1. Teddy Bridgewater - Louisville
High End NFL Comparison: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
What he does Best: Plays the quarterback position. It may sound a little odd or even over simplified, but Bridgewater is the best of the 2014 draft class at playing quarterback. Despite the “Silly Season” doing its best to bring Bridgewater down from the ranks of the elite, he is still the best pure passer in the draft. When it comes to field vision, throwing with accuracy, timing, anticipation, and ball placement, Teddy Bridgewater is on a different level. It will be an upset if Bridgewater is not a starting NFL quarterback on opening day.
Low End NFL Comparison: Geno Smith, New York Jets
What may hold him back: Build and a lack of elite arm strength. Bridgewater has decent height, but a narrow frame. His skinny legs worry some NFL personnel people and his durability has been brought into question. While his arm strength is good, it’s not great. NFL teams would prefer a great arm when drafting within the top 10 picks. A poor showing at the Louisville pro day was unfortunate, but should not be too heavily factored into his placement as a prospect.
Where he ends up: I have a hard time imagining a scenario where Bridgewater falls out of the top 5. Jacksonville at #3 makes quite a bit of sense, and both Cleveland and Oakland at #4 and #5 have been struggling to find a franchise quarterback for far too long. His best fit however, may come from Minnesota at #8(likely in a trade up), whose new head coach Mike Zimmer inherited a talented offense looking for stability at quarterback.
2. Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M
High End NFL Comparison: Ultra talented Jeff Garcia, retired
What he does best: Create plays. Johnny Manziel’s ability to create when the ball is in his hands is second to none. Whether he is evading a rush, scrambling on a bootleg, or buying time in the pocket to deliver a throw down field, Manziel can makes plays either by design or on his own during a broken play. Manziel has spent the majority of his off-season working to improve his skills within the pocket, and placed a heavy emphasis on perceived weaknesses during his Pro Day, which has earned him early praise within the NFL community.
Low End NFL Comparison: Doug Flutie, retired
What may hold him back: His size and playing style combination. Manziel plays every down as though it is his last and for a 20 year old kid still filling out physically, durability is going to be a concern. If Manziel can be humbled into avoiding contact and learning to slide feet first, he will stand a much better chance at avoiding the injury list.
Where he ends up: A strong Pro Day has given Manziel some momentum these last few days and some prognosticators are ready to anoint him a top 5 pick while others are left unimpressed and still see a free fall in his future. Personally, I think Manziel would be perfect for the Jacksonville Jaguars at #3 overall. Gus Bradley has experienced success with a playmaking quarterback while with Russell Wilson in Seattle, and while Manziel has a ways to go he does offer a similar skillset with perhaps even more upside. Cleveland at #4 makes a great deal of sense as well with Kyle Shanahan at offensive coordinator and a talented offense waiting for a playmaker at quarterback.
3. Blake Bortles – Central Florida
High End NFL Comparison: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
What he does best: Blake Bortles is the best finisher in the 2014 draft class. Even though Bortles has proto type size, plus athleticism, and all the necessary arm talent, it is his ability to deliver under pressure and in crunch time that has the NFL’s interest piqued. Bortles engineered several game winning drives for the Knights and was at his best when he was needed most.
Low End NFL Comparison: Matt Schaub, Oakland Raiders
What may hold him back: At the end of the day, there is nothing “special” about Blake Bortles. He has a good, not great arm. He’s a nice athlete, but not an explosive athlete. He has some mechanical kinks he has to iron out and has a tendency to get sloppy with his footwork.
Where he ends up: At this stage, it would be a small upset if Bortles did not go #1 overall to the Houston Texans. His style of play is an excellent fit in Bill O’Brian’s offense and the former Nittany Lions head coach watched Bortles beat his Penn State team with 3 touchdown passes in Happy Valley earlier this season. If the Texans ultimately pass on Bortles at the top of the draft it would be hard to imagine him falling out of the top 5 with Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Oakland also looking for a long term answer at quarterback.
4. Derek Carr – Fresno State
High End NFL Comparison: Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
What he does best: Derek Carr has the best “arm talent” in the 2014 draft. Blessed with a powerful arm, quick release, accuracy, and the ability to throw with touch, Derek Carr has been rocketing up draft boards after a very strong career at Fresno State. Carr has the arm and athleticism to play in any environment and fit within any system.
Low End NFL Comparison: David Carr, Free Agent
What may hold him back: His ability to play under duress. The Fresno State offense was designed to get the ball out of Carr’s hands quickly and a lack of talent on the line necessitated such a style of play. The problem is the poor habits that Carr has developed because of playing under those conditions. Carr would frequently watch the pass rush, give up on plays too quickly, and throw with poor mechanics due to pressure or perceived pressure. The last top prospect that had similar struggles within the pocket was Blaine Gabbert.
Where he ends up: Carr should hear his name called sometime during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and it is likely to be somewhere between #4 and #26. The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders have been the two teams connected to Carr the most by the media. Cleveland is a very interesting fit due to Carr’s perceived fit into Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system. With two pro bowl lineman, two pro bowl receiving targets, and a newly signed Ben Tate behind him, Carr could be in a very advantageous position with the Browns. The question is where/when Cleveland will have to pull the trigger in order to land their quarterback of the future. The Jacksonville Jaguars are another team to keep an eye on for a trade up scenario if Carr falls into the 2nd half of round 1.
5. A.J. McCarron – Alabama
High End NFL Comparison: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
What he does best: I’m not going to say that A.J. McCarron is a winner, that’s far too cliché. But A.J. McCarron does know how to execute and operate an offensive game plan with the best of them. Surrounded by talent at Alabama, McCarron is often brushed off as a product of a winning program but he was a productive quarterback and the Crimson Tide were a better team because of him.
Low End NFL Comparison: Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
What may hold him back: McCarron does not possess any elite attributes. Which basically gives him a lower ceiling in terms of his long term potential. McCarron has drawn comparisons to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, not so much for his style of play, but for the fact that he may be good enough to get a team to the playoffs but not quite talented enough to be a “Championship level” quarterback in the NFL.
Where he ends up: McCarron is an interesting player when it comes to his draft prospects. He has the resume of a first round pick with the measurables and potential of a mid round pick. Personally, I would be intrigued with McCarron ending up in either Houston or New England. I think he’s an excellent fit in that style of offense and does an excellent job of distributing the football to his playmakers and working off of the running game. I do not expect him to go off the board until day 3 of the draft but he could be worth a look at the end of day 2 for a team like New England who could in looking for a back up to Tom Brady in the event that Ryan Mallett is moved on draft day.
6. David Fales – San Jose State
High End NFL Comparison: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
What he does best: David Fales is a precision passer. Accuracy, timing, ball placement, Fales does it as well as anyone in the country. Outside of pure arm strength, Fales has some of the most impressive arm talent of any prospect available for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Low End NFL Comparison: Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns
What may hold him back: A lack of pure arm strength. There are concerns as to whether or not Fales has the arm to excel in late season or playoff environments when the weather becomes a factor. It’s not just arm strength but a lack of elite measurables overall. Fales is not as big as the NFL wants its quarterbacks to be, there is also lack of elite athleticism along with his questionable arm strength. There was also some passing efficiency regression from his junior to senior year that raised some red flags as well.
Where he ends up: Fales likely will not hear his name called until day 3, but has an outside chance to land somewhere late in round 3 if the right schematic fit is still looking for a quarterback. If the Cleveland Browns truly want to give quarterback Brian Hoyer an opportunity at the long term starting position, they could look at Fales as a developmental prospect with one of the two picks in either rounds 3 or 4. The Jacksonville Jaguars are another team which could look at Fales later on draft weekend if they don’t take a quarterback early. One fit which makes a great deal of sense would be the New Orleans Saints, as Fales fits the scheme nicely and would benefit greatly from sitting behind Drew Brees.
7. Jimmy Garoppolo – Eastern Illinois
High End NFL Comparison: Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
What he does best: Jimmy Garoppolo has the quickest release of any quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft. In a league where speed is king, a quarterback with a lightning fast release could be a real headache for a defense. Not only does Garoppolo have a quick release, but his athleticism allows him to get throws off in situations where most quarterbacks would take a sack or at best be forced to throw the ball away.
Low End NFL Comparison: Colt McCoy, Free Agent
What may hold him back: NFL readiness. Jimmy Garoppolo showed well in post season All-Star games, which absolutely helped his draft stock, but is still a long way from being an NFL level starting quarterback. His mechanics need to be cleaned up, but his above average athleticism should allow him to fix any issues that teams may have, a greater concern for Garoppolo is his struggles in the face of a pass rush. Garoppolo tends to watch the rush when in the pocket and will give up on a play way too early rather than keeping his eyes downfield. Like his Eastern Illinois predecessor Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo would benefit greatly from at least one, but ideally two years on the bench while he gains comfort with the speed of the NFL game.
Where he ends up: The Dallas Cowboys would be a great fit for Garoppolo and will have a very good chance of landing the small school prospect on the draft’s late 2nd or early 3rd day. Garoppolo has a near “cult” following of twitter and internet “draftniks” but ultimately does not bring enough to the table physically to warrant a day 1 or day 2 selection as a developmental quarterback. There are rumors that the Jacksonville Jaguars became enamored with him during Senior Bowl week, but it is hard to believe that general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley would leave the future of their quarterback position in the hands of Chad Henne and a very raw Jimmy Garoppolo.
8. Zach Mettenberger – Louisiana State
High End NFL Comparison: Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
What he does best: Zach Mettenberger made some of the most impressive NFL level throws from the pocket in all of college football in 2013. His ability to stand tall against the pass rush and deliver strikes downfield with all of the accuracy, touch, and power helps him stand out amongst the 2014 draft class. Mettenberger improved as much as any college quarterback in 2013 and did so under NFL coaching in a pro style offense.
Low End NFL Comparison: Derek Anderson, Carolina Panthers
What may hold him back: While his late season ACL injury certainly clouds his immediate NFL future, whispers of Cam Cameron and the LSU coaching staff having to “simplify” things for Mettenberger raises some red flags. Mettenberger’s off field history does not help things and character questions can be added to concerns of his football I.Q.
Where he ends up: I have Zach Mettenberger ranked far lower than most analysts for a couple reasons. The first is his ACL injury which could seriously hamper the early portion of his career and the second would be the negative light his character and intelligence questions have been presented to me from various sources. There is no doubting his talent, which is worthy of a first round selection, and my sources could easily be mis-informed or grossly exaggerated, but Mettenberger’s dismissal from the University of Georgia football program does not help his case at all. In the end, I believe the best fit for Zach Mettenberger would come with the Arizona Cardinals who could use their 2nd round pick to put Mettenberger behind Carson Palmer to develop and eventually take over for.
9. Tom Savage – Pittsburgh
High End NFL Comparison: Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
What he does best: Tom Savage can rip it. Easily one of the strongest arms in the 2014 draft class, Savage possesses proto-type measurables for a classic pocket passer. Savage has displayed the ability to stand tall in the pocket, step up into the rush, and deliver powerfully accurate strikes downfield.
Low End NFL Comparison: Brandon Weeden, Dallas Cowboys
What may hold him back: A lack of consistency is the biggest problem NFL teams have when evaluating Savage, and is likely due to a lack of in game experience. Tom Savage is capable of doing many things well on the football field, the problem is that he hardly does anything with consistency. Savage is raw, he needs reps, he needs experience, and he needs to gain comfort within an offense. Teams expecting early returns on Tom Savage will be getting what they deserve, but make no mistake, the talent is there.
Where he ends up: Like Zach Mettenberger, Savage would be a really nice fit in Arizona behind Carson Palmer. He could also get some day three looks with the Oakland Raiders behind Matt Schaub, he would be a fit in Tennessee under Ken Whisenhunt, as well as the San Diego Chargers.
10. Aaron Murray – Georgia
High End NFL Comparison: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
What he does best: Aaron Murray is a leader, a field general, a coach on the field, basically every cliché you can throw at a cerebral quarterback who commands the respect of everyone in the locker room, players and coaches alike. Aaron Murray will have a long career in the NFL and will one day make an excellent coach.
Low End NFL Comparison: Chase Daniel, Kansas City Chiefs
What may hold him back: A lack of elite physical ability. Murray has less than ideal size, average arm strength, suspect athleticism, and is also coming off of a torn ACL in his left knee. Players of similar ability have started in the NFL but if Murray goes on to become a solid starter at the next level he will be considered more the exception than the rule.
Where he ends up: Murray has been getting plenty of attention from NFL teams as the draft approaches and he is a player who is going to thrive in the interview process. Murray, like many of his peers in the 2014 NFL Draft class could start getting looks late on day two but more than likely somewhere on day 3. With his knee a potential problem through OTA’s and mini-camps, his rookie year could be considered as somewhat of a medical redshirt as he not only gets his body up to NFL speed, but also as he gains comfort schematically and with the speed of the game on the professional level. Teams like Oakland, Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Tennessee are teams with starters tentatively in place that could hold down the fort until Murray is ready to challenge for the starting job. Then there are teams like New Orleans, Kansas City, and Cincinnati that have quarterbacks entrenched in the starting job and could look to develop Murray as a back up or possible trade chip for the future.