This is not a cut and dry item. It's one man's opinion. But let's be candid, this opinion is based on personal observations along with some advice from a few NFL types who were at Walker Pavilion on Tuesday for pro day on the Arkansas campus.
Who would you take, Ryan Mallett or Cam Newton?
Well, if I need a quarterback in the next year at the NFL level, it's a no brainer. I'd much rather have Mallett.
Down the road -- perhaps three or four years -- Newton might catch up with Mallett because of superior athletic ability. But that's not what we are talking about. Right now, Mallett is the guy.
I really don't need to know a lot more about Newton than what he did on the final play of his national championship run. He tried to sneak the ball into the end zone when his coaches called for him to take a knee. He's said in interviews with NFL teams that he had the "option" to sneak it. That's not true and he has admitted to that fact.
So is that the kind of quarterback you want in the NFL? Or do you want one that runs the play as called? I think most NFL teams know the answer to that. It will be on the lists of negatives with Newton.
The NFL folks that have talked with Mallett know what they are getting. He's not terribly athletic. In fact, he's slow.
But he's got the best arm in the NFL draft and he's the most prepared to play in the pro system, thanks to Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino and offensive coordinator Garrick McGee. No one does it better at the line of scrimmage as far as checks and reads among the quarterbacks in this year's draft.
One NFL expert told me in the last two weeks that Mallett proved himself as the most ready to play in his individual meetings with teams at the combine in Indianapolis. All Mallett would say at his pro day Tuesday was that he thought those interviews "went really well." I'm told they were off the chart awesome.
"Mallett is the best we've seen in this draft as far as what he does from the huddle to the line of scrimmage, the pre-snap stuff in the running game," an NFL person said. "He's way ahead of the rest. And he's got the best arm. It's not even close there. He is easily the one that's most ready to play."
Mallett couldn't have done any better in his passing workout this week. He hit every pass. Petrino, who watched, said pro coaches were "wowed" with the way Mallett "hit hands" and could spin the ball. None of that should have surprised. No one has ever looked better in a pro day, one man told me. That's Mallett's strength as a quarterback.
The Arkansas quarterback could slip because of rumors and innuendo, perhaps some of it developing out of other quarterback camps. The NFL brass is busy checking out all of that stuff, but Petrino tried to shoot down the bad press this week when scouts were on the Arkansas campus. He asked for a chance to speak to them and went through the rumors one by one.
One NFL guy just shrugged when I asked.
"It's more bad image that's hurt him than anything," he said. "We know what we have in Ryan. But there are some that can't afford a hit in that department right now. There are no issues we have with any of it at this point, but our team may not draft him -- unless he falls to a certain spot.
"You get into a certain spot, they call it 'gold.' I worked for a general manager once and that's what he called it, just pure gold. That's a player that is worth way more than what you can get him for in that spot. He's gold at the bottom of the first round. He ought to go in the top 10, but maybe he won't. He's that good. What he can do with the checks, protections and the run calls is just outstanding.
"What they do in this system at Arkansas is perfect preparation for what is done at the next level. And that's not even considering his arm. What do you want me to say about his arm? It's the best I've seen. I've seen a few in my time in the league."
The same expert was asked about Arkansas tight end D. J. Williams. He's only 6-2, 247, but silky smooth with routes and his hands are amazing.
"The guy is a high luxury pick, for a team that has it all and then wants to add a specialty player with high character," he said. "And if you want to talk about something scary, think about this kid with say New England, Indy or New Orleans. Think about him with Drew Brees and the Saints with what they do.
"New England takes guys like DJ. They look for character and team-first guys. He'd be perfect there. Indy the same thing. He's not a big guy who can play every down as a tight end. But you see him run routes and his hands and it's wow. Then you add his character. Wow.
"But there are a lot of teams that have to take a big need in the first few rounds. That's why I call him a luxury item.
"And with this guy, you get the same thing as Mallett. Playing in this system with what they do in all areas puts him so far ahead and makes him easy to project quick. That's going to keep happening here, too. Guys who come out with three, four years under this staff and this head coach, they are going to be ready for our league."
Williams gave us a clue when he met with the local media after Tuesday's workouts. He said one set of NFL coaches asked him to draw some things on a blank board at an interview at the combine.
"I showed them how we ran certain protections, what the tight end would do, what the tackle would do, what we would do against certain defenses, the specifics," Williams said. "Then he had me write a little more detail then asked for me to put it on a plain piece of paper. He said, 'We will have to use that.'
"I think what we've learned here under Coach Petrino is huge. You saw it easily when it was time to do the interviews at the combine."
Offensive tackle Ray Dominguez said the same thing after his workout. He said the interviews at the combine gave Arkansas players a chance to shine as far as their football IQ.
"We were Houston Nutt recruits, but the playbook he had was pretty thin," said Dominguez, winking at the media. "Our pro style book here is very thick. What we do now here (flipping sides of the line, weak versus strong) gave us a lot of versatility. We have momentum here with what we are doing. It's a lot of pro stuff. It's more diversified than what they have at other schools in our league.
"You compare it to some that are in the spread, this is better and prepares you for the league. It's even better than the straight power stuff they have now at Alabama. We do all of it. It's a pro system."
Offensive tackle DeMarcus Love said, "It didn't just happen, either. It took lots of hard work. Lots of study. Lots of time extra in the playbook. It's complex. But when you go through the interviews we've had and see where we are, it's all worth it."
Yes, I'd say it's added value for all of those Arkansas players going to the next level. Now you don't have to ask me why I'm biased towards Ryan Mallett.
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