Scouting isn't easy. There is so much to learn about the game of football before you start to truly analyze things and come up with opinions that the background work alone can sometimes be overwhelming -- not to scare any of you off, it's super fun to learn. I certainly don't consider myself to be the smartest football mind in the room. I am constantly learning new ways to watch the game and tips and tricks to playing each position better as time goes on and the game evolves.
Regardless of how much you know, from beginner to wise veteran, the quarterback position is certainly one of the more difficult positions to evaluate. There are so many factors that go into good quarterback play. Mental processing is, of course, a big one. You have to be able to study game tape and remember it, execute it in real time and even continually progress what you do at a high level. If you don't have that you won't make it very far. Outside of mental processing and decision making there are other abilities that, even if you don't have the whole package as a quarterback, can lead you to some success. Being consistently accurate definitely extends a quarterback's starting career from high school to the college ranks. Mobility and how well you can run also plays to your advantage. College football has so many different styles and coaching schemes that even quarterbacks who don't "have it all" can thrive.
But when it comes to the NFL you have to be a lot closer to that total package to make it. And there's one trait in particular that I keep going back to that has to be present for you to succeed.
You have to have the arm to make the throws.
Kellen Moore, J.T. Barrett, Colt Brennan; these were some very successful quarterbacks in college that didn't pan out in the NFL, or at least weren't regarded very highly coming out.
Why? Arm strength.
When you start scouting you hear about traits you "can't teach", and arm strength is often one of them for quarterbacks. The NFL game is so fast and these guys are so strong that unless you have the arm to not only get the ball deep down the field but also zip passes in tight windows, you just won't make it -- and even if you do for a little, the team will constantly be looking to upgrade you with a quarterback who has a better natural arm. You have to be able to "make all the throws", if you will.
In this 2020 NFL Draft class, there are the obvious guys at the top like Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Hebert, whose NFL skills have been on display for years, but there's another quarterback who caught my eye during summer scouting that I am very intrigued with. That would be Stanford's K.J. Costello.
I don't want to over simplify things as to say that "if you can make these three throws then Trevor said you'll for sure be good."
That's not it.
What I am saying is that, among other things, having the ability to throw these three "NFL throws" means that I feel like I can work with you. If you don't have the arm for these throws, you start way behind the 8-ball when it comes to the NFL.
The first is shown above: the deep ball. To be frank, you have to be able to stretch the field as a quarterback. NFL defenses are far too strong and far too fast for you to have success without thinning them out vertically. You do that with both accuracy and arm strength. Costello arm doesn't scream NFL caliber, but it's sneaky strong, at times. Plus he can drop some pretty passes in the bucket, as shown above.
Arm strength can come in two ways: deep down the field with distance and with zip and velocity on passes of shorter flight. The area in which ball velocity is most easy to analyze is with passes to the sideline. Normally quick pass are easier to judge -- think a quick out route from a slot player when their head is turned around and the ball is already arriving.
The pass above wasn't a quick pass to the sideline, but it may have been an even more impressive one.
The pass above showed two NFL traits in one play. First was the ball speed to get to the spot in the appropriate time. The next was the timing between Costello and the receiver to put that ball exactly where it needed to go at the exact time it needed to arrive there. That was one heck of an NFL back shoulder throw.
Finally, you have to be willing to give your receivers a chance. You're going to see a lot of man coverage in the NFL, and at times, it's going to look like there's nowhere to throw it -- even then there often is. You have to have the mentality and the arm strength to take a chance on passes like the one above. Attacking the middle of the field up the seams with an aggressive mentality will really get in the minds of a defense. These throws certainly works against zone coverage, too, and are staple for success in putting pressure on a defense in coverage.
Am I saying Costello is a Top 10 or first round prospect right now? No. Costello has a lot that he needs to work on with consistency in that arm and accuracy, as well. But what I am saying is that not all quarterback have the building blocks Costello does. Even if they're few and far between right now, seeing them in flashes is enough for me to keep my eye on him and my mind on what he could be going into the 2019 season.