The top three or four names expected to go early in the 2014 NFL draft among quarterbacks has been established. The question now is, can anybody else join them?
A.J. McCarron – Alabama – 1st Rounder: Yes
The debate rages on about what exactly the qualifications are for a first round quarterback. Is it winning or is physical talent? If it’s the former, then A.J. McCarron has to go in the first round because he’s done nothing but win at Alabama. He has two national titles to his credit and a chance to win a Sugar Bowl before graduating. Almost no other college athlete will be as decorated. However, when it comes to physical skill the argument gets muddled. McCarron is not a hack. He has good size, mechanics and can use his legs to move around. Where scouts are stuck on him is arm strength. There isn’t enough there for many, which is why the senior hovers anywhere between the first and third rounds. That won’t matter. His mental capacity, work ethic, efficiency and leadership should get him over the hump.
Tajh Boyd – Clemson – 1st Rounder: No
He was a first round prospect at the start of the year, showcasing his ability as both a runner and development as a thrower. Tajh Boyd can do a lot of things well. He has the arm strength to go downfield, improved footwork in the pocket and a definite toughness when taking hits from pass rushers. What has him in trouble is the growing sentiment that he hears “footsteps.” In other words if a defense pressures him frequently he’ll stop standing tall in the pocket and lose control of his mechanics. That often leads to bad mistakes such as interceptions or fumbles. Such a reputation is a killer for a quarterback which is why he isn’t likely to get back into day one.
Jimmy Garoppolo – Eastern Illinois – 1st Rounder: Yes
The FCS wonder completed his seasons without ever really having any dud games. Jimmy Garoppolo is among the most popular sleeper names in the 2014 NFL draft process. He has the height of a pro quarterback along with the quick release, accuracy and decision-making of a starter. His record-setting numbers for Eastern Illinois bear that out. The fact those numbers used to belong to Tony Romo only furthers his stock. So can he make it into opening round? Unlike some others, his chances rest entirely on the pre-draft process. The better he performs at the Senior Bowl, pro day and scouting combine, the more momentum he’ll have. Combined with his game tape, there is a real chance for him to make it.
Zach Mettenberger – LSU – 1st Rounder: No
When it comes to quarterbacks, one key aspect gets their stock rising very fast: arm strength. LSU senior Zach Mettenberger has one of the best arms in the 2014 NFL draft. His progress with the Tigers was among the most watched stories of the college season. Unfortunately his stock took a tumble when he suffered a torn ACL. The good news is Mettenberger wasn’t known for mobility, so a knee injury is not devastating. His big selling point will be the arm and the 6’5″ frame he boasts. Obviously he’ll still have to show the knee is healed, but his key moment will come in the classroom when he breaks down plays for coaches during interviews. He must show he understands the game and can make the right decisions.
Brett Hundley – UCLA – 1st Rounder: No
At one point he was in consideration for a top five selection. That is how well Brett Hundley was playing for UCLA as a sophomore. His big body and highly capable arm combined with an advanced understanding of offense had scouts amazed. Unfortunately his lack of experience proved fatal in a few key games against top competition such as Oregon. Still, aside from that there isn’t much to hate. Hundley can do anything required including run and if a team is willing to show patience can become a serious starter in the future. The question ahead is whether that’s still worth a first round choice.