Emerging reason for QBs to throw at Combine

Top quarterback prospects often hesitate to throw at the NFL Scouting Combine because of timing issues with unfamiliar receivers. Vikings GM Rick Spielman said new film angles of quarterbacks there is more important than accuracy in Indianapolis.

Within two hours of the quarterbacks throwing at the NFL Scouting Combine, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner were headed for the airport back to Minneapolis.

That's the way it goes for many of the offensive coaches at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. As soon as their position or side of the ball is done with workouts, it's back to work at the office. That's where the film will be reviewed, and not just seeing which quarterback completed which throws.

"We want to look at his throwing motion. We've got great camera angles, and the Combine does a great job on watching these quarterbacks throwing to a stationary target, all that stuff," general manager Rick Spielman said. "We get all that (film). They look at how they're holding the ball, and it gives our coaches an opportunity to see what we can correct. You see the throwing motion."

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy credited NFL Network's increased coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine in recent years with giving teams additional footage to help with evaluations on prospects.

"The workouts are obviously important, but the video and the access you have to the video afterwards is very resourceful," McCarthy said. "I think the biggest thing that I've noticed the last five, 10 years particularly with what the NFL Network has done with the atmosphere that they created here at the Indianapolis combine is it creates a great stage for these young men to come in and you can learn a lot about how they interact and handle this process. There's a lot to gain from coming down here to Indianapolis."

Some of the agents for the top quarterback prospects encourage their clients not to throw at the Combine for fear that the timing with unfamiliar receivers will make the quarterback look bad. After years of using that reasoning, it seems to be taken into account by Spielman.

"We know that. That's part of it. But it gives you a chance to see him throw the ball," Spielman said. "It gives you a chance to see if there's anything from a technical standpoint that you're going to need to work on and correct. And it's a chance for these guys to go out there and compete."

Two of the consensus top three quarterbacks in the draft elected not to throw. Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater both attended the Combine but neither of them participated in the quarterback drills. Blake Bortles, the other among the top three, did.

"The one thing I would say is these quarterbacks that don't throw here, what you're trying to do is you're trying to see his mechanics, his release," Spielman said. "They have a great opportunity. … They have the cameras down actually on the field and they're taking shots of how he holds the ball. You can see from behind, even when they're throwing to stationary targets, his release, how he looks throwing on the move – stuff you're going to go out and see at his pro day if you're going to go out and see it."

Manziel and Bridgewater weren't the only quarterbacks expected to be selected in the first two days of the draft that didn't throw Sunday.

Derek Carr, projected to be drafted in the second half of the first round or early in the second round, elected not to throw, citing a solid week at the Senior Bowl. However, after an admittedly "bad game" in the final outing of his college career, throwing at the Combine would have provided an opportunity to further erase his erratic performance in his career-ending bowl game.

Aaron Murray, who could be drafted late in the second day or early in the third day of the draft, couldn't throw at the Combine yet because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He says his Pro Day on April 16 will feature his first session throwing in front of NFL scouts and coaches since his injury.

Zach Mettenberger, who is expected to be a Day 2 selection, is only six weeks out from his ACL injury so he won't be ready until the start of the season.

But when injury isn't a factor in a quarterback's decision to not throw at the Combine, it can rub general managers and scouts the wrong way.

"I ask them and nine times out of 10 they'll say, ‘Well, my agent doesn't want me to throw it here and wants me to do it at my pro day.' I ask them if they want to compete," Spielman said.

In some cases, quarterbacks have tried to delay throwing in front of NFL scouts when they are working on changing their mechanics. The thinking is that the longer they can focus on fundamentals and not results, the better those fundamentals will stick.

Spielman cited Turner's philosophy on trying to change a quarterback's mechanics too much.

"Guys try to change their mechanics, and you can ask Norv his philosophy on that, but if the guy is completing 99 percent of his passes and he's doing it behind his back, then why change it?" Spielman said. "I think it's more: How does he produce? Instead of just changing his mechanics, maybe he's not as effective once his mechanics change. Or you can correct some technical things with the way he sets his feet in the pocket, this and that, but you've just got to be careful not to over-coach him where all the sudden it paralyzes him with the player he actually is."

Despite the Vikings planning eight or nine trips to privately work out quarterbacks around the country between now and the draft, as well as attend their pro days, Spielman wants to see them throw in person as many times as possible. Raining on that wish at the Combine won't kill their draft stock, but Spielman wishes they would have the confidence to compete whenever asked.

"It's a chance to compete and I don't put as much stock into the accuracy thing because I understand they haven't worked with these receivers and the timing," he said. "It's more just looking at the throwing motion, the mechanics, things like that, the arm strength. I think if you have a chance to compete, you should get out there and compete. An example has been Ben Roethlisberger. I remember everyone on him – he didn't look very good and he ended up being a pretty damn good quarterback and still taken in the first round. So I think agents and players sometimes overthink this. Just go out there and give me a ball a let me throw it. Who cares?"

The answer: Everyone involved.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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