The NFL has seen an influx of young quarterbacks take the league by storm in recent years, with signal-callers like Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton each guiding their teams into the thick of the playoff race in 2013. Looking ahead to the 2014 NFL Draft, there are a few more candidates who have the makeup to become starters at the next level.
It might still be the regular season, but it's never too early to look ahead to the next crop of future NFL players. This year's group of quarterbacks doesn't have the gravitas of the 2012 class led by Luck and Robert Griffin III, with question marks surrounding each top signal-caller.
Who will be able to translate their success to the NFL? Here's a look at the top three quarterback prospects heading into the draft.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater still has one more season of eligibility left but figures to be one of the first signal-callers off the board if he declares early. The jury is still out on Bridgewater, though, as recently noted by NFL.com:
According to a recent report by Albert Breer of NFL Media, one AFC college scouting director said he doesn't think Bridgewater is worthy of the first overall pick, let alone a first-round selection.
A second-rounder. Shorter and smallish in size, but he has solid arm strength, he's a good athlete, solid accuracy. Not dynamic or a special talent, but he has NFL starter-caliber skills, and he's a good kid with all the intangibles.
While that's not a ringing endorsement of Bridgewater's skill set, I think he'll be able to add muscle to his thin frame (6'3", 205 lbs) and handle hard-hitting NFL defenses. Bridgewater's decision-making and accuracy make him the safest bet to succeed in the NFL, and those two things are harder to change than physical appearance.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
As a sophomore, Johnny Football understandably had a hard time living up to his Heisman-winning freshman year. Still, he showed off a lot of moxie and talent throughout the year, especially opening eyes with his performance in a 49-42 loss to Alabama.
Following that game, Peter King of Sports Illustrated spoke to 'Bama coach Nick Saban about Manziel's NFL prospects.
Saban paused a moment, put his bags down and made eye contact to make sure his point would be understood. “I think Johnny’s a unique player,” he said. “Many people have said about these guys, like [Robert Griffin III], that they’re not really NFL-style quarterbacks. But yet they’re all doing pretty well in the NFL."
Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman also was impressed by Manziel during the Alabama game and said he thinks the dual-threat option reminds him of Russell Wilson. I think that's an apt comparison. In today's NFL, dual-threat options like Wilson, Kaepernick and Cam Newton are thriving.
Manziel is a special talent, and though he needs to improve as a passer, I suspect he has the raw tools to make a big impact in the NFL.
Derek Carr, Fresno State
Derek Carr has shot up the draft boards this season by piling up 5,082 yards and 50 touchdowns on 68.7 percent passing. But his stock might have taken a hit with his poor performance in the 45-20 loss to USC in the Las Vegas Bowl last week.
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com offered his take on Carr's outing, as he finished 29-of-54 for 216 yards, two touchdowns and one interception:
Dan Greenspan of NFL.com recently wrote that Carr's next appearance in the Senior Bowl will have a huge impact on his draft standing after the bad game against a talented USC defense.
While there's no arguing that Carr was prolific this year, he didn't play the best competition in the Mountain West Conference. His brother, David, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2002, serves as a cautionary tale for a high-profile bust.
Though they aren't one and the same, the younger Carr seems like too big of a risk to be taken early in the draft.