Exits by a few of the prominent underclassmen has reshaped the 2014 NFL draft power rankings for the top quarterbacks. How does the new list stack up?
#1 – Teddy Bridgewater – Louisville
His numbers aren’t anywhere near the top in 2013, but that is not something that should deter a team from considering a quarterback. Dan Marino had bad numbers his final year in college too. The fact is Teddy Bridgewater has every facet of playing quarterback nailed down from the arm, to the mobility and more importantly the poise and intelligence. He has every tool in the arsenal to succeed. All he needs is a good coaching staff in place when he arrives.
#2 – Derek Carr – Fresno State
Any time the word “gunslinger” gets attached to a quarterback it makes people nervous. It’s easy to forget those said gunslingers have a knack for cutting up defenses. Why? Because they’re talented. Derek Carr is talented. He’s big, athletic and has the strong arm to hit any pass from any release point at any part of the football field. There is no lack of self confidence about him and he displays the passion and effort required of a franchise player. Maturity is not an issues either. The guy can plays. His numbers alone say so.
#3 – Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M
He still can be immature and a lightning rod for controversy, but looking past those minor red flags for a moment, it’s easy to see Johnny Manziel has improved during his sophomore campaign. While still a dynamic playmaker with his feet, the Texas A&M star has developed into a much better traditional passer. He can stand tall in the pocket and deliver the ball on time with accuracy. Command in the huddle is also prevalent as he largely carried the Aggies himself most of the season. That is why he is in the running for another Heisman.
#4 – A.J. McCarron – Alabama
The Auburn loss cost him a third title, but A.J. McCarron was the brightest spot about that game for Alabama. His maturation as a complete quarterback was evident. He not only controlled the game with his head, he started to make impact plays with his arm in challenging situations. Scouts will continue to second-guess his arm strength and delivery, but the fact is McCarron has the body and the mind of a quarterback. He sees the game like a pro and has great leadership on and off the field. Arm strength alone doesn’t win championships, but McCarron does.
#5 – Brett Hundley – UCLA
He didn’t perform well in the bigger moments of 2013 against good teams, but that should not cancel out what Brett Hundley has the potential to do. His physical abilities are many from the big body, athleticism and strong arm. He’s also accurate and advanced in his experience running a pro-style offense. What he doesn’t have is experience, which is why many people are urging him to stay in school. Either way, he remains good enough to go in the first round provided he doesn’t have to start immediately.
#6 – Jimmy Garoppolo – Eastern Illinois
Probably the best Division II quarterback since Joe Flacco. Jimmy Garoppolo drew a lot of attention from scouts during early 2014 NFL draft projections and he hasn’t slowed down since. He’s broken several passing records at Eastern Illinois, many of them held by Pro Bowler Tony Romo. Garoppolo has good size and a very quick release. Accuracy isn’t an issue as he can offer deliver the ball on time and on a dime. He will need to bulk up to hand pro level pass rushers but the blueprint is there for a really good quarterback in the future.
#7 – Blake Bortles – UCF
Coaches can dissect the physical attributes all they want, but many of them also look for one defining factor between the bigger names: clutch. Which of them tend to have ice water in their veins? Based on the number of tight games and comebacks encountered in 2013, that award must go to UCF junior Blake Bortles. From a numbers point of view it’s kind of hit and miss. At times Bortles looks unstoppable, at others he looks mortal. Yet the bottom line remains the same. He finds a way to win. His only loss of the season came against 9th ranked South Carolina in a tight 28-25 affair. Victories over Louisville and PennState will loom much larger.
#8 – Aaron Murray – Georgia
Numbers have to count for something. There has never been a more productive quarterback in the powerful SEC conference than Aaron Murray of Georgia. His badly timed torn ACL will hit his draft stock hard, but several prominent draft experts still believe he has a bright future in the NFL. He plays with poise, can throw the ball anywhere on the field and had enough mobility to keep plays and drives alive. The production speaks for itself. If a team can overlook his slight height problem, they might get a steal next May.
#9 – Zach Mettenberger – LSU
Modern franchises tend to fall in love with size and arm strength. Zach Mettenberger sure fills both those requirements. At 6’5″ he has the body of a prototypical NFL quarterback and all scouts agree his arm may be the strongest in the 2014 class. His ability to run a pro-style offense has come a long way under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and he’s improved since the start of the season. Like Murray, he suffered a torn ACL that will likely drop him down board, not to mention questions about his decision-making. Even so the physical tools are there.
#10 – Tajh Boyd – Clemson
There is a lot to like about Tajh Boyd. Experts continue to compare him to Russell Wilson given his excellent mobility and arm strength, not to mention the slight deficiency in height at 6’1″. Unfortunately games against FloridaState and South Carolina showed cracks in the foundation that might warn teams away. Boyd has a bad habit of making mistakes when he faces too much pressure, often throwing bad interceptions. There is no doubting his toughness, but if he doesn’t improve his decision-making he might not make it into the second round, let alone the first.