BBD Editor Mike Watkins
With the Bills very much entrenched in a QB search this offseason I thought I would share what I look for in a QB. Is it full proof? No, but what really is? I do value certain abilities and aspects of a player over others when looking for what I consider a QB who might turn into a franchise player.Ideal Size:
6’3-6’5 220-230: You want him tall enough to be able to see the field easily and big enough to be able to withstand the hits he is going to take. You get too big and it starts to affect mobility. You get too small and it affects durability and visibility.
Abilities to look for:
Football IQ-To me this is by far and away the most important factor in any QB, without possessing a high football IQ it makes everything else irrelevant. You need to be able to learn, apply, and process a lot of information in short periods of time. It’s not easy to do, but all the great ones have this ability
How to see it…When watching the game it’s tough to point out but you have to ask yourself some questions. What type of offense is he running, is it hard or difficult? Is he making the correct throw? How much of the offense does he control, do you hear him audible?
Instincts/Clutch-This is another must have in a franchise QB. It’s another aspect that either you wake up with or you don’t. This is important because it allows the player to play in and be successful in high-pressure situations. It’s an innate ability to make things happen when everything has fallen apart.
How to see it…How does he play when the lights get brighter? Does he rise to the occasion of shrink? When a play breaks down is he able to make something out of nothing?
Accuracy-There is/was an old football adage that you can teach accuracy, I am not one of these people that believes this. In my opinion either you have it or you don’t, it’s much more of a feel than a taught ability. If you don’t have this ability on the college level, you are simply not going to have it on the next level.
How to see it…Does he hit WR’s in stride? How often do WR’s have to adjust? Has he had 60% comp percentage or better his last two college years? How many of those throws are dump offs/check downs? The type of pass is important. Can he throw the ball with touch? How often does it look like he’s in a rhythm?
Arm Strength-The other old football adage is you can’t teach arm strength. This I agree with. When a QB hits the age of 21-23 his arm strength is about what it’s going to be. He may be able to add a mile per hour or two to his throw after that, but that’s about it
How to see it…Most people think you should look at the deep ball when assessing this and yes that is important, you should look how fast the ball gets down the field. The true litmus test though is the out pattern. What does the ball look like when he makes this throw? If it floats out there that is something you can get away with in college, but is a red flag on the NFL level. You want to look at the arc, the closer it is to horizontal through the throw the better.
Pocket Awareness-There are plenty of football fans around that have had to frustratingly watch a QB that has very little of this, try and get through a game or even a season. This is an ability that tends to get ignored a lot more than it should. People and teams just sell themselves on the theory that if they just protect him better he’ll be fine. The reason they do this is because the QB will tease you with his ability when he does have time and can make clean throws. In the end however it will always haunt them.
How to see it…This is one of the easier abilities to spot. Just watch him in the pocket when a defensive player starts closing in, can you see him sense it and slide up into the pocket or roll away from the pressure. On the negative side does he not feel the pressure or does he often react to pressure that is not there? Does he also speed through his progressions faster than he should?
Mobility-This is becoming more popular in the NFL. There are two different types of running QB’s, there is one who just uses it to escape and add some yards onto a broken play. These types of QB’s are not fast, but they are “shifty”. The other type is a QB who uses it as part of his game and regularly can rip off big gains. The later is becoming more popular in the NFL but durability concerns tend to still follow them.
How to see it…How far are his runs usually, and how often does he use the run? Does he use it when a play breaks down or does he use it when he sees a lane break open in front of him?
Leadership-This is the hardest thing to determine especially if you are TV scouting, heck even if you have the access coaches, GM’s, and scouts its hard to determine. Best you can do is to is watch his mannerisms and keep an eye out for off the field incidents.
How to see it…Where there is smoke there is usually fire. If you keep hearing off the field stuff and then you here a contradictory report consider the source. Often it’s from the HC of the players’ team and he is not going to sell his player down the river no matter how many problems he had with him. It would kill his recruiting and standing/trust with his current players
Mechanics-This can be tough to spot sometimes when you don’t have another QB to make an immediate reference to. Still the more you look for it the easier it is to identify. You want to pay attention mostly to the throwing motion and his feet.
How to see it…How does his throwing motion look? Is it consistent from throw to throw? Is it smooth and effortless? Is it a fast release? Where does the ball come out? Is it too high or low? Where does he hold the ball? Does he have to wind up to throw it? When looking at his feet does he land in nearly the same spot in all his different drops, 3 step, 5 step, 7 step? Does he throw from a good base, not off his back foot or jumping?
-You would like a QB that comes from a lesser team but is raising their play into a much better team than they should be. If a QB is coming from a powerhouse and has tons of talent around him it should be taken into account.
-Wins matter but not as much as you think. Yes it’s important to win games but a college team could have an average QB and still steam roll to a national championship.
-Just watch him, who is making who look good? Does he perform well in the clutch or does he end the game with a bad mistake? Which is more often?
-As mentioned before 60% is a key number you want to look for. If a QB is not at or above this, it is cause for concern. The reason being is that if he’s not accurate on the college level it’s not likely to get better on the NFL level where the windows are much tighter. How he got to the number is just as important as the number, i.e. dump offs or WR’s dropping passes.
-Be very wary of QB’s who come from simplistic offenses. Offenses that only require the QB to read one side of the field, a one read and go, or often run the same 10 or so plays over and over are red flags.
-Can he take a hit? Seems simple enough but some QB’s are much better at absorbing hits than others. The player has to be tough and show that he can get up after a big hit and continue on without his play suffering.