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The Ryan Mallett Catch-22

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A little light content on this Christmas Eve.

The 2010 draft is interesting in that it has a strong top half, but not for quarterbacks, and yet its quarterback class is deep. Unless something dramatic happens between now and next April, Jimmy Clausen in the top quarterback taken. After him, there's room for a riser or three and time for Sam Bradford to fall. Bradford looked precise, poised and potent his two seasons playing behind Phil Loadholt and Duke Robinson, amassed gonzo stats, but since has taken two injurious sacks in just 71 drop backs.

Pocket awareness is hugely important. What can look like poise in college, can turn into tunnel vision. Defenders arrive faster, hit harder, strip better, and deflect passes towards linebackers that run like corners. It's a skill as much as accuracy and as essential as accuracy.

If Seattle isn't in on Clausen, and Bradford cannot properly acquit himself, I'd rather they not invest a first round pick on a second tier prospect. There's, like, ten second-tier quarterback prospects in this draft. And while careful scouting can help filter the wheat from the chafe, sometimes discretion is the better part of scouting: don't overplay what you know.

Here's an annotated highlight reel of one those second-tier quarterback prospects: Ryan Mallett

Arkansas hosted Auburn. Auburn is ranked 37 by FEI and 36 by S&P in overall defensive efficiency. S&P rates Auburn as 29 in pass defense efficiency. Unlike the Jones-McFadden Razorbacks, this isn't a run, run, ruuun--throw a pass or two-offense, but a relatively balanced offense with a much for effective passing game than run game. In fact, S&P slavers over this aerial attack. Arkansas ranks first overall in offense powered by its first overall pass offense.

:40 Mallett has a deliberate delivery, but it's not Tebow-esque.

:50 Lazily throws off his back foot. The ball flutters and is underthrown. He overestimates the front side pressure coming from inside right tackle.

:56 YAC play.

1:27 Good zip, obviously. It errs downward, which is preferable to high or behind. He locks onto one read right away and waits for the receiver to run to a spot.

1:34 Under center, PA, finds his man and waits for him to flash open. Squares, turns hips, cocks and delivers a tight spiral on a crossing pattern ending 25-yards down field and in the left flat. Takes a hit.

2:35 This, ladies and gentleman, is the good kind of check down. Mallett finds it quick and completes. A lot of room develops underneath when the deep passing attack is developed.

2:40 Designed fade perfectly placed on the receiver's hands. You'll notice the 6'3" Greg Childs (15) doesn't have much of a window behind the 6'2" Neiko Thorpe (85).

2:59 Even sweeter on second viewing.

3:27 This guy's huge. Here we see that he moves pretty damn well and even looks a little lanky in his 252 pound body. The little flourish at the end of the hand off is cute, but should be dropped. The pass is part ugly and part promising. It's a rollout and that he's able to throw a roll out from his back foot speaks to how raw, raw, raw this guy is. He still snaps his hips and he still gets it there. Within the context, this is successful if not form execution.

3:36 Replay: Notice, again, he errs low. I'd rather a Donovan McNabb type that groundballs some passes than a Eli Manning type that line drives some passes. Both are better than quarterbacks that miss horizontally. That can be a crippling weakness.

4:16 The deep touch pass, one of the more aesthetically pleasing executions in football. Notice, not off play action. Three-step drop to a 'go' route up the right sideline, the exact drop-route combination Matt Schaub found Andre Johnson with. Nice to be on the other end of that.

4:26 On second viewing: POD is insufferably rancorous and pro-idiot.

4:34 Each leg is like an out of pads Colt McCoy. You can't just look at a guy and know he will be able to break sacks. That's combination of skill, awareness, demeanor and decision making along with, obviously, strength. But Mallett should have the strength, and it's worth noting, that with the proliferation of the 3-4, for the first time I can remember, pass rushers are becoming smaller.

4:45 Effortless.

5:24 Notice his swagger on this play. This was a blowout win for Arkansas over a ranked opponent, but it wasn't a win yet in the early fourth. Auburn had scored 20 unanswered to close the third. This was a tight game and an essential drive.

The call looks reminiscent of Greg Knapp. First, PA out of shotgun. Then the pocket and Mallett move left. The rusher continues right and runs a streak into the end zone. That pulls the safeties. Then Mallet pops a cocky little hip flip and finds his man crossing towards the right flat.

The pass is precise and if not difficult, shows that Mallett can execute a complex, multi-tiered fake. You know, what causes Seneca Wallace to sack himself and Matt Hasselbeck to scramble.

And there we go.

This wasn't Mallett's best game but it made a nice show of tools and type. Get the right game, and Derek Anderson has done better against pro competition. That's the rub: Quarterbacks like Anderson and Mallett can look majestic one week and sickening the next. His completion percentage is only 57.2%, but that's not intolerable given his mad bomber profile. It does point to him being primarily a play action quarterback, at least until he fully develops his decision making.

Mallett transferred from Michigian after Rich Rodgiriguez arrived. He played spot duty in 2007, sat in 2008 and therefore 2009 is about all we have to pull from. He's says he has not made a decision about entering the draft. Theoretically, his decision is dependent on where he will be selected. Mallett's last chance to prove his wares comes January 2, against East Carolina. Advanced stats paint the Pirates as a mediocre team flying a fearsome record. If Mallett excels, his stock will rise and he may declare, and if he struggles, his stock will sink and he'll likely stick in school.