NFL Draft 2014: Best Landing Spots for Each Top Quarterback Prospect

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NFL Draft 2014: Best Landing Spots for Each Top Quarterback Prospect
Patric Schneider

Right now, each of the top quarterbacks in the NFL draft are focusing on where they will be drafted.

While everyone wants to be the first player taken, what really matters is where you end up rather than when you get there. Finding the right situation as a veteran quarterback in the NFL is important, so the importance of finding the right situation as a rookie entering the league can't even be measured.

The top four quarterbacks in this class appear to be some alignment of Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Derek Carr.

Each player has different traits—be they mental, physical or technical—that need to improve over the early portion of their careers. Landing with the right coach is always important, but so is landing with the right supporting cast and overall situation.

Football remains a team game, regardless of how much attention the quarterback position receives.

Fortunately for these specific quarterbacks this year, the quality of the teams in position to take them appears to be relatively high. Nobody is landing with Andrew Luck's Indianapolis Colts roster or David Carr's Houston Texans roster from all those seasons ago.

Each of the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings have various strengths and weaknesses, but none of their weaknesses should be overwhelming.

 

Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater is a scheme-flexible quarterback. He is the most refined and talented player in this class at the quarterback position.

It's not Bridgewater's throwing ability that will make an offensive coordinator's job easier—it's his intelligence and ability to manipulate the pocket. Bridgewater clearly showed an understanding of how to quickly diagnose defenses, supported by his completion percentage against the blitz, and read through his progressions quickly at the college level.

That's not something you get with most young quarterbacks in the NFL.

His ability to keep his eyes downfield while sensing pressure in the pocket and manoeuvring his feet precisely to adjust his weight is reminiscent of Peyton Manning at times. Obviously, Manning does it to a much greater degree, but that kind of potential is there.

Bridgewater isn't a scrambling threat, but much like Aaron Rodgers, he does throw very effectively while on the move. If the offense wants to run hard play-action fakes, roll the pocket to one side or ask him to take deep drops before throwing the ball, he should be very comfortable.

Before he releases the ball, Bridgewater is exemplary. His limitations come after that point.

While being very accurate on short and intermediate throws, Bridgewater's downfield throws are somewhat erratic. The Louisville prospect isn't going to consistently push the ball down the sideline with his arm strength; instead, he relies on his touch and anticipation to hit receivers in stride over the middle of the field.

With that in mind, the perfect spot for Bridgewater is with the Houston Texans.

In Houston, Bridgewater would be able to mask some of the deficiencies on the offensive line with his pocket presence and mobility, while receivers Andre Hopkins and Andre Johnson are outstanding intermediate route-runners.

Hopkins and Johnson would not only highlight Bridgewater's greatest strengths, working the coverage across the field both on underneath and intermediate routes, they would also help mask his deep-ball inconsistency. Both Hopkins and Johnson are big athletes who catch the ball away from their body with ease.

This gives their quarterback a greater margin for error with his accuracy.

 

Johnny Manziel

A lot of debate surrounds Texas A&M prospect Johnny Manziel.

Some question his character and the potential circus that could follow him from college. Others see him as a hard worker who has developed on the field because of his commitment. Some see him as being too small and too inconsistent. Others see him as being creative and disciplined.

There are a handful of things that can't be argued about Manziel. One of them is that he is undersized.

In spite of what Russell Wilson and Drew Brees have done over the past 10 seasons, height for a quarterback still matters. Brees and Wilson aren't great players because they negated their height; they are great players because they adapted their game around their height.

Brees must play on his toes and be creative in finding throwing lanes, while Wilson primarily works away from the middle of the field.

If Manziel wants to be a pocket passer who surveys the field and delivers the ball on time to his receivers, then he will need to show the same kind of ability and discipline as Wilson and Brees. It's not a knock on Manziel to say that it's unlikely, because those are two special players.

Instead of projecting Manziel as the next Wilson or Brees, it may make more sense to look at him in the same light that Robert Griffin III projected himself as a rookie.

Griffin III played in an offense that allowed him to get out in space and throw the ball outside the numbers from the pocket. His offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan built a strong running game with Alfred Morris that set the tone for Griffin to then make big plays and good decisions.

Manziel can carry out that role in spite of his height, so it's only natural that Shanahan's new team is his best landing spot. 

Shanahan is now the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, a team that has a very talented No. 1 receiver and Ben Tate, someone who can have a similar effect on the offense that Morris did when he played under Shanahan.

 

Blake Bortles

The team that selects Blake Bortles in the NFL draft won't be selecting him because he fits perfectly in any specific scheme.

The right situation and coaching is vital for any quarterback, but for Bortles it is more important than anything else. Bortles wasn't a great college quarterback relative to Manziel or Bridgewater. He is not being touted as a first-round pick because of his ability to immediately lift a franchise.

Instead, Bortles is a developmental talent who has some obvious flaws to address, but he's someone who could be exceptionally good if he eradicates those flaws.

The former UCF starter will need a head coach/offensive coordinator/quarterback coach who can address his mechanics. Mechanics were a major problem for Bortles in college. His footwork wasn't precise or balanced and his upper body was too often out of control because of that.

With the right coach, his footwork could be cleaned up to solidify his base and constrict his upper-body movement.

A team will be willing to bet on Bortles because of his potential with cleaner mechanics. He proved to be a relatively accurate passer in college when his mechanics were clean, and he had good but inconsistent arm strength. His ability to manipulate the pocket with his athleticism and awareness was also particularly impressive at the college level.

With all of that in mind, the best fit for Bortles would be with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings have Mike Zimmer as their new head coach, but it's offensive coordinator Norv Turner who has a track record of excellence with quarterbacks. He may not have been able to save Brandon Weeden in Cleveland, but that ship was full of water when he became its captain.

Bortles would be a clean slate for Turner to work on, while Matt Cassel, the team's established starter from last season, could continue in his place on the field.

Furthermore, even though Adrian Peterson will be 30 by the time the start of Bortles' second season comes around, the Vikings would be set up well to ease him into his starting role. One would expect Zimmer to improve the defense dramatically, while Matt Kalil, Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and even a fading Peterson should take a lot of pressure off of him on the offensive side.

 

Derek Carr

It appears that Derek Carr is behind Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater in terms of perception at this stage of the offseason. It's unclear whether he goes in the top five of the draft or falls out of the first round altogether.

Like every polarising prospect, Carr has some clearly defined question marks and some tantalisingly impressive strengths.

One of the most prevalent question marks comes from something that he couldn't control—the offense he played in. At Fresno State during his senior season, an incredible 33 percent of Carr's throws came on screen plays

That figure is more than three times the number that Bridgewater threw and 11 percent more than the average college quarterback from last season.

While NFL offenses do incorporate screen passes into their schemes, it's very difficult to project a college quarterback into a pro-style offense when he ran an offense that relied so much on those kinds of plays. For Carr evaluators, the unclear isn't comforting.

What is working in Carr's favour is his physical ability.

Carr has an exceptionally quick release; the football flies out of his hand. The velocity and control he has over the football throwing into the flat makes him an excellent screen passer, but it also translates to throws down the field.

He needs time to develop his physical tools, but he will also be working at a disadvantage because the mental side of the game will include adjusting to an offense that asks him to work from under center.

If franchises want to accommodate Carr's need to sit for a season, then there are a couple that could invest a relatively high pick in him. However, if Carr is going to start as a rookie, then there is one landing spot that clearly suits the quarterback more than any other.

That landing spot is the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch had a very impressive first season in the NFL last year. He adapted his offense around the pieces he had at his disposal. Most importantly, he ran a lot of screen plays and created easy throws for his quarterback, Chad Henne.

Fisch is an adaptable coordinator who could patiently open up the playbook for Carr as he gains greater comfort on the field during his rookie season. Fisch is creative enough to keep defenses off balance while still not overstressing the quarterback position.

The Jaguars offense was very poor last season, but that was primarily because of a lack of talent on the field rather than coaching off of it.

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