I have only ranked quarterbacks that I have broken down and of those, only looking at those who are entering their fourth year of college football. I have watched Brett Hundley and am tremendously impressed with his talents and there are other extremely talented underclassmen but the track record for redshirt sophomores and true juniors going into the NFL is horrendous. So with those two caveats in mind, here are my top 10 quarterback prospects entering the 2013 college season.
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville – Coming into the season, Bridgewater is the favorite to be the top quarterback selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. In terms of arm strength, accuracy, poise, pocket awareness, and toughness, Bridgewater appears to check all of the boxes. It will not be easy to top last year in terms of success, but he will be under the microscope this year and critics will be looking for flaws. He appears to be the most likely to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL at this point.
2. Jeff Mathews, Cornell – The Big Red season is still weeks away, but Mathews was extremely impressive last year. There will be critics of the level of competition, coming out of the Ivy League, as well as questions about how big he actually is, but when the rubber meets the road, Mathews is an artist with the football. He has a strong enough arm and seems to be able to put the football right where he wants as well as being able to anticipate where to throw the ball to open up his receivers to make plays.
It will likely take until the postseason process and for Mathews to have an impressive performance on the All-Star circuit for him to make a leap like Joe Flacco did when he was in the draft, but Mathews appears to have all of the talent needed to be a great quarterback at the next level. The one area where the level of competition might play a role is in his ability to be ready to step in and start at the next level. Still, Mathews appears to have the talent worth the wait.
3. David Fales, San Jose State – It is extremely close between three, four and five. Fales gets the nod because while he is best suited to play in a West Coast Offense, he appears ready to play in a West Coast Offense now. Fales is accurate with the football and can put zip on the ball but he has some issues driving the ball down the field. He does a great job spreading the ball around to his weapons and putting it in spots for his guys to make plays. Fales could be a quarterback who slips in the draft simply due to system concerns. What he does, he does extremely well, but that skill set does not work for everyone.
4. Derek Carr, Fresno State – There are a lot of people down on Carr. He has some issues when it comes to pocket presence and feeling pressure that is not there as well as running into some sacks, which he, himself, has said he needs to improve. He also played all of last season with a sports hernia, which impacted his ability to throw the ball with effective mechanics. Still, that is something else he needs to address as he threw as many passes off of his back foot as he did his front.
Beyond that, Carr is as athletically impressive as any quarterback in the country. He possesses a cannon and throws the ball down the field effortlessly. Carr can also fit the ball in tight windows and is not afraid to test his limits as well as defenses. He is also incredibly accurate with the football on throws of all distances as well as being an incredible athlete who can extend plays with his legs and pick up yardage on the move. If he can improve his pocket presence and use and trust his mechanics, he could be a player that flies up boards.
5. Stephen Morris, Miami(FL) – Morris looks the part of a quarterback and loves to throw the ball down the field. He looks like Daryle Lamonica in how aggressive he is down the field. Morris can extend plays with his legs, can zip the ball to his target, and has good mechanics. The issue for Morris is consistency and accuracy. He can be extremely streaky with his throws and it the inconsistency appears to come with his release point as he throws exactly the same on the move or when he has the time to set his feet. If he can fix that, he is someone who could make a big move up the board and has the potential to be a quality, starting quarterback at the next level with the possibility of having a better pro career than he did college.
6. Tajh Boyd, Clemson – Boyd is a quarterback built like a fullback. He has the ability to run the football and can use strength to push the pile. Boyd has a big arm and is extremely comfortable and accurate going down the field. Because of his ability to beat teams deep, Boyd can stretch defenses and give himself big running lanes. The issue for Boyd is accuracy on timing and intermediate routes. There are times when he will flat out miss guys on throws he should make and miss some big opportunities for his team. There will also be some concern about his height going forward, but that should not be an issue for him. Accuracy and consistency will be the issues facing Boyd as he comes into what should be a huge senior year.
7. Devin Gardner, Michigan – Gardner is a toolsy quarterback with a ton of potential. The fact that he was granted an extra year of eligibility will make a huge impact on how far he can go as a quarterback. He is a terrific athlete who can make plays with his legs but he shows flashes of being an impressive passer. He still has work to do but should he opt to declare, he could end up going earlier than people expect as a developmental quarterback in a league with a number of teams interested in talented dual threat players. Should he stay, Gardner could come back the next year as one of the best senior prospects in the country.
8. Bryn Renner, North Carolina – Renner enters his senior season with more questions than answers. After having an impressive freshman campaign, he has not really progressed as much as many thought he would. Under new head coach Larry Fedora, Renner never seemed comfortable. When Renner trusted his read and made a throw, he had a good arm and could make an accurate throw. The times when plays broke down and Renner had to improvise or find a receiver, he looked nervous and at times, panicked. All of a sudden, Renner would look like he was decoding a bomb and time was running out. He also threw a ton of short passes to the running back. In his second year in this offense as well as his senior year, many are expecting him to be the quarterback they thought he could be as a promising freshman. In many ways, he resembles the type of prospect Ryan Nassib was.
9. Aaron Murray, Georgia – If Murray was a few inches taller, his ranking would be significantly higher. Murray has a strong arm, is accurate and can anticipate when to throw passes well at times. When the offensive line collapses, there are times when Murray struggles to see his receivers. He either pulls the ball down or there are examples where he throws the ball and he appears to be assuming where the receiver is going to be. As a result, Georgia has him roll out a lot to get him the ability to see the field better, but it is tough to work exclusively only seeing half the field. If he can figure out how to adjust to these issues, he has the talent to be a good quarterback, but he may end up being a better collegiate quarterback than a pro. It is also notable how incredibly tough Murray is as he takes a ferocious beating at times and keeps getting off the turf.
10. A.J. McCarron, Alabama – Alabama fans will point out how remarkably productive McCarron was in leading them to the National Championship last year. He was. But among the critics that are not completely sold on McCarron’s ability includes the SEC coaches, who voted him the third team quarterback in the preseason poll. McCarron is good for operating the Tide machine on offense. He, like Greg McElroy handles the pressure of Tuscaloosa well, understands his role, and does well with it. McCarron is more physically talented than McElroy, but he has been spoiled by the offensive line in front of him as well as the running backs they have. He has almost no sense of the pocket and does not sense pressure well. Because of the Tide defense, they play it extremely safely with the passes he throws, rarely going over the middle. And his accuracy in that area of the field is not great and he misses passes going down the field as well. McCarron is good a throwing flag routes and putting passes where only his receiver can get them. Having arguably the best receiver in the country in Amari Cooper does not hurt him either.
Tags: 2014 Mock Draft 2014 NFL Draft A.J. McCarron Aaron Murray Alabama Crimson Tide Football Bryn Renner Clemson Tigers Football Cornell Big Red Football David Fales Derek Carr Devin Gardner Fresno State Bulldogs Football Georgia Bulldogs Football Jeff Mathews Louisville Cardinals Football Miami Hurricanes Football Michigan Wolverines Football North Carolina Tar Heels Football Quarterbacks San Jose State Spartans Football Stephen Morris Tajh Boyd Teddy Bridgewater