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Greg McElroy: Every pass thrown at 2011 Capital One Bowl

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Some people have been asking for me to break down McElroy's play. In this thread, I'll post still images of every McElroy pass in the 2011 Capital One Bowl, and annotate them later as I have time.

For more on McElroy, see my thread, "Greg McElroy is the Tom Brady of the 2011 draft." I posted this thread on Dec. 26, prior to McElroy's standout performance in the 2011 Capital One Bowl, based strictly on a statistical analysis that surfaced McElroy as a high-value, potential franchise QB who was projected at that time to be drafted in the late rounds (as Brady was).

For a nice highlight reel of McElroy's deep passing, see this


For most of the past month, I have positioned McElroy as a great pick in the fourth round. Now having had more time to analyze McElroy and his draft class, I'll go much further. I think he's the best QB in the draft, bar none. What's more, he should be a bargain, because the Skins won't have to draft him high in the first round. Probably he can be picked safely in the second round, unless he develops a lot of buzz between now and the draft.

2011 Capital One Bowl - #16 Alabama vs. #9 Michigan State


You will notice that in most plays, the receiver is "wide open." Typically this is because McElroy has a very good sense of rhythm, so will hit receivers in stride before defenders can react. For the same reason, almost every pass tacks on substantial YAC.

McElroy isn't afraid to throw before receivers come open or before they look for the pass. Examples include pass #3 (fly to Jones), #6 (TE out to Williams), #10 (curl out to Jones). He's also fond of throwing the ball to a deep receiver who has one step on the defender. Examples include #11 (deep post, Jones), and #17 (deep post, Maze). He has a superb ability to time deep passes in stride, and also place them perfectly.

A lot of people assume that McElroy is being helped by an outstanding OL, rushing game or receivers. I didn't see any particularly difficult catches. Receivers are catching passes because they are on target and in stride, typically. The OL does OK, but McElroy also does a nice job of making the right read and getting rid of the ball. As for the rushing game, this bowl game featured more passing than rushing while McElroy was in the game, except deep in the red zone, where Saban clearly prefers to rush for TDs (6 rushing TDs in the game).

More generally, many people remember Alabama's 2009 championship season (featuring Mark Ingram as Heisman winner) and assume that similar patterns prevailed in 2010. They did not. Losing All-American left guard Mike Johnson and right tackle Drew Davis, Alabama's rushing struggled in 2010:


Meanwhile, McElroy increased his completion percentage from 60.9 to to 70.9 and pushed his college QB rating from 140.55 to 168.98 (virtually mirroring Andrew Luck's development). It's just not true that Alabama's rushing or OL carried McElroy in 2010. You can argue that McElroy has excellent receivers, but how good a WR is required when passes hit the receiver in stride, right on the numbers, more often than not?

McElroy was in total command during the bowl game. His receivers impressed me less by their catches than what they did for YAC. For example, Mark Ingram does a very good job with the ball after the catch, and so does Julio Jones and Marquis Maze. They are clearly in sync with McElroy and expect to catch passes in stride and then make big gains after the catch. (Credit also to great play design and QB/WR coaching by Alabama. YAC must be a mantra there.)

Here and elsewhere, Marquis Maze is impressive for the deeper passes, as a reliable target who will catch the ball when thrown in stride. You see that here on a 37-yard TD (deep post, all yards in air, pass #17), and I noticed #4 (Maze) as a frequent deep target in McElroy's YouTube highlight reel. While my focus has not been the receivers, so far I've been at least as impressed by Maze as Jones. Over the past two years, Jones has dominated for receptions, but Maze (a junior who did not declare) is a guy to watch as a sleeper. With McElroy entering the NFL in 2011, look for Maze to get lost in the 2012 draft and be another high-value, low-cost pick in 2012. By comparison, Julio Jones is being touted as a potential first-round pick. He's good, but McElroy has made it easy for him to look good, with accurate passes targeted to hit his receivers in stride.

Whoever gets targeted the most by McElroy will tend to look exceptional, if they are any good at all. A guy like Anthony Armstrong could look like a Pro Bowler with McElroy throwing deep to him. Remembering Santana Moss's big day against Dallas in 2005 (2 deep TDs late for the win), Moss could see a resurgence with McElroy throwing to him, especially if he works on running through catches instead of leaping and falling. It's a lot easier to run through a catch when 35-yard passes hit you in the numbers at full stride. This is what McElroy does.

In the bowl game, McElroy spreads the ball around and doesn't favor any particular receiver. His completions:

  • WR Marquis Maze: 4 for 77 yards, 1 TD (3 first downs)
  • WR Julio Jones: 3 for 49 yards (3 first downs)
  • TE Preston Dial: 3 for 39 yards (3 first downs)
  • RB Mark Ingram: 1 for 30 yards (first down)
  • RB Trent Richardson: 1 for 12 yards (first down)
  • TE Michael Williams: 1 for 3 yards (first down)

Michigan State (11-1 prior to game) entered the game as the higher ranked team. Michigan State pass defense had held opposing QBs to an average 56.1% completion percentage and a 70 NFL QB rating.

Here's how McElroy fared:

Stat line: 13 of 17 (76.5%), 220 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, in 2-1/2 quarters of play. 204.6 college QB rating, 137.5 NFL passer rating.

12 of 13 completions went for first downs (or a TD).

McElroy converted all 5 third downs he faced with the ball in his hands: 4 through completions, 1 through pass interference.

After only 13 completions, Alabama had a 35-0 lead, and McElroy was pulled from the game.

First Play: Mobility & Throwing On the Run

I'll start here by addressing the idea that a QB like Locker is better than McElroy because Locker is "mobile" and "athletic," and McElroy is not. I don't think this is actually true. I think McElroy is most comfortable as a pocket QB, and he has excellent pocket presence and a superb sense of rhythm after dropback that helps him hit receivers accurately and also lead them for YAC. If the pocket or protection breaks down, he's very mobile, elusive and can throw on the run. It's just a last option for McElroy. On most plays he uses the pocket well and avoids the open-field hits that "mobile" QBs routinely receive through more frequent downfield running.

I've seen a variety of McElroy plays that have caused me to form this conclusion. The first play in the bowl game is an example.

First play of game, designed rollout that breaks down.

McElroy escapes a rusher, throws on the run for completion and first down. He is being chased by the DE while approaching the line of scrimmage, where a defender is racing forward to tackle him. McElroy makes the correct decision to throw the pass, and does so while in full run forward. Tough pass for accuracy, and McElroy nails it for a first down.





Notice here how he attacks the line of scrimmage by turning the corner on the DE quickly, rather than be chased backward or to the sideline:



Now he's got a second defender to contend with (extreme right). McElroy keeps the ball down, forcing the defender to commit to attacking the line of scrimmage.


Now McElroy shows good balance and quick release, throwing while running:






---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 01:26 AM ----------

Game clock 14:33

Pass #2

Darius Hanks (WR #15), 6 yards, counts as a rush


Pass #3

Deep left to Julio Jones

Pass interference, no play









---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 01:30 AM ----------

Pass #4

Crossing pattern to Maze, 19 yards








---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 01:35 AM ----------

Pass #5

Game clock: ~11:33

Swing pass in stride to Maze, 13 yards








---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 01:41 AM ----------

Pass #6

TE Out (Michael Williams), in stride for first down







---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 01:44 AM ----------

Pass #7

Dropped by Mark Ingram

Pass off target







---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 01:48 AM ----------

Pass #8

Crossing pattern in stride to Julio Jones, 14 yards, first down












---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 01:52 AM ----------

Pass #9

Knocked down at line of scrimmage by blitzing DB #36






---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 01:58 AM ----------

Pass #10

0:31 first quarter, 3rd and 6

Curl out to Julio Jones, 6 yards, in stride for first down












---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 02:02 AM ----------

Pass #11

Julio Jones, deep post, in stride for 28 yards










---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 02:05 AM ----------

Pass #12

Deep fly right, out of bounds




---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 02:11 AM ----------

Pass #13

TE cross (Preston Dial), 12 yards, first down

McElroy under pressure for throw







---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 02:16 AM ----------

Pass #14

Flat pass in stride to Mark Ingram, 5 yards + 25 YAC







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Pass #15

McElroy rollout, right sideline to Maze, 8 yards






---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 02:22 AM ----------

Third Quarter

Pass #16

15 yards in stride to TE Preston Dial, plus 9 YAC




---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 02:25 AM ----------

Pass #17

37-yard TD pass to Marquis Maze

Deep post, in stride
















---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 02:27 AM ----------

Pass #18

Screen to Trent Richardson, 12 yards




---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 02:30 AM ----------

Pass #19

20-yard pass, incomplete to Julio Jones




McElroy pulled from game after this drive (35-0 lead)


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Well, its nice to see that you are analyzing his play rather than just plugging his stats into your QB model. Being that there isn't any clear front runner for best QB in the draft, McElroy could definitely be a value pick if he's picked in the 3rd or later. How well do you think he would fit into Shannahan's system?

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Right or wrong I can wait to see if McElroy pans out asf. To be honest I hope your model works out. It would be pretty cool to see some random poster on es nail something like this while a bunch of NFL gms fail by picking first round qb busts. Just pray it's not us who fails lol.

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Right or wrong I can wait to see if McElroy pans out asf. To be honest I hope your model works out. It would be pretty cool to see some random poster on es nail something like this while a bunch of NFL gms fail by picking first round qb busts. Just pray it's not us who fails lol.

Not gonna lie, I'm excited to see what he can do. I hope that he fails if he goes to any team that affects us. I hope that I have to bow down and call ASF master if he Tom Brady's it over here.

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Be nice to possibly get Jones in the 1st and pick him up in the 4th or trade for a 3rd. Jones could help the transition.

Very good breakdown BTW

That would br awesome

---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 08:23 AM ----------

Be nice to possibly get Jones in the 1st and pick him up in the 4th or trade for a 3rd. Jones could help the transition.

Very good breakdown BTW

That would br awesome

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Great breakdown ASF.

A little "what if" ...

What if you had control of the Skins draft as it is now (no fair using possible trade scenarios) - who would you draft in the 1st and 2nd round? Would you pass on a QB in the 1st with the hope McElroy will be there in the 2nd?

Just a thought ...

:helmet: The Rook

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Locks on to the first WR most of the time...Sorry had to do it since everybody seems to think that is a bad thing for a college QB. Bottom line is ALL college QBs will tend to lock on their first option.

From the pictures you cant really gauge arm strength/ball spin since it is a still image, however after I watched some highlights I think McElroy does have adequate arm strenght for the NFL.

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Finally, I've been waiting for this from you! Neat breakdown, and I especially loved the roll outs as it seems like he's exactly what Shanny looks for there. He's able to escape any free defenders on the side of the roll out, which is key.

Like a few have already said, it's going to be super interesting to see how he pans out considering how good your model projects him to be. I don't think it'll make or break your model either way, but it will be telling.

I'll be honest, out of what I've seen so far, McElroy looks like the best pick since he should come a bit cheaper. I just finished watching this

and I must say he looks better than what I've seen from Gabbert and Locker in the two threads made for them. Towards the end of the video there's another designed roll out where he absolutely embarrasses the defender and shakes him out of his shoes. He looked like a Shanny QB right there. He's got as quick a throwing motion as either of those two guys (if not quicker) and seems way more accurate, especially on the deep ball. Gabbert was woefully inaccurate going deep in the one thread MartinC and dg made for him and Locker hardly threw deep to tell in the game they analyzed for him.

So, yeah, so far I must say I'm leaning towards McElroy out of all of them right now. Obviously, I'm just going off of what ASF, MartinC and dg have posted in their respective threads on these QBs, so it's a pretty weak "leaning", more like I slight head tilt, lol. That being said, I'm with Shanny and I know he'll pick the right guy if we take a QB.

---------- Post added January-24th-2011 at 09:37 AM ----------

Watching a couple more highlights of his has got me wondering why he isn't projected higher? I'm confused as to why guys like Gabbert, Newton, Locker and Mallet are getting all the attention and not him. Anyone know?

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It's possible, but it's a stretch. I hope we can trade into the third, I'd be comfortable taking him there.

Thanks...that does sound like a good option. Imagine if we could somehow get two solid starters at other need positions (OL and DL) in the first two rounds and then get our QB-of-the-future in the third (for McNabb or Hayneworth maybe).

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Thanks...that does sound like a good option. Imagine if we could somehow get two solid starters at other need positions (OL and DL) in the first two rounds and then get our QB-of-the-future in the third (for McNabb or Hayneworth maybe).

If we go the McElroy route, I'm hoping that we draft Julio Jones in the first. Despite his drawbacks, he was McElroy's receiver in college, and they can make each other's transition easier to the NFL.

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Not a bama fan by any means, but I follow the team and have done so for a few years.

I knew this kid was good a few years ago because he hadnt lost a game IN HIS ENTIRE FOOTBALL CAREER until this year. The loss to South Carolina was his first loss in organized football, ever. Including pop warner, high school, and college.


So regardless of his throwing ability, the intagibles are very high with this guy. He's a winner, a leader, and to steal from Gibbs, "supersmart".

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Great post! I think a lot of us would agree that a mid round gamble would be better than a 1st rounder this year! I would love to see us unload a few guys to garner a 3rd or 4th rounder.

We can't unload anyone unless a CBA is signed. No trades of pick for player, pick and player for higher pick or anything can happen until a CBA is signed. We need to move around using the picks we have, and trading back (or up).

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