The 2014 NFL draft is poised to have the greatest quarterback class in a long time. After only one QB was selected in the first round last year, there could very well be five or six this year.
These players, suffice it to say, are projected to be starters at some point in their NFL career, and for many fans, it's only natural to compare these college athletes to pro players. After all, that makes it easy to get a rough idea of how that player may do in the pros.
It's impossible to make a perfect comparison between two quarterbacks, but based on arm strength, awareness and other measures, one can certainly make a plausible comparison, and that's what I will be doing for the following five quarterbacks.
Teddy Bridgewater has established himself quite firmly as the first overall selection in next year's draft, barring anything crazy happening, and based on his traits, it's easy to see why.
Bridgewater has great arm strength, is mobile without being a scrambler and has excellent pocket presence over anything else, which is a must when you're the first overall selection and going to a team that likely has a poor offensive line.
You know who else had a nearly identical scouting report? Both Bucky Brooks and I see quite a lot of Aaron Rodgers in him. Both are the type of player who can get 4,000 yards passing and 300 yards rushing and can turn nobody receivers into solid threats.
Most importantly, they can win games. Rodgers and Bridgewater did so at California and Louisville, respectively, and while Rodgers landed into a perfect situation in Green Bay, Bridgewater will certainly be a Day 1 starter. If he is in fact like Rodgers, though, that will not be an issue.
Marcus Mariota has become so good in just two seasons at Oregon that he has vaulted into top-10 draft-pick discussion. Looking at his numbers, it is easy to see why. This season, he has thrown for more than 2,200 yards and 20 touchdowns, but more importantly, he has zero interceptions.
He's one of the quickest rushing quarterbacks in the draft, but his biggest advantage is his arm strength and speed, as he has no trouble getting rid of the ball. He hasn't had to worry about mastering a pro-style offense, however, and he is a bit of a project no matter how good his skills currently are.
A lot of people are comparing him to Colin Kaepernick, and while I see why, especially given the systems both played in and the numbers both put up in college, I think he's closer to Robert Griffin III.
Mariota and Griffin can both run and quickly throw, but the best part of their games is their ability to be efficient when throwing the ball, as both completed a lot of their passes and threw very few picks while maintaining an uptempo offense.
Of the top quarterback prospects, none have been scrutinized as much as Johnny Manziel. His height, off-field issues, running ability, passing ability—everything has been looked at from all angles.
A lot of players have already been compared to Manziel. Tim Tebow has been compared to him solely due to the media frenzy surrounding both, but the comparison ends there. If you're looking for a football comparison, the guy to look at is Russell Wilson.
Both had questions about height, yet both were able to make great decisions both in the passing and running game. Manziel will likely be a Day 2 selection for the same reason Wilson was, and that's the height issue, despite the fact that neither have had trouble throwing over offensive lines so far.
Tajh Boyd is one of the best senior quarterbacks in a draft filled primarily with star underclassmen. He has put up big numbers throughout his career at Clemson and has been noticed as a result.
While Boyd can certainly run if he needs to, he's more comfortable in the pocket. Despite his short height, he has a compact build and is a lot tougher than his 6'1" frame might appear. He has good arm strength, but he does not make the big throw all that often, and he does occasionally panic when in the pocket.
To my surprise, I couldn't find anyone making the first comparison I thought of, and that was to Matthew Stafford. Stafford can throw the ball well and is not exactly tall himself at 6'2". The primary question mark for Stafford out of college was, like for Boyd, pocket awareness when under pressure.
The big question about Boyd is how good he can be without a big-time receiver. He has had perhaps the best group of wideouts throughout his career in Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and others. Likewise, Stafford's numbers would not be as good without Calvin Johnson to throw to.
Unlike the other top quarterback prospects in this case who can make plays with both their arm and legs, Zach Mettenberger is a pocket passer, and while he has great arm strength, he doesn't have much else to offer beyond that.
He has only popped on the radar this past season after flourishing under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron at LSU. A few years ago, Cameron did the same with another quarterback who bears a strong resemblance to Mettenberger.
That quarterback is Joe Flacco. Both were pocket passers who came out of situations where they still had some growing to do to be NFL-ready, Flacco in particular because he played at Delaware. Both have similar weaknesses as well, tending to overly focus on one receiver, which caused some accuracy issues in college.
If you are still unsure about the comparison, Cameron made the same one himself, and I would trust his word on that. He made that before this season as well, when I would have been a lot more reluctant to make such a comparison.