NFL Draft 2014: Where Top Quarterbacks, Running Backs Are Projected to Go

Eric MackFantasy Football Lead WriterJanuary 14, 2014

NFL Draft 2014: Where Top Quarterbacks, Running Backs Are Projected to Go

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    Has Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater truly done enough to be the 11th quarterback to go No. 1 overall since 2000.
    Has Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater truly done enough to be the 11th quarterback to go No. 1 overall since 2000.David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    It is still very early in the NFL draft process, but that won't stop 28 teams from wondering what might be coming their way in May. Heck, even the NFL's Final Four might be dreaming of some collegiate reinforcements with their Super Bowl hopes still in play.

    Following is take a look at the biggest names at quarterback and running back that will be in the draft pool, surveying a few of the available early rankings out there on the web right now. A lot will change when these players start the bulk of their pro auditions, but most of us might as well get started sooner rather than later.

    Why hone in on the quarterbacks and running backs here? It's because those positions stand to be the stand-alone ones that are single-man game-changers for teams. We look at who those might be and where the early draft rankings have them slotted.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

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    You can debate where Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater belongs among the 2014 quarterback prospects and whether he warrants being the No. 1 overall pick by the Houston Texans or another team if they trade down.

    The top draft analysts on the web agree that Bridgewater would be the first quarterback selected right now.

    Heck, Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller would like to debate Bridgewater's place at the top of recent prospect history. Miller says in this video from last fall: 

    Teddy Bridgewater, from Louisville, is clearly established now as the second-rated quarterback that I've ever graded—as a quarterback who has already unseated quarterback RGIII as my No. 2 quarterback of the last decade.

    Miller goes on to say that Bridgewater might be entering the lofty No. 1 level of Andrew Luck's grade before this draft process concludes in May. Meanwhile, draft guru Mel Kiper of ESPN and Todd McShay of Scout Inc. are not convinced that Bridgewater is even a top-five talent in this draft.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Bridgewater:

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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    After Teddy Bridgewater as the No. 1 quarterback, there is little agreement on the web. Among the best of the rest, we first take a look at 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who B/R's Matt Miller writes, has entered the conversation to be a top-five pick.

    The top draft gurus we watch on TV have another quarterback rated higher, but you cannot argue with Manziel's star cachet. He might be the most marketable player in this draft.

    We know he can scramble and sign autographs, but can he star as a dropback quarterback in the NFL? The fact the analysts we aggregated here agree that he is among the top five at his position—at the very least—suggests he can.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Manziel:

Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

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    What Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles lacks in Johnny Manziel-like hype, he makes up for in draft projection. He has the size at 6' 3" and 230 pounds, along with the arm, that NFL scouts drool over.

    Since he is bigger than Teddy Bridgewater or Manziel, he might not move quite as well, but he is still plenty mobile to fulfill the NFL prototype pocket passer, according to CBS Sports' prospect analysis. His size advantage over Manziel gives Bortles a higher draft ranking on many of the boards below.

    Like Manziel, Bortles is in the conversation to be a top-10 pick this May, perhaps even top five because of the teams picking that high which need a franchise passer.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Bortles:

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

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    Derek Carr won't go as high as his older brother, but he would take being a top-five pick in this May's draft.
    Derek Carr won't go as high as his older brother, but he would take being a top-five pick in this May's draft.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Unlike the quarterback prospects ranked before him, Derek Carr has had to overcome the stigma of his older brother, David Carr, who was once the first overall pick of the expansion Houston Texans.

    NFL bloodlines usually give you pedigree. In Derek Carr's case, bloodlines might be a bloodstain.

    David Carr never proved to be an NFL starter. His younger brother's future team has to hope that Derek not follow in his bother's footsteps in that regard. Multiple sources still have a first-round grade on Carr—although ESPN's Mel Kiper is not one of them.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Carr:

A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama

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    Few NFL quarterback prospects come with a better resume than Alabama's A.J. McCarron. In fact, he might be a victim of his own success.

    His Crimson Tide teams were so talented, it might have taken away a bit of the spotlight that McCarron deserved as a team leader, as well as a winner and a pocket passer.

    He has quarterbacked two national championship teams and been a part of three, going 36-3. He has the most victories by a quarterback at Alabama and the third-most wins in SEC history. That is some elite company.

    It is not enough for him to garner a first-round grade yet, though. Scout Inc.'s Todd McShay and B/R's Matt Miller are most bullish on McCarron, but they have him as a second-rounder. CBS/NFL Draft Scout has him as a third-round pick.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank McCarron:

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

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    If you thought the range of opinions on quarterbacks was wide, it is even more pronounced among running backs. There is no consensus here.

    Heck, after a 2013 draft where no running back went in Round 1 for the first time in 50 years, it is hard to even find two analysts who have a first-round grade on a running back for this draft, much less the same one. We did find one such player, Ohio State's big back, Carlos Hyde.

    He is a third-rounder by others, but when you get ESPN's Mel Kiper and Scout Inc.'s Todd McShay to agree on something—Hyde as a first-rounder—we have to start the running back discussion with this bullish ball-carrier.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Hyde:

De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon

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    The second running back we take a look at might not even be a running back at all. He could be drafted as a receiver and return man for NFL purposes, a la Dexter McCluster. What Carlos Hyde has for power, Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas has for speed—mind-numbing, game-altering speed.

    Scount Inc.'s Todd McShay has Thomas ranked higher than anyone else does at 42nd overall and the second back off the board. After that, there is a wide range of opinions on the 5'9" 178-pound burner.

    Thomas isn't even among CBS's top 200 at this point.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Thomas:

Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington

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    If this was a different era, Washington's Bishop Sankey might have been in the discussion to be a first-round pick. Running backs just are not valued as much nowadays by talent evaluators.

    That doesn't mean Sankey won't be one of the first running backs off the board on draft day, though.

    "The time is right," Sankey told Sports Xchange when he declared early for the draft. "I've proven what I needed to prove. I have to look at the position I play and the number of carries."

    That is precisely the reason why the NFL has devalued the feature back—all of the wear and tear. Sankey's in the right place and he will go in that third-round range we have seen running backs go of late.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Sankey:

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor

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    Lache Seastrunk has the right size and speed to star at the next level, even if the 5-star recruit needed a transfer from Oregon to Baylor to reach his potential in college. He missed a couple of games with injury, though, so durability questions might drag him down some.

    That's how it goes at this position.

    Figure Seastrunk to be among the running backs going off the board when that position's bubble pops on draft day.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Seastrunk:

     

Tre Mason, RB, Auburn

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    Forget the knocks on Tre Mason. Just look at his production against the best competition college football had to offer. Mason set records and posted big-time numbers on the grandest of stages in the Southeastern Conference.

    SEC championship game: 304 yards and four touchdowns. BCS National Championship Game: 195 yards.

    Those numbers make us listing him fifth here a bit laughable. We blame some mixed rankings on him. B/R's Matt Miller has him atop the position while Scout Inc.'s Todd McShay has him out of the top 100.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Mason:

Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona

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    You could poll 10 NFL draft analysts and each one might come up with a different running back as their No. 1. Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey is the choice at CBS Sports, which uses NFLDraftScout.com's board.

    The question you might ask here is that if Carey's production came in the SEC, Big Ten or even the ACC, would there be more backers in his corner? It's a fair point.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Carey:

Andre Williams, RB, Boston College

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    If you like big running backs and big numbers, you are hoping that your favorite NFL team picks up the bargain that figures to be Boston College's Andre Williams.

    It is tough to argue with 2,102 yards, but draft gurus universally agree that Williams is no better than a second- or third-day pick. He will be one of the first true seniors off the board at his position, though.

    For NFL teams, that tends to merely mean he comes with more wear and tear.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Williams:

Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia

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    You won't find anyone who absolutely loves West Virginia's Charles Sims for this NFL draft, but you won't find many who believe he won't be a consideration among the top 10 running backs on the board either.

    The Houston transfer has room to grow with his 6'0" 213-pound frame, so he might find an NFL team that likes him more than our analysts do right now. The draft season will be important for Sims' stock, which could rise.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Sims:

     

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

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    Few college football players came into 2013 with more hype and left with as little prospect hype as Aaron Murray. Blame a torn ACL, his size or CBS Sports' Rob Rang, who compares Murray to another Matt Barkley.

    Yuck! That screams career backup and late-round pick.

    Nevertheless, Murray had so much early promise when he was slinging passes to A.J. Green as a freshman that we decided to outline his draft projection for you in our survey here.

    Here is where some of the web's top draft analysts rank Murray:

The Best of the Rest of the Quarterback and Running Back Draft Prospects

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    We could have taken this early draft survey hundreds of players deep and will likely do so closer to May. For instance, LSU's Zach Mettenberger is 52nd on B/R's Matt Miller's board. 

    If you want a deeper look now, here are where some of the quarterbacks and running backs we considered are ranked by Miller, Scout Inc.'s Todd McShay and CBS/NFLDraftScout.com:

    Player

    Pos

    Matt Miller/B/R

    Todd McShay/Scout Inc.

    CBS/NFLDraftScout.com

    Teddy Bridgewater

    QB

    1

    12

    3

    Johnny Manziel

    QB

    4

    18

    9

    Blake Bortles

    QB

    3

    15

    6

    Derek Carr

    QB

    8

    48

    19

    Carlos Hyde

    RB

    65

    28

    87

    A.J. McCarron

    QB

    44

    43

    102

    Devonta Freeman

    RB

    95

    Bishop Sankey

    RB

    81

    92

    56

    Lache Seastrunk

    RB

    71

    62

    66

    Tre Mason

    RB

    39

    102

    49

    Zach Mettenberger

    QB

    52

    56

    85

    Ka'Deem Carey

    RB

    74

    60

    41

    Tajh Boyd

    QB

    77

    123

    Jimmy Garoppolo

    QB

    47

    91

    104

    De'Anthony Thomas

    RB

    67

    42

    203

    Andre Williams

    RB

    80

    87

    138

    Charles Sims

    RB

    139

    101

    83

    David Fales

    QB

    122

    72

    Brett Smith

    QB

    82

    145

    57

    Marion Grice

    RB

    99

    138

    James Wilder Jr.

    RB

    R6

    122

    152

    Aaron Murray

    QB

    109

    105

    161

    Rajion Neal

    RB

    115

    197

    James White

    RB

    138

    187

    Logan Thomas

    QB

    R7

    83

    190

     

     

    Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.