The 2014 NFL Draft is only about a month old, yet all we can think about is next year’s draft. The college football season is drawing closer, which has us thinking about next year’s top prospects.
Specifically, what will we have to look forward to under center? The hype of Johnny Manziel has calmed down for a minute, so now it’s on to Jameis Winston. Will he play two more full years like his dad suggests, or will he compete to go #1 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft?
Only time will tell. All we know for sure is that for right now, he’s at least in the discussion to be the first quarterback taken in next year’s draft. Let’s break down Winston and the other top passing prospects for next year – because it’s something to do:
1. Jameis Winston – Florida State
Winston’s off-the-field issues continue to cast a shadow over his talent, and NFL teams will definitely take that into account. Winston’s talent, however, is second-to-none. He is a quarterback that happens to be an athlete, as opposed to most dual threat athletes that happen to be quarterbacks. Winston’s throwing arm is something to behold, and he’s got great size and speed that will translate well to the NFL. If he can stay out of trouble this year, he’ll be in for a payday big enough that he’ll be able to buy as much crab legs and soda as he wants.
2. Brett Hundley – UCLA
UCLA football is back, and Brett Hundley is a big reason why. Hundley is entering his junior year after stellar redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons in which he showcased his extraordinary skill set. His speed is always a threat, but his arm is just as deadly. He’s completed ⅔ of his passes each season, while posting a roughly 3:1 TD to INT ratio each year. His pocket awareness is improving, and he should benefit from staying in school a third year.
3. Marcus Mariota – Oregon
Mariota is as athletic as you’d expect an Oregon QB to be. He’s lightning quick and makes good decisions, but questions linger about whether his arm is good enough for the pros, or if he can fit comfortably into every NFL system. Oregon’s offense certainly isn’t easy to learn, but it does make it’s players look better than they possibly are. If Mariota can use his third season to prove his arm as an equally valuable commodity to his legs, he’ll be on top of the draft board easily, and teams may find themselves tanking to get him.
4. Bryce Petty – Baylor
After waiting in the wings behind Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence, Petty finally got his chance to show what he’s capable of with Baylor in 2013, and he exceeded expectations. Baylor has a great O-Line and receiving corps, but Petty was able to showcase a solid arm and valuable evasive skills. He’s looking to take it to the next level in his second season as a starter in hopes of cracking the first round of the 2015 draft. If he does that, he could potentially rise up this list.
5. Connor Cook – Michigan State
Cook is a steady pocket passer whose value lies mostly in making quality decisions, but has an arm to back it up. He took over in big games against Ohio State and Stanford last year, and showed consistent improvement throughout the 2013 season. If he continues that trend, he could declare for the 2015 draft as a highly touted prospect.
Honorable Mention #1: Sean Mannion – Oregon State
Mannion is entering his senior season after a major breakout year in 2013. He has a great arm, but needs to limit his interceptions and sacks to become an elite passer. His decision making and pocket awareness have improved over his college career, but they are still lacking if he wants to make it at the next level.
Honorable Mention #2: Kevin Hogan – Stanford
Lurking in the shadow of Andrew Luck’s neck beard, Kevin Hogan took over the Stanford offense with high expectations. Unfortunately, he’s failed to deliver, as his 2013 campaign was mired by inconsistency. He has the talent to climb up draft boards, however, so he will be an interesting QB to watch in 2014.
*Photo Credit – Zennie Abraham via Flickr.