Is Ryan Mallett worth a first-round pick?

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Quarterback Ryan Mallett could be taking the field for the final time tonight in a Razorback uniform as Arkansas squares off against Ohio State in this year’s Sugar Bowl. The 6-6, 238-pound QB has a major decision to make following the game, whether to stay in school for his senior year or to declare early for the NFL draft.

mallettICONThe quarterback position is more than just size and arm strength.

Physically, the guy has as good a skill set as any prospect to come along in years. He possesses great height, an elite arm and can spin the football with ease on all levels of the field and make all the throws. Therefore, when you have a quarterback prospect with all the physical tools who has been extremely productive in the top conference in America — the SEC — common thought automatically says that this guy should be a first-round pick and a lofty one at that, right?

My response: No. And here’s why.

As we see from Mallett on tape, the guy is a really limited athlete. He struggles to quickly reset his feet when looking for secondary targets and for the most part simply will trust that big arm too much and try to make just about every throw from the waist up once he feels pressure. He has a tendency to fall off throws even with some time in the pocket and not consistently realign his body/feet toward his secondary target, which ultimately causes his accuracy to really suffer. And in my view, if you make him move his feet, he’s done, as he struggles to maintain his balance in his lower half, which directly affects his accuracy with the football.

And even when Mallett has his feet set and is able to stride toward his target, the guy isn’t overly accurate with the football. Sure, his completion percentage has gone up to 66.5 percent this season, but when you actually break down his ball placement on a throw-to-throw basis, he doesn’t grade out real high in that area. He’s got a ton of talented receivers and tight ends to throw to on the Arkansas offense who consistently are able to gain significant separation and give Mallett massive throwing lanes to throw into. Therefore, if his ball placement isn’t perfect, he can still get away with it and complete the pass. However, in the NFL we have seen quarterbacks who come in and showcase elite ball placement have a much easier time making all the throws than simply the strong-armed quarterbacks because of their ability to accurately pinpoint throws and neatly place passes into tight windows, something Mallett will really struggle with at the next level.

Mallett’s lack of ball placement also takes away from his receivers’ ability to consistently run after the catch in the underneath passing game, as they are routinely forced to gear down or even stop because of poorly thrown passes that do not allow them to consistently run at full speed through the pass.

Finally, there are also some concerns about the guys character, surrounding anything from his transfer from Michigan to questions about his overall personality to possibly even some off-the-field issues, as I talked to one area scout this year who told me “I got stuff on Mallett that no one even knows about and I wouldn’t touch him.”

Therefore, when you add up all the negatives on a quarterback like Mallett and take in the facts that he’s not a good athlete, struggles with his footwork, lacks great ball placement even when he has time to set and throw and there are some character concerns attached to his name, there is no way I would feel comfortable taking the guy in the first round. And if I don’t feel comfortable taking him in round one, I don’t think I would take him in round two either. He’s a guy who I would seriously consider just taking off my draftboard and moving on from as a quarterback prospect.

Now, is the guy going to go high? Yes. Is he going to be a first-round pick? In my view most definitely. However, if I were a GM — which I am not — I would just have an extremely hard time putting my career and the team’s future success riding on the rocket arm of Ryan Mallett.

Follow me on twitter: @WesBunting

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