Depending on which underclassmen declare early, the 2014 NFL draft could be a bounty at quarterback like we haven’t seen in a few years.
The 2013 class was a down year, for sure, with E.J. Manuel the only quarterback drafted in the first 38 picks. The two drafts prior to that were top-heavy hauls at the position, with four quarterbacks taken in the first round of each.
Next May could feature an even larger front-loaded talent pool — and don’t worry, there will be enough teams there to scoop them up, even if a few worthy QB talents end up sliding because of a possible surplus.
So with that in mind, and in lieu of our normal weekly format, we’ve decided to deviate and rank the NFL teams from most to least likely to draft a quarterback next season:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars — A no-brainer. Neither Chad Henne nor Blaine Gabbert has taken the starting role and proven to be worthy of handling it.
2. Cleveland Browns — They’ve started three quarterbacks this season, and the one who is most likely to return (Brian Hoyer) is rehabbing a torn ACL.
3. Minnesota Vikings — A lot will depend on Leslie Frazier’s status, but it’s possible that neither Josh Freeman nor Christian Ponder will be back.
4. Philadelphia Eagles — Nick Foles offers promise, and it’s way too soon to give up on Matt Barkley. But you get the idea Chip Kelly wants someone else.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Mike Glennon will continue to get a chance, but a coaching change could shift the philosophy here greatly.
6. Arizona Cardinals — Carson Palmer is the bridge to an unknown future. Expect Bruce Arians to be on the hunt for a great young downfield thrower.
7. St. Louis Rams — A murky situation at best with Sam Bradford coming off another injury. They must develop a young quarterback as a Plan B.
8. Houston Texans — No offense to Case Keenum, but he won’t be handed anything without competition, assuming Matt Schaub is released.
9. Chicago Bears — Jay Cutler could re-sign. But there’s always a chance he won’t. Phil Emery must protect himself either way.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers — Ben Roethlisberger might not be going anywhere this offseason, despite a big cap number, but they very much will consider drafting his successor.
11. Dallas Cowboys — Jerry Jones has drafted two quarterbacks (Quincy Carter and Stephen McGee) since 1992. He has to be itching to find Tony Romo’s eventual replacement.
12. Tennessee Titans — Jake Locker was playing some great football before getting hurt. But the problem is he’s prone to getting hurt.
13. Oakland Raiders — The concern, like with other mobile quarterbacks, is that Terrelle Pryor exposes himself to big hits. Matt McGloin is interesting, though.
14. New York Giants — Ryan Nassib might not develop fast enough, and the Giants’ motto always has been to draft talents regardless of position. Eli Manning turns 33 in January.
15. Kansas City Chiefs — They’re happy with the QB trio now but could be tempted by the right fit for Andy Reid’s offense the next two years.
16. New England Patriots — Tom Brady is aging more quickly these days, and Ryan Mallett is a free-agent to be. They’ll jump on the right guy.
17. New Orleans Saints — Drew Brees is an iron man, but they’d love to have some young blood to compete with Ryan Griffin the next few years.
18. San Diego Chargers — Hard not to love what Philip Rivers has done with Mike McCoy this season, but they’ll look to the future at some point.
19. Denver Broncos — How much time does Peyton Manning have left? Brock Osweiler will get first crack to replacement, but he’ll get competition to be the heir.
20. Atlanta Falcons — Matt Ryan has the job for the next five years, we think, but a young developmental project is needed.
21. Cincinnati Bengals — Andy Dalton has outplayed his second-round status to this point, and they like Josh Johnson fine.
22. Miami Dolphins — There is little reason to think Ryan Tannehill can’t keep his job for the next few seasons. Matt Moore is a quality backup.
23. Buffalo Bills — Hard to imagine them taking a quarterback high anytime soon with Manuel aboard, but the backup options have been up and down.
24. New York Jets — It has been a bumpy but exciting rookie ride for Geno Smith, but they are committed for now. A coaching change could affect that slightly.
25. Baltimore Ravens — Ozzie Newsome hasn’t always nailed his quarterback draft picks, but he has Joe Flacco in place for years.
26. Detroit Lions — They have Matthew Stafford locked in through 2017 but could dip into the draft pool for a young insurance policy.
27. Carolina Panthers — If all goes as planned, Cam Newton is their guy for the next decade. But his possible price tag looms as a down-the-road worry.
28. Green Bay Packers — For those screaming for a better backup, it could come via the draft before it comes via free agency. It just won’t be a high pick.
29. Seattle Seahawks — Their next 2-3 drafts should be focused on building the offensive line and receiving corps.
30. San Francisco 49ers — They love Colin Kaepernick, but then again Jim Harbaugh has been somewhat unpredictable at times.
31. Washington Redskins — They have two valuable assets at the position, but they might be forced to keep both with RG3’s shaky health.
32. Indianapolis Colts — Andrew Luck won’t be pushed by a draft pick for the next decade.
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