When you evaluate each position, it’s important to look at every player individually, staying away from potential stereotypes that may exist. While they are prevalent at almost every position, the quarterback position has become abound with stereotypes, specifically focused on size.
While this funny “quarterback comparison chart” says enough about how athleticism leads to comparisons, I’d like to talk about how people perceive that shorter quarterbacks lack the arm strength necessary to make all the “NFL throws”. In particular, I’d like to look at Georgia’s senior Aaron Murray’s game against LSU, where he showed ample arm strength on the perimeter to test defenses downfield.
Because of the natural size, ability to generate leverage, and natural height to come down on throws, being a taller quarterback generally does tie to an advantage when it comes to generating velocity. However, arm strength also ties to consistent mechanics, release point height, arm and wrist quickness, and fluidity in hips/legs to generate torque.
In Aaron Murray’s case, it’s a mixture of a naturally adequate arm in terms of velocity along with consistent mechanically and footwork. Murray has developed footwork-wise, both in the pocket and on the move. In both below plays, Murray displays the ability to set his feet in the pocket, even despite pressure, and deliver strikes between levels of coverage that he’ll need to show at the NFL level.
In this first play, Murray has a first and ten to work with, and plenty of options in terms of his potential play-calling (Murray has audible control at the line of scrimmage). Reading only four down-lineman as the anticipated rushers, with two high safeties and man on the outside, Murray hot-reads (likely quickly post-snap) to his vertical read on the outside.
While you can’t see the receivers working downfield, you can see how Murray sets his feet, just slightly past shoulder-width apart. He’s able to generate velocity from his lower half, sinking back off his back leg and driving the ball over the top.
Seeing the product of the throw by Murray, he hits (#31) on his back shoulder, 30 yards downfield in yardage, not including the horizontal aspect from the center of the field. What you can’t see by this still shot is how cornerback was playing tight to the receivers hip, precenting him from getting vertical in the Cover 3 coverage he was playing. High velocity is a must on this type of throw, as a slower pass gives a defensive back time to react, potentially knocking down or even intercepting this 35+ yards-in-the-air pass.
This next play is a somewhat similar throwing location, but the factors changed substantially. On this 3rd and 9, LSU choses to show seven potential rushers, eventually sending five. Georgia matches with their running back staying in to block, giving them ample protection for Murray in a man-on-man idea. LSU runs a single high safety, with man on the receivers outside.
As expected, Georgia picks up the rushers well, giving Murray an initial pocket to work with. Reading the single high safety post-snap, Murray shifts his initial focus on the right side of the field, checking the weakside one-on-one receiver. By doing this, Murray forces the safety to stay tight in the middle of the field, preventing him from working towards the two receiver side of the field quickly enough to be in position. Murray sets his feet well again, a little wider than his shoulder-width, and comes over the top to deliver a throw to the same side of the field.
In easily his most impressively placed ball of the game, Murray dumps it directly over the top of the cornerback. While the actual video shows this throw better that the picture, you can see just how far away the safety is combined with how tight the cornerback is to the receiver despite the completed throw shows the ample velocity. Again, this throw is a 35 yard throw, not including the horizontal distance the ball needs to travel.
I don’t mean to claim Aaron Murray has elite or even very good arm strength compared to his future NFL counterparts. He doesn’t. Draft-eligible quarterbacks such as Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, and Zach Mettenberger have clearly better arms that Murray, based on the same factors that I’ve used to evaluate Murray’s. In fact, based on their college throws, I would say Murray is able to get more velocity on his downfield throws than fellow 2014 quarterbacks AJ McCarron and David Fales.
It is important to realize that just because Murray is a shorter passer, it doesn’t mean he’ll have the same limitations as shorter quarterbacks before him (most notably Chase Daniel or Kellen Moore).
Murray’s primary strengths are his diagnoses post-snap, ball placement across the field, and his ability to make plays on the move and outside the pocket. He has his fair share of weakness, as does every quarterback prospect. But Aaron Murray is a testament to the fact that “short equals lackluster arm strength” is a stereotype that doesn’t always hold true. And the same goes for all scouting stereotypes.