We’re exactly two weeks from the NFL Draft and of course, the most popular position to talk about is Quarterbacks. This year is no different as three of the bigger names in the draft are at the position, however, they aren’t as highly rated as the 2012 class. Which included Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Johnny Manziel headlines the group in terms of recognition, but Teddy Bridgewater is my top rated passer headed into the draft on May 8th.
This 2014 class is fairly deep from top to bottom, as talent can be found even in the later rounds and there are six to eight signal callers that have the potential to be starters in the league. Guys like Derek Carr, Jimmy Garapollo, and Aaron Murray have garnered less attention throughout the draft process, but could all very well be solid contributors to their teams. Here’s my breakdown of the Quarterbacks in this year’s class, these are just my rankings (not in the order that they’ll be selected):
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville, 6’2″ 205, Top 10
Bridgewater is the most accurate in this class and displayed that throughout his collegiate career for the Cardinals. A loss to a Blake Bortles lead Central Florida team derailed his dreams of a National Championship, but Bridgewater was not solely at fault for the loss. He has a good-not-great arm, but can make every throw needed of an NFL Quarterback. Bridgewater throws with a glove on and performed at his Pro Day without it, it clearly made a difference as he had a poor showing. He was less accurate and had a few incompletions, something that shouldn’t happen when the throws are scripted. Ultimately, I think Teddy makes the best decisions of the class and he’s the safest prospect of the group. He was an excellent leader at Louisville and that should continue at the next level. The only major concern could be his durability, as he’s built slight and was beat up a bit in Louisville. Although he displayed great toughness during his Sophomore year playing with a broken wrist and sprained ankle in a comeback win at Rutgers. At the end of the day, I think Bridgewater is the best QB in the class, but he’ll likely be selected 3rd, or even fourth of his peers. He’d be a good fit for the Vikings at #8, as well as Cleveland at #26, if they pass on him at #4 as expected. He could even fall to the Texans at #33 if they don’t select Manziel or Bortles with the top pick.
2. Blake Bortles, Central Florida, 6’4″ 232, Top 15
Blake Bortles absolutely blasted onto the scene this season, carrying momentum from a solid Sophomore campaign. He defeated Teddy Bridgewater’s Louisville Cardinals in a huge road game this season, which catapulted his team to the American Conference championship and a birth in a BCS bowl. Where he played excellently in a blowout victory over heavily favored Baylor. Bortles played well most of the season, but struggled a bit in some games. Botles and UCF barely beat a 2-10 South Florida team at home. He possesses many Ben Roethlisberger like qualities, such as having deceptive athleticism and being hard to bring down. He has a good throwing arm, while also making pretty good decisions. He’s a winner and brought an “underdog” team farther than they had been before. He’s a good leader, a quality that should help make him a fine NFL Quarterback. He has some work to do with his accuracy, but is definitely serviceable. He’ll be one of the two Quarterbacks selected first along with Johnny Manziel. Bortles is the pocket QB that Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien prefers, but also would be a good fit in Cleveland with his big arm to throw through the snow and strong winds. He could also be an option for Jacksonville or Oakland in the Top 5, Minnesota at #8 would love to have Bortles fall to them.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, 6’0″ 205, Top 15
Johnny Football has taken the nation by storm the past two seasons, both on and off of the field. Making waves by completing a comeback for the ages against Duke in the bowl game and competing in his Pro Day in shoulder pads and a helmet. He possesses a good enough arm to make all of the throws in the NFL, although he’ll have to adapt to a Pro-Style offense. Which means taking a lot more snaps from under center. He played in a pretty simplistic offense under Kevin Sumlin in College Station, including designed runs, which will most likely be either limited or all together stopped in the NFL to protect Manziel from himself in all actuality. His daring play style won over the adoration of his fans in college, but will have to be adapted in the NFL for his own longevity. He increased his pocket presence significantly last season and was a poor defensive performance from defeating Alabama for a second straight season. Manziel had fellow 1st round prospect Mike Evans at Wide Receiver, which won’t happen in the NFL. Evans was able to make Manziel look good on a several occasions last season. He won’t be able to depend on receivers to do the same in the NFL, unless of course he ends up with a Josh Gordon or Vincent Jackson. Overall, Manziel is a Tony Romo like improviser and will find his place in the NFL. He could be an option for Jacksonville at #3, Cleveland at #4, Oakland at #5, and the Vikings at #8. Manziel will have to adapt his playing style, but should be an above average NFL Quarterback for the duration of his career.
4. Derek Carr, Fresno State, 6’3″ 220, 1st Round
Derek Carr possesses the 2nd strongest arm in this class and the most overall arm talent. Just like his older brother David (1st overall pick in 2002), Derek benefited from a pass happy offense along with playing against less than talent-laden defenses. Regardless, Carr threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 Touchdowns. Carr operated almost solely from the shotgun, so he’ll have to begin to take more snaps from under center in the NFL. He can easily make any throw and puts great zip on the ball, although falls away from his throws when under pressure. He’s more talented than his older brother and will hopefully have a better career, as Derek should inherit a better Offensive Line than David did back in 2002. Carr has loads of potential and could end up just as successful as the Top 3 members of this class.
5. Zach Mettenberger, LSU, 6’5″ 230, 2nd Round
Zach Mettenberger ended his college career with his best work, as his best collegiate season was easily last year in Baton Rouge. In his 2nd season at LSU, he excelled under Cam Cameron’s guidance, vastly improving his decision making and playing well against Alabama and Georgia. Mettenberger tore his ACL late in the season against Arkansas, which has hindered him a little in the pre-draft process, but it shouldn’t hurt his overall stock. He’s far from mobile, truly a statue in the pocket. He has an above average arm and made fewer mistakes last season. Mettenberger is a popular pick for the Texans at #33, or the Jaguars at #38. He’s one of the more “pro-ready” QBs, as he operated a Pro-Style offense at LSU. He’ll be an above average QB in the NFL.
6. Jimmy Garopollo, Eastern Illinois, 6’2″ 220, 2nd Round
Jimmy Garopollo took full advantage of his opportunity at the East-West Shrine Game and proved that he was the best player in that game. He then used his chance to go to the Senior Bowl to further entrench himself as a worthy player in that All-Star game. Garopollo put up huge numbers at the FCS level at Eastern Illinois, alma mater of Tony Romo and Sean Payton. He threw for 53 Touchdowns this past season and nearly defeated Northern Illinois, as well as defeating San Diego State by three scores later in the season. Garopollo is very accurate and possesses the best touch in the draft. He’ll have to adapt to the changes of a pro offense, as he operated his spread passing attack solely out of the shotgun. He has all of the attributes necessary to be a good NFL Quarterback. Jimmy has been linked to Houston at #33, but anywhere in the 2nd round fits his grade. He’s got a lot of potential and would be the highest picked FCS Quarterback since Joe Flacco. He’s got a good arm, but not great. He could be a good fit for Jacksonville in the 2nd round.
7. Tom Savage, Pittsburgh, 6’5″ 235, 2nd-3rd Round
The hottest Quarterback in the class right now, Savage has surged up into 2nd round consideration after being thought of as a later round prospect a month or so ago. With a cannon for an arm, his college career was far from normal. Spending over a year at Rutgers, where he started as a freshman, then to Tuscon, AZ, before a Rich Rodriguez hire sent him packing for Pittsburgh. With prototypical NFL Quarterback size along with a big arm, he played well for Paul Chryst in his only season at Pitt. He struggles against the blitz and is anything but mobile, but he stands in and takes shots under pressure to delivers a good pass. He’s played in pro style systems at both playing stops and will be quick to pick up the playbook as one of the more intelligent QBs in the class. He has Pro Bowl potential if surrounded with adequate weapons and if he improves his ball security.
8. A.J. McCarron, Alabama, 6’2″ 212, 3rd Round
A.J. McCarron may be better known for his girlfriend, but he’s no slouch as a Quarterback either. Leading the Crimson Tide to 2 National Championships and this past season boasted an impressive 28-7 Touchdown to Interception ratio. He’s a decorated leader, has a calming influence on the offense. Doesn’t get rattled and makes throws when he has to. Lacks elite physical tools, may trust his arm a little too much, but McCarron is one of the safer Quarterbacks in this draft. As you know exactly what you’re going to get from him. He’s athletic enough to stay out of trouble and will be the next step above a game manager. He’ll likely never be a Pro Bowler, but he’s as solid as it gets.
9. Aaron Murray, Georgia, 6’0″ 201, 3rd-4th Round
Murray is one of the most decorated Quarterbacks in this class as a 4-year starter in Athens, and a highly regarded leader in the SEC and throughout the country. Physically, he’s got an average arm, but he’s a smaller guy coming off of a torn ACL. He threw for over 100 Touchdowns during his tenure and played with quite a bit of NFL talent, from AJ Green to Orson Charles, to Alabama State RB Isaiah Crowell. Murray nearly led his team to the National Championship in 2012, which ended up being the real Championship game vs Alabama, as Notre Dame stood no chance against the Crimson Tide. Murray has a good enough arm to get by in the NFL and has played with a big offensive line, so that won’t be an issue. A creative Offensive Coordinator will find throwing lanes for Murray and he’s athletic enough to take advantage of what defenses give him. He’s a fighter and a scrapper who will stick around, as a good backup if nothing else.
10. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech, 6’6″ 250, 4th Round
The most physically gifted QB in this class, Thomas was recruited to Blacksburg, VA as a TE, and was ultimately convinced to switch to Quarterback. He’s the size of a Defensive End, and runs like a Linebacker, and is a willing runner. Thomas has the strongest throwing arm in this class, absolutely zipping passes across the field at will. Accuracy is a major issue, and Thomas strugged with turnovers in college. Virginia Tech was never able to live up to expectations, due to inconsistent Quarterback play. Thomas threw 3 Interceptions in the first half against Duke, and struggled as a whole for the season. Thomas has all of the tools to make a Quarterback Coach drool, and think he can make him the best in the league, but Thomas, despite having the most potential also has the farthest to go. Even if he flares out at QB, Tight End could be an option, as he’s an incredible athlete for his size. He’s strictly a developmental Quarterback, who if he turns out, will be the steal of the draft.
Best of the Rest:
11. David Fales, San Jose State, 6’2″ 215, 4th-5th Round
Incredible production at SJSU, great accuracy, decent arm, marginal athlete, safe pick. Developmental backup.
12. Tajh Boyd, Clemson, 6’0″ 225, 5th Round
One of the most decorated ACC Quarterbacks in recent memory, lack of ideal size and inaccuracies push him down in the draft.
13. Brett Smith, Wyoming, 6’3″ 206, 5th Round
Should have stayed at Wyoming, but left with his top WR. Good athlete, skills. A little unpolished. Shows up in big games.
14 Connor Shaw, South Carolina, 6’0″ 206, 5th-6th Round
Gutsy competitor fought and clawed his way to be good QB in SEC. Lack of size hurts him, but will be a coaches’ favorite. 3rd QB.
15. Jeff Matthews, Cornell, 6’4″ 231, 6th Round
Prototype size, arm strength, poor decision making and inconsistent. Level of competition concerns. Developmental project.
16. Stephen Morris, Miami (FL), 6’2″ 213 6th-7th Round
One of the most talented arms in the draft, incredible inconsistent at Miami. Good game vs FSU, terrible vs Louisville. Project.
17. Keith Price, Washington, 6’0″ 195, 7th Round-Undrafted
Undersized, lacks big arm. Athlete, good career production. Will latch on as a No. 3. Intelligent, heady QB.
18. Keith Wenning, Ball State, 6’3″ 220, 7th Round-Undrafted
Non-Typical MAC QB, thrower first, not a running threat. Good decision making, and accuracy will land him on a roster.
19. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois, 6’0″ 217, Undrafted
Incredible production, led NIU to BCS Bowl. Inadequate passer for NFL, will need a Denard Robinson type role in league. Athlete.
20. Garrett Gilbert, Southern Methodist, 6’4″ 220, Undrafted
Former Colt McCoy backup, flourished as Senior at SMU. Good passer, has tools to be No. 3, fringe No. 2 prospect.