The stock of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is one of the most interesting storylines leading up to this year's draft. The buzz suggests the three-time national champion could land anywhere from the late first round to the middle rounds.
He finished his collegiate career with terrific numbers. He completed a shade less than 67 percent of his passes for more than 9,000 yards with 80 total touchdowns and just 15 interceptions. He also has the Crimson Tide's team success to fall back on as well.
Exactly where that success will cause him to land in the draft remains a mystery. Andrew Gribble of AL.com passed along comments the Alabama native made on the Paul Finebaum Show. The quarterback said his conversations with teams have led him to believe he'll come off the board pretty early: "They felt like I could go anywhere from 16-35. I believe that, too. At the same time, I don't have my hopes set on anything. Whatever happens, happens. It's a blessing for me to even be in this situation."
While that seems a bit optimistic, all it would take for that to happen is one interested team being worried about him getting selected before it has a chance to draft him. That's why it's impossible to completely discount him going in the first round.
Much like everything else in a draft that is filled with uncertainty, it's nothing more than a guessing game, even with just a couple of days until the picking gets under way. So let's check out the different ends of the spectrum for McCarron.
Best-Case Scenario: Team Trades up to Grab Him in Round 1
The general consensus very early in the draft process was that several quarterbacks would go inside the top 10 because of the high demand. That belief has faded over time, which has left the quarterback class as a whole in limbo.
That's actually good news for McCarron. He was never viewed as a potential No. 1 pick, but the more chaos, the better because it will probably force the teams that do have interest in him to take him earlier than they may have anticipated a couple of months ago.
Perhaps a situation will develop where a franchise that passed on a quarterback early in the opening round trades back into the first round to select him. Teams like the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings would all fit the bill.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com thinks it could happen. He listed McCarron as one of the potential surprises in the opening round, stating his track record of leading efficient offenses could allow him to overtake some of the more talked-about prospects:
McCarron is, quite simply, a superb game manager with a knack for guiding his team to the winner's circle. Thus, he could interest any team with the supporting cast in place to make a run at a playoff berth. Given the uncertainty surrounding the top QB prospects in this draft class, it is quite possible McCarron goes at the end of Round 1 to a team in need of a cerebral playmaker at the position.
Ultimately, the decision could come down to whether teams feel he could start right away. Trading back into the first round would likely cost a future first-round pick or a solid package of other picks. Not often will a front office make that swap for a player who's going to start on the bench.
A perfect world for McCarron would see him get selected in the late first or very early second, and then he would follow it up with a strong training camp to win the starting job.
Worst-Case Scenario: Drafted in Round 5 as Clear Backup
Yes, there's a chance he could get drafted in the first round and be starting Week 1. But to illustrate just how crazy this draft is setting up to become, it's also not out of the question for him to suffer a huge slide and end up in the middle rounds.
As previously mentioned, a lot will depend on whether teams view him as either an immediate starter or somebody who can take over in the near future. If that's not the case, then he might be in for an extended slide.
Bryan Fischer of College Football 24/7 provided insight from draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who said the likely range for McCarron is the early third round, but a longer wait is definitely possible:
I heard a while back, maybe the Arizona Cardinals at No. 20, but I haven't heard that as much. More than likely you're talking about later on in the second round, maybe in the third round. If I had to set a sweet spot for AJ McCarron, it would have to be in that early third-round mix.
I did have one person tell me there's a very real chance McCarron could be this year's Matt Barkley, a guy we saw slide down in last year's draft.
Making matters worse, by the fourth or fifth round, teams are simply searching for value. So McCarron could end up with a franchise that already has an entrenched starter, clouding the outlook on when he might actually get on the field.
Furthermore, the phrase "developmental quarterback" is used a lot, but many of them never actually develop and enjoy long careers in the NFL. For every Tom Brady, countless quarterbacks go in the latter stages of the draft and never make an impact.
McCarron seemingly has the talent to avoid that fate, but that won't be known for sure until everybody sees how he was truly rated behind closed doors. There is a wide range of possibilities.
Ending up in a situation where he's buried on a quarterback depth chart with no clear or imminent path to a starting job is the worst thing that could happen after he had a solid college career.