Recently crowned member of the Garnet and Black Attack Gamecocks Mount Rushmore Connor Shaw leaves the program as one of the most respected players ever to wear the garnet and black. Week after week, Gamecock fans became accustomed to the lunch-pail type mentality that Shaw brought to the field. For the the last four seasons, South Carolina coaches and fans could always count on No. 14 to lay it all on the line for the greater good of the team.
While we say goodbye to a player who's played an integral role in the overall success and rise of the Gamecock football program over the last four years. Connor Shaw brings a competitive drive and unmatched level of heart to the NFL. A league that is often criticized for the big paydays and lack of effort . The NFL will benefit from a player like Connor Shaw's participation.
In our third installment of Gamecock Doppelgangers series, we take a look at the pro potential of Connor Shaw and how he matches up to current pros with similar size and skill-sets who are currently having success in the NFL.
Shaw's Skill Profile
Connor Shaw measures at 6'1'', 210 pounds while running a 4.55 40-yard dash. With the recent success of Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl, shorter quarterbacks like Connor Shaw aren't being immediately written off by NFL executives any longer. While we wouldn't call Connor Shaw a vertically gifted, pure pocket passer, he possesses a particular skill-set that happens to translate pretty well at the next level, and that is the ability to win ball games.
Shaw leaves Columbia as the Gamecocks' all-time winningest quarterback with a 27-5 record overall and a 17-0 record at home. For his career, Shaw has a completion percentage of 66.5 to go with 6,074 passing yards and 56 touchdowns. He finishes his career as the eighth all-time leading passer in school history. Out of the pocket, Shaw's adopted his ability to scramble as a staple of his game. He registered 1,683 career yards on the ground with 17 touchdowns. That's good for 27th on the career rushing list for the Gamecocks.
Shaw is a warrior. As many times as we saw that guy pulling chunks of turf out of his facemask, he always gutted it out and found his way back on the field. His toughness and dedication to winning isn't something that is taught. To be quite honest, it's something that the NFL lacks and any NFL team will benefit with the addition of a Connor Shaw.
Shaw's efficiency and decision-making will also help his case in making an NFL roster. In his senior season, Shaw threw only one interception, along with a 63% completion rate. In the SEC, that's a stat that shouldn't be overlooked. When the play didn't develop he knew when he had to improvise to keep the offense on the field.
Shaw's success at the next level all depends on several factors for the team that drafts him. Quarterback depth is one that stands out the most. Being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson, Terrelle Pryor, Tarvaris Jackson), Indianapolis Colts (Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck), or the San Francisco 49ers (Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert) won't do Connor Shaw's any favors in his early career. Teams with established quarterback depth all but guarantee Shaw a spot on the sideline with a clipboard in hand and headphones permanently molded to his shiny head. A team that lacks quarterback depth is his best option. If the Cleveland Browns or the Jacksonville Jaguars or St. Louis Rams or the Oakland Raiders call his name next weekend, his potential success will have automatically elevated.
While Connor Shaw possesses many great skills, he possesses a few other traits that will most likely cause teams to wait until the middle to late rounds of the draft to look his way. He lacks a powerful arm and typically relied on the short pass in Steve Spurrier's offense. He also tends to rely on his ability to scramble. When the play breaks down, Shaw's first instinct is to bolt the pocket. While he is an extremely talented runner and helped bail the Gamecocks out on many occasions, relying on the run has landed him in a walking boot or extra padding around the ribs more than once during his career. It's a proven fact that a scrambling quarterback translates into an oft-injured quarterback at the next level. An oft-injured quarterback eventually turns into an unemployed quarterback. Shaw must get behind a solid offensive line that will give him time to allow the play to develop.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson measures at 5'11, 206 pounds while running a 4.55 40-yard dash. He is probably the most common comparison you'll come across in relation to Connor Shaw as they share similar size, speed and athleticism. Although Wilson is actually two inches shorter than Shaw, the playing styles are eerily similar. While at NC State and Wisconsin, Wilson relied more on his ability to scramble out of the pocket and was able to bring that skill with him to the NFL but he hasn't had to rely on it as much. With a strong offensive line and great coaching, he has become a pass-first, run-second quarterback.
The greatest part of the Russell Wilson story is how it all unfolded. A third-round selection who wasn't expected to push anybody in training camp, he came in and gave head coach Pete Carroll no choice but to start him after totally outplaying the Seahawks' highly-touted free agent acquisition Matt Flynn. With the similar football make-up that Connor Shaw has, it's not out of the realm of possibility to see him come into a camp and turn heads the same way. Again, this scenario is all contingent upon Connor Shaw being drafted into the right system and having the chance to move up the depth chart.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees measures at 6'0" 210 pounds while running a 4.8 yard dash. Even going back to college, he has been an extremely talented passer not known for his ability to scramble.
So Brees is a pocket passer who lacks the ability to run. How does he compare to Shaw?
Brees stands one inch shorter than Connor Shaw and demonstrates that even a shorter quarterback can stand tall in the pocket and successfully move the ball at the next level. He has established himself as an elite passer in the NFL and will go down as one of the best in the history of the sport. His 5,476-yard passing season in 2011 stood for two years as the single best passing season for a quarterback until Peyton Manning broke that record in 2013.
To expect Connor Shaw to develop into a pure passer similar to Drew Brees is pretty unlikely, but it offers a degree of encouragement that, with the right coaching and continued drive, Connor Shaw can have a level of success in the NFL.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans
Fitzpatrick measures at 6'2, 223 pounds while running a 4.8 40-yard dash but the Harvard grad's greatest success in the NFL might not be measured from any success he's had on the field but instead the perfect he score he posted on the NFL Wonderlic Test.
Fitzpatrick, essentially a career backup, has managed to earn contract after contract and continued to prolong his NFL career because of his intelligence and dedication to the game. He has never been expected to climb the ranks of the NFL's elite, but he's always been a highly dependable quarterback that NFL teams have been able to turn to should their No. 1 guy go down.
Should Connor Shaw pan out as a backup quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick is a solid example of how a backup quarterback can still manage to have success at the next level. Since being drafted in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Fitzpatrick has played for five different teams. Whether Shaw becomes a journeyman like Fitzpatrick or finds a home early on, we can expect to see his name on an NFL roster for the foreseeable future.
For more on what NFL Scouts are saying about Connor Shaw and what his NFL future has in store, take a glance at what Gamecock Man has to say. Be sure to check in with us next Thursday night at 8:00 as we'll be live-tweeting the NFL Draft and keeping you posted on where all your favorite Gamecocks will be calling home next football season.