Anyone who watched Baylor's epic 45-38 win over Oklahoma knows why Bears QB Robert Griffin III is in the middle of the Heisman Trophy debate. His 34-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to WR Terrance Williams with eight seconds left is left is the stuff of legend -- and just one of many big plays Griffin has made this season.
Given his impressive performance in 2011, it should also come as no surprise that Griffin projects as second-round prospect for the 2012 NFL draft should be make himself eligible. There's even a chance he could sneak into the later part of the first round with a good showing during the pre-draft process.
Let's take a closer look at his game against Oklahoma from a scouting perspective to get a feel for just what makes Griffin so good.
The categories listed below are the four position-specific areas in which we at Scouts Inc. grade quarterback prospects, and are graded on a 1-5 basis with 1 being the highest. The grades reflect Griffin's current overall standing in each category, not simply his performance against Oklahoma.
Mental makeup: 2
Griffin is good in this area, but there is room for improvement. He could have done a better job of anticipating some throws and tried to throw across his body while rolling out at times. There are also concerns about his ability to transition from a spread attack to a pro-style offense, but against the Sooners the positives outweighed the negatives.
Griffin showed he can recognize pressure and find the open man when his protection gets outnumbered. He also recognized on a first-quarter play that the Sooners weren't set and quickly zipped the ball to an uncovered Williams, and he had the ball snapped before Oklahoma could make personnel changes on another play and drew a flag for too many men on the field. Then there's the obvious: Griffin showed that he can handle pressure and adversity by leading the Bears to that winning touchdown after the Sooners tied it up at 38.
Notable play: First-and-10, Oklahoma 34-yard line, :08 remaining fourth quarter
This is Griffin at his best, when it counts the most. He scrambles left to buy his receivers time to get open, keeps his eyes downfield despite pressure closing in and makes a strong throw across the field, not across his body. His ability to locate and anticipate Williams breaking for the right corner of the end zone is impressive, a remarkable play given the circumstances.
Griffin completed 21 of 34 passes against Oklahoma and was inconsistent in this area. He missed the strike zone both downfield and underneath. On the other hand, most of his problems stem from inconsistent footwork. He showed he can hit receivers in stride when attacking underneath and drop the ball in downfield when his feet are set and he can follow through.
Notable play: First-and-10, Baylor 31,
2:38 left in second quarter
Griffin recognizes WR Tevin Reese slipping behind coverage on a subtle double move and drops the ball in. Reese does not have to break stride on his way to a 69-yard touchdown. Griffin's deep-ball accuracy is a concern and he throws a lot of short passes in the Bears' scheme, but making more downfield touch throws like this one will help ease those concerns.
Release/arm strength: 2
While his accuracy suffers when his footwork isn't sound, he has enough juice in his arm to zip the ball into tight spaces even when he isn't able to step into his throws. He can also drive the ball downfield and take the top off defenses. In terms of his release, he can get the ball from A to B quickly and alter his launch point without losing effectiveness.
Notable play: 1st-and-10, Oklahoma 13, 1:15 in third quarter
Baylor runs play-action and Sooners DE David King is in Griffin's face shortly after he completes the play fake. Griffin alters his launch point to avoid King's outstretched hands, zipping the ball to H-back Jordan Najvar before LB Tom Wort can get a hand on it. The result is a 13-yard touchdown.
Pocket mobility: 1
Griffin took some big shots in the pocket, but his willingness to stand in and buy his receivers time should not be misinterpreted as an inability to sense and evade pressure. He has rare foot speed and can make defenders miss in small areas, and he also gets outside the pocket and scrambles for valuable yards when nothing is available downfield. He's a big part of Baylor's ground game, rushing for 72 yards on 18 carries against the Sooners.
Notable play: third-and-10, Baylor 15, 3:42 in third quarter
Sooners DE Frank Alexander applies immediate pressure off the left edge and Griffin sees him out of the corner of his eye, or senses him at the last second. Either way, Griffin keeps his eyes downfield as he steps up to avoid the sack, then finishes the play with a 16-yard completion to WR Kendall Wright.