<
>

AJ McCarron confident about draft

3/13/2014

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- AJ McCarron isn't selling himself short.

When asked Wednesday whether he considered himself the best quarterback in the draft, his response was simply, "Why not?" With two national championships and a slew of passing records under his belt from his three years as a starter at Alabama, he feels like the furthest thing from the second-tier prospect he's purported to be.

"The rest of those guys feel like they're the best," he said. "It's a mind-set you have to carry in yourself. I feel like my play speaks for itself over the three years I started in the SEC. I definitely do."

McCarron didn't run in the 40-yard dash or compete in many of the other timed drills at Alabama's pro day, but he did throw the ball around for the bevy of scouts in attendance, playing catch with former teammates Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell and Marquis Maze. Saints coach Sean Payton and Eagles coach Chip Kelly were among the more high profile NFL types in attendance.

"This isn't pressure," McCarron said. "This is easy. This is practice."

McCarron has approached the draft process with a sizable chip on his shoulder. Despite all the success he had in college, he views himself as underrated and under appreciated. The 6-foot-4, 214-pound Mobile, Ala., native threw for 9,019 yards, 77 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his four years with the Tide. Those numbers are certainly chips in his favor, but they carry only so much weight when it comes to the NFL. More than wins and losses and overall production, there are questions over his talent and how it translates to the next level.

"I've been hearing everything about arm strength and deep outs and comebacks," McCarron said. "I feel like I should silence all that. I threw it deep early in the workout and I threw it deep late. I felt like it was a real good day."

A strong combine performance in Indianapolis did well for McCarron's stock, but ESPN's Scouts Inc. still ranks him as the fifth best quarterback prospect in the draft, behind Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Jimmy Garoppolo.

"I felt great about it," McCarron said of his work at the combine. "Going out there, the talk was about arm strength. That's just people talking that don't know you and don't know the mechanics and everything. I needed to work on my mechanics. I did that. I had time to work on myself and my personal game, kind of master my craft. Here you don't have much time to do all that.

"It felt good to work on my game and focus on myself and I felt like overall it was a good day."

McCarron wasn't the only former Alabama player to consider the pro day a success. Offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio didn't run the 40-yard dash, but he did participate in a few drills and dropped 11 pounds from his weigh in at the combine.

Kouandjio, whom ESPN's Scouts Inc. ranks as the sixth best offensive tackle in the draft, saw his momentum slip after an NFL Network report claimed that some teams had failed him in their physicals, calling his knee "arthritic." But Kouandjio claimed that neither he nor his agent received that kind of feedback and that his knee has been healthy since his sophomore season at Alabama.

"All of these coaches know that there's nothing wrong with my knee," he said. "I played 2 years. The fourth month after my knee surgery I was out there playing until now. I didn't miss a practice. I haven't missed a game because of my knee. All the guys out here, all the coaches know that. It didn't bother me one bit."

Said Alabama coach Nick Saban: "I can't find anybody that failed the guy on a physical. If you don't understand how people grade players in terms of NFL medical grades, it's not pass-fail. There are usually five categories that a guy falls in, and if you don't understand it you shouldn't be writing about it, because he didn't really fail."