Updated Projections for Draft's Top QBs with Marcus Mariota Returning to Oregon

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystDecember 3, 2013

EAST HARTFORD, CT - NOVEMBER 08:  Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Louisville Cardinals drops back to throw a pass against the Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field in the first quarter during the game on November 8, 2013 in East Hartford, Connecticut.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

There are a handful of cellar-dwellers in the NFL who already have their eyes on 2014 and a draft class that some consider the deepest in recent memory at quarterback.

Since, like, 2012. That's a long time in the information age.

However, the pool of talent got quite a bit shallower on Tuesday.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was almost universally projected as a top-10 (if not top-five) pick in next April's draft, has decided to return to Eugene for the 2014 season according to Adam Schefter of ESPN:

That sound you hear is general mangers in Houston, Cleveland and Jacksonville banging their heads into their desks.

However, one man's loss is another man's gain, as Mariota's decision to stay in school will have a trickle-down effect on the other top passers in next year's class.

Here's a look at how things might now shake out.


Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

If there's one player on this list who isn't going to be affected by the Mariota news, it's Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, if only because most experts expected the 6'3", 196-pounder to be the first overall pick next April anyway.

Teddy Bridgewater 2013
Per CFBStats.com

If it was most before, it's all now. As Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller points out, the race to the bottom of the NFL just became a sprint:

It isn't just that Bridgewater is the top prospect at the position this year, a player with the athleticism, size and arm that scouts drool over. Now, the gap between him and the next player on this list is huge, and Bridgewater is far and away the safest bet among this year's batch of signal-callers.

If Bridgewater joins Mariota and spurns the NFL for one more year of college, then this year's crop of quarterbacks starts looking a lot like last year's crop of quarterbacks. But we haven't seen a young passer pass up being a mortal-lock first overall pick since all the way back in 2011.

Projection: Houston Texans, first overall pick


Derek Carr, Fresno State

Here's where the dominoes start to fall.

The (projected) top of next year's draft is rotten with teams who need a quarterback, and Mariota's announcement limits the number of options available to those teams.

That's good news for the players (at least their wallets), but not so much for teams picking outside the top five, because the odds of Fresno State's Derek Carr being there now aren't good.

Teams like, say, the aforementioned Browns:

There's plenty to like about Carr. A prototypical 6'3", 215-pound frame. Consecutive 4,000-yard seasons at Fresno State in which Carr demonstrated a strong arm, good touch and excellent decision-making skills with the football.

Derek Carr 2013
Per CFBStats.com

However, many of the same questions about the level of competition Carr has faced that dogged older brother David Carr now follow Derek, and last week's tough outing against San Jose State only added to the whispers.

They can whisper all they want. There are just too many QB-needy teams, although by the time all is said and done Carr may wind up wishing Mariota had declared.

Projection: Jacksonville Jaguars, second overall pick


Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

Mariota's decision to remain a Duck also had a significant impact on the most exciting and polarizing player in college football.

It opened the doors for Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M to begin his NFL career in just as polarizing a fashion.

Johnny Manziel 2013
Per CFBStats.com

Draftniks were already all over the place on Manziel. For every expert who points to Manziel's ridiculous athleticism and uncanny ability to make things happen and touts him as a top-five pick, there's another who points to Manziel's diminutive size and recent struggles and says Manziel may not be a first-rounder.

Well, that argument is now all but moot, and Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated was probably spot-on in his assessment of Manziel's reaction to the Mariota news:

As we said before, there are just too many teams with a need at quarterback right now, and the new CBA makes it much more palatable to take risks early in the draft.

Frankly, it wouldn't be earth-shattering if Manziel leap-frogged Carr and landed with the Jaguars. The Jags badly need an infusion of enthusiasm among their fans, and Johnny Football is going to sell tickets.

That's exactly why he'll never get past the Minnesota Vikings, who are a train wreck at quarterback and building a shiny new stadium.

Projection: Minnesota Vikings, fifth overall pick


Zach Mettenberger, LSU

UPDATE: Wednesday, 9:25 a.m. EST

On November 29, Mettenberger was forced to leave LSU's comeback win over Arkansas early with a knee injury. 

After the typical post-game tests, it was revealed that he tore his ACL:

THIS JUST IN: LSU QB Zach Mettenberger has torn ACL; will not play in bowl game. (via @caplannfl)

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 4, 2013

At this point, it's too early to know exactly how much of the pre-draft process this serious injury will cause the LSU quarterback to miss or how much it'll negatively affect his draft stock.



This is the point in the draft where things could get wild next May.

The Cleveland Browns will have two things we know of in next year's draft. One is two first-round draft picks. The second is a smoking crater of a hole at quarterback.

Now, with Mariota out of the mix, not only are the odds of Manziel or Carr making it to Cleveland much slimmer, but the prospect of waiting to draft a quarterback until later in the first round is a much riskier bet.

If UCLA's Brett Hundley were to throw his hat in the ring, then he would be in the mix here, but recent reports have Hundley leaning towards staying in school:

That leaves LSU's Zach Mettenberger as the most likely big winner of the Mariota announcement.

Zach Mettenberger 2013
Per CFBStats.com

It continues an upward trend for Mettenberger, who has gone from marginal draft prospect entering this year to potential top-10 pick, thanks in large part to Cam Cameron's pro-style offense.

Mettenberger's 3,082 passing yards and 22 touchdowns this year aren't eye-popping numbers, and there are more than a few scouts who don't even see the 6'5", 235-pound senior as a first-round pick.

With that said, the Mariota news paints the Browns into a bit of a corner. The franchise may fear he won't make it back to them, and at least Mettenberger isn't a 28-year-old.

Drafting one of those would just be crazy.

Projection: Cleveland Browns, eighth overall pick