In 2013, the Safety class seemed to cause quite a bit of...
2014 NFL Draft – Quarterback Class Pre-Season Preview
After a somewhat “unsexy” 2013 draft class, the 2014 QB class will surely catch the eyes of all fans come April 2014.
The 2013 QB class was much maligned in the weeks and months before the draft and rightly so. Using our RAP system, the top 5 graded QBs had an average RAP of 78.6 (Bray, G Smith, Glennon, Manuel & Scott) and the first five QBs selected in the draft had an even lower average RAP of 73.6 (Manuel, G Smith, Glennon, Barkley & Nassib).
Compare that to the 2014 grades for Quarterbacks, where the top 5 averaged a (pre-season) RAP of 94.1! That indicates a really strong top-end to next year’s QB class.
Let’s take a look at the top players heading into the year.
* Denotes underclassmen
1. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama – RAP (105.8)
Player Comparison – Eli Manning
In the NFL, winning is everything and in College Football there is no bigger winner than A.J. McCarron. Entering his Senior season, McCarron already boasts Two BCS Championship rings! It seems though that other draft niks look to play down his accomplishments and put it down to him having a great supporting cast. While he did/ does have an amazing supporting cast, that would make Alabama a contender regardless. McCarron is the player that has put Alabama over the top to win the two past national championships.
Behind a very strong running game at Bama, McCarron didn’t need to carry the entire game, but in the moments when Bama needed him be came through in a big way. When the running game stuttered against LSU in the first BCS championship win, an MVP worthy performance from A.J. carried the Tide to victory. When Bama needed a game-winning drive vs LSU in the regular season, McCarron delivered that win for Alabama.
It seemed as though the brighter the lights, the better he played, some guys are just wired like that and when you find that trait in a QB, you simply cannot ignore it. Like Eli Manning he is the type of Quarterback that will likely end up with more Superbowl MVPs than regular season MVPs. He probably won’t lead the league in passing, but he may lead the league in 4th Quarter comebacks. It’s just the type of player you will deal with.
Get a solid supporting cast around him and McCarron will deliver in the moments you need him to. McCarron is on another level in comparison to previous Bama QBs John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy in terms of Arm talent and overall tangible and intangible ability, so chuck away that “system QB” criticism.
If i was in an NFL war room I would bang the table for McCarron as a top 10 pick, as he is a guy i would really want on my team and even more so hate to see on an opposing side, especially with the game on the line.
2. Teddy Bridgewater*, QB, Louisville - RAP (103.6)
Player Comparison – Robert Griffin III
Heading into his Junior season, Bridgewater has the world at his feet. Coming off a Sugar Bowl victory to end his Sophomore campaign, Bridgewater enters his Junior season full of confidence. Following this season it looks likely he will head to the NFL, with teams clamoring to get their hands on him.
Bridgewater is incredibly similar to RG3, when he came out of Baylor in 2012. As with RG3, Bridgewater is also very mobile and can make a multitude of people miss, if required. The production is there as is the accurate and powerful arm, that allows him to beat you from the pocket.
The hot button topic with RG3 is the durability question, and that same question mark will be put alongside Bridgewater’s name. At only 220 pounds he will get knocked around at the NFL level if he continues to run a lot. The standard of competition in the Big East will also be a slight red flag, but I would dismiss that concern after the Sugar Bowl victory over Florida. He looks like a great leader as well for the Cardinals and he will be carrying them on his back again this year.
If Bridgewater was to enter the NFL right now, he would be a top 10 pick. I love his upside and can see him being a Pro Bowl caliber QB in the NFL, unless anything drastic happens to him in his Junior season.
Over this next year, I would like to see Bridgewater improve his decision making a touch and his deep accuracy. If he can shore those areas up a little bit, there is no doubt he will be gone very early in the 2014 draft.
3. David Fales, QB, San Jose State – RAP (90.3)
Player Comparison – Alex Smith
While a comparison to Alex Smith may not seem that fair in terms of talent, when it comes to style of play, the comparison fits. While there is a bit of a drop-off in talent terms from the top 2, David Fales, a pro-style QB with good feet and a good arm, has all the tools to be a first round pick.
He bounced around from Nevada to JUCO before finding his way to San Jose State. He only has one year of production at the NCAA level but looked very impressive during that time.
He’s sneaky athletic and can make first downs running the ball as Alex Smith can, but i doubt you will see too much read-option type stuff out of him at the NFL level.
Fales just needs to continue what he’s been doing and continuing to play well against the bigger schools and he should be a first round pick next year.
4. Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina - RAP (87.8)
Player Comparison – Andy Dalton
Renner is the epitome of a Solid, Steady Quarterback. In the spread system at North Carolina, Renner orchestrated that offense exceptionally well making solid decisions and completing the throws on short routes that the spread demands.
He does well in the pocket adjusting to rushers and rarely picks up sacks.
One area of weakness is arm strength. On tape, the balls don’t zip to their target and it “seems” at this point he struggles to get the ball down the field.
He compares favorably to Andy Dalton, as we have a second round grade on Brenner and he looks set to be an Below Average to Average starting NFL QB.
5. Stephen Morris, QB, Miami - RAP (83.6)
Player Comparison – Dominique Davis
Stephen Morris has a ridiculous amount of upside. If these rankings were for who threw the prettiest ball, Morris would be 1st. He can absolutely sling it.
Why isn’t he higher? Well he is lacking in a couple of areas namely decision making and accuracy. Two things you never want to be lacking in as a QB.
Another year in college should do Morris a world of good and I have faith that he can develop his weaknesses and become a high draft pick in 2014.
6. Tajh Boyd*, QB, Clemson – RAP (80.3)
Player Comparison – Jake Locker
Boyd along with Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas are probably the two QBs with the most to gain this upcoming season. Boyd is a good not great athlete, with a developing skill set. His accuracy isn’t where it needs to be and the lack of a clear read progression ability (due to the scheme) make it difficult to project his future production. If he can display an improvement in both of these areas he may be able to get close to first round consideration, but he’s not there at the moment.
I’ve compared him to Jake Locker as i see a lot of similar characteristics in their respective games. Both seem to have “happy feet” and move around too much causing deficiencies in accuracy. Both aren’t particularly accurate but both had good statistical seasons in college, primarily due to the system in place.
Locker hasn’t particularly panned out thus far in Tennessee, but Boyd may have better success with a better supporting cast.
Right now, Boyd looks like a borderline NFL starter and would probably be projected in the mid to late second round range.
7. Johnny “Football” Manziel*, QB, Texas A&M - RAP (78.3)
Player comparison – Russell Wilson
The 2012 Heismann Winner set the SEC alight with his “backyard football” style of play. He tore the BCS Champion Alabama Crimson Tide apart during the regular season and would have made A&M more of a contender, if weren’t for a slow start to the year. Although Johnny Football is only entering his Sophomore season, he will be eligible for the 2014 draft due to his redshirt year.
His antics in the off-season have really troubled me and his grade has dropped as a result by nearly 12 points. His grade is one to keep an eye on in 2014. If he continues down the path hes on and plays poorly, it could drop significantly.
On the other hand if he becomes mature and a better leader, he has the chance to get his grade up towards the 90 mark in the RAP system.
8. Jeff Matthews, QB, Cornell - RAP (73.3)
Player Comparison – Matt Ryan
Jeff Matthews is an incredibly intriguing prospect. He has the looks of an NFL QB, even a poor mans Matt Ryan, and on tape he displays some of the things you’re looking for as a scout with solid accuracy and decisive decision making.
The two main criticisms will be the Ivy league level of competition and his stats that aren’t overly impressive/ dominant as you would demand from such a low level of competition. As a result, I would imagine it would be difficult for Matthews to be anything more than a mid-round pick, unless he steps up his game significantly.
9. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia - RAP (72.5)
Player Comparison – Christian Ponder
For a four year starter at one of the SEC powerhouse schools, Aaron Murray still has a lot of questions surrounding his status in the 2014 draft.
He is light for the position and long term durability concerns will naturally be there.
He’s a relatively consistent thrower, can just about make all the throws and is generally accurate. Murray’s problem has been the big game performances. He showed signs of that trend going away with a solid performance in the SEC championship game, so a few more performance like that may send the “can’t win the big game” tag away.
10. Keith Price, QB, Washington - RAP (68.7)
Player Comparison – Tyrod Taylor
Keith Price had a somewhat disappointing Junior campaign, after an electric Sophomore year and has disappeared off the maps of many scouts.
For me, Price continued to show that he is a draft able prospect (Currently I have him as a 5th) with room to improve. Although he is on the shorter side, his mobility really negates that criticism.
He has a live arm and can sling it all over the field, although his accuracy on deep routes isn’t where it needs to be. His footwork is also a little undeveloped and will need to improve at the NFL level.
11. Tyler Russell, QB, Mississippi State - RAP (61.4)
Player Comparison – Ryan Tannehill
The first game I watched of Tyler Russell, was the bowl game vs Northwestern last season. It wasn’t a good impression as he threw 3 picks in the 1st half. Not really the recipe for a draft-able prospect, but Russell does show some signs of promise.
His main areas of weakness are his pocket presence and decision making. At times he seems to lack confidence in his own arm. He has the power to let one loose deep, but he doesn’t have the zip on short and intermediate routes, I put that down to confidence in his own ability rather than simply he doesn’t have the arm power.
His accuracy can be a bit wild, but he doesn’t help himself by trying to fit the ball into tight windows.
There was quite a bit of projecting going on with this guy, so I will need to see some development over the coming year to ensure the grade stays this high, next spring.
12. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech - RAP (60.5)
Player Comparison – Cam Newton
Starting on a positive note with Thomas is easy. He is simply the most physically gifted Quarterback in this draft. So what’s holding him back?
To start with a 51% completion percentage last year, doesn’t really dazzle too many people. His accuracy is below average against the others and that does need to improve, but it’s his decision making that really got him into a world of trouble last year.
If Thomas, can begin to make better decisions when 1. deciding to tuck and run and 2. where to throw the ball, his grade could really increase significantly. And if other pieces of his game Accuracy and Leadership shine through this season, there is a chance he could get himself back into first round status.
Out of anybody in College football this year, I truly believe Logan Thomas has the most to gain.
13. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State - RAP (52.5)
Player Comparison – Case Keenum
I entered the Derek Carr evaluation full off optimism, mainly off looking at his gaudy 37-7 TD to Interception ratio last year, but I came away very underwhelmed.
I am not a fan of his footwork, he throws off his back foot too much and when you’re operating out of a shotgun spread attack, there is little excuse for making those kind of off-balance throws.
When faced with pressure, he often “panicks” to a degree and either takes an easy sack or tries to escape the pocket and make risky passes, that in truth he should have been punished more on.
He doesn’t have the biggest arm and isn’t the most mobile.
Unfortunately, Carr received the first undrafted grade. Given his skills I’m not sure how much his grade can improve based off what I have already seen.
14. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU - RAP (45.0)
Player Comparison – Ryan Mallett
Mettenberger, who started out at Georgia University has had a tumultuous time during his college days.
He was kicked off the Georgia team, after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual battery. He eventually ended up at LSU and started for the Tigers last season.
I don’t know the guy, but he seems to have a lackadaisical attitude and could be considered a bit of a “jerk”. Not really the type of impression you want your Quarterback to be portraying.
Anyway, putting off the field stuff to one side, Mettenberger doesn’t dazzle me on the field either.
Mettenberger is your “stand still” quarterback as he offers little danger with his mobility. Both his accuracy and decision making were off last season, despite playing with a talented supporting cast.
To become a draftable prospect in my eyes, a lot of things need to change over the course of Mettenberger’s final season.
Other Notable QB’s to look for:-
- Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan.
- Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State.
- Casey Pachall, QB, TCU.
- Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA.
- Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon.