NEPD Staff Writer Jack Andrade
Hello readers, and welcome to the first installment of the Quarterback Report. The QB Report will be breaking down the top quarterback prospects in the nation throughout the 2014 college football season, with weekly stat recaps, film study analysis, and a stock watch as the season progresses.
Here is a look at my preseason quarterback rankings for the 2014 class. I’ve included my top 10 seniors, my top 5 draft eligible underclassmen, and some notes accompanying each player.
Top 10 Seniors
1. Bryce Petty, Baylor
Petty combines a strong arm with sneaky good athletic ability, and he figures to be a Heisman Trophy contender and a potential first round pick in 2015. His 4,200 passing yards, 32 touchdown, 3 interception stat line from last year was outstanding, and Petty could be even better this coming season if he can improve his deep ball accuracy in Baylor’s spread offensive attack.
2. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
I don’t know what to do with Braxton Miller in the wake of his season-ending shoulder injury. We’re so far away from this spring’s pro workouts and medical check-ups that we just won’t know how much his stock is affected by his injury, and there’s always the slim possibility that he opts to redshirt and return to Ohio State next season. Heading into the year I liked him as a Day 2 guy that could be developed into a pro quarterback. A gifted athlete and a good decision maker, I think there is a place for Miller’s skill set in today’s NFL. He’s got decent arm strength and accuracy, and a creative offensive coordinator could utilize his abilities. A position change is also possible if his throwing shoulder can’t hold up.
#OhioState makes it official: star QB Braxton Miller out for 2014 season with shoulder injury.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) August 19, 2014
3. Shane Carden, East Carolina
I’m probably a little higher on Carden than most people, but I acknowledge his ceiling is limited by a below average arm. He does have the best accuracy in the senior class, for my money, and he makes good decisions and has solid mechanics from the ground up. I think he belongs in that Aaron Murray/A.J. McCarron mid-round draft range as a player who should be a solid backup and potential bridge starter as a pro.
4. Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Keeton might be the most fun QB to watch in this year’s senior class. He’s got average arm strength but is pretty accurate in the short and intermediate areas, and he keeps his eyes down the field when things break down and he gets bounced out of the pocket. He makes good decisions for the most part and could appeal to a team looking for a late Day 2/early Day 3 dual-threat developmental QB.
5. Cody Fajardo, Nevada
Like Carden, Fajardo is held back by mediocre arm strength, but I was impressed with his playmaking ability and his decision making on film. Fajardo is at his best on the move, but he’s such a raw projection into the NFL game that he’s purely a long-term project.
6. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
I’m a bit lower on Mannion than most people, but he does have noticeable strengths on is tape. With prototype size and very good accuracy, there’s reason to buy into the Mannion hype. His flaws lie in his average arm strength, tendency to throw off his back foot, and his proneness to turn the ball over. Mannion is a fearless QB above all and I’m interested to see how he performs this season without Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks.
Oregon State QB Sean Mannion has thrown 46 career interceptions in 35 games. That is a TON!
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) August 15, 2014
7. Devin Gardner, Michigan
Gardner is a highly-touted player that has failed to live up to expectations thus far in his college career. He’s simply average when it comes to making good decisions and being consistently accurate to all levels of the field. He has a good but not great arm and is frankly a better runner than a thrower at this point in his career. Gardner has the pedigree and the national exposure to rise up draft boards with a strong senior season, but at the moment he’s nothing more than a Day 3 developmental prospect.
8. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
Kelly looks like a clean prospect and has been very productive in an up-tempo scheme at ASU, but he has some glaring flaws that make it hard to envision him as a true QB of the future at the next level. Despite having very nice accuracy and touch, Kelly has a weak arm and a slower release than I’d like to see. He’s also erratic with his footwork at times, struggles mightily against pressure, and all that combined makes him ripe for turnovers and struggles at the NFL level. Think Christian Ponder.
9. Anthony Boone, Duke
Boone is a solid player but won’t wow anyone in one area or another. He’s expected to split reps in Duke’s 2-QB system, which won’t help him distinguish himself at all. At the end of the day I see him as a Tahj Boyd type prospect given his lack of height and arm talent, but his athletic ability lends me to believe he could find a role in the NFL with a possible position change (H-Back, special teams) while filling the role of the #3 QB.
10. Nick Marshall, Auburn
Marshall is an elite athlete and a position change could be in his NFL future. In fact, Marshall was a defensive back at Georgia before he was dismissed from the program for stealing from a teammate (an unforgivable sin to at least some NFL teams, I’d think.) He’s got a strong arm but very inconsistent accuracy, and with his intangible concerns (also suspended for part of the season opener for a marijuana-related incident) I can’t see any team seriously investing in Marshall as a developmental QB.
Top 5 DEU’s
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
There’s a reason Marcus Mariota is a popular #1 overall pick in 2015 NFL Mock Drafts. An elite dual-threat athlete, Mariota can make all the throws and has nice accuracy to all levels of the field. He has the patience and discipline to be virtually indefensible on a roll out in the red zone. The only concern with Mariota is whether he can make throws into tight windows and handle a pro-style offense. We don’t have a track record of Oregon/Chip Kelly/Mark Helfrich producing NFL-capable signal callers, but Mariota is a special talent that transcends the scheme.
2. Brett Hundley, UCLA
Hundley is a prospect most in the draft community view as raw and unprepared to take the next step based on 2013 tape, but Hundley would have carried a first round grade from me had he opted to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s not quite the athlete Mariota is but has just as much arm talent and has the benefit of playing in Jim Mora’s offense. Hundley still needs to grow as a decision maker and take care of the football a bit more efficiently, but I think there’s a better chance he’s the #1 overall pick in 2015 then there is of him going outside the first two rounds.
3. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
It seems lazy to call Hogan a poor man’s Andrew Luck, but physically speaking it’s pretty spot on. Hogan has a very strong arm and also has good accuracy, and while he’s not the finished product Luck was coming out of Stanford, he’s carrying a fringe 1st round grade from me entering this season. The Pac-12 is absolutely loaded at the QB position.
4. Jameis Winston, Florida State
For my money, Winston is the best pure arm talent among all draft eligible QBs, and his instincts and composure are incredible for a player his age. All of that makes the crab legs incident and any other intangible concerns scouts might have with Winston a Manziel-like paradox. He isn’t squeaky-clean off the field, and his fearlessness is both a great asset and a terrifying curse. I think there’s still growth for Winston to make in polishing his release (quirky) and willingness to take chances (he’s got a little gunslinger in him), and while his grade might not reflect it at the moment, another season like last year’s campaign will make it awfully hard for QB-needy teams to pass on Winston’s potential to be an NFL megastar on the field and in the media.
5. Connor Cook, Michigan State
Connor Cook looks like a solid Day 2 prospect. The 6’4” Spartan signal caller doesn’t blow you away with anything, but he doesn’t have any glaring flaws either. He’s a solid athlete with a serviceable arm and no real mechanical or decision making weaknesses. He’s performed well in big games, winning the Big 10 Championship Game and Rose Bowl MVP Awards last season as a sophomore.
Tags: 2015 QB Prospects, Anthony Boone, Braxton Miller, Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty, Chucie Keeton, Cody Fajardo, Connor Cook, Devin Gardner, Jameis Winston, Kevin Hogan, Marcus Mariota, NFL Draft, Nick Marshall, QB, Quarterback, Sean Mannion, Shane Carden, Taylor Kelly