One of the late bloomers in this year’s quarterback class is Ryan Nassib of Syracuse. With Syracuse winning six of its final seven games last year, led by a potent offense, Nassib’s stock soared during the second half of the college football season, to the point where a lot of teams are looking at him. He could end up being one of the first quarterbacks drafted this year, possibly in the first round. But even with all the praise Nassib has received, is he a pretender or a contender when it comes to being a starter in the NFL?
Although Nassib didn’t break out until his senior year, he was a three-year starter at Syracuse, giving him the experience in college that NFL teams like to see at the quarterback position. Nassib showed steady progress throughout his three years as a starter, culminating in over 3,700 yards passing and 26 touchdowns in 2012. During his five years, Nassib played in multiple types of offenses with multiple schemes, which will make him familiar with just about any offense he has to run in the NFL.
It’s also relevant to know that he played for a team at Syracuse that was in re-building mode during his tenure, and had below average talent and depth for a BCS program for much of Nassib’s career, both at receiver and along the offensive line. When Nassib was a senior, Syracuse switched to an up-tempo no-huddle offense two weeks before its first game, a move no college team would make without complete faith in their quarterback. The risky move paid off in the end, as Nassib was orchestrating the offense to near perfection by the end of the season, which indicates a high level of intelligence and a good work ethic.
Physically, the thing that stands out the most about Nassib is his arm strength, which is among the best in this year’s class. He has a quick release and puts a lot of zip on the ball, seemingly with little effort, which is a sign of good mechanics. Suffice it to say, there isn’t a throw Nassib can’t make. He doesn’t have ideal size, but at 6’2’’ 230 pounds, Nassib has enough, and he makes up for it with a lot of toughness and good mobility. Nassib doesn’t like to run, but he does if that’s what the defense is giving him, and once he gets going he has deceptive speed and is usually smart enough to slide or get out of bounds and avoid unnecessary hits. He’s also good at moving in the pocket and strong enough to break arm tackles. The thing that could separate Nassib from other quarterbacks in this class is his intelligence, as he has one of the highest football IQ’s among this year’s quarterbacks. He’s good at making pre-snap reads, knows how to use his eyes and pump fakes to manipulate the defense, and is decisive in his actions. He also shows great poise and leadership, exhibited in his ability to run an offense that was exclusively no huddle last year and by the way he was able to bring Syracuse back from deficits of 22, 20, and 14 to take the lead, all against BCS level schools.
Oddly enough, one of Nassib’s biggest strengths is also a concern for him, and that’s the velocity on his passes. His arm is strong, almost to a fault, as at times Nassib has had difficulty toning down his velocity when he needs to throw passes with a little more touch. The receivers he’ll be throwing to in the NFL should be able to handle his throws a little better, but it does put them in tough spots when they aren’t expecting such a hard pass. At times, Nassib hasn’t had the best poise in the pocket, often times getting happy feet and fleeing the pocket before he should, but in his defense, he didn’t have a strong offensive line in front of him until the second half of his senior season. The biggest concern with Nassib is his accuracy, which can get erratic at times. He can usually get the ball to the receiver, but not always with great placement, forcing his receivers to make adjustments with the ball in the air.
So, is the late bloomer Nassib a pretender or a contender? Contender. With three years of experience as a starter, familiarity with different offenses, and poise in difficult situations, he’s perhaps the best-prepared quarterback in the draft to be an NFL back up right away, but he’s talented enough to become a starter down the line. His arm strength and quick release simply can’t be taught; also, his intelligence, his understanding of the game, and his good decision making give him the profile of an NFL starter. A team could push him into the starter’s spot right away, or give him some time to iron some things out, and within a year or two he could become a real solid starting quarterback in the NFL.