With the NFL Draft less than a week away is time to start identifying players that could be a good fit for the New York Jets. Recently draft analyst Ron Pickett took the time to answer some questions about this year's quarterback class. For those of you that are not familiar with Ron, Mr. Pickett is a high school football coach and speed/agility trainer than has been doing extensive work in scouting and game film analysis.
Tyson: Heading into the 2014 season what is your evaluation of Geno Smith?
Ron: There's certainly reason for optimism regarding Geno Smith and his future as the New York Jets quarterback. A full offseason of an NFL training program, more time to familiarize himself with Marty Mornhinweg's offense, and coming off some quality starts to end the year have got Jets fans excited about his potential. However, he needs to show he has learned to take care of the football better and be able to move the offense consistently. When Geno Smith was making quick, smart decisions the Jets were successful in 2013 and that experience should certainly help him in 2014.
TR: If you are John Idzik and the Jets do you consider taking a quarterback in the middle rounds?
RP: With Geno Smith being the only quarterback who will be under contract in 2015, the Jets will most definitely look for a quarterback in the middle rounds. Every year a quality 2nd round QB falls because of teams addressing other needs and that could happen this year. The Jets will use their board and decide when the value and timing of the pick is appropriate, just like when they selected Geno Smith in the second round last year.
(Note to reader: The following questions assume that Manziel, Carr, Bortles, and Carr are off the board.)
TR: What are your thoughts on AJ McCarron?
RP: I don't think AJ gets enough credit for what he's done at Alabama. Unfortunately, the quarterbacks that he has preceded were labeled as "game managers" because of the unreal athleticism at all positions and I feel that AJ is being labeled that as well. I think AJ is far more than a game manager. He has more than enough arm strength, has the moxie and the "it" factor that scouts are looking for. His football IQ is off the charts. You can argue that if it was not for McCarron in 2013, Alabama loses to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. McCarron put the team on his back(showing leadership qualities- pivotal for the QB position) and threw for 334 yards and 4 touchdowns. The issue that he needs to fix is his mechanics. He tends to throw off his back foot, which leads to floating deep balls and less velocity on the ball that he should have for threading the needle. When he steps into his throws, McCarron can make every NFL throw. He has very heavy feet, which means he cannot move around the pocket well enough to extend plays at the NFL level. He will need to improve on his ability to read defenses and not drop his eyes on the pass rush in order to get through his progressions in the NFL. He's a third-fourth round prospect on my board.
TR: Jimmy Garoppolo has been receiving a lot of press lately. What is your analysis of Jimmy and where do you see him being selected?
RP: Garoppolo impressed scouts so much at the East-West Shrine Game that they invited him to the Senior Bowl where he did not disappoint. He doesn't have the ideal height to play NFL quarterback, but he is a gritty QB who does whatever it takes for his team to win. Jimmy is a quick processor, meaning he processes the coverage and makes quick decisions. Garoppolo shows a nice ability to elude the rush and reset his field while keeping his eyes down field. He has a great quick release, but can throw a bit sidearm at times. He has an adequate arm, but I worry about him making the long hashmark-sideline routes in the NFL. Like Geno Smith and many other quarterbacks coming from spread shotgun offensive systems in college, he'll have to show a willingness to learn to play under center and make his drops from there as opposed to 5 yards in the backfield. I see him as a 2nd-3rd round pick because of his high ceiling and his football IQ and scouts are getting to know him as an "extremely humble and coachable prospect."
TR: Zach Mettenberger is name that has been associated with the Jets. Your thoughts?
RP: Mettenberger is your prototypical pocket passer. He's a big, thick quarterback who has a great arm over the middle. He struggles a bit on his deep balls down the sidelines, but with reps in the NFL, he'll learn how to "drop it in the bucket." He is only 5 months removed from an ACL tear, but he showed an ability to move around at his pro day. He is strong enough to break tackles and extend plays, but won't "wow" anyone by breaking contain and running on the edge. The thing I love about Mettenberger's game is his patience. If he's not comfortable with the window to throw the ball, he will throw it away. Although Mettenberger isn't fast by any means he is not afraid to tuck the ball and run up the middle to get a tough first down. He will need to learn to diagnose blitzes better and feel pressure. The internal clock issue could be present for him in the beginning of his professional career. Zach certainly has the presence and the make up of your ideal NFL quarterback, but the issue is the off-the-field issues. He left the University of Georgia after losing out to Aaron Murray and an alleged rape charge. He'll need to prove to the Jets that he has matured from his past issues and will be a high character leader that they are looking for. He would be a steal in the 3rd-4th round for the Jets. If he didn't have ACL surgery, he'd be a Top 30 pick.
TR: Logan Thomas is an intriguing player that visited with Gang Green. Do you think that he can make it as pro quarterback and where do you think that he will be drafted?
RP: Two years ago, watching Logan Thomas in that bowl Game, I thought I was looking at the next best QB in college football. Not sure if he lost confidence, or there were other issues, but the Logan Thomas I saw at Senior Bowl practice, the game, and his film is certainly a different player. I think his biggest issue is that he hasn't reached his full potential and I'm not sure he has the confidence yet to achieve that. In order to play quarterback in the NFL, he's going to need a lot of development under an outstanding quarterbacks coach that can boost his confidence and get the most out of him. Logan certainly has the physical traits that are ideal for a quarterback; big frame, probably the strongest arm in the class. He needs to learn how to put touch on his passes at times, improve his accuracy, his ability to recognize coverages, and get rid of his tendency to stare down his intended receiver. If a team wants to draft Thomas as a quarterback, he should go 5-6th round, but a team could easily try him at quarterback, pull the plug on the experiment and convert him into a tight end. I think Logan Thomas can be a backup quarterback who can spot start in the NFL only if he has significant development under a great quarterback coach for a few years.
TR: Aaron Murray is another player that has been mentioned to the Jets in the later rounds. Would he be a good fit in Marty Mornhinweg's system?
RP: Murray would be an excellent fit for Marty Mornhinweg's system. Aaron is a smart, savvy quarterback who shows an ability to move around the pocket, extend plays, and make the right decisions. He shows a solid base on his throws and has played in a pro-style system. Although he is only in the 6'1" range he has a high and quick release(similar to Drew Brees) that could make him an effective NFL quarterback. He has a tendency to make one bad decision per game on film that cost Georgia some games. With good coaching, that mistake can be fixed. The best part about Murray in a West Coast Offense is his quick processing skills, ability to scan the field and read coverages and will put the ball where only his receiver will be able to catch it. He threw his wide receivers open in his time at Georgia, meaning he would throw it before they made their break on their route. This type of throw makes it nearly impossible for a defensive back to intercept him. Like Mettenberger, if Aaron wasn't hurt in 2013, we could be talking about him as one of the Top 3 or 4 quarterbacks off the board in this draft.
TR: Are there any other quarterback prospects that you would consider in the later round?
RP: Guys to look for in the later rounds that I think with some development time could be decent NFL players would be: David Fales, Keith Wenning, Tahj Boyd, and Connor Shaw. The guy to keep an eye on is Wyoming QB Brett Smith. He is everything you want Johnny Manziel to be and he's taller than Manziel. Smith makes better decisions and doesn't bail on throws once his first read isn't open. I think Smith, once adjusted to the NFL, could show off his skill set and be a fun quarterback to watch. Couple others to watch for as either 7th rounders or UDFAs are guys like Bryn Renner(North Carolina, hurt in 2013), Jeff Mathews (Cornell) and Garrett Gilbert(SMU)
TR: Finally, what is your take on Johnny Football? Do you think Manziel can get it done in the NFL?
RP: I think Manziel is a fine athlete. He has the "wow" factor that teams like to see because it sells tickets. He has a very strong arm for a quarterback of his stature, and tremendous speed to become a nuisance as a runner. My concerns are two-fold on Manziel. First, having a huge college target like Mike Evans bailed Manziel out on some terribly poor thrown balls. He has a tendency to float some throws when throwing on the run and opens his hips too much causing some high throws. He has a very wide base in the pocket, often throwing flat-footed using only his arm to throw the ball. Johnny showed some discomfort when being contained in the pocket by disciplined defenses as evident in the Missouri game in 2013. You could bet that defensive coordinators in the NFL will make it a necessity for their defensive ends to keep contain and force Manziel to beat them from the pocket where he is more uncomfortable. My other concern with Johnny is the off-the-field issues. He has been in the news far too often for organizations who want a "face of the franchise" quarterback. He has shown some maturity as of late, but is that a result of the draft process or true maturity? Johnny is certainly a risk a team has to be willing to take and I do think a smart offensive coordinator will get him on the move, on sprint outs, use the read option, and maximize the skill sets that made him a Heisman Trophy winner in 2012 and a finalist again in 2013. Johnny Football will have to show a willingness to adjust both on and off the field in order to be a successful NFL quarterback. Manziel certainly has the competitiveness, on-the-field leadership, and work ethic that teams want so he should be a fun player to watch grow as a quarterback in the NFL.
TR: Ron, once again thank you for your time. If you would like to talk about the draft or anything Jets you can contact Ron Pickett on Twitter: Pickett_Ron