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How To Scout A Quarterback: Fan Guide

Learn some useful tips and tools to help you become a QB expert.

Andy Lyons

With Sunday's "loss" even the most optimistic of Browns fans have to admit that this season is all but over, and that means looking ahead to how the team can improve in the offseason.  Conventional wisdom says the Browns are taking a quarterback in the upcoming draft, and you'll find a wide variety of opinions on who would be best.  I'm not here to give you my opinion.  Instead, I'm here to provide you with some resources and maybe a couple of tips on what to look for so you can do your own research.  I am by no means giving you homework (mostly because I'm not allowed to and none of you would do it anyway).  Use as little or as much of my advice as you see fit.  If you disagree with something I've said or think I overlooked a great website for this kind of thing, shout it out in the comments and I'll try to add it in.

The most important thing to remember when doing any kind of pre-draft research is that you are not an expert.  None of us are.  If we were, we wouldn't be arguing about this stuff on a blog, we'd be off somewhere getting paid big bucks to watch college football.  So if you take nothing else from this article, take this: trust the experts.  I can already feel the displeasure emanating from some of you who want to yell things like "Mel Kiper thought Jimmy Clausen was going to be amazing!" or "Mike Mayock loved Blaine Gabbert!"  You can relax.  I'm not telling you to trust everything that comes out of Todd McShay's mouth.  All I'm saying is that if you think Player A has a good pocket presence but nine scouting reports from industry experts say he doesn't, you should have a pretty good idea of who's right.  Read as many scouting reports as you can and look for trends.  Every evaluator is going to have a different read on a player, but if everybody mentions the same characteristic, you can be pretty certain it's actually there.  With that in mind, let's take a look at some places where you can get input from the experts:

  • Mocking the Draft: SBNation's draft hub is one of the best around, and probably my personal favorite.  Dan Kadar is the man, and our more observant commenters might remember seeing him pop in at DBN occasionally.  The site is all draft, all the time.  While they don't have any in-depth profiles of prospects (yet), it's still a great place to go to get a feel for what a player's value might be and some general notes on their performance.
  • CBS Sports Draft Hub: This is my go-to site for individual scouting reports.  They don't have everything up quite yet but expect information to fill out as the offseason progresses.  The prospect rankings section is great for looking at the best players available at specific positions.
  • Football Outsiders: I'm specifically referring to their "Futures" section.  You may know FO as football stat-nerd heaven, but you'll find a good deal of detailed scouting reports as well.  They don't have a scouting report for every player, but what they lack in breadth they more than make up for in depth.  Just take a look at this scouting report of Johnny Manziel.

In addition to these sites, keep your eye out for anything by Mike Mayock and if you have insider ESPN offers some great content as well.  Even Bleacher Report and Walter Football are valuable resources.  As always, google is your friend and overlord, use it often.  You'll find a lot of scouting reports that aren't on draft specific sites or aren't on the major hubs. And oh yeah, some site called Dawgs By Nature will have plenty of draft profiles, including the amazing write-ups by Josh Finney.

Now that we know where to find scouting reports let's go over what you should look for in a quarterback.  For the most part, you can skip over things like height and weight, or even arm strength.  I know that sounds crazy to some people, but hear me out.  It's definitely better to be tall as a QB, but it isn't necessarily a prerequisite.  If a QB is universally ranked as a first rounder, he's probably already shown that his height isn't an issue.  If you're worried about batted passes, pay closer attention to whether or not the player in question has a high release.  Similarly, any QB who is ranked in the first couple rounds has probably already proven to scouts that he can make all the necessary throws.  Use arm strength as something to separate similar players rather than as something you're specifically looking for.  Perhaps the most important things to look at are how a quarterback handles pressure and how quickly they go through progressions.  This can sometimes be difficult to judge depending on the scheme the quarterback plays in, but these are two of the most important skills for an NFL quarterback.  For mobile quarterbacks, take note of whether they scramble to throw or scramble to run.  Lastly, take note of accuracy or "ball placement."  Accuracy is hard to judge for college quarterbacks, but in the NFL there's a big difference between completing a crossing route and completing it in stride. Lastly, look for anything that is unique to a QB prospect, look for what separates them from the crowd.

Now that we know what the scouts are looking for, let's watch a little film ourselves.  This is the fun part, after all.  I've found that by far the best way to do this is by watching lots of youtube videos.  Not highlight videos, though.  No, you need to watch what I'll refer to as "vs videos."  To find these, simply search "quarterback name vs" on youtube.  What you'll get is game film cut up to show every single play from a particular quarterback in a particular game.  These are generally less than 15 or 20 minutes long and give you a complete picture of how the player performed in game situations.  They can show you first hand what kind of throws the QB is asked to make and what kind of players they have around them.  Watch a few of these and you'll start to get a feel for each QB, and you might be surprised at what trends jump out at you from game to game.  To get you started I'll link to some videos for the top ranked QBs in this years draft class:

There's obviously a lot more where that came from, but that should get you started.  You can find these for pretty much every quarterback projected to go in the first few rounds this spring.  If you can't get enough football, you've found a new rabbit hole to jump down.

So now that you've got the tools and the direction, go forth and form opinions.  Then come back here and tell everybody why they don't know what the hell they're talking about.  There's going to be lots of talk for the next few months about quarterbacks, and now you too will be able to get into three day arguments about things that don't really matter.  Have fun.