At the NFL Draft in April, the Giants took a risk with their fourth round pick. They selected a player who they hope never plays a meaningful snap for the next two or three years. That man is Ryan Nassib, a quarterback out of Syracuse University who has been a starter since his sophomore year in 2010.
Since the Giants plan to develop a backup under behind surefire starter Eli Manning, it makes sense that they selected a guy like Nassib who has improved every year throughout the course of his collegiate career. The former Syracuse standout's completion percentage jumped from 53 percent -- as a part-time player in his freshman year -- to 56 percent in his sophomore year then to 62 percent in both his junior and senior seasons.
Perhaps most noticeable is the increase in production came from his junior to senior season. As a junior in 2011, he threw for just 2,685 yards on 415 attemps, but in the next season on just 56 more passes increased his yardage to 3,749. That's a change in yards per pass attempt from 6.5 to 8.0, which was likely a big factor in getting Nassib on the NFL radar.
Another factor in Nassib flying off the NFL draft board is the fact that he is a tall quarterback at 6-foot-2 and is experienced in running a pro-style offense. Although he lacks the obvious athleticism of other quarterbacks in his draft class, the Giants won't have to worry about Nassib running around in the backfield instead of keeping his focus downfield.
The one key strength of Nassib is that he's not afraid to take a hit and he's willing to sacrifice his body in order to buy his receiver an extra split second if necessary. Couple that toughness with the fact that Nassib has started every game for Syracuse over the last three seasons, and you have a guy who NFL general managers are willing to take a chance on, even if he does have some accuracy issues.
About that accuracy, Nassib completed over 60 percent of his passes in nine out of 13 games last season. The problem is that he was not exactly facing a legion of doomsday defenses. The season started with great performances against Northwestern and USC, but Nassib did struggle during games down the stretch. In a loss at Cincinnati, he completed less than half his passes and only gained 6.1 yards per attempt. In his final bowl game against West Virginia, Nassib's Orangemen won handily, but he only threw for 130 yards on 23 pass attempts.
Most talent evaluators aren't thrilled with the touch that Nassib puts on the ball or his accuracy on deeper throws. His arm strength has also been brought up as an issue, and that's something that has to be worked around rather than worked on. It's also kind of jarring that Nassib's former coach Doug Marrone didn't select him to be the Buffalo Bills' quarterback of the future in the 2013 draft. The quarterback Marrone did select in the first round was E.J. Manuel out of Florida State. Manuel trumps Nassib in the athleticism and arm strength categories, but is also a bigger accuracy project than the Syracuse alum.
When it came down to it, the Giants picked Nassib where they did because he was a great value for the fourth round. As a tall pocket passer who is known for his toughness, the Giants probably figured Nassib can learn a lot from Manning, and there's nothing to indicate that the rookie won't learn a lot. Plus, despite his flaws, Nassib was rumored to be going in the first round -- perhaps to the Bills and his former coach – all the way up to the beginning of the draft. I'm sure the Giants bought into at least a little bit to that first round hype.
More important than the hype is the potential that the Giants see in Nassib. If they feel that he can develop into an NFL starting quarterback, then he will provide value without stepping onto the field. Either as a Manning insurance policy or as a potential trade chip down the road, Nassib has the potential to grow into a valuable asset for Big Blue.