Rookie Scouting Portfolio contributor David Igono showcases the anticipation of Iowa quarterback and NFL Draft prospect Nathan Stanley.
Arm talent seemingly gets all the ink as we approach draft season for quarterback prospects. Whether a quarterback has an adequate arm or a “cannon”, the conversation around a prospect usually focuses on purported arm strength.
Arm strength can be negated or amplified by the speed of thought. Speed of thought paired with confidence presents a problem for any defense to contain—anticipation. Savvy quarterback play is often predicated by manipulating coverage.
Oftentimes the best way to find holes in coverage is to work quickly. A quarterback who can quickly process a defense and identify the quickest way to get the ball out of his hands gives his offense an opportunity to stay on schedule and move the ball downfield.
Nathan Stanley of Iowa has baseline athleticism and his arm talent appears to be adequate. Where he excels is the ability to anticipate, confidently attacking the “uncertainty” before an intended target is open. In the following clip, Stanley is able to make a potentially dangerous throw seem routine via placement and thinking a step ahead of the coverage.
The ensuing clip is an illustration of Stanley’s confidence. To heave a lob to a spot where you expect your receiver to be with two defenders in the equation is nothing short of conviction in one’s ability.
Red-zone decision making often exposes a prospect’s ability to measure space and danger quickly. Savvy quarterback play in the red zone is deft. Stanley is quick, skillful and neat in the next clip knowing that the sooner he releases the ball, the better the end result.
The ability to deduce time and space is a skill. It’s one thing to throw a 50-50 ball and a completely different proposition to throw a pass before a target even comes out of his break. Stanley’s ability to think steps ahead is an asset to an offense, even if it’s not flashy. In this last clip, Stanley uses the lack of space in the end zone to make a high-speed decision for the touchdown.
How a quarterback attacks a defense is just as important as whatever athletic traits he brings to the table. The requisite skills such as arm strength and ability to read coverage must be intact. However, many quarterbacks such as Jake Delhomme, Kurt Warner, Chad Pennington and even more recently Nick Mullens have been able to leverage every drop of the “limited” athleticism they have by unleashing their minds on defenses via anticipation, angles, and timing to dismantle coverages. Stanley has plenty of work to do to be in that conversation but the early signs are promising.
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