Robert Griffin III. Russell Wilson. Colin Kaepernick. Cam Newton.
What do all these quarterbacks have in common? They’re all part of a new breed of quarterback. An evolved version of rock-solid football IQ meets stellar pocket passing meets freakish athlete. Combine all these with great leadership skills, and you have a guy that’s nearly impossible to stop.
These quarterbacks have now cursed scouts with the task of finding similar qualities in this year’s quarterback class and it’s apples and oranges to compare the two.
Former Syracuse standout and projected first round pick Ryan Nassib possesses nowhere near the athletic ability of this ever so popular type of QB. In fact, Geno Smith is arguably the most athletic quarterback in this year’s draft class, as he ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the combine. So why are more and more draftniks starting to see sleeper potential in the former Syracuse standout? Let’s take a look at another group of prominent starters at the position.
Drew Brees. Tom Brady. Peyton/Eli Manning. Phillip Rivers.
What do these quarterbacks have in common? Well, they have laser arms with great accuracy at the short, medium, and deep passing levels. They also have good size (with the exception of Brees, none of them stand shorter than 6’2).
More importantly, they have fantastic ability to react to defenses quickly. Also, their ability to get the ball out to an open receiver in accurate, knee-jerk fashion is second to none. They certainly aren’t successful because of their speed (none of them ran faster than a 4.8 40 at their respective Combines.)
But their last, and perhaps most important, trait to their success is confidence. Which is sky high. They carry themselves in a way that commands attention the minute they step onto the field until the final snap. Players stop and listen to them in the huddle. Their cool and calm demeanor puts teammates at ease and opponents on their heels.
Before you start freaking out and think I am saying Nassib will be the next Brees or Brady, let me be clear that’s not what I am getting at. Nassib is still very raw, and needs to refine many aspects of his game. But there are indications he has skills similar to the dominant pocket passer type of quarterback — especially Brees - and could be the biggest steal of the 2013 NFL draft.
While Nassib isn’t a world-class athlete like RG3 and Kaepernick, his array of talents in accuracy, footwork, anticipation and intangibles are starting to get noticed. These are the same traits often cited as primary reasons QB’s like Brees, Brady and Manning have been so successful. Of course, those quarterbacks also have the big arm, which Nassib may or may not have based on conflicting reports from scouts. Arm strength is a tough thing to gauge until you see it in real time. Heck even last year scouts were starting to doubt Andrew Luck’s arm a little bit.
Why Nassib is impressive
Two weeks before the 2012 season, the Syracuse Orange completely revamped its offense. Nassib was able to grasp the new tweaks quickly, which consisted of more streamlined passing, misdirection and faster pace.
He learned the pro-style offense well enough to turn in the best season of his college career in 2012, passing for 3,749 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also led Syracuse to their second-straight bowl game, which resulted in a 38-14 win over West Virginia and this year’s No. 1 rated quarterback prospect, Geno Smith. This goes to show you how quick Nassib can learn an offense quickly. And since he already ran a pro-style scheme in Syracuse, unlike Smith, is a step ahead in that regard.
His sacks fell off every year as a starter, dropping from 29 in 2011 to 16 in 2012. He eclipsed the school record in passing yards and completions despite dealing with a 35+ drops from Syracuse receivers in 2012.
At 6’2, 227 lbs, Nassib is thick bodied and can handle big hits from incoming pass rushers. He’ll be able to deliver the ball through a hit, something every pro has to do at one point. His 10 1/8” hands will help him with ball security.
His play action and ability to sell fakes is very good, which is something he’ll need in NFL since he’s not very fast. As mentioned earlier, Syracuse ran a fast-paced offense in 2012, something many of the best NFL quarterbacks utilize when they need a quick score at the end of a game or half.
Where he’s better than Smith
The ability to drop back three steps and pass a ball to an open receiver two to three seconds later on a rope in the just the right spot is one of the most crucial skill sets in the NFL. Factor in a daunting pass rush trying to take your head off makes it even tougher.
Nassib, on paper, is best equipped to deal with goal at the pro level as of right now. His footwork on three, five, and seven-step drops is at a near-elite level, drawing comparisons to Andrew Luck. He adjusts to his reads quickly and can go through five of them before he even throws a pass, something hammy Jon Gruden was impressed with during Gruden Camp. Keep in mind, Smith took nearly all his snaps from the shotgun in West Virginia’s spread offense.
Speaking of Smith, though the former Mountaineer has Nassib beat in just about every physical category including size and speed, his intangibles don’t quite measure up. Nassib is a grittier player who isn’t known for giving up on games while Smith has a tendency to sulk after interceptions and looks clueless on the sideline. Something he did against the good, but far from great, Kansas State defense last season. Smith also isn’t as accurate in the short to intermediate passing game as Nassib was. Smith also isn’t as quick of a decision maker as Nassib.
In Syracuse’s last five games in 2012, Syracuse went 4-1 while West Virginia went 2-3. Nassib threw 13 touchdowns and just one interception during that stretch. Though, to be fair, Smith also threw 13 touchdowns to three interceptions after he struggled midway through the season.
To see a more detailed analysis of Smith and other QB's in the 2013 draft class, check out this piece by Phil Clark https://fantasyknuckleheads.com/2013-nfl-draft-is-geno-smith-still-head-of-the-class/
and Greg Brosh's Updated Top Five Quarterback Prospects
Where Nassib suffers
It’s no secret this year’s quarterback class has its flaws and Nassib is no different. Though he has a big arm, he struggles with accuracy in the deep passing game. He has been known to trust his arm too much, resulting in poor decisions that often lead to interceptions. Much like Smith, he tends to hop a little bit coming out of his drop back, which hurts his accuracy at times. Nassib also hurt his stock slightly at his pro day, completing 69 of 75 passes and not overly impressing scouts with his arm strength.
The final word
If Buffalo ends up drafting him, Nassib will be reunited with former coach Doug Marrone and will likely beat out lowly Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job. This gives Nassib an even bigger head start since he’ll already know the offense. Also, under the new CBA, the Bills could lock Nassib up for five years if they take him in the first round, which makes it more likely Nassib could get selected in the No. 8 spot since it will give the Bills more time to groom him.
Nassib’s biggest obstacle will be overcoming bad decisions, something nearly every rookie quarterback goes through. It doesn’t matter how talented you are as a passer. If you consistently give the ball away to the other team, you’ll be out of the league in a flash. However, his grittiness and leadership qualities are better than most quarterbacks in this draft. His intelligence will allow him to take over a locker room and should help propel him to prominent starter status in the NFL.