A few months ago, former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton was a prospect many thought would be a mid-round pick, likely taken on the second day of the draft. While he still might be selected on the second day of the draft, he has caught the eyes of analysts around the country with his pro day performance. Trent Dilfer of ESPN even went as far as to compare his skill set to Packers Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers. “One of the reasons why he hasn’t generated as much momentum and hype is because what personnel and coaches do at this time of the year when they’ve kind of settled on who they want, they’re going to shut up about that guy,” Dilfer said recently on 710 ESPN Seattle. “At the end of the day, the good quarterback people in this league- I will not be wrong here- are going to be wanting Andy Dalton late in the first round or early second round if he happens to fall that far.” Dilfer then got into Dalton’s skill set. “I can’t tell you how much Aaron Rodgers I see in Andy Dalton. They have tremendously quick releases, they can throw from multiple foot platforms, meaning they can be off balance, very aggressive by nature, (they can) extend the play, and they understand the value of a completion.” When looking at Dalton, I can definitely agree with some of the strengths that Dilfer talks about. However, it needs to be seen whether he can adjust to a west coast offense after coming from a spread offense at TCU. Here is closer look at Dalton’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as a projection on where he might be drafted in late April.
I definitely agree with Dilfer on Dalton’s ability to release the football quickly and I think Aaron Rodgers is a good comparison. When watching Rodgers, I believe his release is one of the top reasons why he has so much success. Having a quick release decreases the chance of defenders getting to the quarterback in the pocket and possibly stripping him of the ball as well as not allowing players in the secondary to get that extra step on the ball before it leaves the quarterback’s hand.
Throwing on the Run
While many analysts and their scouting reports knock Dalton’s athleticism in the pocket and when he tucks the ball and runs, he is one of the best quarterback prospects at throwing the ball on the run when he is flushed out of the pocket. As Dilfer said, he has the ability to be accurate even when he throws off balance. This is very important, especially for a young quarterback who will face more speed from blitzing defenders and defensive linemen. It is only when he bails out of the pocket too early when this can become a problem.
Smart Decision Maker
While he struggled in his first two seasons at TCU with turnovers, throwing a total of 16 interceptions, he improved over his junior and senior season. When evaluating a quarterback’s college career, which ones don’t have struggles in their first couple of seasons? During his senior season in 2010, Dalton’s touchdown to interception ratio was a solid 27 to 6. What I see in him on film is a guy who is confident and smart with his decisions on where to go with the football. You will not see him throw passes into traffic much. The team that drafts Dalton will be getting a quarterback who doesn’t make any big mistakes.
Must Adjust to Pro Style Offense
This is probably the biggest question mark regarding Dalton and how he will transition to the pro game. At TCU he played in the spread offense and it has always been a question facing teams on whether the switch is too much for a young quarterback to handle. In the spread, quarterbacks are virtually always playing from the shotgun, giving them more time to make a decision. To sum it up, quarterbacks are not asked to do as much in the spread as they are in the pro style offense. I am anxious to see Dalton’s transition.
Awareness in the Pocket
Yes, Dalton is very good with his play outside of the pocket on the run, but let’s not forget that NFL coaches are not putting that skill in front of passing inside the pocket, and he doesn’t seem as comfortable there at times when watching him on film. He gets happy feet when he is pressured from the outside and does not always step up into the pocket in these situations. Sometimes he will feel the heat and bail out of the pocket before his receivers are into their routes. In order to be a quality quarterback in the NFL, he must learn to shrug off the pressure, step up, and make the throw.
While this may not be a huge weakness, it is still worth some consideration. At 6’2”, Dalton does not have the ideal height that scouts look for. When Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was at this stage, many analysts agreed that one of the most positive characteristics about him was his height at 6’6”. Height gives quarterbacks better vision, they are able to more easily see of their offensive line. While Dalton can obviously not change this, he can prove that height is no issue for him by transitioning smoothly to the pro style offense and making plays.
Projected Round: Late 1st-Early 2nd
NFL Comparison: Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia Eagles