Previewing the Top Draft-Eligible Quarterbacks for the 2014 NFL Draft
After the 2013 NFL draft saw only one quarterback go in the first round, and none in the top 10 picks, the top quarterbacks in college football will be looking to change that in 2014.
The top quarterback prospects at the end of the college football season are going to be entirely different than the current rankings show, but so far, many quarterbacks are already looking like they could contribute at the NFL level.
The top quarterbacks in the class of 2014 contain players from football powerhouses, as well as lesser-known schools, and contain athletes with a slew of raw talent as well as players with a high amount of collegiate production.
For the purposes of this article, only seniors or others I consider a lock to declare will be noted, as underclassmen may have up or down years that affect their draft status.
10. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Logan Thomas is a rather frustrating player for scouts. On the one hand, he is the most gifted athlete in the class, and despite being 6'6 and over 250 pounds, he has no problem rushing as well as passing the ball.
After a nice year in 2011, however, he had a poor 2012 season. The Virginia Tech Hokies only went 7-6, and he barely completed 50 percent of his passes while throwing 18 touchdowns to 16 interceptions.
His decision-making is questionable on the field, and he will have to improve greatly his senior season to again be considered a top prospect at quarterback. He has the build and the look of an NFL quarterback, but it doesn't matter if you can't throw the ball well.
9. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
LSU has not been a school known for churning out quarterbacks, but Zach Mettenberger had a solid enough season for them that he is now a potential draft option.
He put up over 2,600 yards for the Tigers in 2012, and while he did not have many touchdowns, he threw only seven interceptions as well. His completion percentage was under 60 percent, but he does have his main wide receiver targets returning.
If LSU is near the top of the rankings this year, then Mettenberger's name is going to be thrown around. He fits in more as a game manager than anything, but anyone who is able to keep an interception total down like he does is worth a look.
8. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Aaron Murray is a guy who puts up huge numbers in the SEC, and as a result, he is going to be high on the draft board for many scouts. The senior from Georgia put up nearly 4,000 yards and 36 touchdowns last year.
His issues, however, are concerning, since his film does not look as good outside of the stats. He also tends to disappear against tougher opponents like he did against Florida and South Carolina.
There's no question he's an efficient passer, but he does have a lack of arm strength and size, standing at 6'1". That combination means that he could very well be a Heisman candidate while also being a mid-draft selection.
7. David Fales, San Jose State
Statistically, David Fales had an amazing season at San Jose State. His completion percentage of 72.5 percent led college football, and his 4,193 yards were great to see as well.
Despite the lack of competition, he has shown that he has the playing ability to be an NFL quarterback, and at 6'3", he has a great build for the position.
How he plays against Stanford in particular next year will help scouts evaluate just what kind of quarterback he will be. Right now, he's a pocket passer who seems best in a game manager role with a high floor.
So, as long as he keeps his numbers up, he could surprise next year.
6. Derek Carr, Fresno State
Like Fales, Derek Carr has some of the best numbers of any college football quarterback heading into 2013. Last year, he threw for over 4,100 yards and had 37 touchdowns to seven interceptions.
As great as the numbers he puts up are, he tends to panic a bit in the pocket. He has not had to worry too much playing at Fresno State, but there are times against tougher competition where that emerges.
This season will be a decisive one for him, as he could mold himself into one of the top picks, but he could also just as easily struggle and tumble down the rankings.
5. A.J. McCarron, Alabama
The system for A.J. McCarron at Alabama has been perfect for him. They are winning national championships, and he has showcased himself as perhaps the most efficient quarterback out there.
Last year, McCarron had only three picks to 30 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards. Even when he's not having a great game he can help his team win, and the fact that he runs a pro-style offense makes his draft stock even better.
The Alabama game plan is quite rigid, however, and he will have to adjust to being an NFL quarterback. That limits how early he can go in next year's draft. The only certainty with him is that he's the closest college football has to a sure thing this coming season.
4. Bryn Renner, North Carolina
Bryn Renner is one of those quarterbacks I could see rocketing up the rankings if North Carolina does great this season. After all, he already has the numbers after two years as a starter.
In 2012, Renner had over 3,300 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions. More importantly, none of his games last year were bad, and being consistently solid makes one's draft prospects that much better.
Entering his senior season, he is a polished quarterback, and while most rankings have him near the end of the top 10, I see his game being good enough to not only be a top-five quarterback selection in the 2014 draft, but I could see him being a first-round pick.
3. Stephen Morris, Miami (FL)
The U has given the NFL its fair share of great quarterbacks throughout the years, and while Miami's record in 2012 was not all that great, quarterback Stephen Morris established himself as a future high draft pick.
A 58 percent completion percentage and 21 touchdowns are not much to sneeze at, but 3,300 yards and seven interceptions showcase his efficiency. He can get rid of the ball quickly, and he has no trouble making plays.
He can overthrow at times and is not the most accurate passer. With a second-year as a full-time starter, he could turn into a great player, rather than a solid one with potential, which is where he's at right now.
2. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Tajh Boyd has spent the past two seasons not only putting up big numbers at Clemson, but winning big games, in particular the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU. In 2012, he had nearly 4,000 passing yards and 36 touchdowns.
His completion percentage was over 67 percent, which showcases his accuracy. He also has no issues throwing the ball downfield and making tough plays, and he has displayed great toughness in his college career, as he is not afraid to run and take a tackle if he needs to.
The only downside comes from his 6'1" height, but it's not so short as to be a major issue. Of the seniors in next year's class, he's at the top of the list. With the two seasons he has had, it would be tough for him to fall.
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
It's entirely possible that, had Teddy Bridgewater declared for the draft as a sophomore, he would have been the first quarterback taken. That says a lot about his ability.
The Louisville quarterback emerged this past season with big numbers, throwing for over 3,700 yards and 27 touchdowns. More to the point, his performance against Florida in the Sugar Bowl shows that he can hang with big-time talent.
The only thing stopping Bridgewater from being the first overall pick in 2014 is himself. As long as he continues to refine his game and showcase his arm, he will be hearing his name called early in the draft.