UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Michigan Wolverines Quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws the ball during the first half of the College Football game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Penn State Nittany Lions on November 11, 2023, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Michigan Wolverines Quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws the ball during the first half of the College Football game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Penn State Nittany Lions on November 11, 2023, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Zach Wilson is Better Than J.J. McCarthy

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ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – NOVEMBER 25: J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines looks to pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half in the game at Michigan Stadium on November 25, 2023 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

That is quite the statement to make about Michigan quarterback (QB) J.J. McCarthy given I was probably the only person in America to have a third-round grade on Zach Wilson when my old employer took him first-round (No. 2) in the 2021 NFL Draft.

I took it a step further saying about Wilson, “There is absolutely nothing dominant to his game combined with average arm and accuracy. Classic overhyped player. Manufactured quarterback. Surefire bust.”

With rumors swirling that Wilson will be traded by the Jets in the off-season, let’s get back to McCarthy, who is currently being mocked by over 45% of draft platforms to be a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

How, I’ll never know.

While I maintain “Wilson is a bust,” at least he has a Better feel for the pass rush, Better passing instincts, and has a Better chance of producing a big play than McCarthy. All things considered, if I was an NFL GM and forced to pick Wilson or McCarthy as my backup QB in 2024, I’d pick Wilson (and pray my starter stayed healthy).

Lack of explosive plays by McCarthy

The dead giveaway on game film that McCarthy is headed for the bench in the NFL is the lack of explosive plays he produced in 2023.

I sat for hours watching McCarthy play inconsistent dink-and-dunk football (hours I’ll never get back) in the short-to-intermediate route levels. McCarthy was the No. 51 ranked college QB in passing yards (espn.com). The problem with inconsistent dink-and-dunk football is too much can go wrong, drives breakdown, and that’s what losing is all about in the NFL.

I charted 12 deep passing attempts in 13 games, and half of those were completed (one even got tipped up in the air by a Bowling Green defender). One of the deep incompletions turned into an interception.

Throws like a pitcher who walks too many batters

McCarthy has average arm strength so he has to drive the ball downfield. He has this elongated throwing motion with a really wide base that resembles a baseball pitcher coming off the mound.

Worse yet, he tends to lock in with receivers and was inconsistent going through his progressions. He had four interceptions in 2023 and an additional 16 pass breakups (1.23 per-game-avg) I charted.

These factors make ESPN SportsCenter highlights (for NFL cornerbacks).

Not to mention, his ball placement short-to-intermediate is all over the road. I guess you could say too many of his passes were outside ‘the strike zone.’

NFL upside?

I don’t think he has any. He’s too inconsistent.

Come on, say something positive about McCarthy – – okay he’s athletic – – but he’s not a dual-role threat. In 2023, he had 57 carries for 146 yards.

I keep going back and thinking if this is all former NFL QB and Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh could get out of him…

Even the announcers openly questioned McCarthy’s decisions during televised games this season.

#9 J.J. McCarthy 6-foot-3, 202 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s 2024 NFL Draft Grade: Fifth-Round (I wouldn’t select him)

Projected by 47.1% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of December 26, 2023 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

Question Marks Surround Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy (5 games evaluated in 2022)

Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh Said What About J.J. McCarthy? (5 games evaluated in 2022)

Game film reviewed (2023): East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green, Rutgers, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Penn State, Maryland, Ohio State, and Iowa (click to view games watched to form this evaluation)

2024 NFL Draft Report

Tough and athletic prospect with inconsistent ball placement and above-average playing speed. Flows with the pocket, but can get swallowed by the pass rush. Hyper. Struggled to settle down in the pocket. Inconsistent release times. Rigid mechanics. Rough around the edges. Best route intermediate slants. Threw an elementary route tree. Throws can wobble. Decent accuracy rolling out. Occasional dangerous passes. Struggled with reading defenses. A perfectionist who needs to be in control. Average protecting his body running.

Final words

After studying 23 of his games, McCarthy projects as a middling backup QB, who does not have what it takes to become a successful full-time starter in the NFL.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. Follow on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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