Ryan Lindley went to San Diego St, not exactly a QB factory. But many different draftniks are calling him the sleeper QB of the 2012 draft. Greg Cosell has said that Lindley "attempted, and made, more big-time intermediate to deeper NFL-type throws than any QB he evaluated."
Why so much talk about a guy that was not on national TV, not in a BCS conference and that only completed 53% of his passes?
For this post I watched Lindley vs Michigan, TCU, and Boise St. And included video clips to try and illustrate my points.
First of all let's look at his physical measurements. 6'4" 230lbs. That is prototypical QB height and weight, at the combine he ran a 4.87 40 and had a short shuttle of 4.45 w/ a vertical of 29.5". None of this is super important to a QB but it does show he is not a statue w/ no athletic ability. So he passes the eyeball test
Now let's break down his QB play into 4 different categories. Arm Strength, Accuracy, Anticipation, and Intangibles.
JaMarcus Russell, Kyle Boller, Jeff George all 3 guys had absolute cannons for arms, yet all 3 couldn't cut it in the NFL. Chad Pennington, Jeff Garcia, Kelly Holcomb all 3 couldn't break a pane of glass throwing a football as hard as they could, yet 2 of them had solid NFL careers and Holcomb was a decent backup. This is the group Kellen Moore fits into this year. So like a baseball pitcher, a football QB needs to meet a minimum threshold when it comes to arm strength. If you can't get it there, you can't make that throw and your offense needs to scheme around that. An NFL QB needs to be able to throw that deep out to the opposite sideline, not necessarily that 60 yard bomb. Lindley can make that throw. Take a look at this play action pass, he is standing on the far hashmark and throws to the opposite sideline. This is an NFL throw right here. If he can make that throw, he can make any throw needed of him. Look at this throw it is a thing of beauty. Does he have a howitzer for a right arm? No, but it is plenty good enough to play in the league.
While you do need a certain level of arm strength to play in the NFL, I would say that accuracy is more important. If the ball isn't near your receiver, he can't catch it. One common question is can he fit it into windows? Zone defenders are better in the NFL, but you need to be able to throw a receiver into the open areas. Dan Marino often asks how does the QB throw when faced with pressure or on the run? This throw here is a great example of Ryan Lindley's ability to do so. He throws it away from the defender into a spot for his teammate to catch the ball. A common theme of watching Lindley is that his receivers were pretty bad in 2010. Why isn't he a 1st rounder? Because of throws like this, this, and this. His receivers definitely did not help him, but I would say without a doubt that his accuracy is his weakest attribute. On the plus side though, his degree of difficulty on his throws was higher than most college QB's
One of the biggest differences from the college game to the pro game is anticipating open receivers. In college you can throw to open guys, in the NFL you have to throw to open spots. Who does this throw remind you of? The guy has balls. This is a Ryan Fitzpatrick specialty. He sees cover 2, he knows he has the post, he throws it away from the safety right by the earhole of the trailing LB. Lindley seems to read the defensive backfield pretty well. But on the downside he seems to miss underneath defenders a bunch. A good example is this play where the receiver is open, but he doesn't see the DL dropping into the throwing lane. The back shoulder throw is an NFL favorite, here is a great example of ball placement and touch. Here is the deep in against the blitz, another NFL throw. Another correct read here, just poor accuracy. Lindley's reads for the most part were very very good, the only thing he seemed to have trouble with were "surprise" dropping underneath defenders. I was surprised to see how good he was.
Will he stay in the pocket and take a hit to deliver the throw? Or will he run too soon or turtle to protect his ribs. This is a man's throw. Takes the hit, exposes the ribs for a 5 yard gain. But it also leads to things like this. Obviously he knows he can't get sacked for a safety, but this is just a bad decision. Another positive for Lindley is that he played in an NFL-style offense. Lots of play-action and longer drops, not the dink and dunk stuff you see a lot at the college level. This is a big reason why NFL teams like him, he is doing NFL things in college. One additional thing I will say is that, his team fell behind in games, a lot. Therefore opposing defenses knew he was going to be throwing the football. The kid got into trouble trying to do so much, you can see as games got out of hand he got into "hero mode" and tried to do too much.
The main reason I wanted to do this post is because of all the pub he has been getting and who he reminded me of. This guy is Ryan Fitzpatrick w/ a little better arm and one that doesn't run as much. They both are gunslinging QB's who sometimes try and do too much and that costs them dearly. Both have accuracy problems on occasion but see the whole field and read defenses well. Is Lindley an NFL QB? I think so, just not right now, he needs 2-3 years to work on the transition and most importantly his accuracy. I can totally see why so many draft guys are talking about him. I would love to see him on a team w/ real receivers and a defense that doesn't put him down by 20 points every game.
Questions and Comments always welcomed.