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Breaking Down Michigan Quarterback J.J. McCarthy

Greg Gabriel breaks down what he’s seen from Michicagan’s J.J. McCarthy.

2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

The 2023 NFL Draft is stated as being a quarterback draft with the Likes of USC's Caleb Williams, North Carolina's Drake Maye and LSU's Jayden Daniels. The quarterback that gets probably the least amount of notoriety but may be better than many of the above is Michigan's J.J. McCarthy.

McCarthy is a local Chicago area product, having grown up in La Grange Park. He originally went to Nazareth Academy and then finished high school at Florida IMG Academy. Following high school, McCarthy went to Michigan, where he played as a backup in 2021 and then started 28 games in 2022 and 2023, leading Michigan to the College Football Playoff in '22 and the National Championship in 2023.

McCarthy is listed as being 6030 – 202 but may actually be a little shorter at about 6025. He will need to add some strength and bulk to play at the NFL level and withstand the rigors of a 17-game season. J.J. is very athletic and can run really well for a QB. He's not going to run in the 4.5s, but he looks as if he can easily run in the mid-4.6s, which is fast enough for the NFL. One of the strong points of his game is that he does a great job eluding pass rushers, can extend plays with his feet, and can cause defense problems with his running ability.

Michigan's offense is not a pass-happy offense, as we see at many colleges. It's a pro-style offense but also a run-heavy offense. As one former NFL offensive coordinator said to me, "Their offense is run by an Oline coach, and he calls plays like an Oline coach." What he means is the play calling is on the conservative side, and McCarthy isn't about to cut it loose like many college QBs. We can criticize the offense, but the fact remains: this offense got to the CFP two years in a row, and this Michigan team went 15-0 for the 2023 season. McCarthy, as the Michigan QB, ran the scheme perfectly, doing everything he was asked to do and did it while looking like a seasoned veteran.

When evaluating a QB, we can't downgrade him for the offense he played in. That would be ludicrous. What we do is look at his triats and break them down to see f he has the talent to be a top NFL prospect and there is no question that is what McCarthy is.

If we look at his numbers over the last two seasons, we see that he completed 446 of 654 throws for a 68.5 completion percentage, 44 TDs, and only nine interceptions. His completion percentage was at 72% for the 2023 season.

While completion percentage does not actually mean that a passer is accurate, we have to watch the tape to see that. What we see is a tight ball that has very good ball placement and usually puts the receiver in position to get yards after the catch.

McCarthy has a tight overhand delivery and a very quick release. His arm strength is very good, and he consistently throws a tight ball. He shows that he can go through a full progression and make good decisions. He seldom forces throws, and that is why his interception numbers have been low for the last two seasons. What I like is he can go from one to two to three and back to one before he releases the ball. He sees the field very well. What also stands out is his poise and patience in the pocket. He doesn't get rattled.

McCarthy is just as effective deep as he is with short throws. He is also good at changing his arm angle when needed in order to get a throw off.

During the later part of the college football season, many analysts felt that McCarthy was more than likely a second-round pick. They were off as I feel he doesn't get out of the first round, and because of the offense he played in, he may be more NFL-ready than the QBs that are supposedly ranked higher.

McCarthy is a very smart quarterback who doesn't make many mistakes. Michigan coaches swear that when NFL coaches get McCarthy in an interview room and put him on the board, he is going to blow them away with his intelligence and knowledge of QB play.

Yesterday, Jim Harbaugh, who coached McCarthy for his entire college career, said that it was his opinion that McCarthy is the best quarterback in this Draft Class. Obviously, Harbaugh has a bias, but there are many around the League who aren't far off Harbaugh's evaluation. Don't be surprised to see McCarthy get selected in the Top 15 of the Draft.