Ranking the Top Quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJanuary 14, 2014

Ranking the Top Quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft

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    Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports, and therefore the value placed on obtaining a franchise player is extremely high. But it is also very imprecise, and there are a lot of questions surrounding the quarterback class for the 2014 NFL draft.

    On one hand, multiple players are worthy of first-round picks, but on the other hand, a bunch of teams will reach for guys out of desperation.

    The expectations on those players will still be high, but they may not necessarily have all the tools to succeed, which can lead to disaster.

    While quarterback is a difficult position to evaluate, I've already delved deep into some of the top prospects for this class, whom I rank here. This ranking will be fluid and should change between now and the draft.

    But for now, here are my top 10 quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL draft.

10. A.J. McCarron, Alabama

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    Alabama fans will come out in packs and rake me over the coals for this, but that won't change my opinion that McCarron is not even close to an elite prospect.

    He's not a bad player by any means. He has a solid arm and shows a good grasp of Alabama's pro-style offense, and he's been productive throughout his career.

    But the fact that he has won a lot of games doesn't make him a good prospect. Same goes for all the awards he's won. The list of decorated college quarterbacks who were NFL busts is very long.

    He may end up being an NFL starter at some point, but no team should take him and think that he's the kind of talent who can lead a squad to a Super Bowl. His ceiling just isn't that high.

    My grade on McCarron is pretty much exactly the same with the next guy on this list: squarely in the fourth round. He's a fine prospect, but other more talented players have brighter futures.

9. Tajh Boyd, Clemson

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    Boyd has seen his stock plummet after a relatively forgettable season that originally had so much promise in the wake of Clemson taking down Georgia in an unbelievable season opener.

    But he then went and lived up to his reputation by coming up short in big games against Florida State and South Carolina. He went 0-4 during his career against the Gamecocks, who are Clemson's biggest rival.

    Boyd has a lot of talent, but he just doesn't do anything extremely well. His arm is decent, but he makes too many bad decisions. He is fast and ran people over in college, but he isn't strong enough to do that in the NFL.

    Some NFL scouts will like Boyd's athleticism and experience in Clemson's offense, but like McCarron, his ceiling just isn't that high.

8. Zach Mettenberger, LSU

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    At one point during the season, some people were clamoring that Mettenberger would rise up into the first round. I was never quite that high on him, and his ACL tear at the end of the season put an even bigger question mark next to his name.

    There's no questioning his natural arm talent, which is exceptional. But having a great arm doesn't matter if you can't manipulate the pocket and make good decisions, which Mettenberger struggles with.

    He was inconsistent during his time as a starter at LSU, which is just about the worst thing for a talented QB.

    Inconsistencies aside, NFL teams have to be concerned about the bad knee, which will only further slow him down.

    If his recovery goes smoothly and teams think he's continuing to get better, then there is a good shot he's taken higher than expected. But I have a late third-round grade on Mettenberger right now, and I don't see that changing. 

7. David Fales, San Jose

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    For some reason, other mid-major quarterbacks have continued to pass Fales on boards and get more hype than him even while he has performed at a high level.

    Fales, who will be the first San Jose State player to play in the Senior Bowl, has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country for years now. He finished this past season with 4,189 yards and 33 touchdowns.

    The pocket passer is very accurate and can make great throws all over the field; however, he isn't outstanding on longer throws and didn't really air it out much at SJSU.

    His footwork and mechanics are solid, and he could excel in a West Coast-style offense that utilizes shorter timing patterns and screens, because that's where his strengths lie.

    He has a third-round grade right now, with a good amount of room to move up.

6. Brett Smith, Wyoming

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    A completely unknown prospect at this point, Smith is poised to rise up boards once he starts impressing at predraft workouts and the combine.

    It's hard to generate much buzz while playing at Wyoming, even when throwing for 3,375 yards and 29 touchdowns. But Smith has the natural ability to impress even the most cynical scouts.

    At 6'3", he has the height to be an NFL quarterback. He's also athletic and can run himself out of jams when he needs to, although he gets too jumpy at times.

    Although he doesn't have elite arm strength, it is sufficient, and he is confident with his throws. His accuracy is solid as well, and he had a good grasp of Wyoming's fast-moving spread offense.

    His decision to enter the draft as a junior surprised many, but don't be surprised if Smith's name is called earlier than you expect after he impresses in interviews and workouts. I have a third-round grade on him right now.

5. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois

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    This may seem high for a guy whom most football fans have never heard of, but Garoppolo is the real deal. For those who scoff at the fact that he played at Eastern Illinois, keep in mind that the school records that he broke were previously held by Tony Romo.

    He isn't the biggest or most athletic guy, but at 6'3", 222 pounds, he's plenty tall and sturdy enough for the position and has functional mobility.

    The Illinois native is a true pocket passer, however, and has an impressive arm. If you turn on the tape, you'll see an incredibly quick release and powerfully driven and accurate ball.

    He has some quirky footwork, as he tends to shuffle his feet while sitting back in the pocket. But he always is quick to reset his feet and is balanced when delivering the ball.

    There's a lot to like about this kid, and right now he gets a second-round grade. The East-West Shrine Game practices are going on this week leading up to the game, where Garoppolo will be able to show off his talent.

    Make sure to check him out, because everyone will know his name soon.

4. Derek Carr, Fresno State

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    After shooting up draft boards in the middle of the season, Carr fell victim to the late-season heroics of the next two guys on this list and saw his stock fall a bit.

    There is a lot to like about his arm strength and natural talent. He has a heck of a cannon and is clearly comfortable slinging the ball up and down the field.

    However, Fresno State's offense relies mostly on short screens and deep vertical routes, which means that Carr isn't used to throwing the intermediate passes that many NFL offenses rely on. 

    He also isn't particularly accurate down the field. While his arm strength may be sufficient, he needs to work on his touch. He also gets happy feet in the pocket even when there isn't any pressure, and he also doesn't step up into pressure to deliver a throw.

    Those footwork and vision issues are correctable to a point, but bad habits can be hard to break, and NFL teams will be wary of them.

    Carr, along with these next three quarterbacks, warrants a first-round grade.

3. Blake Bortles, Central Florida

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    I pegged Bortles as a player on the rise way back in the middle of November, but even I was not expecting this type of rise from him.

    While he's a great athlete and has a lot of potential, a lot of people think he would have been better served by developing his game further in college, and I count myself among those folks.

    That's not to say that declaring for the draft was the "wrong" decision, because it's hard to turn down a shot at being a top NFL draft pick when your stock is rising. Bortles didn't want to be another Matt Barkley, and it's hard to fault him for that.

    But whichever NFL team drafts him will be getting a somewhat raw product who needs to refine his mechanics and decision-making a lot.

2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

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    This has been a long time coming, although I was hesitant for a while to move Manziel up so high. I've been a huge fan of his since early on in the 2012 season, and watching him beat Alabama and get introduced to the rest of the nation was something I'll never forget.

    There's just something special about him. You can look at anything you want: his statistics (relatively unimportant), his win-loss record (also unimportant) and the press clippings about his "wild" offseason (the least important).

    But if you just sit down, watch him play and forget everything else, you can't help but be captivated by him. And I can guarantee that at least a few NFL teams will do just that.

    You can read my full scouting report on Manziel here, but it basically just says that he's an unbelievable athlete, a great leader and competitor, and he's improved his arm a lot. That makes him a lock for the first round, and I expect him to be taken inside the top 10 at this point.

1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

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    Bridgewater had been the consensus top quarterback in this class going back to the end of last year, although he lost a little bit of traction after Louisville lost midway through this season.

    But that's mostly just because of people getting bored and second-guessing themselves. He is still the clear top quarterback in the draft, and he has the best likelihood of starting and succeeding right away.

    His smallish frame is somewhat concerning. Not too many top quarterbacks have come into the NFL weighing less than 200 pounds, and there is obviously a lot of room to bulk up.

    Bridgewater also doesn't have that ability to drive intermediate-range throws, but that skill takes a backseat when it comes to accuracy, which he has in droves. He's the most accurate thrower in this class and also has the best mechanics and delivery, which cement him here at the top.

    He also has underrated footwork and escapability, which allow him to extend plays and create something out of nothing. Without him, Charlie Strong would not be at Texas right now. Bridgewater is the clear No. 1 quarterback, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.