Pros and cons of the Commanders drafting J.J. McCarthy at No. 2

What are the pros and cons surrounding the Washington Commanders potentially drafting J.J. McCarthy at No. 2 overall?
J.J. McCarthy
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Cons of the Commanders drafting J.J. McCarthy

Every quarterback has issues. J.J. McCarthy is no exception.

Critics point out that Jim Harbaugh did not ask him to make nearly as many big-time, pressure throws as the other quarterbacks slated to go atop the draft. That’s where his 22 touchdown throws during 2023 raise red flags. It’s a good number, but first-round prospects of late sometimes throw twice that many. Most at least hit 30.

There’s no real way to counter that argument. It’s undeniable. What you can say is that McCarthy ran a pro-style offense under Harbaugh and he did everything that was asked to win games. Will that translate into wins in the NFL? Impossible to know.

McCarthy’s success was not wholly a function of having elite teammates, which is another common knock on him. Michigan did have an outstanding defense and very good skill position players. But he produced in 2023 playing behind a fairly average offensive line.

After guard Zak Zinter went down with an injury in late November, center Drake Nugent was the only premier lineman playing for the Wolverines this season. Their tackle play was merely serviceable in 2023. Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Bo Nix, and Michael Penix Jr. all played behind superior pass-blocking. Only Drake Maye played behind an inferior line.

McCarthy was not especially accurate on deep balls - especially balls outside the hashes. Those are throws that require both power and touch. As such, they are extremely difficult.

This is one of the things that scouts have marveled at when watching Jayden Daniels in 2023. McCarthy’s arm strength gives him a tendency to overpower those throws. He will need to develop better touch, especially on deeper distribution.

There are a few physical numbers that could be concerning. McCarthy was listed at 203 pounds at the beginning of the 2023 season, but he weighed 219 at the NFL Scouting Combine. That is a big difference for a quarterback, especially in the wake of concerns over Bryce Young’s slender frame.

Is McCarthy big enough to take the physical abuse an NFL quarterback must withstand? This is where his youth also provides a possible answer. He is still maturing physically. Were he to stay on the slender side, it might be cause for concern. The signal-caller should comfortably carry several more pounds and thicken that frame as he ages.

His hand size won’t change, which is on the small side. That used to be more of a concern in bad weather, when grip becomes a factor, and were more prone to fumbling. Plenty of quarterbacks with hand sizes below the ideal have succeeded over the years. However, though McCarthy was only credited with one lost fumble during his time at Michigan, he did put the ball on the turf 11 times in three seasons.

I have McCarthy rated as the No. 3 quarterback in this draft class, behind Williams and Daniels. His physical tools are not quite as impressive as those of Maye, but he has been a more reliable, consistent performer who is a proven leader.

If he ends up in the right situation, McCarthy will be a very good starter in the NFL. Unless the Washington Commanders trade back in the first round, they shouldn't take him.

That said, McCarthy will go in the top 10. With the inflation of quarterback value that happens in every modern draft, he could go in the 4-6 range when it's all said and done.