For rebuilding teams across the NFL, drafting a franchise quarterback is the first step on the road back to respectability, which is why the high-end prospects under center are subjected to so much scrutiny in the weeks leading up to the 2014 NFL draft.
As of now, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel will all be gone by the time the first round comes to a close, and there's a reasonably good chance they'll be joined by Derek Carr.
This pool of quarterbacks may not end up rivaling the 2012 class that produced Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson, but this is a draft with impressive depth at the game's most important position.
With the NFL Scouting Combine now underway, here's a look at the most likely landing spots for each of the quarterbacks that will hear their names called by the end of Round 1.
Though not a lock to be the first quarterback to be taken in May, Bridgewater will certainly be among the first five players to go, and realistically, he could even come off the board at No. 1.
With his accuracy, poise and ability to command an offense, the former Louisville star would be a nice fit for a couple of teams with early picks, and the reigning Sugar Bowl MVP appears to be capable of stepping into a starting role immediately.
Some, such as ESPN's Todd McShay, are predicting Bridgewater to be the first quarterback selected, winding up with the Jaguars.
This draft feels like the right time for the Jaguars to get their franchise quarterback, and in this scenario they'd have their pick of every QB on the board. Bridgewater continues to be the No. 1 quarterback in our rankings, because while there are some concerns about his long-term durability in the NFL due to his lean frame, he is the most naturally accurate passer in this class with great anticipation, toughness and command of the offense.
However, after Matt Schaub's dreadful 2013 campaign, one has to assume that Houston will take a quarterback, but it won't be Bridgewater.
Instead, Cleveland, Oakland and Minnesota seem to be the most logical destinations for Bridgewater, as Jacksonville may not be able to pass up on the chance to take Jadeveon Clowney if he's still on the board.
In Bridgewater, NFL teams have to be very enticed by the rapid decline in his turnover numbers, as he went from eight picks in 2012 to four in 2013, despite attempting slightly more passes.
He's got the mental makeup of a quality NFL starter, and with his physical talents, there's no reason to believe that Bridgewater won't get there in a hurry.
The Browns have quality targets in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, and as a result, a pro-style passer like Bridgewater's learning curve in the NFL would be a lot less steep. He's proved to be smart in reading opposing defenses, and with a new management team in Cleveland, the Browns clearly want to get a jump on their rebuilding process. And at least as of now, Bridgewater figures to be the option that will transition to the NFL with more ease than the others.
As arguably the most overly scrutinized and analyzed prospect in recent memory, Manziel has done an admirable job of putting aside all of the hoopla surrounding his actions off the field, and as a result, he's a certainty to be gone by the time pick No. 9 rolls around.
We all know about Johnny Football's ability to improvise when under pressure, and while it's ludicrous to believe he'll be able to get away with some of the desperation bombs he unleashed with the Aggies, there's no questioning his mettle.
Obviously, due to the frequency of his rushing attempts, long-term health concerns are something potential suitors have to take into account, especially given that he's nowhere close to the prototypical size for quarterback in the NFL.
All of that aside, his upside is too great to ignore, and while the questions about his frame will linger, the success of shorter signal-callers such as Drew Brees and Russell Wilson has created opportunities for prospects like Manziel.
According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Manziel is aware of what Wilson has done for shorter quarterbacks: "I think he’s kicked the door wide open. You’re seeing more guys being successful avoiding that first wave of pressure — get out and do things outside the pocket."
A Heisman winner just a year ago, Manziel has been carving up even the SEC's stingiest defenses with ease for two seasons, so why can't he do the same at the next level?
With Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins already installed as solid receiving options, as well as the presence of All-Pro Arian Foster, Manziel will have the weapons to help the Texans rebound from a shockingly bad 2013 season. Above all else, the former Texas A&M stud's competitive streak and toughness suggest that he'll be able to win wherever he goes, as long as he stays healthy. It also can't hurt that as a product of the Texas football machine, this would be a dream for Houston from a marketing standpoint.
There are some, such as three of the four mock drafts at CBS Sports, that have the University of Central Florida's Bortles being tabbed as the top pick, but assuming Manziel and Bridgewater go to the teams discussed above, where the third quarterback lands is essentially among three teams.
Aside from Houston and Cleveland, Oakland, Jacksonville and Minnesota all figure to be in the market for fresh faces under center. Though he may end up going after Bridgewater and Manziel, he's got all the tools to be an impact player in the NFL.
Listed at 6'4", Bortles has the most desirable frame of any of the consensus three prime quarterback prospects, and though he didn't come from a storied program or conference, there's a lot to like about the 21-year-old.
Especially because he's even bigger than advertised.
He's a solid, though not elite, runner, but Bortles is the type of player that only gets better in clutch situations. Assuming his accuracy and delivery continue to improve, he's got a very good chance at starting by Week 1.
Oakland could absolutely use Bortles, but that would mean unequivocally giving up on Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin. Are we sure the Raiders are ready to do that? If not, the Vikings, who recently watched Matt Cassel void his contract, will be more than happy to snap up Bortles at No. 8.
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