Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine each position, rank the top players at each spot and try to identify some top sleepers, sliders and undrafted gems.
There’s a quarterback for every style of team out there in the 2014 NFL draft. But is there is a star in the group?
For months, we’ve heard about the top trio of steady Teddy Bridgewater, high-upside Blake Bortles and the inimitable Johnny Manziel. We’ve watched as the intrigue has grown on strong-armed prospects Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger and Tom Savage. We’ve factored in the presence of experienced and accomplished A.J. McCarron, intriguing small-school wonder Jimmy Garoppolo and talented but flawed Logan Thomas.
We know there’s depth in this group. It’s just not clear if there is a sure-thing star in the group. We also wonder just how many might fit into Round 1 of the draft, but you can figure it to be between two and four taken in the first 32 selections.
This is a far more talented group than the crop from the 2013 NFL draft that produced one first-round pick and 11 picks overall (four of which were seventh-rounders). Expect the 2014 bounty to bear more fruit.
Here is our ranking for top 10 quarterbacks for the 2014 NFL draft (not what order they will be drafted but how we think they ultimately will perform in the NFL):
31-4 TD-INT ratio as senior
Not ideal size but possesses good eyes, arm, athleticism and winner's makeup
Set at least 35 school, conference or NCAA records
Unique ad-lib style, small frame and questionable character make for tricky evaluation
22-5 record as starter; 15 career rushing TDs
Prototype size, good arm, huge upside, but some development needed
4th QB in FBS history with 50-TD, 5,000-yard passing season
Passionate leader has strong arm, bloodlines but hasn't thrived vs. top competition
Threw for 450 yards, 6 TDs at nationally ranked Northern Illinois
Quick-trigger rhythm passer must fine-tune mechanics, strengthen arm
Set school record for rushing TDs by a quarterback
Hasn't progressed as expected but has as much upside as any QB in draft
36-4 record, two national titles; only 15 career INTs
Prepared, confident pro-style passer tries to shed game-manager laber
Only Tigers QB with 2,500+ yards in consecutive seasons
Lumbering flamethrower ran NFL-style offense but not ready now
Completed 52 percent in 15 starts at Rutgers; 62 percent in 11 starts at Pitt
Big arm, size are pros; slow head clock, athleticism are cons
133 combined rushing and passing TDs in 40 starts
Short, squatty passer with plus intangibles but must develop passing skills
Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Injuries set him back, and he lacks height and a big arm. But Shaw is a gutsy winner who can improvise and make plays. Turn on the Mizzou tape, and you’ll see a hobbled Shaw — with a sprained MCL and LCL — lead the Gamecocks back from a 17-0 fourth-quarter deficit to win in overtime on the road. If Shaw can overcome his injury issues and land with an offense that works well toward his strengths, he’ll make a team’s roster, and it’ll be better off for it.
Unless he lands in a great situation, such as with the Cardinals' Bruce Arians, the team that takes Mettenberger could forever be expecting more out of him. There’s just something missing in his whole package. Although he made strides early in the season, fueling some first-round talk, his play kind of leveled off from that point. Mettenberger has heavy feet and needs to develop better instincts in the pocket and touch. And on top of that, Mettenberger is coming off a torn ACL late in the season. Expecting anything incredible his rookie season might be highly speculative.
SMALL SCHOOL WONDER
Although he was not asked to make all the NFL throws in Eastern Illinois’ Baylor-like, up-tempo offense, he has the quick release, athleticism and toughness to open some eyes. It appears now that he will be taken somewhere in the first 50 picks of the draft, and there’s an outside chance he could sneak into the final few picks of the first round. Garoppolo might not be a Day 1 starter, but he has the makeup to be a hit in a quick-rhythm passing game with the right tutelage and development.
After spending the college football season atop the majority of media members’ mock drafts, he started to slip. A forgettable pro day was the impetus for a lot of it, but some NFL teams had been saying for a while that Bridgewater always had been overhyped. (Note: Some teams still like him quite a bit.) There’s a chance to slides to the back end of Round 1, and perhaps into the first few picks of Round 2. That might work out beautifully for a team such as the Jaguars.
We’re not quite sure why, but Savage has been the hot name in March and April, with several teams touting him privately and meeting with him to glean more information. Some talent evaluators graded the Pitt QB (by way of Rutgers and Arizona) as a fourth- or fifth-rounder coming out of last season, but the more they consider his arm talent and the pool offensive line play in front of him, the more teams think he might be an unpolished gem.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Remember him? The Tigers captain led his team to a 32-8 mark and put up huge numbers in the process but has gone by the wayside a bit. Even if Boyd never becomes a full-time starter, there are systems where his good zip and touch can work and his weaknesses (height, accuracy and consistency, among them) can be minimized. Coaches rave about his intelligence and character, too, making him a great backup candidate. We see him going somewhere between the late fourth round and the early sixth.
PLAYER WHO WILL GO UNDRAFTED BUT SHOULDN’T
Kenny Guiton, Ohio State
Only started three games and attempted 135 passes behind Braxton Miller and Terrelle Pryor at Ohio State but put up great numbers in his limited opportunities. A smart team such as the 49ers or Patriots will snatch him up and have an NFL-caliber talent to groom. The Matt Cassel comparisons already have been made.
Bortles to the Vikings
We think his arm skill, physique and vision make him a good fit in a Norv Turner-led offense. Bortles’ ball security is a point of contention, but Turner helped Philip Rivers make big strides early in his career in this department. Turner also helped quicken Troy Aikman’s footwork back in the early stages in his career, something Bortles must be drilled on. But the talent is there, and he’d be a great fit for the Vikings.
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