Breaking Down the Top Quarterback Prospects in 2014 NFL Draft
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The most disappointing position in terms of talent in this past NFL draft was quarterback, but that will be completely different in next year’s event. There was only one signal-caller who was selected in the first round, but there could be easily be four who go off the board in the first 25 picks.
From Louisville Cardinal’s star passer Teddy Bridgewater to the wily enigma that is Johnny Football, this upcoming class is top-heavy with future franchise quarterbacks and will be a fun one to watch unfold come April.
One thing that stands out about this year’s top quarterback prospects is that the majority of them keep up with the NFL’s newest trend of mobile quarterbacks. We’ve already seen second-year passers Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson do special things on their feet, and this class has a good chance of mirroring the two stud passers.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
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Weight: 200 pounds
College stats to date: 372/545 for 3,924 yards, 38 touchdowns and 13 interceptions
Johnny Manziel has been the most polarizing figure in college football since he led his Aggies to victory over the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide.
He’s shown a wide range of athletic ability, scoring monster touchdowns with his arm and legs. Although he has a solid corps of talent around him at Texas A&M, it’s clear the Aggies are a next-level team with the reigning Heisman winner at the helm.
The best thing Manziel has going for him is his athletic ability. At 6’1”, 200 pounds, he is not that big and will need to be a speedy athlete if he wants to survive in the NFL.
He shows great instincts and performs well on the fly; he makes something out of nothing on broken plays.
He’s not so much an RG3 clone as he is a smaller Colin Kaepernick-esque player. He doesn’t have the greatest long ball, but his short and intermediate routes are hardly matched by most.
If he can bulk up and improve his durability, Manziel could be a scary player in the NFL.
Most recently, Heismanziel has been surrounded with accusations surrounding autographs he reportedly sold. He also had quite an eventful summer as he was seen on TMZ a couple of times, most recently for getting kicked out of a frat party at the Aggies’ in-state rival’s campus.
The questions surrounding his performance on the field are largely related to the translation of his skill set combination at the next level. Sure he can elude and juke out guys in the college ranks, but so did Tim Tebow. They do have two different styles of running, but the concerns surrounding Manziel’s play are a pretty good comparison to those surrounding Tebow.
His size is another issue, as most teams are going to bank on him not being the second coming of Doug Flutie. He also has inconsistent ball placement and is a little weak on the long ball.
Although he lacks some of the critical mechanics to become a star quarterback in the NFL, he could perform well in the right system. There’s not a specific offense in which Manziel’s style of play fits best besides the gimmicky (and failing) read-option, so teams will have to build around his strengths.
Although his abilities aren’t necessarily indicative of a first-round pick, his star power and flashy game tape will make him an irresistible choice for a team in the first few rounds.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
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Weight: 220 pounds
College stats to date: 279/418 for 3,566 yards, 39 touchdowns and six interceptions
Marcus Mariota, a redshirt sophomore, has been lighting it up this season for the Ducks. The Honolulu native posted a career-high 456 yards and four touchdowns against the Tennessee Volunteers.
While a talented passer, Mariota shines as a runner. He is one of the most elusive runners of college football in the last few years.
Mariota is probably the most athletically gifted runner out of all these quarterbacks. His size and gazelle-like style of running make him a tough guy to bring down. And he also possesses tremendous top-end speed. He shows great zip on the ball and has an effortless throwing motion.
The biggest worry surrounding almost all Oregon's players is if they can play well outside of that system. There is a very specific and unique style of offense ran by the Ducks, and the jury is still out on how it will turn out in the NFL (Chip Kelly’s off to a rocky start so far).
If he can display a more well-rounded skill set than he could prove himself as a solid overall prospect.
He's a worthy project for most teams. Mariota probably wouldn’t be your Day 1 starter, but give him a couple of years behind a quality mentor, and he could be the next great backup-turned-starter in the NFL.
Ironically, the team that is now headed by his former coach would be his best fit and situation. If the Eagles could get their hands on Mariota in next year’s draft, then Kelly may have his quarterback of the future in his quarterback from the past.
Brett Hundley, UCLA
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Weight: 222 pounds
College stats to date: 372/545 for 3,924 yards, 38 touchdowns and 13 interceptions
Brett Hundley was a 5-star prospect coming out of high school and is a big reason why the UCLA Bruins are as good as they are. He’s proved to be quite a load for defenders to bring down, as he’s got great size and speed.
He’s gotten the respect and attention of a rebuilding UCLA football program and is looking poised for another big year.
Very well-built physically, he has what you look for when you draw up a quarterback. He’s a student of the game who studies a ton of game film, and it shows up on the field. Hundley looks right at home in and out of the pocket and has the arm strength to plant the ball virtually anywhere on the field.
Although he has the arm strength to put the ball anywhere, it’s getting it to where he intends to throw it that seems to be Hundley’s issue. He needs to work on his consistency and ball placement in order to be a trusted prospect in next year’s draft.
His instincts could be better, as he doesn’t always feel the rush when he should.
Hundley will make an NFL team very happy one day. He probably isn’t a starter right away at this point, but with some coaching, he could perform at a high level sooner rather than later.
He’s a great package overall when it comes to what you look for in a quarterback. He just needs to sharpen his passing, and he’ll do well—more than likely a first-rounder.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
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Weight: 225 pounds
College stats to date: 674/1,079 for 8,736 yards, 79 touchdowns and 28 interceptions
Tajh Boyd has the ideal compact body you like to see in a quarterback and has a similar build to Griffin III. He’s another one of the talented running quarterbacks but shows tremendous ability in the passing game.
Although he struggled with consistency in 2012, he still put up big numbers en route to an Orange Bowl bid.
He puts great velocity on the ball and can fit it into tight spots, looks extremely comfortable in the pocket and has good mobility.
He's more of a straight-line, shifty runner than a lanky strider, and his compact build makes him less injury prone when enduring hits.
He’s provided a strong sense of leadership during his years at Clemson and is a very tough competitor. He shows good touch on the ball, leading his receiver in-stride most times.
He’s a little on the short side, which may cause a Russell Wilson-like effect on his stock, but I doubt he will fall as far.
Although he’s performed well at Clemson, he hasn’t had a difficult playbook or route tree to master. He also takes the majority of his snaps from the shotgun, so there will definitely be questions about whether or not he will be comfortable under center in the NFL.
Another thing he will need to work on is something most mobile quarterbacks have to work on—learning to think pass-first instead of instinctively running.
Boyd should develop into a fine NFL starter. He has good overall ability and seems to be very coachable.
He has had the luxury of De’Andre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins in the last couple of years, so it will be interesting to see if he can do as well with less talent on the outside. He could probably come in and do alright for a team in his first year, but don’t expect him to produce like Andrew Luck, Wilson and RG3 have.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
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Weight: 205 pounds
College stats to date: 554/825 for 7,061 yards, 55 touchdowns and 21 interceptions
Teddy Bridgewater is far and away the best quarterback in this year’s class. He’s been the driving force behind the reemergence of Louisville’s football program and has won some huge games in his career.
His most impressive feat to date is his victory over the Florida Gators in last season’s Sugar Bowl. He’s the most complete passer in the 2014 draft class.
Bridgewater is the definition of the total package. He is a natural leader with an overall stellar skill set. He’s great at taking care of the football and at not being careless or thoughtless when pressured.
He is a natural pocket passer but is a nightmare outside of the hash marks. He also has a pretty good deep ball and good vision down the field. He doesn’t seem to rush himself when he drops back.
Bridgewater is borderline nonchalant, looking untroubled when going through his progressions. His footwork only contributes to his contentment in the pocket, and he moves smooth as a runnin’ river.
Despite performing well in big games, Bridgewater’s abilities seemed dumbed down against conference teams. Old injuries may also come back to haunt him, as he has had issues in the past with his wrist and ankle. His throwing motion and mechanics also warrant some concern but can likely be coached up and remedied.
Bridgewater is the cream of the crop in this coming draft and will be selected within the first five picks barring some unforeseen hit to his draft stock. He is clean off the field and will be a great leader for a struggling team.
Bridgewater is the ideal player to build a team around, and you can bet the Jacksonville Jaguars are already getting their suits dry-cleaned for when they meet with him.