2013 NFL Draft: How good of a prospect is A.J. McCarron?

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

A.J. McCarron is outperforming the rest of the junior quarterbacks this season, but is he the best NFL Draft prospect of the bunch?

Before the start of the 2012 college football season, Tyler Bray, Logan Thomas and Aaron Murray were the junior quarterbacks getting all of the love.

That trio heard draftniks (myself included) hype up their talents and envisioned them making big plays in the NFL. While the three of them have disappointed throughout the year, Alabama's A.J. McCarron has picked up some of the slack for his teammates.

Granted, McCarron is surrounded by tons of talent and playing with the best defense in college football, but his play has been impressive this season, and he is creeping his way up draft boards, showing a legitimate NFL skill set.

Let's take a look at where his strengths and weaknesses are, and just how good of a prospect he can become.

Strengths:

Height

This seems a bit obvious, but at 6-feet-4-inches tall, McCarron has ideal height for the NFL. He has a nice, high release point and is able to see over the defensive line with ease. His mechanics are sound, though his release could stand to be a bit quicker.

Accuracy and Ball Placement

McCarron has been deadly accurate this season in all areas of the field. He puts great touch on his deep passes, hitting receivers in stride. He also has solid accuracy off of play action and throws one of the most catchable balls in the entire country. He is completing nearly 70-percent of his passes, a testament to his accuracy.

Athleticism

I don't think McCarron is going to blow anyone away at the combine with his speed, but he has shown an ability to move around the pocket and keep plays going with his feet. He isn't a huge threat to run, but the athleticism to move around the pocket is a trait that would make Tyler Bray very jealous.

Decision making

Agan, this one is almost too obvious, but McCarron hasn't thrown an interception all season long. He has 18 touchdowns and not a single pick. NFL teams will love his ability to take care of the football.

Weaknesses:

Arm Strength

A.J. McCarron's arm strength is not as much of a deficiency as I once thought it was. He has definitely made strides in this area, completing some beautiful deep balls on a weekly basis. My issue with McCarron is that I haven't seen him consistently fit balls into tight windows. He hasn't had to a lot of the time, but that's something I would like to see him prove throughout the rest of the season.

Pocket presence

McCarron plays behind one of the best offensive lines in college football, so he isn't pressured often. However, when he is pressured, McCarron's has a tough time standing in against the rush and making throws because he simply isn't strong enough. His mechanics will sometimes break down or he just won't be able to make a play. I think his footwork in the pocket is sound, and he avoids rushers with his feet pretty well, but being able to stand in against the rush and make a strong throw is important. That seems to be lacking in McCarron's game.

Verdict

McCarron is a rapidly improving prospect who is outperforming all of his classmates at this point. I think he will ultimately return to school for his senior season, because he needs to continue to get bigger and strong to improve his chances of success in the NFL. His leadership, decision making and accuracy are all on a very high level. McCarron just needs to get a bit stronger.

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