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Doc Five: Players with the most to lose or gain before 2014 draft – No. 3, AJ McCarron

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This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.



Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is a hard player to project for the next level.

He's not a huge physical presence with a cannon for an arm. He's also not an exceptional athlete. But he is wildly productive, which one would assume should matter to NFL teams.

Last year McCarron had 30 touchdowns and three interceptions. He had just 2,933 yards, but that's misleading. Alabama is a run-first offense. His 9.3 yards per attempt tied for second best in FBS. And he has been the quarterback of two straight BCS championship teams.

[Also: Pre-draft actions shed light on why Geno Smith may have dropped]

Say that he's in a good situation, but make sure to include that Alabama doesn't win a national title last year without him leading the team downfield for a late game-winning score. And no matter how good McCarron's teammates are, you don't quarterback two title teams and lead the nation in lead the nation in quarterback rating as a junior by accident.

The varying factors mean it's unlikely there will be a consensus on McCarron's pro future.

NFL.com didn't list McCarron among its top 30 2014 prospects. SI.com didn't have him in a mock first round. But USA Today had him in the top 15. McCarron is already shaping up as an interesting debate.

What McCarron can't afford is a bad senior season. With a ton of talent around him – left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, receiver Amari Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon are three superstars elsewhere on the Crimson Tide offense – he won't be given much benefit of the doubt if his numbers slip. The thought that McCarron benefits greatly from being on a very talented team while a quarterback like Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater gets extra credit for doing more with less might not be fair, but it's not going away. Landry Jones put up huge numbers at Oklahoma, but he wasn't able to erase some of the knocks on him. He went in the fourth round. The same could happen to McCarron if he takes a step back this season.

Alabama will still be a running team, but McCarron will have plenty of chances to throw. Losing Eddie Lacy and three great offensive linemen will slow down the running game some. Meanwhile, the coaches should have full faith in McCarron, especially with the receivers he has to throw to, headlined by the dynamic Cooper. If McCarron turns in an even better season and leads Alabama to another SEC title or an unprecedented third straight national title, teams that value production, intangibles, leadership and a winning pedigree in quarterbacks will be intrigued.

[Also: Possible Top 10 for the 2014 NFL draft | Photos]

Right now, it's hard to gauge where McCarron might go in the draft. His play in 2013 could make that issue a lot clearer.

Previously on the "Doc Five"
5. Sammy Watkins
4. Jake Matthews and Anthony Barr

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