A.J. McCarron was the mystery man of the Senior Bowl. Growing up in Mobile, Ala., it would have seemed an easy commitment to make, but McCarron decided not to play in the Senior Bowl (some believed it was because of injury).
So McCarron came to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis with something to prove and a chip on his shoulder.
"I feel like I've been disrespected my whole college career because I won. That's usually the knock on me – (can't throw) the deep ball and I won with NFL talent," McCarron said. "And it's not like we didn't play anybody. We played in the SEC, which is the best conference in college football. I think somebody figured out I had played against forty-some (defensive) guys who have been drafted from the time I arrived in '09 that are still playing in the NFL. That's a crazy amount of guys."
McCarron won 36 of his 40 starts at Alabama and two National Championships, but he is still considered a second-round pick and likely the fifth or sixth quarterback to be selected.
One of the issues is his arm strength. He has been called a game manager, but analysts sometimes question whether he has an NFL arm. Because of that, he has been working on his release point and says it has helped with his deep throws.
"All the experts try to knock me on my deep ball, try to say my arm's not strong. My arm's strong enough. I mean I can throw the ball 65 yards," he said. "But I had a bad habit of releasing the ball out wide, not staying vertical on it. If you go back and watch my film, you can see the film doesn't lie on that."
If he was employing a changed throwing motion in his on-field session at Sunday's portion of the Combine, it showed. He was very sharp on his deeper post-corner routes, and he hit his back on his drop-back and threw decisive, accurate go routes.
In short, McCarron looked comfortable, smooth and sharp in his quarterback group that included expected first-round value Blake Bortles and second-round projection Jimmy Garoppolo.
When he decided not to attend the Senior Bowl, McCarron said it was because he wanted to concentrate on training for the Combine. That decision looks wise now.
"I saw McCarron at the Manning Academy last year. I think what happens with Alabama quarterbacks is they kind of get grouped into, ‘Oh, he's another game manager,'" NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "This is a bigger kid; he's over 6-3, he's 220 pounds. He throws a bigger ball and he looked like (at the Combine) he was hanging out in the backyard throwing it; it was easy. He didn't seem like he felt any pressure. The ball comes out nice. I don't think he has a huge arm, but he has a good arm. And he's accurate."
McCarron said he isn't concerning himself with how soon he will be selected in the draft, noting that one player being selected can change the texture of the draft for everyone else.
"I don't worry about money. I was raised without any money. Being broke, I'm used to it," he said. "If you're money-hungry, it's not going to come to you. If you're just patient and go with the flow and let the chips fall where they fall and (rely on) God's plan, everything will be fine in the end."
When NFL reporters started to post the hand measurements for consensus first-round picks Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater on Twitter, Manziel posted his own hand size – 10 inches – noting that it was the biggest of quarterbacks at the Combine.
"Everybody kept asking me. Everybody kept talking about hand size and they were asking me," McCarron said when asked why he tweeted that.
That's just one example of McCarron trying to keep up with those who are expected to be selected before him.
Alabama helped make him a winner, but he helped make the Crimson Tide a winner, too. He holds school records with 3,063 passing yards in a season and 9,019 in a career, as well as 77 passing touchdowns in a career.
"Everybody says (I) played behind NFL talent at Alabama. Well, usually in the NFL, what's in the NFL is NFL talent. So I don't see how that can be a knock.
"I'm a leader. First one in, last one out. And I feel like I've always put us in a good situation to win the ballgame."
On Sunday, McCarron put himself in a good position to at least be selected in the second round, possibly even better with the demands for a quarterback. And still …
"I definitely have a chip on my shoulder," he said. "I'm anxious to get out there and prove everybody wrong."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
QB McCarron shows well, feels disrespected
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