NFL Draft – A Look At The Quarterbacks
With the NFL Draft less than a week away (seriously it seems like it has been a freaking millennium just to get there this year), it’s time to dive into the rhetoric that we hear coming from NFL circles. There is no better place to start than at the quarterback position.
Let’s take a look back to a few months ago when most of the draft prognosticators were predicting that 3 or maybe 4 quarterbacks would be selected in the top ten picks. My mindset back then was that that was a bunch of crapola. I’m always skeptical of quarterbacks and am not one to rank them so highly so quickly. With that being said I do remember tweeting back in January that if the Texans were going to select a QB with the first pick, it would be Blake Bortles. The links between Coach Bill O’Brien and Bortles, University of Central Florida Head Coach George O’Leary and that Bortles played against Penn State last year are enough to make a connection between the two. If you know more about O’Brien, though, namely his coaching style and what he looks for in a player, especially a quarterback, Bortles looks to be the logical pick.
Moving on to the other quarterbacks in the draft, it has been an interesting off-season to say the least. We have seen pro days take on a very significant role in determining the outcome of a players draft position. No position has seen that impact more than quarterbacks. Let’s take a look at where some of the top signal-callers in this year’s draft currently sit.
Blake Bortles, Central Florida: 6-foot-5, 232 lbs.
No one has benefitted more from the off-season than Bortles. He was the first top-tier QB to say he would throw at the NFL combine, pleasing NFL brass with his competitiveness. He displayed a live arm along with a solid performance in the individual agility drills. Bortles followed that up with a great pro day where he wowed those in attendance and has kept the momentum going with solid interviews and individual workouts. He has also spent some time working out with the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, whom he is most compared to. If the Texans do not draft Jadeveon Clowney, the belief is they’d go with Bortles. Projection: 1st Round Pick
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: 5-foot-11 and 3/4, 207 lbs.
While second on my list he is the odds on favorite to be the first quarterback selected. In case you missed it, Johnny Football broke the QB pro day mold by suiting up in pads (helmet and shoulder) and putting on a show, literally. Rap music blared in the back-ground and former presidents were some of those in attendance. What could not be overlooked was how well he threw the ball especially on the move, on deep outs down-field. Manziel may lack height and size but his arm strength may be the best of the top quarterbacks in the draft. He also has the “It” factor. No one in this year’s draft garners the attention that Manziel does; he will surely be the face of whichever franchise selects him. What is hard to get a true handle on is who will make the move to select Manziel. He is talented and is one of those rare dynamic play-makers but he is a media circus and with Lebron James and other influential modern day athletes in his inner-circle, you have to wonder if the off-field baggage and distractions he will bring to a franchise would be worth it. I say yes. Projection: 1st Round Pick
Derek Carr, Fresno State: 6-foot-2, 214 lbs.
With Derek Carr it’s simple: he may have the best natural ability and developed talent at the quarterback position in this year’s draft. Athletic, mobile, and with good feet, he believes in himself and can make all the throws while also having experience playing in a pro-style offense. He is football bred and really enjoys playing the game. The question is, will he buckle under pressure and make poor decisions in the pocket as he did in Fresno State’s bowl game against USC? His brother David Carr, the former top overall pick for the Houston Texans says his little brother is miles ahead in development than he was coming out of Fresno State. He’s correct! Projection: 1st to 2nd Round Pick
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: 6-foot-2, 209 lbs.
Let’s just focus on the 2013 game tape, which is what Bridgewater is hoping NFL decision makers do after what can be declared one of the worst off-seasons leading up to the draft for any quarterback prospect. Bridgewater’s pro day was a bomb and his subsequent individual workouts went so badly that there is a legitimate buzz he will not be selected in the first round. It didn’t help that he blew off the combine either. It really is surprising when you consider most mock drafts in late 2013/early 2014 had him pegged as the top overall choice. Teams will have to find a way to ensure he can stay healthy due to his slight build and lack of velocity on his throws—the ball doesn’t pop coming out of his hand. If a team, especially one that runs a west coast offense (in a favorable climate), is able to land him late in the first or in the second round, he could end up a steal. Projection: 1st to 2nd Round Pick
Tom Savage, PITT: 6-foot-4, 228 lbs.
The former Pitt Panther and Rutgers/Arizona transfer has seen his stock rise dramatically, so much so that the NFL gave him an invite to spend draft day in the green room. Savage has all the physical tools teams covet and may have been hindered by a lack of talent surrounding him throughout his collegiate career. He has performed well in his workouts, displaying a live arm, great snap on his release and the mental make-up coaches look for in a signal caller. Physically he has what teams’ desire in a prototypical QB. It would not be shocking to see him ascend to the late first round, with someone trading up to get him. Projection: Late 1st to 3rd Round Pick
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois: 6-foot-2, 226 lbs.
The buzz surrounding Garoppolo may have faded just a bit. After having solid performances at the East-West and Senior Bowl games, some of the concerns which have surrounded him, including his hand size (which could lead to a fumbling problem) and level of competition, have started to resurface. What there is to like is his football IQ, great feet, quick release, snap on the ball, along with a smooth delivery. He is hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Eastern Illinois quarterback Tony Romo, hopefully excluding all the bad mojo. Projection: 2nd to 4th Round Pick
Zach Mettenberger, LSU: 6-foot-5, 224 lbs.
The words pure pocket passer, arm strength, velocity and accuracy are what are used to describe Mettenberger. Add this one to the mix, statue. He’s not a mobile QB and is only three months removed from knee surgery. He still was able to put on a show at his pro day, throwing the ball with zip and in pads, a la Johnny Football. He has what NFL teams covet–the size and ability to throw the football downfield and fit it into tight windows–but I hate to say that for some reason I’m not completely sold. His injury is not his only detractor. Projection: 2nd to 4th Round Pick
Aaron Murray, Georgia: Projection: 6-foot-1, 207 lbs.
You hear the word steal associated with Murray. He was a very productive and efficient quarterback in a very tough conference, the SEC. I have always liked the kid and think in the right situation he could be a Brees-like quarterback. He’s not going to wow you with a big arm or physical attributes but can be very effective if surrounded by a decent amount of talent. He is accurate, can work the pocket, is a good decision-maker and has the intangibles needed at the position.
Projection: 3rd to 5th Round Pick
Garrett Gilbert, SMU: 6-foot-4, 221 lbs.
Here’s my sleeper QB! As a five-star quarterback coming out of Lake Travis in Austin, Gilbert got roasted by the burnt orange fans. I’ve always felt he was thrown under the bus too quickly by Texas Coach Mack Brown and the Longhorn faithful. Let’s remember, Coach Brown and his staff do not have great history of developing quarterbacks. If you say look at Vince Young and Colt McCoy, please stop reading this article because you’ve lost me. Back to Gilbert, I like the kid. He has bounced back nicely from his persecution at Texas to perform admirably for Coach June Jones at SMU. He had a great pro day, displaying a prototypical NFL arm and also tested well in the agility drills. He has the great size, arm strength, timing, mobility, the pedigree (his father played QB in the NFL) and toughness to continue on his upward ascent. If he lands in the right situation to where he is given a year or two to bloom, he could end up a major steal. Projection: 4th to 7th Round Pick
Other names to watch: Logan Thomas-Virginia Tech, David Fales-San Jose State, Tajh Boyd-Clemson, Brett Smith-Wyoming, Jordan Lynch-Northern Illinois.