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Are Mock Drafters Too Low on This National Champion?

The draft season is a weird time for football fans. There is unbridled excitement for some players and unabashed disdain for others. A player’s draft stock can spike either way in an instant. NFL teams are constantly creating smokescreens to hide what their true intentions are, which oftentimes leaves their fan bases creating narratives for themselves. 

I don’t blame people though. This can be a terribly boring time for NFL viewers. 

But in all the hustle and bustle of the pre-draft process names can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. With a draft class as fascinating as this one, it can be easy for a player to be cast to the side if they aren’t standing out.

Guys like Michael Penix and Bo Nix have stuck around in the people’s attention thanks to their Senior Bowl attendance. Guys like Sam Hartman and Joe Milton are also at the top of people’s minds because of the Senior Bowl but for the wrong reasons. Then you have players like Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, and Drake Maye in the spotlight because, well,  they simply just have been since day one of College football this year. 

Though, there’s still a name that people look at and immediately brush off. He’s a player that has found great success in college while not needing to be an elite producer. He was the starting quarterback for the National Champion Michigan Wolverines.

Let’s Talk About J.J. McCarthy.

Mel Kiper Jr. was one of the first major names to float the idea that the Michigan quarterback could be a big draft day surprise. Kiper noted that McCarthy could be the fourth QB off the board in April. For those following the draft closely, this would be a massive deviation from the consensus. 

McCarthy’s name popped up again on Thursday, February 8. Ben Albright tweeted out that those he talked to in the league see McCarthy as a potential top-10 guy. 

Clearly, the average fan is missing something. While we mock drafters and armchair GMs are talking about these older QBs, the NFL GMs are talking about the younger, more accomplished prospect. Are we really that off-base about J.J. McCarthy?

Looking at him again, I think we threw him out a bit too early due to the elite machine that was Michigan. The Michigan defense has been tremendous these past two years. Their running game has been equally elite - leaving McCarthy little to do in elevating Michigan.

In both seasons as a starter, McCarthy threw under 3000 yards. He threw just 43 touchdowns in two seasons with the Wolverines. In contrast, Jayden Daniels threw 40 touchdowns this season. He wasn't asked to throw a ton. He had just three games where he had 30 or more attempts in 2023. With such a small sample size it makes sense as to why people may be out on McCarthy.

J.J. - The Prospect We Need to Re-Evaluate

The key difference between McCarthy and the rest of the pack is the one intangible that every GM loves to see. At his core, J.J. McCarthy is a winner. He has gone 25-0 as a starter at Michigan in the regular season (27-1 including bowl games). The one blemish of a disappointing loss to TCU in the 2022 College Football Playoffs was wiped away after winning the National Championship this past year. 

In a less opaque and philosophical sense, McCarthy is also a damn good quarterback. He doesn’t have the outrageous stats like Daniels or Maye, but he does the correct things with the football. He had just four interceptions in 2023, three of which came in a strange outlier game against Bowling Green. He posted a completion percentage of 72%. He doesn't run often, but he is athletic enough to make plays out of the pocket.

Maybe most importantly, McCarthy is currently graded as the fourth-best QB by PFF in this draft class - ahead of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jordan Travis. 

He’s young, he’s accomplished, and the buzz around him is only positive. It might be time we start listening a bit more about that chatter surrounding J.J. McCarthy. 

We have some time before the combine but as it stands, McCarthy might just be a much better NFL quarterback than we are giving him credit for. Or this is, again, all a smokescreen. That’s what makes this part of the year so whacky. We never know what teams think of a player until they hand that card to Roger Goodell on draft day. 


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