NEPD Editor: James Christensen
Tom Brady is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL today and perhaps in the history of the NFL, and by all accounts, he isn’t ready to hang up his shoulder pads anytime soon.
However, the Patriots have had a long standing commitment to developing quarterback talent behind Brady. They’ve spent draft picks on the likes of Rohan Davey, Kliff Kingsbury, Kevin O’Connell, Matt Cassel, Zac Robinson and Ryan Mallett – with varying degrees of success. None of them have been picked until the third round.
However, with an impressive – at first and second glances anyway – potential 2014 NFL Draft Class at quarterback, could the Patriots buck that trend and select a quarterback in the first or second round? If so, here are the likely suspects.
If you discount redshirt sophomores, Bridgewater is the near consensus #1 quarterback in this draft. He moves well, has the arm talent and football mind requisite for the NFL and that je ne sais quoi that draws draft evaluators like moth to a flame.
I like SJSU’s Fales more than most, although his lack of top-end arm strength might make him a system-specific quarterback.
Boyd really came on last year and might have been the first quarterback chosen in last year’s draft. Another solid season should cement him as a top flight quarterback prospect.
4. Marcus Mariota QB Oregon**
5. Brett Hundley QB UCLA**
Mariota and Hundley could be top picks if they declare in the 2014 NFL Draft, but I’d like to see them play one more season of college football and cement their top ten status.
Hundley has the frame (6-3/227), speed and intangibles that coaches and GM’s alike will love. Add in his ability to throw on the move and prodigous arm talent and you’ve got a very intriguing prospect.
What separates Mariota from Hundley is his speed. In addition to his arm talent, Mariota has the speed and elusiveness needed to run a read-option based offense in the NFL. If Josh McDaniels wants to toy with that sort of offense like he has with Tebow, Mariota is a natural fit.
The Next Level
6. Aaron Murray QB Georgia
7. Stephen Morris QB Miami
8. Devin Gardner QB Michigan
9. Derek Carr QB Fresno State
10. Jeff Mathews QB Cornell
Murray’s 6’0″ frame is going to get some negative attention, but his excellent footwork, live arm, football IQ and ability to lead an SEC team against stiff competition should be the real story.
Morris is a guy I need to study more – have only really watched three games on him – but I’ve been impressed with ability to make NFL-caliber throws.
Devin Gardner displaced Denard Robinson at quarterback for the Maize and Blue but hasn’t got nearly the hype of his predecessor. Gardner has a nouveaux NFL skill-set and will surprise folks with his arm this year.
Quarterbacks with the last name Carr are going to get a second look – both in the good way and the bad way. His brother being the first pick certainly helps in name recognition, but the fact that David never had much success might cause some evaluators to dig a little deeper.
Like Morris, Mathews is a guy that I need to watch more. I’ve seen only one game of his, and while I understand that many draft evaluators love his arm, his footwork was sloppy as best in my opinion. That arm though…
11. Logan Thomas QB Virginia Tech
12. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
13. Zach Mettenberger QB LSU
14. Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M**
15. Bryn Renner QB North Carolina
Thomas has the upside to be a round one quarterback, but makes mistakes that question whether he will be signed as an undrafted free agent. Taking care of the ball, touch, accuracy and better decision making need to be seen by scouts this year.
McCarron is probably getting a bad rap from me here, but the difference between my #6 and #15 isn’t that big. It is tough at times to separate McCarron’s play from the play of his talented teammates. He often benefits from clean pockets and weapons that some NFL teams (Jets) would be happy with. If McCarron’s average arm strength improves a bit, however, he has the poise, football IQ and vision to become a viable NFL starter.
Mettenberger has the classical passer look to him, but his mechanics have been a mess. If he only cleans up his base, I think we’ll see a big improvement this year in his accuracy.
Johnny Manziel has been a lightning rod this off-season for all the wrong reasons. I won’t rehash them here. Needless to say, he is a physically gifted quarterback that might need to grow – both in stature and poise – to find success in the NFL.
Like Mettenberger, Renner has some mechanical issues that have prevented him from reaching his full potential. He could be a “riser” come next April.
16. Kevin Hogan QB Stanford**
17. Braxton Miller QB Ohio State*
18. Brett Smith QB Wyoming*
19. Blake Bortles QB Central Florida*
20t. Cody Green QB Tulsa
20t. Brandon Bridge QB South Alabama*
20t. Casey Pachall QB TCU
Big arms, accuracy, speed, size, versatility, smarts, experience… these quarterbacks don’t possess all seven. What they do have is promise. These mid-late round prospects are going to be an offensive coordinator’s dream – a project that can be molded into a real player. Think Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, Matt Hasselbeck, Colin Kaepernick or Tom Brady.
If healthy, Brett Smith could really turn into something special. If Pachall gets his demons under control, he has the ability to be a top 100 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.