Greg Cosell is always a must-listen. The NFL Films senior producer watches a ridiculous amount of film on a truly ludicrous amount of draft prospects and NFL teams. While he's not always right (no one is), his opinion is certainly one worth listening to, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. So when he appeared on Sportstalk 790 for Houston with Lance Zierlein, I just started transcribing the wall of information.
"There's no quarterback in this draft to me, you would say he's a number one pick in this draft," Cosell said. "That doesn't mean it's not gonna happen. We know that. I can tell you for a fact there were teams over the years who had a quarterback rated in the second round, they took him in the top five because he was a quarterback."
Quarterbacks are always going to get bumped up, though, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just a reflection of how difficult it is to find good passers in the NFL, and how important the position is to the NFL game. No matter how good Jadeveon Clowney turns out to be, he'll never impact the game the way a franchise quarterback will. So I never buy the argument that teams may be reaching for worse players. They're taking players who make a bigger impact on the game.
But enough of that -- let's get to what Cosell actually had to say about each player.
"[Manziel] is a see it, throw it passer," Cosell told Zierlein. "He's not an anticipation thrower. He's not a patient pocket player. If he doesn't see it right away, he'll be gone, he'll leave the pocket. That's what he does up to this point, that's all we have to judge."
"Then you have to decide if the random improvisational play, which obviously he's unbelievably phenomenal at, you have to decide how many of those he can make in the NFL. Can you live on those plays in the NFL? These are what evaluators have to determine. You also have to look at his overall play."
This is, effectively, the Michael Vick and Jeff Garcia factor. Vick was never able to run an offense the way it was intended: he bolts from the pocket too soon, hangs on to the ball too long and turns the game into backyard football. That can lead to some amazing performances, and he's put up some terrific games, but it's tough to build a consistent offense around it. So then you have to find ways to create a solid basis for your offense to work every year.
"There's a wide variation in his play. And I think the consistency issue will always be concerning for any evaluator. And then you have to decide, even when he plays well, how is he playing well? Does that translate to the league?"
All that said, Cosell was clear that Manziel has the tools to develop into a quality pocket passer. The questions is whether he'll eventually get there, and that's a much more difficult question to answer.
"There's no question he makes throws from the pocket. I went through all of his 15+-yard completions, and the large majority came from the pocket, contrary to what people might think. I view that as a positive. Then you have to break those down in detail and see what kind of throws they were, and he's not an anticipation thrower. And you know in college, guys tend to be wide open."
"On Bortles, the more I watched the more I thought there were some positives," Cosell said. "He's not a great thrower. You don't come away thinking 'Wow, he's a terrific thrower.' I would say he doesn't really drive the ball. He's got a little bit of a quirky delivery, which means that he's got a tendency to push the ball as opposed to really drive it."
And yet, to some extent, Bortles fits the NFL game more than Manziel -- or at least what offensive coordinators have traditionally looked for in their quarterbacks.
"I think he's for the most part a pocket passer, but he's certainly got the ability to execute boot action and extend plays outside of structure, he can do that. He showed some timing, some anticipation. I think he needs a lot of work on his footwork in the pocket, he has a tendency to throw with poor balance."
Which, again, comes down to more development. Given those flaws, he may be a good candidate for Jeff Tedford, who's a footwork- and technique-stickler. Get a guy with some issues with the right coaches, and they can blossom. Get them with the wrong ones and they'll crash and burn. That's much less of an issue with my personal favorite in the draft: Teddy Bridgewater.
If I listened to Cosell correctly, he effectively thought that Bridgewater was the most immediately pro-ready passer in the draft.
"I think that [Bridgewater's] throwing skill set and his movement will remind some of Russell Wilson," Cosell said. "I think he throws the ball very well. I think he's got a very good feel. Now he's a guy who understands windows, understands timing, understands anticipation."
"He was asked to make decisions before the snap of the ball at the line of scrimmage and I thought that he did that extremely well."
His physical ability will be questioned, though. Bridgewater is short, and may measure in as small as 6'1" at the NFL Scouting Combine. That doesn't need to be a massive problem, but combined with a slight frame and not the best arm, it's a concern.
"You would say he's got the arm strength to make all the necessary throws, but he doesn't have a gun. He's not an extreme talent where you go 'Wow, look at this kid throw the football.' But I think overall he's got very light feet, he sets up quickly. His delivery's compact, there's not a lot of moving parts, which is always good. He showed pocket movement. I think for the most part he was a very efficient player."
Bridgewater may fit Jeff Tedford's offense best. Tedford is all about distributing the ball to playmakers, getting speed in space and having an answer to every question the defense throws at a player. That requires a quarterback who above all else is accurate, quick in his delivery, and very football smart. Bridgewater is the only quarterback in this draft who has shown the ability to do all that.
But that doesn't mean the Buccaneers will pick Bridgewater over any of the other players, or over Mike Glennon, for that matter. There are many more moving parts to this decision than just Jeff Tedford, with Lovie Smith and Jason Licht ultimately making that decision, and there's a very good chance the Bucs won't even get to make that choice.
Finally, it's good to keep one thing in mind: these players are all projects. The finished product draft pick does not exist.
"I think a lot of people think that players come into the NFL as finished products," Cosell said. "And this is what they are. That's not the case at all. We're just evaluating the guy now, and then you have to decide as an organization what his upside is. You know, can his arm get stronger maybe with better technique, can he learn more? All these things factor in."
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