“With the 74th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select Ryan Mallett, quarterback Arkansas”.
How could a prospect with Mallett’s physical tools, football intelligence, and accomplishments in the SEC conference fall to the 3rd round of the NFL Draft?
Quarterbacks are selected in the 3rd round every year, but I can’t remember a player as talented and productive as Mallett falling this far. As great as Joe Montana became, his physical tools took time develop, and he wasn’t physically impressive at Notre Dame.
With Ryan Mallett it was different.
He stands close to 6’7, weighing roughly 250 pounds. He’s able to throw a football 87 yards. As a participant in the television show Sports Science, one of his passes clocked in at 65.4 mph, which is the strongest throw ever clocked at the Sports Science lab. So we know his size and arm strength weren’t a problem.
Ryan Mallett finished the 2010 season with a completion percentage of 64.7% in a pro style offense. An offense that asked him to make NFL throws based on NFL routes under Arkansas head coach, and former NFL head coach and offensive coordinator, Bobby Petrino. I personally witnessed Mallett make every throw from the shallow to the deep areas of the field in 15 games of evaluation over two seasons with good accuracy and timing.
“Some of the plays called in New England will be exactly the same as they were called here [in Arkansas]…I heard [Tom] Brady call a play on T.V. the other day ‘136 dual right choice’ and that’s the exact same way we would call that play. So there are going to be certain things that are going to be a real easy carryover because of the system we use.. We had a system where you utilize your site or ‘hot’ reads, where if they bring an unblocked blitzer you have to get the ball out of your hand, Ryan was really good at that, that will be a strength for him because of his height and quick release. The game we won at Mississippi State in overtime was a ‘hot’ throw to the running back. [Mississippi State] brought more guys than we could protect, the running back went ‘hot’, Ryan saw it, threw him the ball and he walked into the end zone, so there will be a lot of carryover as far as how they handle the blitz and pressure. It’s the same way we do here” said Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino.
So we know that Ryan Mallett is ready for the complexity of an NFL system based on his two years at Arkansas. Were his mechanics inconsistent?
Speaking with beat reporter Ian R. Rapoport of the Boston Herald this week, former quarterback coach at Michigan and current offensive coordinator of the Temple Owls, Scott Loeffler had this to say:
“He has got tremendous hip turn, He’s a tall guy. He just doesn’t throw with his arm, he uses his entire body. He’s mechanically very sound for where he’s at, I’m sure when New England gets him, they’ll make him even more mechanically sound. He just has really super-efficient technique. Tremendous hip turn. His lower half and his upper half work together tremendously. The chest, hips, the elbow all lead before the ball and he’s just able to efficiently use his entire body, and he’s got a terrific motion. You have that size, that power, that hip turn, that type of mechanics that stay in phase and the whole body works together. He’s got a whip on him that’s really impressive.”
“Whenever you have great mechanics, you can do whatever type of throw you want to, obviously. It’s amazing when you look at these guys across the league that are mechanically sound and use their body, they can throw for many years,” Loeffler explained. “Obviously, all quarterback’s arms eventually go. But if he keeps his body right, keeps his mind right, trains hard under Coach Belichick and Tom Brady, he’ll be a hell of a player..”
He has the size, arm strength, accuracy, mechanics, and extensive experience in an offensive system with NFL passing concepts. He threw for over 7,400 yards and 62 touchdowns with only 19 interceptions in two seasons. So maybe his lack of speed had something to do with his falling stock. Mallett ran a 5.37 40 yard dash and had a vertical jump of 26 inches. Both would’ve been the worst numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine.
But after taking a close look at Mallett’s sack numbers stacked up against other top prospects in this draft class, it shows that Mallett’s lack of athleticism wasn’t a problem.
Ryan Mallett was sacked 25 times in 411 pass attempts which equals a sack per every 16.4 attempts.
Cam Newton was sacked 23 times in 280 pass attempts which equals a sack per every 12.1 attempts.
Christian Ponder was sacked 23 times in 299 pass attempts which equals a sack per every 13.0 pass attempts.
Jake Locker was sacked 19 times in 332 pass attempts which equals a sack per every 17.4 attempts.
So we see here that Ryan Mallett was sacked less per passing attempt than both Cam Newton and Christian Ponder, and only sacked by one attempt more than Jake Locker. Both Cam Newton and Jake Locker played in offenses where many of their pass attempts were on roll-outs or with a moving start, both of which are more favorable to a quarterback than a traditional drop back offense which Mallett played in.
All three of these quarterbacks are considered highly athletic. But their athleticism did not equate to less sacks.
The more that I studied Mallett’s on-field criticisms and compared them to his peers of both this draft class and many others, I found that what was a negative for Ryan Mallett, wasn’t a negative for Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford or even Drew Bledsoe. All of them were drafted #1 overall and there weren’t many differences statistically or physically.
I came to the conclusion that it obviously wasn’t Ryan Mallett’s on-field concerns that caused his fall in the draft. He was clearly a first round talent. So I took the time to investigate what many teams may deem off-field character issues.
I found that early in Ryan Mallett’s college career at Michigan he was considered immature by some who were close to the program at the time. He had trouble adjusting to life away from home, but even among his teammates and team leader Jake Long, Mallett was recognized early for his strong work ethic and natural leadership skills.
“Ryan Mallett has really stepped up. He’s gotten better all through camp and spring ball and it’s kind of like he’s a red-shirt freshman. He was here all spring and learned the offense then. He was here all summer, and then during camp, and he just fine tuned what he needed to with the offense. I think that gives him confidence. It gives everyone around him confidence. He didn’t hesitate and he took charge. I can guarantee you, he’s not intimidated by anything. I think that’s one of the things I like about him. He’s got a lot of confidence. He’s got a great arm, and yet he’s got to go into this week and play within himself and within the context of the game plan, because it’s really about winning. And with him it’s not about Ryan Mallett. It’s about doing the things that will help this team win.” Said Jake Long.
So despite the perceived immaturity as an 18 year old who came to Michigan ranked the #2 quarterback in the country by Rivals.com, he was characterized by a team captain as a hard working, confident quarterback that put his team first.
That seems to be good character to me.
After the retirement of Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr and the arrival of new head coach Rich Rodriguez, Mallett decided to transfer knowing that he didn’t have the running speed and overall skill set to run a spread-option offense.
The first sign of legitimate character concern’s came in March of 2009. Mallett was charged with public intoxication and according to the arrest report there was a “faint odor of marijuana coming from Mallett”. So here we have our first red flag.
Ryan Mallett was drunk in public prior to the 2009 season, with a suspicion that he was using marijuana. After that, nothing. That’s the only legal trouble that Mallett was cited for in his collegiate career. He had no academic troubles and maintained a 3.2 GPA through his two years at Arkansas. He didn’t miss class, team meetings, or practice. He failed no drug tests while he was in school according to head coach Bobby Petrino. So what are his troubles?
In February a report was released by Tony Softli, the one time director of player personnel for the St. Louis Rams, and current ESPN employee that stated there were “heavy rumors” that Mallett was addicted to drugs, and that this addiction was the reason why Ryan Mallett chose not to declare for the 2010 NFL Draft.
What are those rumors based on? How was he so productive as an addict and student?
After much searching the best I could find on Mallett’s character were comments and opinions from unnamed general managers, “He reminds me of Ryan Leaf”, “He’s a 6’7 Eminem”, “We don’t know if he’s wired right”, “He’s a different dude”. So these are his character concerns? What exactly does all this have to do with character? These are personality traits and labels that people have placed on him. It doesn’t mean he has bad character. And why are the sources always anonymous?
The more I dug around, the more I found that people who knew Ryan Mallett (high school coaches, college coaches, teammates) all had nothing but positive to say about him. Many of these statements were made before he declared for the draft, long before.
“I don’t know where all of [it] came from,” Bobby Petrino says. “All I can judge is how he did for us. He did a great job for us. He was a guy you love having in your program, not only as a great player, but he represented our program great. I wanted the ball in his hands with him making the decisions, giving us a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. And the greatest thing is, he wanted the same thing.”
Garrick McGee offensive coordinator of the Razorbacks had this to say:
“Is any of this negative stuff being spread about Ryan coming from the state of Arkansas? The answer is no. I don’t think you can go anywhere in this state and hear somebody say, ‘That kid’s not a leader,’ or, ‘That kid’s a troublemaker.’ He was born and raised in Arkansas, he spent three years here playing for us, so all except for one year of his life he’s been in this state. And there’s nobody in this state who has said anything bad about him.”
I found numerous quotes, more than necessary to add to this post from Mallett’s high school days, his teammates at Arkansas, everyone and anyone who has been around him; all of them were positive.
The rumors and speculation don’t add up.
Dan Patrick, host of the Dan Patrick Show believes that Mallett was the victim of a “smear campaign” during the draft process.
I tend to agree.
There’s power in perception. Peter King stated that if Mallett had “Tim Tebow character” he would’ve been the number one overall pick. NFL general managers are businessmen, and when there’s a bad label attached to a product, whether it’s wrong or right, most of them don’t want anything to do with that bad label product. Especially if it’s a quarterback.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that three teams he spoke with had Ryan Mallett rated as the number one quarterback on their draft boards, but they didn’t ’need’ a quarterback. One of those teams being the New England Patriots.
It would be safe to assume those teams ranked him highly after their character check.
So with the 74th overall pick in the third round, the New England Patriots selected Ryan Mallett, the most negatively publicized player in the draft. They chose him despite having needs at other positions and a reigning league MVP in Tom Brady. Mallett was the highest player New England had drafted at the quarterback position since Drew Bledsoe was drafted first overall in 1993.
The player considered by many as the best pure passer in this draft class will now get to sit and learn behind arguably the best quarterback and head coach in the NFL. Maybe ever. He’ll be surrounded by reminders of greatness every day as he walks past the Lombardi Trophies. He’ll learn how to be a professional in an organization that demands accountability. He’ll be coached hard by Bill Belichick, being challenged every day on the nuances of the system. He’ll study film with Tom Brady and fine tune his understanding of opposing defenses.
He’ll watch the six quarterbacks drafted ahead of him play on Sundays.
And then he’ll wait for his opportunity to prove himself.
And I’m curious to find out how it all ends.