Now that the quarterbacks who will be available in the upcoming 2014 NFL draft are becoming a bit more set, their rank order is a bit easier to establish. This is of course with the understanding that while these rankings could change some between now and May, it is likely that, short of an injury or changes in who declares and who returns to school, this list should remain largely unchanged going forward.
This is a group of quarterbacks very similar to the 2013 class in that they are an extremely diverse group, all with unique strengths and weaknesses. This means that the order they are selected in could come down to where a team thinks a particular quarterback will fit as much as their individual talent.
Another note about this list: It is comprised of the only players who have a draftable grade at this point. Keeping in mind that their draft grade is in relation to talent, not a prediction of where the player will be selected.
Let's break down this fascinating group of quarterbacks.
Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is such a fluid football player. The game seems to come very easy to him. Nothing about his footwork or mechanics seems forced. Regardless of the pressure or situation, he keeps his eyes downfield and is always looking to make a play. His arm strength is solid, and he is an above-average athlete at quarterback.
The bar was set so high for Bridgewater coming into the season that it was impossible for him to live up to the expectations. His production this season, while outstanding, was supposed to be BCS championship and Heisman Trophy outstanding, and so in one sense, his growth isn't where it should be.
Bridgewater's game is rock solid in all phases. His frame is a little thin, but he will fill out in the NFL. Bridgewater is the closest thing to a sure thing in this draft among the quarterbacks, mainly because of his intelligence. Bridgewater sees the whole field, and while some of his physical tools aren't as elite as other QBs in this group, his football acumen is exceptional.
Draft Projection: Bridgewater should be the top quarterback off the board and likely a top-three pick.
If you built a quarterback in a lab, physically, they would probably look a lot like Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr. Standing 6'3" and 220 pounds, Carr has excellent size to go with some sneaky athleticism and mobility. However, what brings all the boys to the yard is his arm. Carr throws the football with tremendous velocity, even if the Fresno State offense doesn't always showcase it. He has a very efficient throwing motion that allows him to put the ball on a spot in a hurry.
Where Bridgewater wins is from the neck up. This is where Carr still struggles. Too many times it doesn't appear Carr has a timer in his head for pressure and when to get rid of the football. Being able to avoid the hits and make timely plays is something he must improve on. Carr has gaudy stats in a pass-heavy offense that utilizes a lot of horizontal throws. In the NFL, Carr will be asked to go through his progressions down the field, so he needs to show that he is capable of performing such a task, especially under duress.
The Final Word
With the shuffling of quarterbacks in and out of the draft, Carr has a real shot to end up the second quarterback off the board and will likely be drafted very early. Carr won't fit just any system, and he is going to need some time to get up to speed in the league. His ceiling is high, and if he gets the right fit, he should be in good shape.
Draft Projection: Carr should go early in the first round, perhaps to a team like the Minnesota Vikings. Don't rule out Carr having a huge offseason and parlaying that into a top-five pick.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is a bit of an enigma. Looking at him from a physical and mental perspective, there is no single skill or feature that stands out ahead of anything else. Most players have something that is highlighted as to what sets them apart, in both their strengths and their shortcomings. For Boyd, he does everything well but nothing at an elite level. If there is one edge he has over other quarterbacks in this draft, it is his toughness. Never underestimate a quarterback who has the respect of his teammates, because he gives everything he has on every play.
Again, there is nothing glaring here. Some have questioned his decision-making, and that point is valid to a degree. Others have questioned his height, but the league seems to be less concerned about that at this point. The system Boyd plays in will always be a criticism of his, since it allows him easy opportunities for production.
The Final Word
Boyd is a great college quarterback. He's got a nice arm, excellent mobility and does a very good job reading defenses and going through his progressions. What Boyd is not, however, is a perfect fit for every team. Some teams will grade Boyd down because it is going to take a distinct system for him to be successful. However, in that system, Boyd can be great.
Draft Projection: At this point, Boyd is a fringe first-round prospect in the eyes of the league. However, Boyd has an opportunity in a down quarterback year to make up some serious ground with the slate of all-star games and workouts.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger is one of the most productive quarterbacks in LSU history. Over the course of his two years at LSU, Mettenberger has really improved his footwork and throwing mechanics. Both are NFL caliber at this point, to go along with a strong arm. Mettenberger is a pure pocket quarterback who will stand in the pocket and go through his reads and make throws under pressure.
Unfortunately for Mettenberger, a late season ACL tear puts his entire rookie season in jeopardy. This will almost certainly impact his potential draft status and, with that, his development. Along those same lines, Mettenberger does struggle with consistency at times and has a tendency to start slow in games.
The Final Word
If Mettenberger hadn't been injured, he would've had a real shot to be among the top quarterbacks taken in 2014. Now it is all but impossible to say. Mettenberger has plenty of talent, but with quarterbacks in such short supply, the fact he can't produce early will hurt him.
Draft Projection: At this point, a third-round grade for Mettenberger is more than fair. A team could look at his potential and know it could tuck him away for a year and get a respectable value late in the third round.
There really aren't any metrics to measure excitement or unorthodox positive plays, so it is hard to quantify what Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel can do. Manziel's arm is solid and his athleticism is as good as any in the draft. Manziel does a great job of understanding when to run and when to throw, and he can extend the play as well as anyone. His short and intermediate accuracy has improved, and when it comes to the deep pass, he is fearless.
Manziel has something of a slight build, which could be problematic with how much he runs. Also, Manziel just makes dumb throws sometimes. For all the gaudy stats Manziel puts up, he makes some throws that either end up as interceptions or probably should have. Poor decision-making with his arm has to be improved, especially on his deep throws.
The Final Word
For as fun and exciting as college football Johnny Manziel is, NFL Johnny Manziel might be as frustrating. Manziel has a fascinating package of skills and some tools to work with. It is all up to a team that is willing to take a chance and see if it can build an offense around what he does well and try to shield him from his flaws.
Draft Projection: Manziel is the perfect example of a guy who only needs one team to think it can harness his potential and end up a first-round pick pretty easily. If no team wants to roll the dice, then expect Manziel to be off the board before the end of the second round for sure.
The quarterbacks remaining are all talented football players in their own right. However, all of these quarterbacks still left on this list have flaws significant enough to push them down into that next tier of athlete. That's not to say any or all of these players couldn't develop into starters. However, their combinations of strengths and weaknesses make the task more challenging, and their ceilings will be somewhat limited.
6. Blake Bortles, UCF
7. AJ McCarron, Alabama
8. David Fales, San Jose State
9. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
10. Aaron Murray, Georgia
11. Brett Smith, Wyoming
12. Stephen Morris, Miami
13. Jeff Mathews, Cornell
14. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
15. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech