Ryan Mallett has had an interesting career so far. A quarterback prospect many regarded highly, he fell into the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft when New England selected him. He did not start a game in his first three NFL seasons. While this might be unusual under normal circumstances for a quarterback selected so highly, there was a good reason in this case. The Patriots had Tom Brady.
Faced with the likelihood Mallett would leave for no compensation via free agency to find a place where he could play more, the Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo and traded Mallett to Houston. He ended up getting two starts when the Texans benched the struggling Ryan Fitzpatrick. Then he tore a pectoral and was lost for the year. It is quite rare such a highly selected quarterback makes it through his entire rookie contract without having a track record, but here Mallett is. Given his Texans connection, it is worth wondering whether Mike Maccagnan might bring in the former Arkansas Razorback and Michigan Wolverine.
Mallett's 2014 season only consisted of two starts. He played a pretty good 20 for 30, 2 touchdown game in Cleveland and a bad 21 for 45 game against Cincinnati. This is the only extended playing time of his career. While the sample size is too small to make definitive statements, I did watch him and come away with a number of thoughts.
His physical tools are top notch. He's 6'6" and owns a rocket for an arm. He can fit balls into very tight quarters. This is good because his accuracy looked inconsistent at spots. I think a lot of it has to do with his footwork. There were clear points where he didn't properly set his feet on throws. When you have a big arm, you can get away with less than pinpoint accuracy. This is true at least to a certain extent, and I think it was true for him in that Browns game.
There were some things I really liked about Mallett. He was good at getting the ball out quickly. Pro Football Focus had him at 2.31 seconds from the snap to pass attempt. That's in Manning-Brady territory. Now let me provide you with some caveats here lest you think he has a Manning-Brady type release. Houston gave him a lot of quick and simple reads. Only 10.1% of his pass attempts were deep balls. That is a low rate. I do think he made good throws on time, though.
He understands he's got a cushion here, and the ball is coming out as his receiver is making his break. There isn't going to be a chance for the corner to drive on the receiver and make a play.
Same thing here. The receiver is open, but it's only going to be for a short time until the corner reacts. It's up to the quarterback to mentally process how the route meshes with the coverage, and decisively get the ball to the receiver before this window closes.
And once more here. This is the kind of thing that makes it very difficult for me to have optimism about Geno Smith's future. He doesn't make quick enough decisions and throw it quickly enough when he has receivers open like this. You can see here that the defenders are going to react eventually. You know how people frequently say, "Geno is late." That's frequently what they mean.
Now I'd like to talk about a touchdown I think Mallett went a long way to creating.
The Browns appear to be in a zone underneath to me, and Mallett uses his eyes to draw a linebacker out of his zone, clearing it for Garrett Graham.
If my interpretation is correct (maybe, maybe not), that's pretty advanced level stuff.
It isn't all pretty, though. There were instances where Mallett's lack of game experience stuck out, and he was fooled.
Take for example a standard zone blitz where he misses a defensive lineman dropping into coverage with near catastrophic results.
Then there is staring down a receiver.
The question is this. Would I go after Mallett if I was running the Jets? I think the answer is yes. Mallett has a lot of ability. He's shown some really good traits in his limited work. He has also trained under two really good offensive coaches, Bill O'Brien and Josh McDaniels.
There isn't going to be a perfect candidate in free agency. The guys who are really good aren't allowed to hit free agency by their teams. Mallett is the rare free agent who has a legitimately high ceiling. I'd probably prefer to go with the higher ceiling than a known mediocrity like Sam Bradford or Brian Hoyer.
I think for this reason that Mallett would be a good fit if the Jets brought in a rookie. Unless the rookie is ready to play on day one, the hope is to have a starting quarterback who can play effectively enough to stick for sixteen games. Mallett might provide more hope than the alternatives. Stick Geno Smith or even Hoyer or Bradford out there, and everybody knows what the team has. Management and coaches are liable to get impatient quickly knowing how little hope there is for this starter to succeed. An unwritten book like Mallett might get more patience.
I can't imagine Mallett getting a prohibitive contract. Any deal would likely allow the Jets to escape in a year if it didn't work out. I'd consider this quarterback a target worth going after in that event.