AJ McCarron will get his NFL shot with the Cincinnati Bengals after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. One of the most well-known prospects in the draft thanks to his success at Alabama, McCarron will now need to prove concerns about a lack of arm strength are unfounded.
As the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide, McCarron was in the spotlight more often than many of the higher-rated quarterbacks coming out this year. He made the most of those opportunities, leading the Tide to the BCS National Championship in 2012 and 2013. In doing so, he became the first quarterback to win back-to-back national title games in the BCS era.
McCarron started every game from 2011-14, and put up 9,019 yards and 77 touchdowns passing with just 15 interceptions during his college career. His senior season saw him throw for 3,063 yards with 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Unfortunately for McCarron, that was the highest interception total of his career.
SB Nation ranked the 6'3, 220-pound prospect as the 12th-best quarterback and 167th-best player in the draft in its final top 200 big board. Few question his leadership ability or football IQ, but arm strength is a major concern. NFL Films draft analyst Greg Cosell called McCarron's arm "average at best." McCarron's ability under pressure has also come into question. According to ESPN Stats and Information, McCarron threw four of his seven interceptions last season when under pressure. That, despite the fact he was under duress on just 16 percent of his throws thanks to Alabama's stout offensive line. He won't have a clean pocket as often at the next level, and will likely need to improve under pressure if he's going to be more than a developmental prospect.
Although many questioned McCarron's prospects at the next level, his confidence in himself never wavered. He said he considered himself the best quarterback prospect in the draft, and thought he'd be a first-round pick. At the NFL Scouting Combine, McCarron said his best attribute was "being a winner," and said he felt like he's been disrespected by some. He compared himself to Tom Brady as an example of a player who was overlooked due to perceptions about his size and arm strength.
Weight: 220 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.94 seconds
Vertical jump: 28"
Broad jump: 8'3
20-yard shuttle: 4.34 seconds
3-cone drill: 7.18 seconds
McCarron is a vocal player and isn't afraid of sounding cocky. Heading into the combine, he was adamant that he was being undervalued and set out to show teams what he had to offer. Unfortunately, McCarron confirmed something scouts already knew: he doesn't measure well. Athletically, he can't compete with most of the quarterbacks in this class. But he did throw the football well, executing just about every pass perfectly, which could result in his draft stock rising.