Jadeveon Clowney may be the best defensive prospect since Lawrence Taylor, depending on who you ask. But regardless of whether or not the 2014 NFL Draft has the next Andrew Luck or not, quarterback still reigns supreme.
That’s especially true when you don’t have a franchise passer, meaning at least a handful of teams picking early will at least have to take a good, hard look at the top passing prospects on May 8th, while a few other teams picking later in the first round may not be able to ignore a crazy slide.
Are the quarterbacks in this year’s pool some of the best we’ve ever seen? It surely all depends on who you’re asking and what you feel makes (or could make) a quarterback great. To get more of a collaborative overall sense of where this draft’s passers rank, Taylor Smith joins me as we line up the top-10 and see how they all measure up:
1. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
Taylor Smith and I both view Johnny Football as the quarterback with the most pure upside. In fact, we completely agreed right away on the first give passers in these rankings. With Manziel, it’s all about potential and the ability to dramatically change a franchise. No, he’s not as polished as Teddy Bridgewater and he doesn’t have the prototypical size and arm like Blake Bortles, but he has that “it” factor that neither arguably possess. On top of that, he’s an elite athlete at the position that is an extremely underrated passer from the pocket and a flat-out play-maker on the move. We understand if the Houston Texans don’t want to take the risk at the first pick, but we don’t agree that they shouldn’t.
2. Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
Bridgewater could easily be argued as the top overall quarterback in this draft class, as he comes from a pro style offense at Louisville and fundamentally is the most sound passer in this year’s class. Bridgewater has excellent passing mechanics and footwork and has proven he can make throws under duress. Bridgewater has the polish, but like Manziel, is a little smaller than you like to see in terms of frame, while he’s not nearly as explosive on his feet. Bridgewater might be the safer pick, but he doesn’t seem to possess the same kind of untapped upside that Manziel does.
3. Blake Bortles (UCF)
Like Bridgewater, Bortles is probably safer than Manziel thanks to his elite size and solid arm strength, although he is a bit of a project, himself. Bortles faced mostly weak competition at UCF, but actually had some very solid showings against some elite competition. The ideal quarterback in terms of being a total package, Bortles has the size and arm scouts drool over, but shows inconsitent traits when it comes to reading defenses, touch and pocket awareness.
4. Derek Carr (Fresno State)
Carr is the classic freak talent that faced weak competition and played almost strictly out of the shotgun formation. While a prolific passer with solid size and a cannon for an arm, Carr’s accuracy is slightly thrown off due to his college system. However, his biggest downfall is his ability to make good decisions under pressure. Still, Carr is a high upside passer with loads of potential. Even if he’s not a first round pick, any NFL team that takes him will have a talented passer they can mold into something special potentially.
5. Zach Mettenberger (LSU)
Mettenberger might be higher on this list if he wasn’t coming off of a torn ACL, but even if he was 100%, it’d still be hard to rank him ahead of some of the guys above him, as the majority of them simply have a higher ceiling. Mettenberger is in every sense the prototypical pocket passer in terms of size and arm strength, while he definitely faces stiff competition while playing at LSU. While he’s pretty fundamentally strong, Mettenberger does not possess upper level athleticism or mobility and may not have the highest of ceilings.
6. Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois)
Garoppolo is the classic small school kid who could rise up the draft boards due to good size, pocket awareness and a nice, quick release. Garoppolo has an ease and fluidity about him and was extremely productive in college. With that said, he definitely needs work on his fundamentals (footwork, reads) and needs to make better decisions (forces passes at times). Playing against weak competition doesn’t help his case to rise much up these ranks, but he’s absolutely an interesting prospect with some decent upside.
7. A.J. McCarron (Alabama)
Not blessed with great arm strength, physical ability or numbers, McCarron is in that long line of college passers who seem to be a gamer and simply know how to win. He exudes confidence and is a tremendous leader and closer, while actually has a better arm than he’s given credit for. McCarron lacks any real flash, but he doesn’t take unnecessary risks, has ideal size and has proven he knows how to win. He’s clearly underrated due to less than stellar physical ability, however, so he could be a steal as early as round two. Then again, a lot of his game also screams career backup. With that said, McCarron is an NFL quarterback in at least some regard thanks to his preparation and football IQ. Unlike similar prospects in the past like Greg McElroy or Kellen Moore, he actually has an above average arm and has put up some decent numbers in high profile games.
8. Tom Savage (Pittsburgh)
Savage has been getting an insane amount of buzz due to ideal NFL size and what some call this draft’s “best arm”. Savage has been referred to as an “arm talent” and with solid overall pocket presence, he figures to be a prospect worth working on in the early to middle rounds, rather than just a flier late in the draft. With that said, Savage’s pocket awareness was extremely shaky in 2013 and another main knock has been his questionable decision-making at times. He’ll be drafted higher than most think thanks to his size and arm alone.
9. Aaron Murray (Georgia)
Murray is easily one of the most underrated passing prospects in this year’s draft, as he has proven to be a bit of a gamer against tough competition, while he also possesses good arm strength and a nice delivery, while also bringing experience operating out of a pro style system. The downside for Murray is largely to do with his size (6’1″), although his ability to get rid of the football from a variety of release points makes this less of an issue, much like it does for Manziel. Murray’s stock has also taken a slight hit due to a knee injury, but has actually been quite good against tough SEC opponents and outside of his size limitations appears to have all the physical tools needed to succeed at the next level.
10. Tajh Boyd (Clemson)
Last, but certainly not least, is arguably the draft’s biggest enigma not named Johnny Football, as Boyd was a top-three quarterback prospect as recent as 2013, but inconsistency has caused his draft stock to plummet. Arguably a bit of a poor man’s Manziel, Boyd packages good play-making ability on the ground and with his legs with good pocket presence and solid arm strength. However, Boyd’s ball placement can be extremely inconsistent at times, while his offense didn’t necessarily ask a lot of him on a regular basis (threw a lot of short passes). A rough showing during the week of the Senior Bowl surely didn’t help his stock. Still, Boyd is definitely not without talent. If teams can overlook his lack of size and infrequent erratic nature, he could easily be a gem plucked off the board middle to late rounds.
*Photo Credit – Heismanziel via Flickr