The 2014 college quarterback class figures as one of the more talented and deepest in recent memory. That means the NFL draft will fly fast and furious with teams anxious to get their hands on the best ones.
Teddy Bridgewater – Louisville – 1st round – New York Jets
The unquestioned top prospect in the 2014 class. Teddy Bridgewater has all the physical and mental tools of a franchise quarterback including poise, leadership and athleticism. His Sugar Bowl game against Florida was just a taste of things to come. Some might think putting the New York Jets as his probable landing spot is strange, but aside from the Oakland Raiders they are the only team that looks like a train wreck waiting to happen. It doesn’t matter that they drafted Geno Smith. Once a new coaching staff comes in, it will be impossible to pass on Bridgewater.
Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M – 1st round – Minnesota Vikings
The college football media lightning rod doesn’t lack for controversy what with his immaturity issues and troubles with autograph sales. It doesn’t change the fact that Johnny Manziel is a playmaker who can run and throw with equal success. He doesn’t shrink in big games either. If he improves his overall passing, it’s hard to see him staying in college another year. The Minnesota Vikings make sense because of the shaky situation with Christian Ponder. Manziel is a much more dangerous man under center and can take advantage of the weapons Minnesota has collected on offense.
A.J. McCarron – Alabama – 1st round – Tennessee Titans
The Rodney Dangerfield of college football. He gets no respect at all. It doesn’t matter that he won his second-straight national title with Alabama and threw 30 touchdowns to just 3 interception doing so. The fact is A.J. McCarron is a winner and has plenty of physical talent to succeed in the NFL. His passes come with zip, are accurate and well timed. He is also a superb play action faker thanks to the success of the Alabama running game. That is why the Tennessee Titans would covet him. Their offense likes to run through the ground game. Rookie guard Chance Warmack knows McCarron well and might put in a good word with his coaches if Jake Locker flames out.
Marcus Mariota – Oregon – Returns to school
Bridgewater may hold center stage but Marcus Mariota out of Oregon is finding it more and more difficult to stay under the radar. Not only was he precise with his passing in 2012 (over 70% passes completed) he also displayed a large degree of overlooked athleticism. He is also good at getting the ball out fast. However, he is also only a sophomore. Unlike Manziel he has no real reason to go pro early and likely will choose to return for his junior year regardless of what happens in 2013.
Tajh Boyd – Clemson – 1st round – San Diego Chargers
Quarterbacks as short as Tajh Boyd need something to compensate for the lack of height. Luckily he has the tool much in the same manner as Russell Wilson. Boyd is tough, smart, a good leader with mobility and a strong arm to match. That’s why he scored over 40 touchdowns in 2012 and displayed pinpoint passing that helped Clemson knock off LSU in the Chick-a-Fil Bowl. Obviously his height will cause some pause but after what happened with Wilson coaches will be more open to the idea. The San Diego Chargers make sense because Mike McCoy has no real project quarterback in his system and nobody is completely sold on Philip Rivers as the future. After what McCoy did with Tim Tebow, it’s scary to think what he could do with Boyd.
Brett Hundley – UCLA – Returns to school
Another skyrocketing talent rising out of what may be one of the best freshman quarterback classes in history. Brett Hundley threw 29 touchdowns last season under the careful guidance of former NFL coach Jim Mora. He is calm and decisive in the pocket but also deceptively athletic. Much is expected of him in his sophomore season but unless something changes he should return for another year with the Bruins after that.
Braxton Miller – Ohio State – Returns to school
Urban Meyer has a particular way of doing this that result in success and knows exactly the kinds of players he wants to execute them. Braxton Miller is just another one of them. Big, ridiculously athletic and getting better as a passer he was perhaps the best run-first quarterback in college football as Ohio State rampaged through their season. Miller is still young and currently cast in the mold of Tim Tebow. He will have to keep working on his throwing mechanics and accuracy. The tools are there, but another year at school can only help him.
Stephen Morris – Miami (Fla.) – 2nd round – St. Louis Rams
Scouts always look for growth in quarterbacks and Stephen Morris showed ton of it in the last part of his junior season, throwing 11 touchdowns to no interceptions for Miami. Throw in his huge arm and top notch mobility and it’s hard not to see coaches salivating over his potential. While he may end up in the first round, he is currently near the top of the second and the St. Louis Rams are one team that might jump on him. They aren’t completely done with Sam Bradford who could end up having a big year. Still, if he doesn’t show marked improvement, drafting Morris to push him is the next logical step.
Aaron Murray – Georgia – 2nd round – New Orleans Saints
The numbers are there. Wins and good games against quality competition is there. After two years of highly productive play it seems Aaron Murray is finally getting some attention. His height is still an issue obviously, but that problem has become less and less critical in the NFL. Besides, it hasn’t stopped Drew Brees (6’0″) from ripping the league up with the New Orleans Saints. Head coach Sean Payton doesn’t mind smaller quarterbacks as long as they can play. Murray can play. New Orleans needs a young passer to begin studying under the aging Brees and he is a perfect choice.
Bryn Renner – North Carolina – 2nd round – Chicago Bears
Under the radar for most of last season, scouts have uncovered exactly how good Bryn Renner is and can be. The Tar Heel quarterback is molded in the traditional style of huge arm, pocket poise and deadly accuracy that has only gotten better. His 6’3″ frame makes him the ideal size to play pro quarterback and he also proficient at spread the ball around. That makes him an ideal selection for Marc Trestman and the Chicago Bears. Their quarterback situation rests on what happens with Jay Cutler. If he fails to live up to his potential, then the team will need a young gun in the pipeline. Renner fits the kind of offense Chicago wants to run.
Devin Gardner – Michigan – 2nd round – Houston Texans
Denard Robinson was the focal point for Michigan last year as a dynamic athlete under center, but during five games in which he dealt with injury, the Wolverines got a glimpse of who Devin Gardner is. Much more of a traditional drop back passer, able to run a pro-style offense at a high level without much experience. As he gets a full off-season under his belt and rounds out his own athletic body, many think Michigan could enter the title picture. That said, if he decides to come out after next season he might not have enough momentum to reach the first round. Not that the Houston Texans will complain. They have need for a young prospect to groom behind veteran Matt Schaub. Gardner is just the high ceiling prospect they will like.
David Fales – San Jose State – 3rd round – Kansas City Chiefs
Scouts quickly jump on arm strength and lacking schedule as the reasons David Fales might not pan out in the NFL. The fact is the young San Jose State star can only play the teams he’s dealt. It won’t erase what he does well, which is a lot. He’s deadly accurate with his passes, efficient in his decision-making and has the size and body to stand up in the pros. Head coach Andy Reid has achieved more with less. He is notorious for scooping up quarterbacks in almost every draft or off-season and 2014 should not be an exception. With Alex Smith turning 29 and being far from a long-term guarantee, the need to put some depth in the pipeline is necessary for the Kansas City Chiefs. Fales is especially suited to run the West Coast offense Reid has implemented and could turn into a mid round gem.
Logan Thomas – Virginia – 3rd round – San Francisco 49ers
A rough 2012 season may have killed any hope of Logan Thomas becoming a first round draft pick, which is why he’s returning for a senior campaign. The physical attributes are there for sure: 6’6”, strong build, big arm and plenty of running ability. He is a carbon copy of Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger. The problem is he doesn’t have their ball placement or consistency. That is why he will fall into the third round where the every ambitious San Francisco 49ers will be wait. Jim Harbaugh never shies away form a challenge and since he has need for a legitimate backup, it’s hard to think the 49ers would pass up Logan. If they could get his mechanics straightened out, not only would he provide excellent depth, but serious trade bait down the road.
Derek Carr – Fresno State – 4th round – Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones likes to say at age 70 he still has the brain of a 40-year old but it sure hasn’t seemed that way based on his decisions with Tony Romo. Despite having one playoff victory since 2006 and back-to-back division titles lost in the final week the past two seasons, he felt comfortable handing the 34-year old quarterback a six-year deal worth over $106 million. Worst of all the Dallas Cowboys didn’t bother adding a young passer to their roster in free agency or the draft. Don’t expect that to change next year either, especially if Romo actually gets them to the playoffs. However, they may feel enticed to bring in a mid round pick to develop and Derek Carr certainly comes from good stock. His brother David was a first overall pick and his stay at Fresno State has resulted in huge numbers. The accuracy and arm strength is there. What he needs is development reading the field and staying poised in the pocket. Jason Garrett pulled that off with Romo. Perhaps Carr is a nice side project for him.