Ryan Mallett easily has the strongest arm in this draft, and could potentially have one of the top five arms in the NFL right now. That said, there’s not a lot of people who have him listed as their top choice at quarterback, despite this being a rather weak class. Some of this could have to do with the character concerns we reported on earlier, and some of it has to do with mechanical and accuracy issues.
Size: While he may be just slightly on the thin side, Mallett certainly has the requisite height to see over the line in the NFL. Some question whether he’s too tall, and whether or not that will affect the length of his stride, as well as how quickly he is able to get the throw out at the next level. Overall, Mallett has the size to play in the NFL.
Arm Strength: Easily the strongest aspect of Mallett’s game is the strength of his arm. Mallett has the ability to stick the ball in places other quarterbacks can’t, because of the velocity he can place on the ball. In his first season at Arkansas, he often forgot to take the zip off of some of his passes, but he seems to have corrected that in his junior season. Mallett has the physical ability to make all of the throws at the next level.
Accuracy: Mallett has definitely improved his this season, but he still struggles with it when under pressure. After going over tape on the Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, and Ohio State games, a clean pocket for Mallett is a must. Give him a clean pocket he throws strikes, get in his face, and his mechanics break down, and he starts throwing the ball all over the place (specifically high). Bobby Petrino’s offense at Arkansas, while appearing “pro style” really is more “power spread” than anything else. Mallett often had a lot of very wide passing lanes to throw into, which likely inflated his completion percentage
Mechanical: Much has been made of Mallett’s mechanics, and how they need to be cleaned up at the next level. His footwork, especially outside the pocket is quite bad. This often happens to taller long striders, who aren’t really natural athletically, but with Mallett (who also was a pretty decent basketball player) it shouldn’t be the issue that it is. He throws the ball with an elongated motion that’s going to have to be shortened at the next level. He releases that ball at the same point every time when he has a clean pocket, but when protection breaks down, his release point varies, which leads to high throws. Mallett has quite possibly the best play fake I’ve seen in the last decade, which should serve him well at the next level.
Mobility: Mallett is not very mobile, and teams would be wise to keep him in the pocket at the next level. Mallett did have a surprising amount of success on roll outs at Arkansas, in part due to the extremely convincing play fake he possesses, but the speed of defenders at the next level should dissuade any offensive coordinator from making roll outs a regular part of Mallett’s repertoire.
Pre/Post Snap Reads: Mallett was one of the few top draft eligible quarterbacks with the freedom to change the play at the line. Mallett has shown a knack for a pre snap diagnosis of what coverage shell is coming, but has struggled with correctly diagnosing who the blitzer is on zone blitzes.
Intangibles: While Mallett seemed to “will” his team back to a win against Georgia (though I think at least 50% of the credit there goes to wide receiver Greg Childs), he seemingly has folded in nearly every other big game Arkansas has had with the game on the line. Late interceptions against both Alabama and Ohio State cost the team both games.
Character: Probably the mostly hotly debated aspect of Mallett right now is his character. We reported on his alleged drug use, his arrest for public intox, and there have been numerous other rumors floating around regarding Mallett’s character that have definitely given pause when considering him as the potential face of your franchise. Teammates have vouched for his work ethic, and told us that Mallett even delivered pizzas to students who were camped out in line for tickets to the Alabama-Arkansas game in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Teams will definitely want to do extensive checking into his background before making him the face of their franchise.
Overall Mallett brings a pretty unique package to the table. Teams will want to evaluate the mechanical and personal issues he has, and see if they think those will be a hinderance to his success at the NFL level, after all no one wants to bring in the next Ryan Leaf. Mallett, however, reminds me less of Leaf, and more of Jeff George, for better or worse. I have a mid second round grade on Mallett, though I think he could possibly sneak into the back end of the first round.