- Very good arm.
- Often displays quick release.
- Throws accurate deep touch passes.
- Flashes of excellence.
- Moves well in the pocket and runs well enough to get by.
- Three-year starter in a pro-flavored system.
- Very streaky mechanics and accuracy.
- Pushes the ball sometimes, throws off back foot other times.
- Nothing special as a runner.
Some of my draftnik colleagues, guys with much more experience than me whose opinions I trust, consider Nassib to be not only the best quarterback in this draft class but possibly the best overall prospect in this class. Watching Nassib on tape and at Senior Bowl practices, I start to wonder if my colleagues were duped, instant-coffee-commercial style. We secretly replaced game tape of Ryan Nassib with footage of Andrew Luck in 2011. Let’s see if the draftniks notice!
For whatever reason, unseemly gushing goes on when some experts bring up Nassib. Take Pro Football Weekly: “Nassib plays with the moxie, poise, and gritty football temperament of a throwback, old-school linebacker and can fit any style of offense, willing his way to victories with an average supporting cast.”
Woah. Willing his way to victories? That’s not the scouting report of a human. That’s Horatio Hornblower, carrying Tim Tebow on his shoulders, wearing Smokey the Bear’s hat. That’s a scouting report on Collin Klein written by a Manhattan Kansas middle school girl who just got him to autograph the back of her jersey. Pro Football Weekly quarterback scouting reports have gotten increasingly bipolar of late, and the gang may have felt the need to overcompensate after accusing Geno Smith of causing the extinction of the Easter Island civilization, but no one man can possess moxie, poise, and grit, AND be a throwback. It just wouldn’t be fair to the rest of us.
Then there was Jon Gruden, speaking on the Mike and Mike radio show about Nassib: “This is a man who benched pressed over 400 pounds. He can run the read option. I have seen him execute pro-style passing concepts under Doug Marrone. He’s a very good kid. He is smart, passionate about the game.” Gruden later added: “Nassib was 3-0 against Geno Smith. He beat West Virginia three times and is a big reason Marrone got that job in Buffalo, because of the outstanding play of Ryan Nassib.”
As soon as someone mentions a quarterback’s bench press prowess, one name comes to mind: Jim Druckenmiller. As for won-loss records against other quarterbacks, this isn’t arm wrestling. As Michael David Smith noted this week, Danny Wuerffel was 2-0 against Peyton Manning in college. In the read option, Nassib sometimes took a pistol snap, faked a handoff, and scuttled forward for a few yards, reminding no one, not even Gruden, of Colin Kaepernick. Gruden clarified that Nassib was more of a “nuisance” with the read option; I thought we were drafting quarterbacks, not gophers.
And I am not going to even mention Russ Lande’s scouting report in GM Jr., because while I think the world of Russ, all of the “i’s” are dotted with little hearts.
All of the talk about being a nuisance, knowing pro concepts, lifting weights, winner sauce, and moxie pepper sounds like some folks are tiptoeing around the part of the scouting report where Nassib throws passes and they arrive in the hands of his receivers. Once the tape roles, Nassib shows lightning flashes of brilliance scattered among far too many gray clouds.
There are stretches of games where Nassib barely looks draftable. The pass rush gets to him, and he either launches a wobbly pass off his back foot or forces a short pass into a defender’s belly. Or, his throwing motion goes totally out-of-kilter for a series or two, and his awkward shot-put throws go every-which-way. On short passes, he drives 95 mile-per-hour fastballs past his receiver’s fingertips. On deep throws, he puts too much air under the ball and forces his receiver to come back for the ball. He looks like an erratic aerosol passer.
But then there are moments when everything converges. When Nassib’s mechanics are smooth, his release is a snap, his velocity excellent, and his accuracy pinpoint. Nassib has terrific touch and timing on deep passes along the sidelines and on seam routes. Watch Nassib find Alec Lemon on a deep post or place a teardrop into Marcus Sales’ arms along a hash mark a few times, and you start to see that high first-round pick. Then, he disappears for a few series.
The problem comes in sorting the Jekyll from the Hyde. Nassib’s Senior Bowl practices looked like his 2012 tape. He spent whole drills overthrowing every receiver he saw, then would settle down and made a few big-time throws. This isn’t a guy who makes nine special throws for every clunker; the ratio is close to six-to-four. My colleagues, and no doubt some NFL scouts and coaches, see raw materials that can be molded into something special. I see a block of marble, not a masterpiece.
Nassib’s experience with Marone does matter. As Gruden said, he ran an offense with both NFL principles and option concepts; in other words, an offense with NFL principles. Giving Nassib the benefit of the doubt that he can be a nuisance with his legs once in a while, he effectively ran a system at Syracuse similar to the ones last year’s rookies executed extremely effectively. It’s still hard to see a Luck-lite or Russell Wilson-with-height on the game tape, unless that is what you are looking hard to find.
Conclusion: Nassib is the Kristen Stewart of quarterback prospects. Many people see the face of a new generation, the gorgeous-and-talented centerpiece of a successful modern-day franchise. Others like me see a mumbly, intermittently-pretty person with an overbite who can barely emote. Winning in the Big East is a little like starring in a teen vampire melodrama: the audience is a little undiscriminating and the artistic expectations low; hit your marks and look good, and you can punch a ticket to the bowl-game equivalent of the Kids Choice Awards.
Draft Nassib with a second or third round pick and assign him to your franchise’s quarterback guru, and he could fine-tune his mechanics and become a very good starter. (Put Stewart in an indie with a great director, teach her to open her mouth when speaking, and she might win an Academy Award). The Cardinals, Eagles, or Chiefs might do just that, and the Bills could wait until the second round on Nassib now that they have Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson to hold down the 2013 fort. As a first round pick, the bust potential is incredibly high: Nassib’s upside is Matthew Stafford, but his downside is a guy who cannot crack the roster.