Stellar play from Jason Campbell in the Cleveland Browns' heartbreaking 27-26 loss to New England last Sunday raises some interesting questions about Cleveland's college quarterback-prospect watch heading into 2014.
Could a combination of Campbell and Brian Hoyer be enough to keep the Browns competitive next season while a rookie from the upcoming draft class learns from the sidelines?
Letting young quarterbacks mature is a lost art in today's instant results-driven NFL. Current stars like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees all benefited from not being rushed into the lineup, and the same goes for Cleveland's own Hoyer.
|NCAA Quarterback Week 15 Results|
|Name & Ranking||School||Passing Touchdowns||Interceptions||Passing Yards||Rushing Yards||Completion Percentage|
|1. Teddy Bridgewater||Louisville||3||1||255||17||62.2|
|2. Derek Carr||Fresno State||3||2||404||-19||67.9|
|3. Johnny Manziel||Texas A&m||No Game||No Game||No Game||No Game||No Game|
|4. Blake Bortles (wild card)||UCF||0||0||242||31 (2 touchdowns)||68.6|
|5. A.J. McCarron||Alabama||No Game||No Game||No Game||No Game||No Game|
|6. Jimmy Garoppolo||Eastern Illinois||3||1||240||4||65.4|
|7. Zach Mettenberger (injured)||LSU||DNP (Did Not Participate)||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|8. David Fales||San Jose State||No Game||No Game||No Game||No Game||No Game|
|9. Brett Smith||Wyoming||No Game||No Game||No Game||No Game||No Game|
|10. Tajh Boyd||Clemson||No Game||No Game||No Game||No Game||No Game|
|Stats by ESPN.com and ranking by CBSSports.com|
Wild Card: Blake Bortles
Possibly the fastest rising QB on draft boards league wide, Blake Bortles raised his stock with a win over Southern Methodist last Saturday, a game which took place in a nasty ice storm.
Although the conditions were frigid, this was a tremendous opportunity for Bortles to show his versatility in bad weather and prove he could succeed in the cold. When circumstances weren't right for tossing touchdowns, No. 5 stepped up and used his legs to produce two scores.
Not turning the ball over, throwing 35 times and completing 68.6 percent of those passes in harsh winds is exactly what a northern outdoors team like the Browns is looking for.
Outside of touchdown passes, the UCF Knight has improved from last year in every passing category. However, there is still time for him to add more to his scoring total with a college bowl game on the horizon.
The junior certainly looks the part of a franchise signal caller at 6'4" and 220 pounds. He possesses underrated athleticism and isn't afraid to get physical when on the run.
Arm strength, downfield accuracy, a fluid release and quick progressions are all traits that would translate well to Norv Turner's vertical offense. Although he has the speed to make plays with his feet, Bortles is able to stay poised in the pocket under pressure and convert.
He needs to develop a better awareness of where attacking defenders are coming from. As such a raw talent, Bortles would benefit greatly from holding a clipboard for one or two years.
We must all remember that this fascination with the Florida native could all be for not, as Bortles has not yet declared himself for the 2014 draft.
Power Rankings: Week 15
The below power rankings are based on which quarterback's skill set and most recent statistics suggest a suitable fit for Cleveland's philosophy of pushing the ball downfield.
Ideal qualifications include an accurate arm with deep ball strength, quick decision-making ability and some mobility in and out of the pocket.
|Power Rankings: Top Five Week 15 Prospects for Cleveland|
|Name & Ranking||School||Height/Weight||2013 TD/INT||2013 Passing Yards||2013 Completion Percentage||2013 Passer Rating|
|1. Derek Carr||Fresno State||6'3"/218||48/7||4,866||70.1||161.5|
|2. Teddy Bridgewater||Louiville||6'3"/196||28/4||3,523||70.2||169.7|
|3. Jimmy Garoppolo||Eastern Illinois||6'3"/222||51/9||4,729||65.1||170.8|
|4. Blake Bortles||UCF||6'4"/230||22/7||3,280||68.1||163.3|
|5. Zach Mettenberger (injured)||LSU||6'5"/230||22/8||3,082||64.9||171.4|
Blake Bortles is the newest addition to the top five as he leapfrogs Brett Hundley and Zach Mettenberger from last week.
Hundley dropped out of CBS Sports QB rankings as his return to UCLA seems imminent, according to comments from Bruins head coach Jim Mora (via the Los Angeles Daily News).
Mettenberger's ACL injury moves him well down the Browns' priority list. If the front office fails to get their man in the first round, the LSU senior's large frame, accurate delivery and rocket throwing arm may be too much to resist on Day 2.
Although Alabama's A.J. McCarron, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch are all Heisman Trophy finalists, none are ideally suited for Cleveland's current offensive system.
McCarron does well to manage a horizontal passing game, but he struggles to put any zip on throws over 15 yards. That simply doesn't fit the mold of this Browns coaching staff.
Manziel's lack of height and reliance on rushing immediately raises red flags as to whether he can handle the physical rigors of a full NFL schedule. Another concern is that well below-average passing numbers in his last pair of games came largely because the two defenses bottled up No. 2 in the pocket.
Lynch is a nice story. However, he is undersized for the next level and is currently slated to go undrafted according to CBS Sports' draft positioning.
Derek Carr remains in the top position, while Jimmy Garoppolo's skill set makes him one of the most intriguing non-first-round graded quarterbacks coming out in 2014.
Both seniors are touchdown machines who can make all types of NFL-caliber throws. Carr is more polished and has faced tougher competition, but each of them own the tools to be successful starters on the big stage.
Andy McNamara is an international sports broadcaster and writer.
Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyMc81
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