Man, this NFL Draft is going to be a good one. I am pretty sure there is going to be a lot of disagreement about a lot of players, especially the quarterbacks. I believe I am still the first to have some much uncertainty about highly touted prospect Teddy Bridgewater. That said, I believe that will change as we get closer to May. To be honest, I don’t think the quarterback position is as deep as it is being made out to be. In fact, I feel that the reason so many quarterbacks will be considered first round prospects is because the NFL is pretty weak at the position.
Think about the league and consider that depending on free agency, as many as 10-15 teams (Arizona, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Houston, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Chicago, Tennessee, Cleveland, Oakland) either have a proven “non-franchise”quarterback, or don’t have a guy young enough to wait and see on. Then consider the league is set up for passing offenses to succeed and really there are less than 10 quarterbacks that you cannot make an argument against them being “elite”. And let’s be honest, I am being nice when I say 10.
So as little as I love some of these prospects, it is conceivable that one of them could be the face of your franchise very soon. I guess that makes them important.
1) Marcus Mariota, Oregon **
It’s getting hard to ignore how good Mariota is. Before I really watched Mariota, I thought he was all system, and all legs. Boy was I wrong. This guy might be the only sure fire franchise quarterback in this draft. I see a lot of RGIII/Colin Kaepernick in him. I hate comparing guys to other players, but I needed a reference point. His best asset is the velocity he puts on the ball, and those legs. Man, can he run! He has unreal arm strength for a guy who looks like he isn’t trying to throw. The only negatives I see are his throwing motion which has a very slight hitch, and his tendency to hang the ball up at times. NFL defensive backs will make plays that Pac-12 players haven’t. You could also complain about how Mariota can look uncomfortable in the pocket, or the limited play calling that he is executing, but I am really splitting hairs. Like I said, to me this this isn’t the strongest quarterback class (not even close to 2012), but right now, Mariota is clearly on top.
There are quarterbacks, and then there are football players. I believe Manziel is the best football player (other than Clowney) in this draft. As for quarterback? I am not as convinced. While originally I thought he was, I have realized that he lacks a few things which you can’t afford in a “franchise” quarterback. First is durability, which has been an issue for Manziel this year. His reckless play style and his smallish frame is an injury waiting to happen in the NFL. Ask the Redskins how great they feel when they see RGIII taking hits and limping around the field. The second thing he lacks is patience. While I love Manziel as a runner, I think there are times that he could step up and make throws but prefers to jet off and make plays with his legs. It’s sort of a catch-22 with Manziel though, you can see he has the arm talent to be a dynamic quarterback, but do you want him to change the way he plays? Every day I watch Manziel, I get a new opinion on his potential as an NFL quarterback. The only thing I am 100% on is that he will be a playmaking dynamo (and a modern day Joe Namath, off the field). But is he playmaker in the mo Terrell Pryor or is he Russell Wilson?
3) Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville *
That’s right, I have Bridgewater third, the main reason is because I have watched all or parts of at least 20 games throughout Bridgewater’s career. Most of which are against some pretty average defenses. While I will admit he is a extremely talented player, I do not believe that he is the Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, top-flight quarterback he is being made out to be. Most advocates of Bridgewater will point out last season’s Sugar Bowl performance as his calling card. While I think he played a great game and made some fantastic throws, I think it is dangerous to put too much stock into one game, even if it was the biggest of his career. In several games, most recently the Kentucky and Rutgers games this year, Bridgewater misses several receivers on deep balls that could have been big plays with better throws. More troubling, is when he misses, he has a tendency to miss high. The inaccuracy Bridgewater displays at times, could become a huge issue as there is a vast difference in NFL and American Athletic Conference competition. His release is very quick, but his arm slot is pretty low, and allows for batted balls at the line of scrimmage, something you wouldn’t expect from a 6’3″ quarterback. The biggest concern I have however, is Bridgewater’s very small frame and tendency to take huge hits. For him to last, he will need to learn to take a hit. A scary “need to” for a guy expected to go in the top five of the draft. Trust me though, I can see where the love for Bridgewater comes from. Not only is he athletic, but he stands tall in the pocket and delivers laser-like precision on intermediate routes. He often fits throws into nonexistent windows that other quarterbacks wouldn’t even consider. I think Bridgewater is good, just not a “can’t miss” prospect.
I cannot overstate the strides Mettenberger has taken under Cam Cameron. His progression as a player is nothing short of remarkable. He runs an offense that makes scouting him pretty easy. He excels in reading defenses and going through his progressions, where a lot of guys are playing in one read offenses. He plays it cool when teams bring blitzes, and throws very accurately in the intermediate passing game. Mettenberger has a huge frame (6’5″ 233) but definitely won’t wow you with his legs. His arm is very strong and he shows accuracy that will can wow you. As of right now the trait I like most in Mettenberger is how safe he appears to be as a pick. Sure he isn’t as flashy as picking Mariota, Bridgewater, or Manziel; but I think he is the one guy in this draft you can get a consistent product from day one. To me, his game is NFL ready.
Note: I have yet to watch the film from the Ole Miss and Furman games where Mettenberger threw five interceptions after only throwing two over his first seven games.
5) Brett Hundley, UCLA **
Hundley could be the best of this bunch, if (as I wrote earlier) he had one more year of experience under his belt. However today he just isn’t. He really doesn’t have a ton to improve upon physically. He has the smoothest throwing motion in this group, and a almost instantaneous release. He throws the ball in the right place for yards after the catch over and over again, with an unreal combination of arm strength and accuracy. While Hundley at times can look flustered under pressure, he posses the ability to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes downfield and making strong throws with a solid base. The In UCLA’s offense he makes a lot of deep throws, and he makes them almost effortlessly. The biggest knock on Hundley at this point, is his lack of production in big games. My thought is this is the product of a 20-year old quarterback. I don’t think that Hundley could step in from day one and have a seamless transition to the NFL, however five years from now I could see him being labeled the best from 2014.
6) David Fales, San Jose St.
Now the idea of having your team’s quarterback named Fales is kind of scary. Other than that, I really like him. First off, I think he brings to the table something very few college guys do nowadays. He provides scouts a film where he shows good plays out of the shotgun, pistol, and under center. I think he is able to do this because he has pretty solid footwork. Speaking of his feet, he needs to use them. When he steps into his throws, Fales is a totally different passer than when he is moving around and off-balance. Call me a weirdo, but perhaps my favorite thing about Fales, is his ability to throw a back-shoulder fade like an NFL veteran.
If you consider that his offensive line isn’t great, his receivers are average at best, and the play calling he is provided with sometimes makes you scratch your head, then you have to be impressed with what Carr has been able to do. The arm talent is pretty impressive, and he is a sneaky sub 4.6 guy who has a ton of room to get better. More so than his brother being David Carr or throwing a lot of passes at or behind the line of scrimmage; I think the biggest knock on Derek is his decision making. It seems obvious that he knows his ability, and he knows he has to make plays for his team to win. But sometimes you watch and wonder, “what the hell is he thinking?”
8) Kenny Guiton, Ohio State
The more I watch of Guiton, the more I think he may be the sleeper of this draft. I have written about him before as an underrated prospect, and I think he could potentially be the 6th rated quarterback when all is said and done. If you think it is crazy to project a backup college quarterback as an NFL player, just google Matt Cassell. He has essentially outlasted USC starter Matt Leinart as an NFL player after being his backup in college. Then of course there is Brad Johnson who eventually won a Super Bowl after being a backup in college. If Guiton were starting at another big time program, he would probably be a potential first round pick based on talent and productivity. The only thing holding him back as a prospect is his lack of playing time. Keep an eye on Guiton.
9) Aaron Murray, Georgia
Maybe liking Murray is my football guilty pleasure. Or maybe I have just fallen in love with diminutive quarterbacks. Either way I like Murray, more than I can really rationalize at this point. I mean for what it’s worth he beat out Mettenberger, and has been a four-year starter. I have a hard time arguing with a guy who has been able to produce at such a high level. As for football skills, his accuracy is above average and his arm strength is better than most people think. There is a significant chance a team falls in love with him, drafts him in round three or four and he wins a starting job a la Russell Wilson. I don’t think it happens, but then again, I won’t be surprised.
10) Tahj Boyd, Clemson
As much as I respect what Boyd has done as a college player, I think he doesn’t have what it takes to be a starting NFL quarterback. That said, he has far too much talent not to be drafted and become a solid backup for the next ten years. My biggest negative on Boyd is his delivery. It is eerily similar to that of Tim Tebow, but for some reason gets almost completely overlooked. He is accurate, has a flair for the big play, and obviously knows how to win. However there is no way I could justify a couch placing his own and his team’s future in the hands of Boyd.
On The Brink
Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
AJ McCarron, Alabama
Best of the Rest
Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Stephen Morris, Miami (FL)
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
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