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Browns' Potential Draft Target: Zac Dysert

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

While some Browns fans may not be enamored with the idea of adding a quarterback early in this year's draft, there are a few quarterbacks out there who, given a few years of development, may become fine starters in the league. One of these Quarterbacks has not only flown under the radar but produced and looked good on film while working with arguably some of the worst wide receivers in all of college football and an offensive line that actually smelled and resembled Swiss Cheese


This Quarterback is Zac Dysert, Miami, Ohio.



At 6'3" 231lbs, Zac has the build of an NFL QB with a frame that should allow him to add bulk and strength. On tape, Zac showcases tremendous touch and placement, often leading receivers perfectly on deep and intermediate passes both to the side line as well as on vertical routes. He possesses a strong arm with high and tight release. On more than one occasion during his film study I noted a pass that traveled more than 60 yards in the air, in stride to his WR. He showed an impressive ability to place the ball in spots where only his WR could make the catch. He showed what I felt was great accuracy on intermediate and deep passes but struggled more with short / timing routes.

Zac throws on the run extremely well and does so while maintaining his power and accuracy. It will be interesting to see how well he runs the 40 at his pro day because he doesn't appear to be fast by NFL standards but does appear to have the confidence to run if and when needed. His ability to run and improvise will be seen as a plus by whichever team that drafts him.

Zac shares what I feel to be an eerily similar ability / appearance when evading pressure and extending a play like that of his Miami predecessor, Ben Roethlisberger. I see a little Brett Favre in him as well, not in terms of his arm strength, but in terms of his ability to make and extend plays. Similar to both aforementioned NFL QB's, Zac makes plays with defensive linemen hanging on his legs, hanging on his jersey, or barreling straight down on him. He can shift his weight, his upper body, and his hips to elude the rusher and buy more time; all while keeping his eyes up field.

In 2012 it appears he played more from the shotgun but in 2011, as well as in his senior bowl practice tape, he shows the ability to play under center more than most might think -- including running an effective play action, bootleg and showing fluid 3, 5 and 7 step drops. He appeared to be able to read defenses from under center pre-snap and shows good football instincts and awareness. Zac appears to make good decisions with the football and when extending the play he is very aware his position inside/outside the tackle as it pertains to intentional grounding and gets rids of it when he can. He innately looks for the first down marker on scrambles and protects the ball.


If you watch the tape, many of his throws appear to be first reads or reads where he only looks at one half of the field. He will need to have sold NFL scouts on his ability to read zone defenses and go through his progressions. He didn't show the ability to consistently shift the defense by looking off the play / or pump faking to move the safeties. It appears he stares down receivers from time to time as well. He has a tendency to sail the ball on short routes and can deliver the ball late and/or off target on some timing routes.

Zac tends to evacuate the pocket prematurely in favor of the run or to extend the play and while it's hard to blame him given his offensive line at Miami, he won't be able to do that in the NFL. While he has mobility and is great on the bootleg, he will need to build confidence in the pocket and strengthen his throwing technique and pocket movement: consistently stepping up, moving his feet and finding the play with his arm from the pocket.

Zac often took the ball from shotgun and took a single step drop, or simply pivoted, planted and threw. He will need to show that he can consistently take the ball from under center, drop from shotgun and step up in the pocket at the next level.


While some may point to the talent gap and question the fact Zac's production "only" came because played for Miami and was pitted against lesser talent, others may point to the growing list of NFL players that hail from the MAC and the fact that talent can come from anywhere. Nonetheless, Zac Dysert is an intriguing NFL prospect who has flown under the radar. He brings a strong skill set into the draft and has the production that NFL scouts will want to see. He's big, mobile, and has a strong arm with the accuracy to drive the ball into any window at the next level if provided a pocket to throw from. I believe he becomes even more effective on bootleg plays where I feel he can throw on the run better than anybody in this year's draft.

A GM will have to believe that Zac can consistently develop the ability to make multiple reads and progressions at the NFL level / speed and that he can quickly absorb; adapt; and implement new coaching. He will need to work on and improve his timing routes which should get better with practice and building rapport with his receivers.

While Zac does bring great football instincts and an ability to extend the play while under duress, he will have to prove that he can consistently stick in the pocket, adjust to the pocket and make plays with his arm.


It's no secret that the QB position fetches the most value and weight in the draft process and ultimately I feel Zac Dysert will be off the board by the time the 3rd round ends this year.

Zac definitely has what I consider one of the highest NFL ceilings in this draft class. His upside and potential is pro bowl level. If you subscribe to the philosophy that coaching trumps talent, then you might be the GM who takes Dysert in the 2nd or 3rd round and allows him to develop under your current starter for a year or two, a la Aaron Rogers or Colin Kapernick. However, if you are a GM whose focus is finding and developing arm strength talent, then you might decide to roll the dice on an elite arm that can make all the throws, but project, like Tyler Bray or Mike Glennon instead. It all comes down to what you value, what system your team runs, and the level of concern you've assigned to each QB's negatives.

If NFL scouts feel the same way I do, many fans could be surprised how early Dysert is taken off the board. I feel that many of Zac's deficiencies can be corrected with NFL coaching, repetition, and hard work behind a starter for a year or two. Among this year's QB draft class, Zac Dysert is in my top 4 and I believe he has more upside than projects like Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, EJ Manuel, or Tyler Bray.

Here are my game notes and cut ups below:

Senior Bowl Film - North Practice Offense vs Defense

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  • Under center, 3 and 5 step drops, play action and pitch
  • Great deep pass in stride, some good timing routes to outside with ball placed perfectly
  • Good high release
  • Good accuracy on throws out of backfield
  • 2 near sacks that he eluded on play action where OLB beat block and had immediate pressure

Senior Bowl Film - North Practice, 7 v 7

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  • First throw is across the field, driving ball to the outside sideline into coverage. Ball seemed to take a while to get there or the timing was off, WR had to wait out of his break
  • Appears to be very fluid in a 5 step drop from under center
  • Fluid in quick 2-3 step drop, read and hits quick slant/curl
  • Timing out of several of the routes needs polish; seems a tad late on throws yet this could be because he's working with a new group of WR's
  • Appears to go with a single read instead of scanning for options
  • Good vertical route passing, quick release, on target in tight coverage

Zac Dysert vs Temple, 2011

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  • Excellent throw on the run, bootleg, over the shoulder, on the sideline, away from defender where only WR can catch: 30 yard pass in the air
  • Excellent touch and accuracy on location on many of his passes
  • Shows ability to avoid rush, escapes pocket to the outside, switches ball from inside to outside arm as he runs
  • Quick, single reads; stares down WR
  • Takes several snaps from under center, showing comfort dropping back in pocket
  • Shows elusiveness and awareness to escape rush while keeping eyes down field to make passing play on the run, on target with good touch
  • 2nd QTR - 13:53 mark in game, 5:08 on youtube - From under center, drops back in 5 step drop. He quickly looks at option in middle then scans to the sideline and locks in. Shows great touch and accuracy; 30 yard throw across the field; places ball on the WR's outside shoulder, in stride, over his shoulder on the side line.
  • In play action, tried to use his feet too early to escape pocket instead of adjusting in the pocket and continuing to read the play, gets rid of the ball but almost sacked
  • Single read, one step drop and throw INT, granted the OL fell down on his block which allowed the LB to step right into the throwing lane
  • Another great play action pass to outside, in stride, over the shoulder in coverage to side line
  • Shows strength to battle OL during sack situations, stay upright, and get rid of the ball when possible. This could be seen as reckless at times, but seems more aware of the situation than scared or uncertain of the moment
  • Play action, good vertical pass to TE in end zone through two defenders, quick / high release, on target
  • Leads RB out of backfield perfectly
  • Play action INT was inaccurate and a little ahead of his WR, he threw on run trying to elude rush, WR bobbled ball into hands of DB, Dysert made TD saving tackle diving in front on man and tripping him up
  • Drives team down in 4th QTR nearly entire field for a TD in last 5 minutes, 21 - 24
Accuracy and touch:





Throwing on the run:






Sideline accuracy:




Zac Dysert vs Ohio State

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  • Shotgun, one step drops, single reads dominate the early play calls
  • Shows ability, fluidity and accuracy to throw and make plays on run
  • Good early recognition on first deep pass of game, granted WR was wide open, on target and in stride
  • Excellent pocket awareness, covering up the ball, ducking, and slipping the sack, then getting the ball out to his WR
  • Shows good zip on intermediate inside throws, timing looked a little off though
  • Over throws RB in flat for sure TD near goal line
  • Good vision and awareness while on run near goal line, draws defense into him, and finds open man in back of end zone, TD catch dropped
  • Play action from inside the 10 yard line, 45 yard throw in the air, in stride in double coverage but WR drops catch going to ground
  • Accuracy and touch continues to show up tape
  • His WR and TE's dropped a lot of passes
  • Finally shows ability to roll out to his left side and throw that direction with decent power and accuracy
  • Sticks in pocket, keeps balance and keeps upright with defenders hands on his jersey, makes throw on target with good zip
  • Seriously reminds me of a both Ben Roethlisberger and a little of Bret Favre with his elusiveness in the pocket and ability to stretch plays and avoid rushers while keeping his eyes up the field

Zac Dysert vs Ohio, 2012

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  • Couple early passes on WR screen type plays, one step read and pass
  • Good pass up middle off hands of WR, pass a little behind WR and LB gets his hands on it to deflect but Dysert moves in pocket to create passing lane, but again stares down his WR the entire time, not seeming to look at other progressions
  • Good job driving the ball to his WR on side line
  • In stride deep pass, wide open, down side line for a 50 yard TD strike, 30 yards in air
  • 2:26 in youtube, 4:00 in real time, shows ability to come back across his left and make deep 40 yard pass across his body. This was a great show of ability, but not a great decision as it appears he may have been lucky on this play -- he threw into triple coverage with 2 WR's in same area on crossing routes
  • Continues to show touch passes with accuracy, on target against sideline where only WR can make the catch. WR should have caught for a TD but DB knocked it out of his hands
  • Shows a poor decision while on run, although he eluded rush and extended the play well, he should have thrown ball away but forced into end zone for INT
Accuracy, only where WR can catch it:


Pocket Technique and accuracy:




Zac Dysert vs Akron, 2012

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  • Accurate early pass up sideline for 30 yards, but ruled incomplete as WR came down on sideline
  • Another accurate early pass, 40 yards down sideline into end zone, perfect touch over shoulder only where WR can catch, thrown while on run, eluding the rush, WR doesn't appear to get foot down in bounds but ref calls it a TD
  • Escapes pocket and shows good running awareness to find first down marker and get there
  • 25 yard pass on the money, over shoulder, on sideline, good early read of defense to exploit weakness in single coverage
  • Great run fake, PA, TD in red zone, ball is actually tipped coming past LOS and thrown behind WR but still is caught for TD
  • Ball seems to be a tad behind or in front of receivers on a few early routes, but on target and catchable, still not a silky smooth and in stride as other games
  • Recognizes the coverage and the blitz and escapes the pocket and races for first down, athletic play; tucks balls as he approaches defenders and leaps for first down
  • Shows ability to read defensive blitz, 7 man blitz, sees opening behind the zone in the end zone and lofts ball over coverage with great touch and accuracy for TD while on the move / sliding in pocket
  • Excellent NFL level throw to the back shoulder as the WR, where only he can catch it. Ball would have sailed out of bounds otherwise, so QB protects ball and puts it only place his guy can make a play
  • Shoved with hand in his chest as he throws, stays upright and keeps ball on target up field to wide open WR
  • Ball can sail on shorter throws
  • Shows great ability to leave pocket and run for big yardage
  • Shows two great "Big Ben" type plays late in the game where he has defensive plays hanging on his legs but he seems to be able to keep his balance, shed the player and still either get rid of the ball / throw it away or find the open player
  • A play where he started looking left, stepped up and looked to a second read was almost INT, didn't evaluate or see the defenders in coverage
  • Led the team on a game winning drive with less than 5 minutes to go

Accuracy in end zone:


Sideline Accuracy:


35 yard TD throw, on run, perfectly placed in stride where only WR can catch it:


Zac Dysert vs Boise State, 2012

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  • Some poor early reads and throws into coverage, nearly INT 2x
  • WR beats Jamar Taylor but drops sure TD, goes right through his hands, in stride, good touch
  • Zac takes snap in shot gun and freaking pooch punts the ball, perfectly btw, down inside the 5 yard line
  • Receivers dropping lots today, another sure TD dropped in end zone
  • Speed of defense seems to be an issue for his OL, often leaving him pressured and the DB's speed seems to be limiting their vertical attack, lots of WR screens