarterbacks, however, have faced tough opposition in the pass rush. Only Cam Newton has been able to avoid sacks well in the SEC, and that is mostly because he's a Heisman-winning, dual-threat quarterback.
Let's rank the sacks allowed by these quarterbacks' teams.
1. Ricki Stanzi and Iowa - 98th, 33.
2. Greg McElroy and Alabama - 97th, 32.
3. Nick Foles and Arizona - 79th, 24.
4. Tyrod Taylor and Virgina Tech - 68th, 26.
5. Jake Locker and Washington - 68th, 24.
6. Christian Ponder and Florida State - 61st, 25.
6. Ryan Mallett and Arkansas - 61st, 23.
7. Terrelle Pryor and Ohio State - 53rd, 22.
8. Cam Newton and Auburn - 40th, 21
9. Scott Tolzien and Wisconsin - 15th, 12.
10. Andy Dalton and TCU - 7th, 9.
11. Kellen Moore and Boise State - 3rd, 7.
12. Andrew Luck and Stanford (with their ugly tree mascot) - 1st, 5.
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Numbers don't lie, and NFL scouts like numbers. They like intangibles, but they love something they can measure and put on paper.
Bulging forehead veins like Tim Tebow's that motivate teams to a national championship only go so far in the scouting process. The numbers are important, and Greg McElroy has the numbers.
The biggest number that looks good on McElroy's resume is passing efficiency, which is very important and shows a quarterback's ability to move the chains and avoid turnovers.
NCAA official statistics as of January 1, 2011.
|1||Cam Newton, Auburn||67.07||6||2589||10.52||28||188.16|
|2||Kellen Moore, Boise St.||71.28||6||3845||10.04||35||182.63|
|3||Ryan Mallett, Arkansas||66.48||11||3592||9.87||30||170.53|
|4||Greg McElroy, Alabama||70.93||5||2987||9.54||20||168.98|
|5||Andy Dalton, TCU||66.14||6||2857||9.04||27||166.48|
|6||Andrew Luck, Stanford||70.20||7||3051||8.74||28||166.10|
|7||Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin||72.93||6||2459||9.24||16||165.92|
|8||Bryant Moniz, Hawaii||65.05||15||5040||9.08||39||159.11|
|9||Dan Persa, Northwestern||73.51||4||2581||8.55||15||159.04|
|10||Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech||60.56||4||2521||8.88||23||159.04|
|11||Terrelle Pryor, Ohio St.||65.77||11||2551||8.56||25||157.98|
|12||Chandler Harnish, Northern Ill.||64.73||5||2530||8.66||21||157.82|
|13||Richard Stanzi, Iowa||64.06||6||3004||8.71||25||157.63|
As you can see, Greg McElroy is fourth in the nation in pass efficiency. That is an astounding feat, especially for a quarterback many predict wont be drafted.
I would make the bold statement that McElroy may be the smartest quarterback on the list.
Though Greg's physical tools are not as powerful as some of his peers, he has something very important that the NFL looks for: low turnovers.
In two years, starting 27 games, McElroy has thrown only nine interceptions. He may not have the cannon that Ryan Mallett has, but he doesn't try to laser-force balls to his receivers either, but we'll get to that later.
The only area McElroy really suffers in are touchdowns. Just as Scott Tolzien has to let John Clay score his touchdowns in the red zone, McElroy has to let Mark Ingram or Trent Richardson make his.
On top of that, Nick Saban is a very conservative play caller and does not go for long, risky throws often. The man does not like turnovers. Some attribute this to McElroy's "weak" arm, which does hold some truth.
Newton, Mallett, Luck and others have much better long balls than McElroy. The long ball, however, is not as big a part of the NFL as many make it out to be, though dart passes can be very important and McElroy is, admittedly, lacking in that aspect (but not devoid of it).
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Let's first look at McElroy's rival from Hog Nation. A quick rundown, McElroy is not predicted to be drafted very high, if at all, and may not even elect to enter the draft.
If he does, most expect a backup role his entire career. Ryan Mallett, however, is a surefire first round draft pick, likely second quarterback chosen and a future franchise quarterback. Just how much better is Mallett?
Ryan Mallett has a gun on his shoulder. He has one of the most powerful arms we've seen in a long time. This is a good thing, but Mallett often puts unnecessary force behind his throws.
The Sugar Bowl was a prime example. Numerous times Arkansas receivers dropped passes. Though these seemed blatant, it can be very hard for even the best receivers to catch a ball moving as fast as Mallett can pass them.
Mallett has difficulty knowing when to laser the ball and when not to. Overall, the benefits of a gun arm outweigh the cons. McElroy is well-known to have light passes that are easy to catch, which makes them easy to intercept. McElroy throws very few picks, however. That brings us to the next point.
Favor: Ryan Mallett
Mallett is notorious for poor decision making, considering he's an elite quarterback. His 11 interceptions in 12 games is one of the poorer stats in the nation. This comes from his overzealous willingness to attempt to force balls to his receivers.
NFL safeties like Troy Polamalu and cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis just love quarterbacks that force balls. McElroy is the exact opposite. He rarely overestimates himself and only makes the throws he knows are safe. Though this often caused him to hang onto the ball too long, I think most would take a sack over an interception any day.
Favor: Greg McElroy
Ryan Mallett is 6'6", 240 lbs. He's a big guy, tough, can take a hit and is a load for any linebacker to bring down. He sees over his front five with ease. McElroy is less gifted, at 6'3", 220 lbs. Though smaller than Mallett, McElroy has the weight to take a hit and the height to see over his line well enough.
Favor: Ryan Mallett
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Cam Newton has been something else this year. He won a Heisman, battled controversy for the second time in his collegiate career and rushed the pants off opponents. Later in the season, he displayed an uncanny ability to also throw the ball, and holds the crown for most efficient passer in the nation.
Cam Newton can rush, better than most running backs even. He's 6'6", 250 lbs. He's big enough to run over opponents, fast enough to run around them and tall enough to fall forward on every carry for another couple yards. He can throw the long ball, dart the short pass or put just enough heat under it for an easy catch. He's stronger, faster, and more intimidating than McElroy in every sense.
Though Michael Vick is having success with running the ball, most NFL teams are very skittish about sending their most expensive player into the maw of the opposition to get hurt. Dual-threat quarterbacks are not as popular in the NFL compared to colleges that wont lose millions of dollars on an injury.
Favor: Cam Newton
Cam Newton has a high completion percentage, and a low interception count. He's passed for fewer yards than McElroy, but thrown for more touchdowns. Newton has made some risky deep throws and come up lucky. The Hail Mary in the SEC championship is a perfect example. Overall, however, Newton makes smart decisions.
Leadership, Fan Popularity and Poise Under Pressure
In his short time at Auburn, Cam Newton has won over the hearts of his fans and teammates. His chronic charming smile on the field, which can often be seen while he is running the ball, is a force on its own.
In contrast, however, he has estranged much of the nation with controversy, which was found to not be his fault. The eyes of the nation, however, see guilt differently than the NCAA. Regardless, any team that had Newton slaying opponents would look past just about anything. Look at how Steelers fans see Ben Roethlisberger, or how Eagles fans see Michael Vick.
McElroy is not as big a star in the fan's eyes, but he can lead a team as well as anyone in the nation, and they will follow. They are both excellent field generals.
The most interesting comparison is their calmness under the gun. They both showed it in the Iron bowl, just in different years. In 2009 McElroy led his team on a late fourth quarter drive and burned over eight minutes off the clock by taking his time marching the full length of the field. He did so without flinching and left Auburn with less than 90 seconds to score. He performed similar magic against Arkansas in a 2010 comeback to win.
In the 2010 Iron Bowl, Cam Newton shocked the 'Bama Nation by overcoming a 27-0 deficit to win 28-27.
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Jake Locker is a tragic story in that he has likely lost a lot of draft stock. That's a common story in the NFL draft, but what makes it so sad is that Locker specifically stayed his senior year to boost his draft stock. The irony is painful. Locker is still a great NFL prospect, however, and is predicted to battle to be a top-five quarterback in the draft.
Working with What You Have
Jake Locker has been fortunate enough to start since his freshman year. Four full years of college football really gets you ready. In those four years, Locker has shown great ability, but he has had to work with a very underwhelming supporting cast. It has been painfully obvious this year. He has suffered from the same offensive line woes that have beat up Greg McElroy all year.
Overall, however, McElroy had a running back entourage that made opponents overprepare for the run, and Locker did not. McElroy had a star receiver in Julio Jones who is a possible first round draft pick; Locker did not. In fact, Locker was pretty much the entire Washington offense by himself. Greg McElroy has shown he can perform well with a stellar supporting cast and it is uncertain how he would fair with a gang of scrubs like Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford have had to work with this year.
Favor: Jake Locker
Jake Locker is 6'3", 223 lbs., nearly identical to Greg McElroy. Locker, however, has a stronger arm, though arguably less accurate. The big difference, however, is Locker's ability to run. He is a very legitimate dual-threat quarterback akin to Tim Tebow, though as before dual-threat isn't as important in the NFL as it is on the collegiate level.
Favor: Jake Locker
Leadership and Will To Win
Leadership-wise Greg McElroy gets it done. So does Jake Locker. The man has played on a lackluster team his entire collegiate career, whose spirits would have certainly crashed long ago had Locker not been there. He has an extremely competitive spirit that cannot be extinguished by a large point deficit. Greg McElroy is no different. Though in losing scenarios, their teams gave up in some aspects; these two quarterbacks did not.
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Here's the killer that may upset a lot of folks. "Is this guy really comparing that nobody to the overall No. 1 draft pick?'. Yes, I am. I will state up front, however, that Luck is far and away the better quarterback and worthy of the No. 1 pick.
Andrew Luck is the prototypical pocket passer. He has great arm strength, and McElroy does not, though his arm is respectable enough. Luck has an inch and 10 pounds on McElroy, nearly the ideal size for an NFL quarterback. Though McElroy can move in the pocket very well on his own accord, Luck is more capable of doing so. They are both very capable of extending plays and making the throw.
Favor: Andrew Luck
The ability for a quarterback to transition from the NCAA to the NFL is one of the more underrated aspects in the drafting process, especially when it comes to early quarterback picks. Teams that draft a quarterback in the first few picks are the bad teams. They are looking for a player to make an immediate impact. The St. Louis Rams did so this past year, and the No. 1 overall pick last year Sam Bradford turned the team around. The pro-style offense that Andrew Luck runs under former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh has the worst teams in the NFL very hungry for his services.
Favor: Andrew Luck
As far as completion percentage and passing yards go, Greg McElroy and Andrew Luck have been nearly identical. Luck has seven interceptions and McElroy has five. Though these stats are much alike, there is a very critical piece that is rarely mentioned. Regardless of his mobility and ability to throw on the run, Andrew Luck has had outstanding pass protection all year. When Luck is drafted, he will be going to a team that is not very good and it's safe to assume the front five of that team will be just as weak.
All year, McElroy has had to pass against the toughest defenses in the nation with constant pressure getting through a weak offensive line, and Luck just has not had that adversity. Though Luck and McElroy are both making excellent decisions, we know how McElroy performs against brutal pass rushes, and with Luck we do not. I hate to sound biased, but the Pac-10 defenses pale in comparison to the SEC.
Favor: Tie, because I cannot arbitrarily say that Luck would perform poorly behind a weak offensive line against NFL quality pass rushers.
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Greg McElroy most likely will be leaving to make money in the NFL behind the scenes rather than on the field. The guy loves football, however, so don't be surprised to see him enter the draft. He would make the perfect backup quarterback. NFL teams want backups that will take a smaller check but are nearly as good as the top quarterbacks.
Is Greg McElroy an elite quarterback? At first look, no. Then again, the world said the same thing about stars such as Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Neither of them have the strongest arms in the league, but they both (especially Brady) make smart throws and minimize turnovers. Are all NFL teams looking for someone like Ryan Mallett, who forces throws and creates turnovers, yet makes big plays as well? Or are some teams looking for a smart passer that keeps the offense on the field and moves the chains?
Overall, Greg McElroy has what it takes to become a legendary NFL quarterback. It's hard to predict the future, as the NFL draft is the biggest game of blindfolded darts the world has ever seen. No one could have predicted the legacy of Tom Brady, or a very fat and lazy turnover machine named JaMarcus Russell either.
In my opinion, Greg McElroy is the most underrated quarterback of all the eligible draftees, and I would love to watch him in the preseason, and possibly the regular season, for the next few years.