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Alabama Football 2015 NFL Draft Profiles: Blake Sims

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Someone will pick Blake Sims up, but will it be at quarterback?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Sims

Career Statistics
PASSING RUSHING
Year GP Comp Att Yds % YPA TD INT Att Yds Long Avg TDs
2014 14 252 391 3487 64.5% 8.9 28 10 83 350 43 4.2 7
2013 8 18 29 167 62.1% 5.8 2 0 15 61 11 4.1 0
2012 10 5 10 42 50% 4.2 1 0 30 187 36 6.2 2
2011 5 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 22 107 45 4.9 0
TOTAL 37 275 430 3696 64% 8.6 31 10 150 705 45 4.7 9

Measurables
  • Height — 5’ 11"
  • Weight — 218 pounds
  • Hands — 9 inches
  • Arm Length — 31.5 inches
  • 40 Yard Dash — 4.57 seconds (1.66 seconds 10 yard split)
  • Vertical Jump — 30.5 inches
  • Broad Jump — 9 feet, 7 inches

Background

A four-year letterman at the Capstone, Blake Sims was originally recruited as a running back, where he appeared in five games as a true freshman in 2011. A position switch after that season led to a two-year stint backing up Alabama legend A.J. McCarron at quarterback, and in 2014 the keys to Lane Kiffin’s offense were handed to the Gainesville, GA native. Sims responded with one of the finest passing seasons in school history, leading the 2014 SEC Champions into the inaugural college football playoff. His 2014 campaign rates second in school history in attempts, completions, and touchdowns, and set a new school record for single-season yardage, eclipsing McCarron’s record from 2013. The 445 yards put up against Florida is also second in school history, and the 85.2% completion percentage against Missouri in the SEC Championship game is best in school history for games with a minimum of 20 completions.

Strengths
  • Feet — Discussion of Sims has to start with his running ability, which is elite among this quarterback crop or any other. The 2014 statistics are somewhat misleading as they include sacks, which are pass attempts gone awry that count as rush attempts according to the NCAA. On scrambles and designed runs, however, Sims picked up 421 yards at a 5.8 yard-per-carry clip. Sims has also shown the ability to break big runs from both the quarterback and running back positions, uncorking multiple 20+ yarders in his career. Sims displayed nifty footwork to avoid sacks in the pocket, and is elusive the open field thanks to a dizzying array of jukes and other moves. He turned in the third-fastest 40 at the combine among quarterbacks, just shy of the mid-4.5 marks put up by Marcus Mariota and Nick Marshall, and showed breakaway speed on long touchdown runs against Texas A&M and Tennessee.
  • Release — We’ll discuss Sims’ less-than-exceptional arm strength in a moment, but a big reason Sims was so successful in 2014 in spite of that arm is his release, which is among the quickest you will ever see. This is the major reason screens and other short throws were the bread-and-butter for the Tide offense in 2014, as over a third of the production in the passing game came on throws traveling less than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage. Amari Cooper played a large role there of course, but Sims’ compact, fluid motion consistently got the ball where it needed to go in a hurry. The ability to get zip on the ball will help compensate for his arm strength when asked to make "NFL throws" at the next level.
  • Intangibles — Sims will leave Alabama among the most beloved players in school history, and the major reason why is his makeup. Sims persevered through position changes, three offensive coordinators, and significant negativity from the fan base and the media throughout his career, and by the end of 2014 had almost completely swayed public opinion in his favor. Sims displayed leadership and calmness under pressure in late drives against Ole Miss and LSU, and an ability to bounce back from adverse play after 3 early interceptions against Auburn and Ohio State. He consistently shows an overwhelmingly positive attitude in interviews and press conferences, and has often been cited for his outstanding work ethic by the Alabama coaching staff.
Weaknesses
  • Size — Sims is far from a prototypical NFL quarterback at just 5’ 11", a height range where NFL successes (Drew Brees, Russell Wilson) are exceptions that prove the rule. That "rule" is a bit misleading — it’s less about height and more about hand size, which is correlated strongly with height — but Sims doesn’t fair well there either at just 9 inches, a full inch and a quarter smaller than Brees and Wilson. While Sims is relatively thick for his height at 218 pounds, he battled shoulder concerns throughout the 2014 season as a result of a hard hit against Florida.
  • Arm Strength — Sims improved greatly during his Alabama career in this regard, but that progress resulted in only an average arm for an NFL quarterback, and a significantly weaker one than those of Brees and Wilson. Sims showed an ability to test defenses deep in 2014, particularly down the stretch, but at a level where the windows are smaller, the timelines shorter, and the defenders are much better, it’s unclear how effective Sims can be in this regard in the NFL.
Projection

Sims showed enough in 2014 to warrant consideration as a quarterback at the next level, but it would be as a backup or third quarterback only. His future may see a shift back to running back or to a receiving position based on his elite running ability and elusiveness — at the request of several teams, Sims put in some work at receiver during Alabama’s pro day. That’s not an unprecedented switch, as the similarly-sized-and-talented Antwaan Randle-El and Julian Edelman became very effective receivers after careers at quarterback in the college ranks. As an added bonus, the ability to have an effective passer at these positions typically negates the need for a third quarterback, which opens a roster spot for someone else. It’s possible Sims will sneak into the sixth or seventh round in a relatively weak quarterback class, but he’s likely an undrafted free agent.