Previewing the Top 25 Quarterbacks for the 2014 NFL Draft

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterJuly 18, 2013

Previewing the Top 25 Quarterbacks for the 2014 NFL Draft

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    The 2014 NFL draft class is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory, but a draft class is only as good as its quarterbacks. 

    In the 2013 class, we saw just one quarterback (EJ Manuel) drafted in the first round. The lack of top-end talent at the position led many to label the 2013 class weak—a statement that was true about one position, not the entire class. Whether it's the media, fans or even NFL teams, we're all looking at each draft and, fairly or not, rating its potential impact by the talent at quarterback alone.

    That's good news for the 2014 class, which features an eye-popping 25 quarterbacks with NFL-level talent. Not all 25 QBs are seniors, as we could see an influx of underclassmen ready to take the league by storm.

    Who are the quarterbacks worth watching during the college football season? Here's a preseason preview of the best of the best.

25. Keith Price, Washington

1 of 25

    6'1", 202 lbs, Senior


    A talented all-around athlete, Keith Price enjoyed success in 2011 and showcased his ability as a playmaking quarterback.

    Possessing the mobility to move around and make plays both in and out of the pocket, Price's gunslinger style of play won games for the Huskies. The key for Price is to remain controlled and poised. When the game plan is working, he's efficient and productive.


    Price's 2012 season is a catalogue in what is wrong with his pro prospects at QB. While undersized, the biggest issue when watching Price on film is that he tends to rush himself through progressions and panics in the pocket when pressured.

    Granted, the Washington offense hasn't been stellar around him, but we've yet to see Price make the players around him better. That's expected from big-time quarterbacks, and to date, he hasn't met those standards. 

    From a passing standpoint, Price looked like a different player in 2012 compared to 2011. He has the clean release and mechanics of a pro passer, but his footwork is too erratic and his decision-making too inconsistent.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Late-round selection

    Price would have to post an unreal season to propel his draft stock up the board. With size limitations and uneven production, he looks more like a developmental pick in the late rounds.

24. Jamal Londry-Jackson, Appalachian State

2 of 25

    6'3", 208 lbs, Redshirt Senior


    A gifted athlete and high-level deep-ball passer, Jamal Londry-Jackson enters his final season as a strong sleeper prospect. He does a very good job of working the ball around to different receivers and shows good vision in and out of the pocket.

    While not necessarily a running quarterback, Jackson does have the ability to pull the ball down and make plays when needed. With a good touch on passes when moving, Jackson has the outside-the-pocket ability teams love.


    The biggest question mark surrounding Jackson will be the level of competition he's faced in college. Appalachian State is one of the better FCS schools, but it's FCS nonetheless.

    Jackson won't have many chances to impress scouts against big-time schools this year, but a Nov. 9 game at Georgia could help put him on the map.

    Against SoCon competition, Jackson must be dominant week after week to impress his ability upon NFL teams. The key for Jackson is to limit his interceptions and showcase his dual-threat ability.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Late-round selection

    Jackson is a candidate to be drafted so long as he continues to play as well as he did in 2012. With his ability as a touch passer and runner, he'll surely catch the eye of NFL scouts this year. That should lead to, at worst, a late-round selection.

23. Clint Trickett, West Virginia

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    6'2", 185 lbs, Junior


    A transfer from FSU, Clint Trickett will enter the season as a front-runner for the starting quarterback job at West Virginia. His status as a graduate student—even though he's a junior—allows him to play right away.

    Two seasons of action as EJ Manuel's backup have shown that Trickett has the arm strength to make throws on time in a short-to-intermediate passing game and enough arm to put the ball up the field.

    He's more agile than you might think and can move in and out of the pocket to find passing windows or pick up yards on the ground. The biggest positives for Trickett are his quick release and the ability to gain yards on the move.


    Lack of experience will be a major negative, but he has time to learn on the job in the Big 12. He hasn't been exposed to much of a pass rush, though, and will get a baptism by fire behind the WVU offensive line.

    Trickett has to show poise in the pocket to get through his reads, something he didn't show at FSU. The other downside was his penchant for moving in the pocket unnecessarily. Learning to bounce in the pocket, staying behind his linemen and delivering the ball is huge for his development.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    Trickett will be back in school in 2014. As a junior, he is eligible for the NFL draft, but he needs more time to put quality film together for NFL teams. He has potential, though, and must be watched as a future prospect.

22. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss

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    6'4", 209 lbs, Junior


    A first glance at Bo Wallace shows that he definitely passes the eyeball test at the position. Big, strong and mobile enough, he's the picture of what a quarterback in today's NFL should look like. That size translates to strength on the field, as Wallace has a big arm and is fearless when attacking the defense through the air.

    In an offense that will ask him to make quick strikes, Wallace has the goods to excel. His mechanics and throwing motion are pro-ready. With more experience and development, he has the goods to eventually be a high draft pick.


    With only one season of major college football experience after transferring from East Mississippi State and redshirting for a year at Arkansas State, Wallace's lack of experience and his travel history are an issue, but that can be fixed with time.

    Looking at his ability on the field, Wallace has the arm NFL teams want, but he has to be more judicial in using it. Too many turnovers from the quarterback plagued the Ole Miss offense in 2012. Wallace must show in 2013 that his mental handle on the game is as good as his physical handle.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    Two seasons as a starter in the SEC will give Wallace good experience and reps, but he would be wise to return to Oxford for another season of refining.

    He's a big, strong, raw quarterback with loads of potential, but he'll need to show two years of more efficient quarterbacking before he's ready for the big leagues.

21. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

5 of 25

    6'6", 257 lbs, Redshirt Senior


    You can't watch Logan Thomas play the game without being blown away by his size, agility and strength. The former tight end prospect brings a Ben Roethlisberger-like physicality to the position.

    There isn't a throw he can't make, and Thomas shows a good mix of touch and velocity on passes all over the field. While not exactly fast, he is mobile and carries 257 pounds of momentum to be a productive runner.


    Thomas has all of the physical traits needed to play quarterback, but he has yet to put them together with the mental tools needed to be elite.

    He is frustratingly inconsistent with the ball in his hands and has the lowest decision-making score of any quarterback ranked here. He looks much different in a game than he does in workouts.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Late-round selection

    Thomas has as much potential as most quarterbacks on this list, but so far, he's yet to maximize his ability and become a consistently productive quarterback. NFL teams may fall in love with his size and arm strength, but the actual product on the field leaves much to be desired.

20. Blake Bell, Oklahoma

6 of 25

    6'6", 263 lbs, Redshirt Junior


    A scouting report on Blake Bell has to be considered incomplete after two seasons at Oklahoma saw him inserted into the offense as a runner only. While many will assume Bell can't throw, it's too early to make that decision.

    He was praised as a passer first and a runner second while playing high school football in Wichita, Kan. If Oklahoma can tap into the potential and ability that made the "Belldozer" a high-level prep quarterback, he could surprise everyone.

    If his high school games were any indication, Bell's deep ball, not his legs, could be the strength of the OU offense. If he proves himself as a passer, he has the most chance to move up on this list.


    There will undoubtedly be comparisons to Tim Tebow, and so far, those comparisons don't seem too off-base. Bell is a big man and a tough inside runner, but he's been so sheltered in the Oklahoma offense that we've yet to see him throw in a game situation.

    Bell has attempted just 20 passes in his college career. That number will go up dramatically this season, and by December, we'll know if he is the next Tebow or a more accomplished passer and viable NFL prospect.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    One season as a starter in the Big 12 won't be enough for NFL teams to get a full grasp on Bell's ability, and it would be a bad move on his part to leave before fully developing as a decision-maker in the passing game. Look for him to be back in Norman for the 2014 season.

19. Brett Smith, Wyoming

7 of 25

    6'3", 205 lbs, Junior


    Coached by an exceptional offensive mind in Dave Christensen, Brett Smith is mentally ready for the NFL. In a wide-open system at Wyoming, Smith is the captain of a high-octane passing attack that allows him to make decisions at the line and otherwise execute the game plan on his own.

    A talented athlete, he can play in a traditional dropback offense or roll out to stretch the defense. He's an effortless thrower who can push the ball upfield without effort. 


    Heading into his junior season, Smith's key points for improvement are to get stronger and to learn to put more velocity and spin on passes. Too often, his passes are lobbed in to the receiver, which will get someone killed in the NFL.

    He has to learn to throw with better anticipation, getting the ball into tight windows and delivering it on time. Mechanically, Smith has to step into all of his throws and put more force into them when going over the middle. 

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    Smith has impressive potential as a passer, but he's not quite ready for the NFL. It would be a surprise to see the true junior leave Wyoming early. Once he is ready for the big leagues, he could be a solid mid-round pick.

18. Cody Fajardo, Nevada

8 of 25

    6'2", 210 lbs, Junior


    A talented dual threat at the quarterback position, Cody Fajardo fits the profile of the passer who can run that NFL teams are currently in love with. He often has to take over games and shows a toughness under pressure as a one-man wrecking crew on offense.

    As a passer, Fajardo throws with good touch on underneath routes, but he hasn't been as impressive on deeper throws that require more strength. He has the look of a very good dual-threat player, but he may be limited as a passer to an intermediate or West Coast offense.


    Being the guy who replaces Colin Kaepernick isn't easy, but Fajardo has done a good job helping Wolf Pack fans move on from the 49ers signal-caller. Fajardo doesn't have Kaepernick's size or strength, though, and at 210 pounds, he opens himself up to monster hits and potential injury outside the pocket.

    Mechanically, he has to learn to fuel his throws with his legs and core instead of being an arm thrower. His underneath passes have plenty of zip, but intermediate to deep throws can flutter. That can be coached up, though, and Fajardo has high-level potential.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    The best move for Fajardo will be to get a feel for how NFL teams view him after the 2013 season. There's a chance that another huge year, plus his dual-threat ability, will lead to an all-time high draft stock for him.

    If there's nothing to be gained from a senior season, he should jump to the NFL before subjecting himself to more free hits in the college game. The more likely scenario, however, has Fajardo coming back for another season and developing as a passer.

17. Jeff Driskel, Florida

9 of 25

    6'4", 236 lbs, Junior


    A tremendous athlete with all of the physical tools a player could need, Jeff Driskel has the raw ability coaches fall in love with. While not yet consistent, he flashes the arm strength and accuracy to make any throw you could ask of him.

    He's agile enough to move around in the pocket and keep the play alive, and he shows the toughness and athleticism to be an effective runner. If you believe in the term "arm talent," Driskel has enough of it to become a very good quarterback prospect.


    Driskel was very up and down last year as a passer, and it wasn't something that improved throughout the year. A major weakness is that he's too prone to hold onto the ball in the pocket while waiting for his receivers to get open. Driskel has to learn to throw his receivers open and anticipate openings. That's his next step in development.

    From a physical standpoint, he's everything you could want, but the intricacies of the position are still being developed. He's inconsistent at this point—going from game-changing play to game-changing turnover—and must learn to play more poised, more controlled and with more efficiency.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    Barring a massive turnaround in his game, Driskel will be expected to head back to Florida for his senior season. The more time he has to develop as a passer, the better.

16. Devin Gardner, Michigan

10 of 25

    6'4", 210 lbs, Redshirt Junior


    If the dual-threat lovefest in the NFL continues, Devin Gardner will greatly benefit from it. While filling in for Denard Robinson, Gardner showed the passing and running ability to make plays no matter the situation or scheme.

    Unlike Robinson, he has the accuracy and timing needed to put the ball into receivers' hands and allow them to make plays. His ball placement was on-point in limited looks during the 2012 season, and he flashed enough potential to be considered a legitimate starting quarterback prospect.


    Experience may be the only thing Gardner lacks. He'll get his chance to prove he has the tools to be an NFL starter in his first full season as one at Michigan.

    The problem with potential-based rankings like these is that Gardner could fall on his face given more reps. He has potential as a passer and runner, and it's exciting, but with only 159 career passing attempts, it's possible the flashes are more smoke than fire. 

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    Gardner has world-class ability and potential, but one-and-a-half seasons as a starter won't be enough to persuade NFL scouts that he's ready for the big leagues. He needs to parlay a strong 2013 into a senior season that can push up his draft stock.

15. Kevin Hogan, Stanford

11 of 25

    6'4", 220 lbs, Redshirt Sophomore


    A prototypical quarterback in every sense of the word, Kevin Hogan has the look and ability of top prospects from the past three decades. He's big with a strong arm and makes the types of reads you want from a dropback passer, and he also has quick eyes.

    One of Hogan's best traits is his ability to feel pressure and make adjustments, showing good footwork and the strength to throw on the move. He's not just a statue, though, as he showed good ability to tuck and run. That's another area where his size can take over games.


    Replacing Andrew Luck at quarterback comes with a ton of pressure and expectations, and fair or not, Hogan will always be compared to the guy he takes over for. Hogan looked very good when he was on the field, but he threw a pass in just seven games last year.

    Experience isn't a positive, and no matter how good Hogan looks in limited reps, he can't be accurately judged until he plays a full season. At this point, he is an exceptional prospect based on potential, but he has room to rise or fall this year.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    When the 2013 season ends, Hogan will have fewer than 20 starts in his career. That's not enough time for NFL scouts to have a great feel for how he'll develop, produce and handle the stress of the position on and off the field. He has future first-round talent, but he should stay at Stanford for at least two more seasons.

14. Derek Carr, Fresno State

12 of 25

    6'3", 218 lbs, Senior


    The brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, Fresno State's Derek Carr has an NFL future of his own. Carr is a high-percentage passer (67.3 percent last year) who knows how to limit turnovers with an impressive 37-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

    A classic pocket passer, he has the size and arm strength to impress on throws underneath and deep down the field. Most impressive might be his touch on passes, showing great placement and feel for how to lead his receivers.


    Carr decided to head back to Fresno for his senior season in order to work on his all-around game. First up will be his pocket presence.

    He has a tendency to panic when pressured, and without much mobility, he's left standing in the pocket when the defense arrives. His coaching point in 2013 will be to step up in the pocket or throw the ball away instead of fading away from the line of scrimmage and forcing throws off his back foot.

    In what looks like a single-read offense, Carr isn't asked to go through many progressions. That's something he'll have to adapt to once in the NFL.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Mid-round selection

    There's no doubting that Carr is a viable NFL quarterback. With excellent size, arm strength and accuracy, he has starting-caliber ability. The key will be teaching him how to handle pressure in the pocket and get through his reads in a more complex offense.

13. Aaron Murray, Georgia

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    6'1", 208 lbs, Senior


    A four-year starter at Georgia, Aaron Murray has the production, experience and intelligence teams love. Talk to anyone associated with the Bulldogs program, and you'll hear about Murray's work ethic, leadership and poise. Those traits translate to the football field, too, where he is an exceptional football mind.

    Murray's strengths as a passer are his accuracy and decision-making. Rarely does he throw a pass that's off-target or not well thought out in advance. He's a highly efficient, chain-moving passer.


    Murray is a great example of why you have to view film and not just look at stats or highlights. The numbers would tell you he's one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, but film study shows a quarterback who lacks the arm strength to zip the ball upfield or throw with the needed velocity on timing routes.

    Murray's also smaller than you'd like at 6'1", although he may actually be shorter when measured by pro scouts. A lack of size and arm strength will hurt him, no matter how efficient he is, when NFL scouts come calling.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Mid-round selection

    Murray will carry the "winner" tag, but he's an undersized, under-powered passer who will be limited to short passes and a timing-based attack. If you liked Colt McCoy as an NFL prospect, you'll love Aaron Murray.

12. Bryn Renner, North Carolina

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    6'3", 225 lbs, Redshirt Senior


    With 28 touchdowns and 3,356 yards last season, Bryn Renner established himself as a future NFL quarterback. In 2013, he'll look to move himself up the list of prospects.

    Blessed with the size and strength of a pro-style passer, Renner does a good job getting the ball out of his hand with accuracy and proper timing.

    He has the arm strength to push the ball upfield and can deliver with enough touch to make the job easy for his receivers. He's not a mobile quarterback, but he has the ability to get outside the pocket and execute when it is moving.


    If I had to describe Renner as a passer, the word "touch" would get used a lot. He throws a very catchable ball, but unlike a pro, he doesn't put much velocity on his passes.

    His anticipation also needs work, as he too often throws only to the open receiver instead of throwing his receivers open. This can be fixed by asking him to step into throws more and power his passing motion with his core, not just his arm.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Third-round selection

    Renner received positive praise after the Manning Passing Camp, but it should be noted these rankings were set before that news came out.

    He has a chance to move himself way up the board, especially if many of the underclassmen ahead of him don't leave school early. He looks like a third-round pick now, but he could become a first-rounder by April.

11. Jeff Mathews, Cornell

15 of 25

    6'4", 224 lbs, Senior


    Watch the Jeff Mathews game film, and the first thing you notice from the Cornell quarterback is his huge arm strength. He has the strongest arm of any quarterback prospect I've seen in the 2014 class, and it's not even close.

    Watching Mathews tear apart Ivy League competition is a treat, and it allows his big arm to be on display. Through four games, I saw him make every throw you could want from a pro prospect, and he does so with the zip and timing of a top-level quarterback.

    It's easy to see the Big Red and assume that Mathews is a high-IQ player, but the film study backs this up. He's quick to make reads and rarely goes to the wrong spot with the ball. A 6'4" quarterback with an arm like his and great vision will go far in this league.


    The other thing you see when watching Mathews is that he's throwing against a very low level of competition. Ivy League football isn't exactly a breeding ground for future NFL talent, and you could argue he's beating up lesser competition. However, Cornell lost six games during the 2012 season, so he wasn't really beating up on anyone.

    Mathews has all of the physical and mental tools on film, but how would he do against higher levels of competition? We'll never know, because even if he accepts an invite to the Senior Bowl, he would be throwing against vanilla base defenses. The Ivy Leaguer will head to the NFL without having faced one legitimate NFL defender, and that's a massive concern.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Third-round selection

    Scouting Mathews is tough and will generate varied responses, largely because of the level of competition he's facing. If you scout traits and abilities, he might be the second-best quarterback in this entire class.

    Factor in production, wins and level of competition, and you have a talented passer with many unanswerable questions hanging over his scouting report.

10. David Fales, San Jose State

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    6'2", 220 lbs, Senior


    A senior quarterback with experience and production, David Fales was a hot name all spring and summer heading into the 2012 season. A close look at his game reveals a very well-timed passer on underneath routes inside of 15 yards.

    He has the accuracy to put the ball into a catchable position and allow the receiver to continue upfield without breaking stride. Mechanically, Fales is sound, throwing with quick footwork and a nice over-the-top motion.

    He's a compact thrower who doesn't waste energy with hitches or delays in his throws. While not a running quarterback, he has good quickness and will stretch the pocket. He's also athletic enough to throw on the move with good accuracy. If an NFL team running a West Coast or timing-based passing attack needs a QB, Fales is a good option.


    The biggest negative with Fales, and maybe the only one that really matters, is his lack of strength on downfield throws. Charting Fales on passes beyond 15 yards shows a struggle to put the ball on a line and deliver it to the receiver with velocity.

    Too often receivers are either left waiting for the ball or are hit as the ball arrives, and that's on the quarterback. Many will note Fales' lack of size, and that can be a driving force in his lack of push on longer throws.

    This might be a coachable area, as Fales does often throw off his back foot and/or off balance. This will be the major area I'm watching in 2013 in Fales' game tape.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Early third-round selection

    If you like/liked Matt Schaub or Jeff Garcia, David Fales is your guy. He's that type of quarterback—safe, rhythmic, smart and poised.

    Fales may never lead the NFL in yardage or touchdowns, but with talent around him, he can execute a game plan and could be a 10-win player in the right system. 

9. Zach Mettenberger, LSU

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    6'5", 230 lbs, Redshirt Senior


    A big, strong-armed QB with the statuesque build scouts love, Zach Mettenberger may have the most to gain of any signal-caller in the 2014 class. During the second half of the 2012 season, he showed the touch, poise and toughness of a high-profile passer, improving wildly from the struggles of his first-half play.

    Mettenberger's positives are largely based on potential and future development, as he has the physical tools to be elite but hasn't yet refined those tools into a complete passer's game. The good news is that he has such potential, and many are betting on the LSU coaching staff to help him take his game to the next level.


    A former JUCO transfer after an unsuccessful stint at Georgia, Mettenberger hit the ground running at LSU in 2012, playing well enough to land himself high on the watch list of many scouts around the league.

    The big question mark surrounding his game is whether or not he can develop in his final season. A high ranking of Mettenberger is a bet on his ability to learn on the fly and better himself as a passer. What we saw last year was promising but not good enough to consider him a high-ranking prospect.

    Mettenberger has to be more accurate, faster in his reads and more productive. If he can be/do those things, we're looking at a potential first-rounder in 2014.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Second-round selection

    Mettenberger is a potential prospect, meaning he could earn this ranking or see his stock crash and burn if he doesn't live up to expectations. 

8. A.J. McCarron, Alabama

18 of 25

    6'3", 214 lbs, Redshirt Senior


    Alabama's A.J. McCarron is a proven winner—if you believe in that sort of thing—and has handled the pressures of being a star quarterback on a back-to-back championship team.

    McCarron shows major poise and good football IQ when asked to stand in the pocket and make reads, effectively getting the ball to the right receiver without forcing passes.

    He has the size to stand tall in the pocket and get the ball out with a clean, concise throwing motion. McCarron looks like a franchise quarterback, but he's not quite there yet.


    McCarron's biggest negative as a college passer may be something he can't change; the Alabama system prevents the QB from making plays on his own or stepping outside the predetermined reads to attack the defense. 

    McCarron comes across as robotic and too stiff because of a system that's designed to make him succeed. Outside of the "system quarterback" label, I don't see a dynamic arm in throws.

    Too often receivers are left waiting for the ball on deep routes—something that will seriously hurt the stock of a non-mobile quarterback. McCarron has to show more improvisation skills, play well without an All-World offensive line in front of him, and show better deep strength and timing to move up my board.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Second-round selection

    McCarron could leave Alabama with three national championships and a ton of production executing what is a pro-style offense. That might not be enough to cover up his lack of mobility, poor timing on deep balls and somewhat boring style of play.

    There will be differing opinions by next May, but heading into the season, McCarron looks like a solid game manager.

7. Stephen Morris, Miami (FL)

19 of 25

    6'2", 215 lbs, Senior


    A hot name in the NFL draft world this summer, Stephen Morris has the tools to be the first senior quarterback off the board in 2014. His natural talents—a strong arm with a quick release and smooth mechanics, plus his mobility—make Morris one of the more intriguing prospects.

    What Morris does best is spread the football around, showing good touch on deep balls and the decision-making to keep the ball out of the defense's hands. If Morris is viewed as a raw, coachable prospect, you will fall in love with his potential upside.


    Like so many other quarterbacks, ranking Morris high in the preseason means you're betting on him to improve greatly this season. While he does possess a very good arm, too often Morris' touch and ball placement were off on deeper passes.

    He'll float the ball and overthrow receivers, two things a quarterback can't do in the NFL. He has a habit of rushing through throws when a player is open, leading to a wild placement and missed opportunities. For Morris to be a high-level finished prospect, he has to limit these misses and become more efficient.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Second-round selection

    Morris will get a ton of attention this year as one of the better senior quarterback prospects, and how well he handles that pressure will greatly determine where he finds himself drafted.

    The potential is here for Morris to shoot up boards, but if nothing changes, he's very similar to Geno Smith as a prospect and in draft standings.

6. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

20 of 25

    6'1", 215 lbs, Junior


    An exciting dual-threat quarterback, Ohio State's Braxton Miller enjoyed a phenomenal 2012 season. More of a natural athlete than refined passer at times, Miller fuels his passes with a live, quick throwing motion.

    He has a big, powerful arm and can easily put the ball 70 yards in the air or throw a dart to an underneath receiver in a closing window. Miller spent the offseason with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., and the hope is that his mechanics and passing motion can take the next step in 2013. If so, Miller will be ready for a starting gig in the NFL.

    It also has to be added that Miller can, and will, beat you with his legs. His outside speed is reminiscent of Robert Griffin III at Baylor. Staying healthy while being a running quarterback is an obstacle he has to tackle, though.


    There will be scouts, coaches, general managers and analysts in the media who see a 6'1" mobile quarterback and automatically dismiss him as too short or not technically sound enough as a passer. Many of them will do so before they even watch Miller play.

    What can he work on? I want to see improved decision-making from Miller in 2013. He has the talent to put the ball wherever he wants, but he must be better at reading the defense and reacting faster to openings in the air and on the ground.

    Like most running quarterbacks, he has to learn when to pull the ball down and run and when to throw the ball away. Maturing as a passer will be the key for Miller this season.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    If Miller is able to mature as a passer and put to use the tools learned from Whitfield, there's a strong case to be made for him leaving Ohio State.

    He's a dynamic, exciting passer, and with the dual-threat game in style right now, he may need to strike while the iron is hot. If so, Miller could be a first-round prospect in the 2014 class.

5. Brett Hundley, UCLA

21 of 25

    6'3", 227 lbs, Redshirt Sophomore


    Big, strong and not afraid to use his arm: That's Brett Hundley. The second-year starter at UCLA has all of the physical gifts of a future star, but he's still raw entering 2013. Hundley's biggest asset is his cannon of a right arm.

    He throws an effortless ball down the sideline and has the strength to drive the ball through the defense. In the pocket, he's big enough to stand tall and toss the ball around but can also get away from defenders and pick up positive yards on the move.

    In a rolling pocket, he's athletic enough to throw on the go. In his first season, he showed nice touch on underneath routes and a good understanding of how to lead his receivers away from the defense. There's a lot to like, as well as a ton of room to improve.


    A one-year starter to date, Hundley simply needs more time to learn the position. He makes questionable decisions on a weekly basis, oftentimes underestimating the speed of the defense when throwing into coverage.

    Hundley has an elongated delivery, which at times can tip off defenders as to where the ball is going. He'll need to work on quickening his motion so as to not telegraph passes. Improving his footwork and pocket presence will make the list of things to do before entering the NFL.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    There is no shortage of talent or ability in Hundley's game, but he's just not quite ready for the NFL. He may be after the 2014 season, but it's more likely that a strong crop of quarterbacks leads him back to UCLA for one more season of coaching from Jim Mora Jr.'s staff.

4. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

22 of 25

    6'1", 200 lbs, Redshirt Sophomore


    The most electric player in all of college football, Johnny Manziel is a human highlight reel with the ball in his hands. While he plays in a wide-open offense, Manziel is asked to make quick, complex reads and does so at a high level. He's also talented enough to make something out of nothing on broken plays.

    As a pure passer, Manziel's arm strength is underrated by most. He has the strength to put the ball all over the field and can force passes into tight windows when he takes time to step into passes. The biggest positive you get with Manziel is that no play is ever truly over.

    He can run like a tailback and moves not only to pick up yards, but also to open passing windows. With Manziel at quarterback, an offense is versatile and dangerous. And to those who question his arm strength, rewatch the Alabama game. His arm is plenty strong enough.


    Without ever meeting or speaking to Manziel, I can't comment on his ego or personality, but there are many who will. It's impossible to avoid the tweets and stories about Manziel's off-field highlights, and once he makes himself eligible for the NFL draft, those antics will come under the microscope.

    As a player, Manziel has to clean up his passing mechanics. Like most athletic quarterbacks, he relies too often on his arm to power throws instead of stepping through passes. That can lead to poor velocity and too much air under the ball.

    There's also the strong possibility that his size will be a major issue for some NFL teams. At 6'1", Manziel will have to prove to teams that he's big enough to be a passer and handle the hits of NFL defenders as a runner.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: First-round selection

    It's unlikely that the reigning Heisman Trophy winner will return for a third season at quarterback for Texas A&M.

    Manziel should be expected to enter the 2014 NFL draft, where his stock will be exceptionally polarizing. I view him as a first-round prospect due to his playmaking ability and his potential as a passer.

3. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

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    6'3", 214 lbs, Redshirt Sophomore


    One of the more athletic quarterbacks available in the 2014 class, Marcus Mariota is the most finished of the "running quarterbacks" you'll see this year. Executing an offense that asks him to be very multiple in his abilities and reads, Mariota has shown the arm strength to make tough throws up the field and to the sidelines, and he does so with good touch and timing.

    His velocity on underneath routes is impressive, as he's strong enough to muscle the ball into tight windows. You won't find many quarterbacks who throw harder and cleaner to the outside. He's a talented runner but doesn't look to run too soon if the pocket breaks down. That shows patience and judgement that few young quarterbacks possess.

    If judging pure arm talent and athleticism, Mariota is at the top of the list. Now he must work to refine his physical talents and continue to improve in the football IQ department.


    Any negatives surrounding Mariota begin with the style of offense he plays in. Will the Chip Kelly passing attack translate well to the NFL? Mariota may be called a product of that system by some, and that's a big hurdle for him to jump over in his remaining time at Oregon.

    As a quarterback, Mariota can work on his footwork—he likes to throw off balance and on the move—to show that he's capable of being an in-the-pocket passer.

    While the Oregon offense does ask him to make complicated throws, many are one-read plays where he has a pre-designed target. When that target is covered, he can get into trouble. Mariota has to show he can make those reads on his own and lead an effective offense.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Returns to school for 2014 season

    Mariota is one of the tougher players to project for 2014. I believe in his talent as a future first-round quarterback and elite player, which could lead to him coming out of school early. Another big season, and maybe a Heisman Trophy, could send the dual-threat star to the NFL early.

2. Tajh Boyd, Clemson

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    6'1", 225 lbs, Redshirt Senior


    An exciting, productive quarterback with the all-around ability to be a starter in the NFL, Tajh Boyd enters the year as a high first-round prospect.

    His downfield passing ability is arguably the best in all of college football. He shows the strength and velocity needed to consistently put the ball in the receiver's hands downfield without making his teammates wait on the ball.

    Boyd as a runner can be dangerous, especially on option plays where he can pause the defense with his passing-running ability. A redshirt senior this year, Boyd has the experience and intelligence to run an NFL offense.


    Boyd has a few issues that will need to be checked throughout the season. First up, his weight. Boyd looked more than 225 pounds during the 2012 season and will need to pass the eyeball test for scouts looking closely at his conditioning.

    As a passer, Boyd goes through periods where he makes one read and chucks the ball downfield. That is likely by design in the Clemson offense, but he needs to show the ability to look off defenders and go through progressions to make the best read. 

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: First-round selection

    The top senior quarterback in the nation, Boyd will push for a top-10 draft grade with another strong season. All eyes will be on him to see how he does without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but if he does well, his stock will remain very high.

1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

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    6'3", 220 lbs, Junior


    The unquestioned top quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft class, Teddy Bridgewater has all of the qualities we look for in a pro passer. He's mobile, strong and has the arm to win ballgames. 

    When it comes to touch, ball placement, decision-making and strength, Bridgewater is the best I've graded since Andrew Luck—and that includes Robert Griffin III as a passer.

    Many will want to call Bridgewater a runner, and he can pull the ball down and make plays, but he's not primarily a running quarterback. Instead, he uses his legs as a last resort when there are openings to pick up easy yards.


    There are few negatives here. The biggest concern is that the level of competition in the Big East isn't exactly top-level. Bridgewater has played against better teams, such as Florida, but most of his damage comes against teams without high-end prospects.

    During the 2012 season, he was also opened up to injury and banged up his wrist and ankle during the season. Bridgewater has to learn to protect himself against big hits.

    As a passer, the only negative I noted was a tendency to float the ball in high over the middle. He has to step into throws more to keep the ball down.

    2014 NFL Draft Projection: Top-five selection

    The top offensive prospect and my No. 2 overall player for the 2014 class, it will be a massive surprise if Bridgewater returns for his senior season. As the rankings stand now, he will be competing with Jadeveon Clowney to be the first pick overall.

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