Mar 14, 2014 12:09 PM EDT
AJ McCarron is going into the NFL Draft this May confident in himself even if scouts and evaluators are not.
McCarron told ESPN he has the same mindset of anyone available in the draft, that he is the best player at his position.
"The rest of those guys feel like they're the best," he said. "It's a mind-set you have to carry in yourself. I feel like my play speaks for itself over the three years I started in the SEC. I definitely do."
At six-foot-four, 214 pounds, McCarron is the ideal size for a pocket passer, but some NFL evaluators have questioned his natural talent and arm strength. Scouts Inc. has given him top marks in on-field production and off-field character, but classified his physical attributes as mediocre.
He improved every year and, as a senior, was a Heisman Trophy finalist alongside QBs like Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel. Still, AJ McCarron might very well be the latest example of a college quarterback who had his own personal success overshadowed by team success.
The Alabama Crimson Tide was certainly a great football team before McCarron was the starter. They won the 2010 BCS Championship game with Greg Mcelroy, who only attempted 11 passes the entire game.
USC has had a long history of winning in college football, especially at the quarterback position. Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy as a senior at USC then went on to enjoy a long career as an NFL starter. Matt Leinart, on the other hand, also won the Heisman and went on to experience a less-than-mediocre NFL career.
Matt Cassel probably exhibited what playing at a successful program can do most. He was a backup QB to both Palmer and Leinart, but was still drafted and ended up with more than one starting NFL job.
Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen are a pair of Notre Dame QBs who experienced a world of college success, but saw their draft stock fall when the big day arrived. Both are currently free agents and neither has been able to hold a starting job, let alone a backup job.
Andrew Luck could have been the first overall pick the year before he declared for the draft, but he wanted to finish his degree. Matt Barkley is what would have happened if Luck's senior season went another way.
Barkley returned to USC for his senior season despite being highly praised as a junior. He sustained a shoulder injury that never really went away and his arm strength has been questioned since.
The NFL book has yet to be written on McCarron, but his college coach, Nick Saban, believes the QB is much better than his draft stock.
"I think anybody that doesn't take AJ in one of those earlier rounds is going to make a huge mistake because I think he's going to be a very, very good player," Saban said on ESPN's coverage of Alabama's pro day. "Guys who can make quick decisions, process the information and throw the ball accurately are the guys that usually end up being pretty good NFL quarterbacks."
Still, McCarron is not worried and plans to prove his arm strength. He has played well in a tough football conference, improved annually and has exhibited leadership qualities on one of the most successful teams in recent memory.
"I've been hearing everything about arm strength and deep outs and comebacks," McCarron said. "I feel like I should silence all that. I threw it deep early in the workout and I threw it deep late. I felt like it was a real good day."
Just like at Alabama's pro day, there will be high-profile NFL coaches, scouts and other evaluators watching McCarron every time he picks up a football.
"This isn't pressure," McCarron told ESPN. "This is easy. This is practice."
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