2014 NFL mock drafts are already flying in despite the fact that the current season is just underway. The Trent Richardson deal sent the signal that for select teams, the focus has already shifted to the 2014 NFL draft and beyond.
Based on the talented class of quarterbacks eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, it's hard to fault the Cleveland Browns for shipping out Richardson. As the Indianapolis Colts demonstrated with the selection of Andrew Luck with the No.1 pick of the 2012 draft, even the most hapless team is just one dynamic signal-caller away from a breakthrough.
As far as quarterbacks go, the big prize on May 8 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City will be Teddy Bridgewater. It's still much too soon to know which team will nab the Louisville standout. However, an even better question to ask is: How many teams in total will score franchise quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL draft?
Rob Rang of CBSsports.com included four quarterbacks in the top 12 picks as part of his most recent 2014 NFL mock draft, and there wasn't even room for Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. According to Todd McShay of ESPN (insider access required), as many as 10 passers have the potential to go in the first three rounds.
Ultimately, just how many of those names Roger Goodell calls on the first two days of the draft will come down to which players step up during the college season and how the NFL campaign shakes out. McShay points to three types of NFL teams that will be hunting for a new signal-caller.
The first group includes the Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars, who, even if they don't spend their first pick on a quarterback, are all but certain to snap one up within the first three rounds.
As McShay noted, there are also teams like the Oakland Raiders, whose season could go sideways fast depending on a how the super-athletic Terrelle Pryor develops as a passer. The Tennessee Titans fit into this camp as well, and even the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be looking for replacements.
Teams will also have the opportunity to opt for a player who's more of a pure aerial threat. Senior Derek Carr of Fresno State aired out 12 touchdown passes in his first three games. Carr's draft stock will rise massively if he leads the Bulldogs into the BCS conversation.
Even a franchise like the Houston Texans stands to benefit. Gary Kubiak's team is the huge favorite to lock down the AFC South, but with 32-year-old Matt Schuab under center, the time is right to start lining up a succession plan.
There's still a lot of football left to play on both the collegiate and NFL levels. However, the early 2014 NFL mock drafts clearly demonstrate that the upcoming edition is shaping up to be huge departure from last year.
With an the ultra-deep quarterback pool and an extensive list of teams in need of an upgrade at the position, the perfect storm is brewing. Next spring in New York City look for five to seven teams to grab impactful quarterbacks.