Here are my final rankings for the quarterback class for the 2014 NFL Draft. I only include the players I have broken down, so if a player is missing, that is the reason. Some of the scouting reports may not match up with the final rankings; focus on the analysis rather of the skill set and combine that with these final grades.
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville - Filtering out all of the noise that has little or no impact on how Bridgewater will play as a quarterback at the next level, what remains is the best quarterback in the class. He has the best sense of the pocket and ability to navigate himself out of trouble while keeping his eyes down the field. His arm strength is not great, but on the throws a team needs to win from 25 yards and in, Bridgewater is excellent. He has mobility to extend plays and keep defenses honest and while there are concerns about his frame, he has shown remarkable toughness in his career.
2. Derek Carr, Fresno State - His combination of arm strength and accuracy is far and away the best in the class. He can throw the ball 60+ yards almost effortlessly and put it in the right spot. Carr has also shown impressive tough and can give his receivers opportunities to make plays. He has experience in a pro style as well as spread style offenses, running the spread and calling his own plays the past two seasons. Carr is also a great athlete and can pick up yards or extend plays with his legs. Everything with Carr comes down to his feet. If he can develop consistent footwork, his talent is off the charts.
3. Blake Bortles, Central Florida - Bortles has the size and mobility that will remind some of Ben Roethlisberger. He has also demonstrated great vision in finding open options when plays break down or he scrambles to extend the play. His arm strength is average but should be able to improve. Bortles has mechanical issues to clean up in order for him to be consistent with his accuracy. There is a significant amount of talent that comes with Bortles, but he is not quite ready to step in and run an NFL team.
4. Brett Smith, Wyoming - While getting little attention playing out in Laramie, Smith was consistently the best player on the field in the games he played, including against bigger non conference opponents they pushed to the wire. Smith has a great combination of arm strength, accuracy, and athleticism that allowed him to be the focal point of the offense. He needs time to firm up mechanics, continue to get stronger and adjust to the NFL, but he could become a really good quarterback at the next level and seems like the type of quarterback that a lot of coaches would love to be able to develop.
5. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M – There is no question Manziel has talent. He has shown he can make plays with his arm and his legs, showing a great arm and accuracy at times. The problem is that there are so many potential pot holes that could derail Manziel going to the next level. From inconsistent mechanics that include weight transfer issues that can kill his arm strength at times to the fact that he has to and is already trying to change his playing style to the amount of hits he takes to his lack of height to a lack of experience, any one of these or combination of them could cause him to fail at the next level. If he can navigate the mine field of potential issues and succeed, the results could be remarkable but he is a big time boom or bust prospect. Manziel really needs to sit and develop in the NFL, but that may not be realistic.
6. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois - Garoppolo has enough arm strength to be pretty versatile from an offensive scheme standpoint, but he is better in terms of his ability to put zip and velocity on passes than he is in pushing it down the field. He has shown he can be an accurate passer, but his consistency with his mechanics and decision making are works in progress. And while he was great at the East-West Shrine Game, he did come back to Earth at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and it is important to factor in that he did play against the FCS. Garoppolo has the talent and potential to an effective starter in the league, but he needs time to develop and clean up some lingering issues.
7. David Fales, San Jose State - Fales has gone under the radar and reportedly, the NFL as a whole may not love him because of a lack of arm strength and potentially being a product of their offensive coordinator from last season, now at Colorado. The issue for Fales is that he is not a fit for every system. He is a terrific chemistry quarterback that will work with his receivers and start to throw passes in perfect spots for them, carving up defenses. For a team that runs a West Coast Offense or horizontally based offense, Fales is a really good prospect that could excel.
Early Day 3 (4-5)
8. Zach Mettenberger, LSU - Mettenberger is the prototype quarterback from the early 90’s. Big, strong, classic looking passer with a big arm who can make a bevy of different throws. His accuracy can be inconsistent, but the biggest problem comes with inconsistent footwork. There are times when Mettenberger shows quick feet and can navigate the pocket, making effective throws. The problem is the overwhelming amount of time, he does not move his feet well and ends up looking like a statue, making a lot of bad throws from awkward positions. He has to prove he can deal with that or teams will just pressure him from the A gap to get him uncomfortable. Mettenberger is also working back from an ACL tear and while he is not losing any speed, he did lose time to try to improve his feet.
9. Aaron Murray, Georgia - Murray has a great arm, can throw the ball really accurately and has shown great ball placement. He is athletic and is as tough a quarterback as I have ever seen. He does his best work attacking to the outside, has some issues seeing the middle of the field, especially when the pocket collapses and there are times when he appears to throw a pass based on where he thinks a player is supposed to be but without actually seeing it. Murray will also hold onto the ball too long and take some bad sacks. If Murray were a couple inches taller, he might be a first round pick. As it is and as he works back from the ACL year, he is an interesting early day three pick that could go earlier.
10. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech - There is almost no doubt Thomas will go earlier than this because of his incredible potential. In terms of pure upside, Thomas has more upside than anyone in the entire draft class. He is a battleship of a quarterback with a terrific build and overall athletic ability. Thomas also has a huge arm and the zip he can put on the ball is something to see in person. He has shown virtually no touch and really gives himself little room for error on passes. Thomas, while still relatively new to the quarterback position, has to get much better at decision making and reading defenses. His potential is off the charts, but it is going to take a few years to get him there, if he is ever able to reach it.
Late Rounds (5-7)/UDFAs
11. Connor Shaw, South Carolina - Shaw does not have ideal physical tools, but he has been a smart, efficient quarterback who has really done a good job of protecting the football. Part of the issue with Shaw is that when his throw was not there in college, he often pulled down the ball and would run with it. That is not realistic in the NFL and he will have to make some tough throws and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain his handle on protecting the football. Shaw may go late, perhaps even undrafted but he might be an ideal backup for a team.
12. A.J. McCarron, Alabama - McCarron has shown remarkable poise, has been able to handle the pressure of being the quarterback of Alabama and was able to guide them to a pair of National Championships. His arm strength and accuracy are average. He has some throws that are his comfort zone, but rarely had to make difficult throws. Despite outstanding offensive line protection, McCarron has little or no sense of the pocket and runs himself into bad sacks. He is a virtual statue and like with Alabama, needs to play in a turnkey offense to be successful. McCarron could be a backup for a team, but that is about it.
13. Stephen Morris, Miami(FL) - Morris has a great arm, throws the deep ball well and his mechanics are consistent whether he is in the pocket or rolling out of the pocket. What appears to be a release point issue, Morris can run into ruts where he just loses his accuracy. He is also short and relatively thin, but he does have legitimate tools that could be developed into a big time quarterback. Morris has everything that has caused some to fawn over Tom Savage except size, but he is younger, has more experience, and enjoyed more success.
14. Tajh Boyd, Clemson - Boyd had a distinguised career at Clemson, able to help them enjoy some of the best seasons in school history. He has a build like a fullback and is one of the better deep ball throwers in the class. The problems for Boyd start with accuracy on timing horizontal timing routes and then extends to the fact that he almost never worked the middle of the field as a passer at least in part because he could not see it well. In order for Clemson to keep teams honest in the middle of the field, they used Boyd as a battering ram, which is unrealistic going to the NFL.
15. Kenny Guiton, Ohio State - Guiton’s lack of playing experience is certainly a detriment, but when he was on the field, he showed remarkable poise, executed the offense in an extremely efficient manner and really threw the ball well. Urban Meyer holds him in really high regard and whenever he finishes his playing career, he will likely end up as a graduate assistant at Ohio State, perhaps becoming a coach there. Guiton seems like an ideal third quarterback that can be developed and it would not be a surprise if he ends up a #2 sooner than later, perhaps having a decade long career.
16. Keith Price, Washington - Price has plenty of physical tools to be successful, both in terms of his arm and legs. He is shorter and leaner than teams would prefer, but he has been resilient. Price needs to develop more touch as he tends to throw everything flat and needs to make better decisions with the football consistently. His playing style can be somewhat chaotic which can be both good and bad in the results. While he may not get drafted, Price could be a surprise player that catches on as a third quarterback with his combination of tools.
17. Tom Savage, Pittsburgh - Savage looks the part in that he is big and he has an incredibly strong arm and will make some spectacular throws. The problem is despite having been in college six years, playing at three different schools with most of his experience as a freshman and sophomore, he has never really distinguished himself as a passer. His mechanics and footwork are perilously inconsistent and Savage is already 24 years old. Personally, I would not draft him.
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