From Prospect To Pro: Comparing Sean Mannion To Ben Roethlisberger
By Ken Scudero
When comparing college prospects to NFL stars, we can sometimes get a good idea of how the prospect's game will translate to the professional level. That's not to say the prospect will be anywhere near as good as his NFL comparison. But if two guys play a similar type of game, we can sometimes get an idea if the prospect has the potential to succeed in the NFL.
Coming into 2013, I didn't see Sean Mannion as a top-10 quarterback prospect . But he has changed my opinion. There are quite a few similarities I see between him and Big Ben Roethlisberger.
In 2012, Mannion injured his left knee and missed two games. In eight games, he threw 15 TDs and 13 picks. He completed 64.7 percent of his passes for a total of 2,446 yards. He has great arm strength, possibly the strongest arm in the nation, but Mannion lacked in decision-making last season.
This year, Mannion has thrown a school-record six touchdowns against Colorado. Through six games, he has 25 TDs, only three interceptions, and 2,511 yards passing, with a completion percentage of 67.1. He hasn't thrown fewer than three TDs in a game and threw four or more four times. He's on a record-setting pace and has shown incredible improvement from last season.
Mannion impresses me in his ability to put touch on long throws when they need to be dropped over defenders and to shoot tight spirals into small windows. He is the definition a pure passer, like Roethlisberger, in his ability to look at the field and put the ball on the receiver, pure and simple. In short throws and long throws, he leads his receivers consistently in stride.
The obvious parallel between Mannion and Roethlisberger is the size, both measuring up at 6-foot-5 with 241-pound Roethlisberger being a little bigger than Mannion (220). Another glaring resemblance between the two is the way they both rear back that right arm and let it fly with authority. They share an identical overhand throwing motion on deep passes. Mannion won't escape defenders in a circus act the way Roethlisberger has for the last 10 years in Pittsburgh, but he has shown the ability to confidently step up in the pocket when under pressure. He looks like Roethlisberger when defenders are in his face, and he's able to stick in there and deliver an accurate throw, knowing the big hit is coming. Roethlisberger is unorthodox in his footwork and scrambling, while Mannion is more refined and thrives in five-step drops.
Arm strength and accuracy are where Mannion excels, and though his decision-making has greatly improved this season, there is still some work to be done. He tends to lock onto one receiver during a play; if he continues that, NFL cornerbacks and safeties will eat him alive. He is a natural passer and would be best in a spread offense with four receivers running their routes, giving him several options to strike deep. Mannion's groomed for a spread offense, and even if he continues to do what he's doing this season, he may still drop to the fifth round with this deep quarterback draft class. Mannion, though, is a second round talent, and I see him getting a shot at starting in the next two years.