April 11, 2011
With the 2010 NFL season in the books, the draft edging ever closer (and a lockout battle now headed to the courts) it's time to turn our eyes to the pre-draft evaluation process. We've already done scouting reports of the top 40 players on our board, and you can read all the details on the first Shutdown 40 here. For the second Shutdown 40, players 41-80, we have the advantage of combine performances and that much more evaluation material.
Over the next few weeks, we'll also be adding Pro Day data when relevant. But we're always going mostly on game tape; the proper evaluation formula seems to be about 80 percent tape, 20 percent Senior Bowl/combine/Pro Day. If you see what you expect in drills, you go back to the tape to confirm. If what you see in drills surprises you in a positive or negative sense, you go back to the tape to catch where the anomalies may be.
We continue the second Shutdown 40 with TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. The winner of the 2010 Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year Award, Dalton may be the only quarterback in NCAA history to win three Most Valuable Awards in four bowl games — he's certainly on a very short list. It is his tendency to "win" games and come up trumps in key situations that has some draft prognosticators (and apparently, some NFL talent evaluators), giving him close to a first-round grade. Those who are impressed by the "quarterback wins" stat love Dalton's 42-7 record.
What people may not necessarily notice when taking these things into account is that Dalton benefitted heavily from one of the best defenses in college football and a spread offense that laid his reads out for him fairly easily. The numbers are notable, but the wins come in context. Still, the raw stats are pretty serious — he threw 812 completions in 1,317 attempts (a 61.7 completion percentage) for 10,314 yards, 71 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Dalton also ran 413 times for 1,611 yards (a 3.9 yards per carry average) and 22 touchdowns.
He may be the King of the Intangibles, but how well does that show up on tape? And how will those intangibles look at the NFL level?
Pros: The "intangibles" argument is legitimate with Dalton — he is a tough, intelligent leader with great production and a winning spirit that will permeate his offense if he can find a way to succeed in the NFL. Showed statistical improvement each season at TCU. Smart enough to call off at the line — he's more than your typical "check with me" thrower. Doesn't have any obvious mechanical flaws, though lack of arm strength will have him heaving longer throws. Good when asked to get touch and distance on fades and jump balls. Above-average feel for play action for a quarterback who has spent so much time in shotgun.
Cons: Most of Dalton's college throws came in a traditional spread offense, not the hybrid stuff you see in the NFL all the time these days. He's used to taking three-step drops out of shotgun. Rocking back, and making simple-route bailout throws out of multiple clearing and crossing routes designed to split defenses to their breaking points. As a result, what you do not often see from Dalton are the stick throws of 15-25 yards that will allow certain spread quarterbacks (best recent example: Blaine Gabbert; Joe Flacco(notes) and Drew Brees(notes) are other examples) to transcend their college offenses.
Dalton does not possess the intermediate velocity to make those throws even in an offense that specializes in them, and with the receivers to make them happen. During Senior Bowl week, he had a real problem keeping longer passes on track when the wind kicked up. Tends to "shotput" longer throws, leading to further questions about his basic arm strength. Ran single-read most of the time and will need to learn more about progressions at the next level. Has a good arc on most of his throws, but the problem is that the passes that should be on a line tend to shoot up as well.
Conclusion: Dalton will have to do a lot to pass the eye test when it comes to absolute, tangible NFL skills. His work with Jerry Rhome since the 2011 Rose Bowl, and the fact that he hasn't taken a shotgun snap since that game — working under center exclusively — says a lot about his work ethic and understanding of what must be done if he is ever to succeed as a professional. There are enough NFL talent evaluators enamored with the concept of quarterback wins and overall character to see Dalton as a valuable prospect for the reasons that don't show up on game tape, but teams doing due diligence on him will find things to worry about — major fundamental issues that generally take years to correct if they're corrected at all. If Andy Dalton is to get past those obstacles, he'll need every bit of those intangibles everyone keeps talking about. Right now, he looks a lot like a fringe prospect with a limited palette who could find some traction in an abbreviated West Coast offense.
More Second Shutdown 40
#41 — Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia | #42 — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple | #43 — Aaron Williams, DB, Texas | #44 — Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech | #45 — Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA | #46 — Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois | #47 — D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas | #48 -- Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina | #49 — Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy | #50 — Jabbal Sheard, DE, Pitt | #51 — Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa | #52 — Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona | #53 — Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky | #54 -- Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada | #55 — Sam Acho, OLB/DE, Texas
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