RALEIGH, N.C. -- Mike Glennon is a franchise quarterback.
That statement certainly will draw the ire of evaluators with a lesser opinion of the North Carolina State product, but my experience in the NFL as a player and scout leads me to believe Glennon possesses all of the traits to be an effective starting quarterback as a pro.
Measuring in at 6-foot-6, 222 pounds with A-plus arm talent, Glennon is a prototypical pocket passer -- the kind that dominated the NFL in the 1990s and still flourishes today. He is at his best when working off five- and seven-step drops in the pocket, delivering accurate strikes to receivers on intermediate and deep routes. Whereas some quarterbacks are most comfortable piling up completions on a variety of dink-and-dunk throws, Glennon is the master of the pro throw, pushing the ball downfield on deep comebacks, square-ins and post-corner routes. Additionally, he excels at throwing vertical routes following strong play-action fakes in the backfield.
When I watch Glennon, I see glimpses of Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco. These observations stood out to me while I studied six of Glennons's game tapes from 2012 (Tennessee, Miami, Florida State, North Carolina, Clemson and Vanderbilt). I also traveled to Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday to observe Glennon's pro day in person. Here's a complete breakdown of what I saw, both on tape and on the practice field:
To earn a blue-chip grade in the minds of most scouts, a quarterback must display exceptional arm strength, velocity and zip consistently during his play. Glennon has all of that and might be the most gifted passer in the 2013 class. He has the capacity to make every throw in the book with zip or touch. He doesn't have any problem making rope throws to the outside portion of the field from the opposite hash. (This is the ultimate test of a quarterback's arm strength, and Glennon passes with flying colors.) In addition, he shows the ability to push the ball down the field 50-plus yards with superb touch and ball placement. Glennon understands how to change the trajectory of deep throws to provide receivers with enough time to run underneath his high-arcing rainbows. Given the fact that most offensive coordinators covet a quarterback with natural passing skills, Glennon's raw talent puts him right in the conversation as a high pick.
One of the biggest knocks on Glennon is his lack of athleticism and mobility within the pocket. Critics suggest he's a sitting duck in the pocket, making it easy for NFL pass rushers to hunt him down off the edges. Moreover, critics wonder if Glennon has the ability to slide, avoid and step up to deliver accurate strikes within a collapsing pocket. Given the need for NFL quarterbacks to routinely make strong throws within a muddy pocket, the questions about Glennon's athleticism and mobility are warranted. When I watch Glennon perform on tape, I believe he displays better maneuverability than he gets credit for. While he lacks the quickness and agility to consistently avoid rushers in the pocket, I saw several instances where he would step up to deliver accurate throws against pressure. Now, these occurrences are not enough for me to upgrade his athletic assessment, but I've seen limited athletes like Drew Bledsoe, Vinny Testaverde and Matt Ryan thrive from within the pocket. I'm not concerned about Glennon's ability to make strong throws from a seven-yard launch point behind the center.
Another area of concern regarding Glennon's game is his penchant for turnovers. He tossed 29 interceptions over the past two seasons, including 17 picks in 2012. Although those numbers certainly stand out on the stat sheet, it is important to note that Glennon attempted 1,017 passes in his 26 career starts. That breaks down to 39.1 attempts per game, which is a lot to ask of a quarterback in a vertical passing attack with a number of high-risk throws.
As I broke down the tape in search of an explanation for Glennon's alarming interception total, I noticed that most of his turnovers were the result of poor footwork leading to errant throws from the pocket. When Glennon fails to set his feet or properly step into his throws, his balls sail woefully off target. Additionally, he took too many chances attempting to squeeze balls into tight windows over the middle of the field. While some turnovers are expected in a high-risk offense, the fact that Glennon can reduce his miscues from the pocket with better footwork and mechanics is encouraging. Now, he must find a way to take some of the instruction that he receives from coaches and put it into practice on the field. Truthfully, every quarterback in the 2013 class must refine an area of his game to become a productive first-year starter. Glennon is definitely in that boat.
Quarterbacks must be able to inspire confidence in their teammates by playing well in key moments. From executing flawless drives in two-minute situations to connecting on critical third-down plays in pivotal situations, the top quarterbacks in the NFL thrive under pressure. Glennon strikes me as a player who plays well in big games. This was particularly evident when I watched him lead his squad back from deficits against Florida State and North Carolina. He was outstanding in the UNC game, rallying his team from a 25-7 deficit. He finished the game completing 29 of 52 passes for 462 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. If not for the fact that his receivers dropped 11 balls in that contest, Glennon might have tossed for 500-plus yards (and the Wolfpack might have won, as opposed to losing in heartbreaking fashion).
Against Florida State, Glennon directed his troops back from an early 16-0 deficit to knock off the Seminoles at Carter-Finley Stadium. In doing so, he connected on 30 of 55 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns, including the game winner with two seconds remaining on the clock. Most importantly, he converted three fourth-down passes, including one inside the 15-yard line on the game-winning drive. Given the importance of playing well in key moments, Glennon's display of poise and composure in the clutch suggests to me that he possesses the right mental makeup to be successful in the NFL.
As I mentioned on "Path to the Draft", Glennon's workout wasn't your typical scripted performance designed to mask a quarterback's deficiencies. The N.C. State star primarily threw intermediate or vertical throws throughout the workout. From a series of deep comebacks and post-corners to a variety of deep crossers, posts and go-routes down the field, Glennon let it fly in front of 38 coaches and scouts (including Buffalo Bills assistant general manager Doug Whaley and New York Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg). He showcased exceptional arm strength and talent in a challenging workout that featured every conceivable throw in a playbook deeply rooted in West Coast offense concepts or three-digit passing-game principles.
Moreover, the workout allowed evaluators to see him making throws that are customarily reserved for NFL quarterbacks on Sundays. This did not go unnoticed by the scouts in attendance. Following the pro day, I talked to several who left impressed with the structure of the workout and Glennon's performance on the day. Although he missed a handful of throws on intermediate routes, he showed a capacity to make line-drive throws through a slight headwind. For teams located in climates where the weather plays a factor near the end of the season (New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, in particular), Glennon's ability to execute in those unfavorable conditions will carry weight in the final evaluation.
So, what about potential concerns from the workout? Well, there are still questions about Glennon's ability to make accurate throws out of rhythm. By that, I mean he must continue to demonstrate to coaches and scouts that he can drop back, move to his right or left, reset his feet and deliver precision passes down the field. In the NFL, the pocket routinely breaks down and elite quarterbacks find a way to maneuver and make accurate throws. Glennon's limited athleticism could lead to some issues at the next level; he must continue to refine his footwork, agility and body control to ensure consistent throws from the pocket.
Finally, Glennon must convince coaches and scouts he has the right personality to take charge in the locker room. Franchise quarterbacks must be able to inspire confidence in their teammates through their performance and verbal prodding. Even quiet leaders like Eli Manning and Joe Flacco have to step up and hold their teammates accountable by challenging them in one-on-one or small-group confrontations. Evaluators still have concerns about whether Glennon possesses that take-charge personality. When I asked Glennon about this following the workout, he pointed to the leadership styles of Manning and Flacco as examples of how he envisions his personality evolving at the next level. Furthermore, he told me to ask his teammates if they believed he had the moxie to be a leader at the highest level. If Glennon can convince enough personnel men that he is capable of leading a team in the right direction, he certainly can build a case to be one of the top quarterbacks selected in the draft.
I've been one of Mike Glennon's biggest fans since the middle of last season. I believe he has all the physical tools that you covet at the position. I respect his intelligence (Glennon obtained a master's degree in liberal arts to accompany an undergraduate degree in business administration) and football savvy. I believe he is a second-round talent with the ability to emerge as a star in the right system.
In my opinion, the right system should consist of a philosophy that features a dominant downhill running game complemented by a vertical passing attack. From a personnel standpoint, it will be important for the team that acquires Glennon to have a workhorse running back in place to facilitate an effective play-action passing game. If I had to point to a blueprint for success, I'd focus on the Atlanta Falcons' development of Matt Ryan. Thomas Dimitroff provided his franchise quarterback with multiple threats in the passing game and surrounded him with a solid offensive line. If a franchise is willing to do the same for Glennon, he could also emerge as a franchise quarterback capable of leading a team into the postseason.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks