The Bears' former director of college scouting, Greg Gabriel has over 30 years of experience in NFL scouting and he'll be breaking down the top NFL prospects to watch this college season and other NFL news each week here at Pro Football Weekly. You can follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe
On recent days there has been a lot of chatter on Twitter about the throwing velocity of the quarterbacks at the annual Scouting Combine. What velocity measures is how fast the ball is moving once thrown. In other words, miles per hour.
Some of the results from the Combine were as follows: Patrick Mahomes: 60 mph, Davis Webb: 59 mph, DeShone Kizer: 56 mph, Mitch Trubisky and Jerod Evans: 55 mph, Nate Peterman and Brad Kaaya: 53 mph and Deshaun Watson: 49 mph. The main Twitter concern was that Watson does not have an NFL arm. Nonsense!
After these results were tweeted out, there were a number of other tweets saying things such as, “The minimal number a QB can have is 55" or, "Anyone with less than 55 will struggle to play in the NFL,” etc.
I found these tweets amusing, as the people who were posting these things don’t have any idea of what they are talking about. Why? The “velocity” stat has only been used for a few years and there is not nearly enough evidence to tell us a thing other than the miles per hour a quarterback's throw is traveling. Ten years from now there may be some evidence, but today there is nothing. In fact when I asked some GMs and coaches around the league that I know about the stat they all agreed it was meaningless at this time as far as predicting anything. Again, not enough data.
Most if not all of the top quarterbacks in the league never had their velocity measured at the Combine. I guarantee you that some of the greatest of all-time would have “flunked’ the velocity test. Coming out of college Peyton Manning had a good, but not a great arm. Tom Brady actually had a bit less than a good arm and Drew Brees' arm strength coming out was below average at best.
How did we know this? We watched practice live and a lot of game tape. I was at a Purdue practice during Brees' final year and he struggled to complete a 12-yard out in windy conditions. I was at Peyton Manning’s Pro Day and in a scripted workout he showed far less than a cannon. One of the knocks on Brady coming out was he couldn’t “drive” the ball.
After each of these quarterbacks spent some time in the National Football League, their arm strength improved. In fact, not only did it improve, but it improved dramatically.
In many college programs, the quarterback is not forced to do much in the weight room. Once they get to the NFL, things change. If you want to keep your job and be able to compete, you have to do everything you can to improve. There are numerous exercises quarterbacks can do to improve their arm strength. These players look to improve grip strength, forearm strength and triceps strength. Improving those areas will improve the zip a quarterback has on the ball.
Yes, coaches and evaluators want a quarterback to have a strong arm, but they also want the player to throw a tight ball. In fact many believe “spin” is more important than outright arm strength. A strong-armed quarterback who doesn’t throw a tight ball will struggle in the wind. Likewise, a quarterback with an average arm can have success in the wind or cold if he can spin the ball properly.
Getting back to Deshaun Watson. Anyone who doesn’t think his arm is strong enough to play in the NFL doesn’t know how to evaluate. He has no trouble making every required NFL throw. He has proven this over and over again on tape. While he may not have the quickest release, he can make all the throws and can easily throw the ball 55 yards downfield with a tight spiral.
Next time you see such nonsense, just throw it away. It is, at best, a very inexact stat that people in the NFL aren’t putting a whole lot of stock in. It just so happens that those are the people that matter when it comes to evaluations.