2014 NFL Draft: Why Quarterback Is the Overwhelming Strength of This Class

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2014 NFL Draft: Why Quarterback Is the Overwhelming Strength of This Class
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The beauty of the college football season is that you can go in believing whatever rankings you have when it comes to a team or a player, but anything can happen to make you completely rethink how the rest of the year, as well as the offseason, will end up.

Heading into this year's matchups, it looked like the offensive line unit would be the star in next year's draft. Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan were both slated to be top-10 picks. While they are still well regarded, another position has emerged as the one to beat.

I saw the position of linebacker being a strong one top to bottom as well, with the emergence of small-school studs, such as Khalil Mack, to go along with big names from Alabama and others, as well as top linebacker Anthony Barr's continued dominance.

Like the offensive line, that has paled in comparison to the position of quarterback. Unlike last year, which was the weakest draft class for quarterbacks in some time, this year's group could range from simply good to the best batch in a long time.

Why the range? Most of the top prospects this year, as well as many mid-round possibilities, are underclassmen. Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel and Brett Hundley could be three of the first five quarterbacks taken, and all are sophomores.

If all three were to declare (right now, the only one who could be considered a lock to declare is Manziel), then that makes the draft at that position incredibly deep.

At the top there is Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who should be the first player selected in the draft, barring something major happening after the college football season ends.

The three sophomores all have room to grow, and the fact that they are already considered first-round talents speaks highly of their abilities.

It's entirely possible that all at least three of the four could go in the first round, and Clemson senior Tajh Boyd could join them as well. He stock has dropped a bit this year, but that's partially due to the rise of the sophomore. A great performance in the national championship game, should he lead Clemson there, will put him right back in high-pick discussions.

The top of a draft class can be great, but if the Day 2 and Day 3 selections are not any good, then it is not a strong field. This year, good quarterbacks can be found beyond just the first round.

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has quickly risen up draft boards of late.

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger seems to have been playing like an entirely new quarterback his senior year, thanks to new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. His newfound development could make him a valuable Day 2 selection.

Aaron Murray and Derek Carr have both put up big numbers at Georgia and Fresno State, respectively, and as a result, they are right up there as Day 2 draft possibilities. They have their share of detractors which keep them from being in first-round discussion, but all it takes is one team to make that jump on draft day.

Already, that's eight quarterbacks who could go in the first two or three rounds, and that just covers those players who have the possibility of going particularly early in the draft.

This year, the quarterback class is full of game-manager types as well, players who may not be starters, but could be quality backups in the middle rounds. Alabama's AJ McCarron is the prime example of that and will not fall far in the draft as a result.

I could go on and on about the quarterbacks in this draft class. The fact that there are others who could be selected fairly early on in the draft, whom I did not touch on here, shows just how deep this class is.

It further helps the case that a lot of teams seem to be in need of a quarterback next year to be a long-term starter, and even more are going to be looking for one to bolster their depth at that position.

Whether the quarterbacks will be great in the NFL or not is a matter that will not be decided on for many years, but based upon the quality of play at the college level currently combined with the raw abilities of the top quarterbacks, this looks to be a great class from top to bottom.

 

Draft rankings are courtesy of CBS Sports.

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