NFL Draft 2014: Breaking Down Strengths and Weaknesses of Top Quarterbacks
The quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL draft class will make everyone forget about the dismal class of 2013.
Which quarterback will be the best in the NFL?
Teddy Bridgewater is the consensus top quarterback who will be eligible for the 2014 draft, but there's not much consensus about where the rest of the signal-callers rank.
Some draft analysts have Tajh Boyd and A.J. McCarron coming in behind Bridgewater, while others like Aaron Murray and Marcus Mariota.
A couple of guys who are getting seriously overlooked at this point are David Fales out of San Jose State and Brett Hundley out of UCLA.
Here are the strengths and weaknesses of the class' top quarterbacks.
There aren't a lot of negatives to point out when scouting Bridgewater.
This young man had a phenomenal season for the Cardinals last year, passing for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
He's a leader, a prototypical pocket passer who moves his feet well inside the pocket and possesses the speed and athleticism to make plays outside the pocket when necessary.
Bridgewater is a big, strong quarterback with good size (6'3" and 220 pounds). He possesses excellent movement skills and underrated speed, which allows him to evade pressure when he senses it.
From the ground up, Bridgewater utilizes good mechanics. He keeps his feet moving, has a strong base when setting up to make the pass and possesses a tight throwing motion that doesn't waste much energy or time.
He's an accurate passer (68.5 percent) who doesn't turn the ball over often (27 touchdowns to just eight interceptions in 2012). Combined with his strong arm and excellent touch, Bridgewater can make every throw necessary to thrive in the NFL.
Additionally, Bridgewater sees the field well and does a nice job moving away from his primary target to progress through his reads—a trait many young signal-callers lack. He sees plays developing and anticipates when his receivers will break open.
Bridgewater is a fine character who leads by example, praises his teammates and embodies "team"—the kind of young man who teams are looking for to become the face of their franchise.
As was previously mentioned, there isn't a lot of negativity surrounding Bridgewater. He's the complete package, but that doesn't mean he is without flaw.
Like many young quarterbacks, Bridgewater doesn't recognize blitzes at times, and he needs to learn how to see them before they happen and adjust accordingly. He trusts his athleticism a little bit too much in the pocket and needs to be more decisive about when he takes off and runs with the ball.
Strength isn't a big issue with Bridgewater, but he could certainly get stronger in both his upper and lower body.
His one flaw as a passer comes when he tries to really drive the ball deep downfield. His mechanics tend to get sloppy and his back shoulder drops enough to cause some of his deep throws to float.
This JUCO transfer out of Monterey Peninsula College opened up a lot of eyes last year at San Jose State. Because he plays for a smaller school, many of the top analysts on ESPN, CBS and other top networks haven't given him the credit he's due.
He began his college career at the University of Nevada but transferred to Monterey Peninsula after realizing that Nevada wasn't the right fit for him (h/t Jimmy Durkin of the San Jose Mercury News). He's a pocket passer, and he didn't want to get caught up in a scheme that featured him as a runner.
All he did last season in his first year with the Spartans was complete 72.5 percent of his passes for 4,193 yards with 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions while leading his team to a record of 11-2.
By the time the 2014 NFL draft rolls around, Fales will be a familiar name if he manages to put together another stellar season in 2013.
Fales possesses good size and is a nearly identical twin to Bridgewater in terms of height and weight. He's a pure pocket passer with experience under center, yet he possesses the speed and agility needed to escape pressure—not a statue in the pocket, a la Joe Flacco.
This young man possesses a cannon for an arm. Of all the quarterbacks coming up for the 2014 NFL draft, his is the most impressive. Even better, Fales is highly accurate with his passes, as his 72.5 percent completion rate clearly shows.
He possesses excellent mechanics when given the time to throw and displays outstanding touch on all his throws—not something that is always associated with quarterbacks that possess big arms.
Finally, Fales is a strong leader who doesn't have any red flags for off-field behavior.
A lack of experience against top college competition could hurt Fales' stock. He has only one year of Division I ball under his belt, and San Jose State doesn't face many top national opponents.
Fales is also poor at picking up blitzes, which is a major factor in being able to start in the NFL right away, a la Blaine Gabbert. When this happens, Fales' mechanics tend to fall apart too, as he gets happy feet in the pocket.
Finally, Fales believes in his arm too much at times and forces balls into bad spots. This is a trait we've seen from legendary quarterbacks like Brett Farve, Dan Marino and John Elway, and it's not always a bad thing.
NFL teams looking for a dual-threat quarterback in the mold of Robert Griffin III will be watching Boyd closely this year. His speed and athleticism are at an elite level, but he's still a project as an NFL quarterback candidate.
The past two years at Clemson, Boyd has shown an undeniable ability to get the job done, and productivity is a big deal when evaluating potential NFL talent. Last year, he completed 67.2 percent of his passes—a huge increase over his 2011 campaign—for 3,896 yards with 36 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions.
This production, plus the raw tools Boyd brings to the table will certainly put him in the running as one of the first players taken in the 2014 NFL draft.
First and foremost, Boyd is an elite athlete who can burn defenses with his arm and his legs.
He'll likely run the 40-yard dash in the 4.5-second range at next year's combine, and he's a dangerous open-field runner. Better still, Boyd understands how to protect himself from big hits—an absolute must for NFL signal-callers.
He's also a vocal leader in the huddle and in the locker room and he plays with confidence—both important traits.
Boyd delivers the ball in a tight spiral in short to intermediate passes, but his arm strength isn't as significant as the first two quarterbacks mentioned. He also possesses solid mechanics when given time to throw and has good touch on short passes.
A lack of prototypical size (6'1" and 225 pounds) won't necessarily preclude teams from considering Boyd as an early first-round pick, but it is something teams look at as a potential negative from quarterbacks.
Boyd tends to get jumpy under pressure—especially up the middle—and displays poor mechanics in these situations, which can lead to late throws into coverage.
He also sometimes struggles to get the ball out on time with good velocity on throws outside the hash marks. Additionally, there are times when Boyd doesn't see the entire field at times, leading to dangerous throws near defenders he didn't see.
Finally, Boyd's touch (or lack thereof) isn't as developed as it needs to be on intermediate throws.
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