With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to start this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players listed were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.
46. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
We continue this year's series with Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, the first of five quarterbacks we'll cover in this year's Shutdown 50. As has been said many times before, the 2013 draft class isn't exactly awash in franchise-changers at the position -- at best, this year's quarterback prospects are reasonably talented players who need a lot of finishing work. Nassib is just such a player. Through three years as the main man in Syracuse's offense under head coach Doug Marrone, Nassib put up some impressive numbers.
In 2012, he led the Big East in pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, plays, total yards, and total touchdowns. However, a few other numbers point to the root of Nassib's primary negative issue -- he was third in completion percentage in 2012, third in yards per pass, and third in efficiency rating. This would seem to imply that Nassib is a quarterback good enough to lead an offense, but not quite transcendent enough to push that offense over the top without some help. Nassib did some good things and won two Pinstripe Bowls with the Orange, but projecting his skill set to the NFL level isn't always easy.
Pros: Nassib is conversant with the play-action and boot-action game; he's very good at both out of shotgun, which is interesting and somewhat rare. Good quick passer who will time up with hot reads in plays designed to get the ball out of his hands right away. More than a one-read passer -- does a decent job of discerning where coverage is and will go, though the throws don't always match up. Good feet in and around the pocket -- not frenetic with his lower body. Has the pure velocity to throw into tight windows.
Will zing balls into his receivers with converging defenders and hit the mark. Tough and willing runner who's pretty good at eluding potential tacklers in space. Takes a lot of snaps out of shotgun, but doesn't seem to have any overtly weird mechanical issues when dropping back from under center. Doesn't always deal well with pressure, but certainly isn't afraid of it -- showed at Senior Bowl practices that he can occasionally make accurate deep throws with people right in his face. Adapted quickly to a new offensive system in 2012.
Cons: Has a definite and well-documented tendency to sail balls over the heads of receivers, especially on throws that go longer in the air. Doesn't always set his feet before throwing, particuarly when he's on the move, which leads to some erratic throws that should be relatively easy. Doesn't always process quickly enough, especially under pressure, and will avoid using his athleticism even when the play has broken down. Holds the ball with both hands before deciding to throw and then cocks the ball around and up in a quick but elongated overhand delivery, which may be at the root of some of those late and iffy throws -- too many moving parts. Steps up in the pocket well, but doesn't always re-align -- another reason for erratic throws that shouldn't be.
Needs work on longer touch passes (fades and sideline throws downfield) when timing coverage versus his own receiver on the move. Tends to fall away from those throws. Is asked to do more than just "see it and throw it," but isn't always a great anticipation thrower because of those aforementioned timing issues. Will tend to over-condense his delivery at times, reducing his throwing arc and leading to batted passes. Did not distinguish himself at the Senior Bowl or scouting combine.
Conclusion: The Mark Sanchez comparison below is not to the current version of Sanchez, who's had his mind messed up with the Tebow distraction and Tony Sparano's terrible play-calling. When I watch Nassib, I'm reminded of the Sanchez I saw out of USC -- a tough, effectively mobile quarterback with outstanding footwork who was occasionally erratic but showed interesting potential in certain ways. Believe it or not, Sanchez was highly praised for his football acumen coming out of college, and all indications are that Nassib is a film and gym rat. That's not the problem. The problem with Nassib's current game is that there's a random element to it that should give every NFL team pause.
As my buddy Greg Cosell likes to say, you can play quarterback with some randomness and make it work, but it isn't a random position. For every amazing shot play Nassib pulls off, there are five easy throws that should have been completed but aren't. Just as I believe Sanchez had the potential to be great in the right system and with the right approach, I think Nassib has most of the tools required for success at the quarterback position if he's given what he needs. Perhaps that's a reunion with his college coach (who now coaches the Buffalo Bills), though with all due respect to Doug Marrone, Nassib wasn't able to iron out those kinks at Syracuse.
We'll see how it goes for Nassib. At best, I think he could be what Sanchez might have been in a more QB-friendly system and a little more elbow grease. At worst, he's Brady Quinn waiting to happen.
NFL Comparison: Mark Sanchez, USC, 2008
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