Now that we’re a month away from the NFL draft and the free agency period has largely settled in, team needs and their plan of attack going into the draft are starting to take shape. That said, the surefire way to field a competitive team starts with having a franchise quarterback and for the teams out there that don’t have one they’ll be keeping a close eye on this year’s crop. There’s a number of guys that could make a big impact in the NFL from this year’s class and this is how we rank them:
1. Blake Bortles, Central Florida: If the draft was today any team looking for a franchise quarterback would be hard pressed to pass on this kid. He’s 6’5″, he’s a prototypical pocket passer which still suits the pro style best, and his combine results were largely outstanding. The big question mark is whether or not he can put it all together, and of course teams will also be concerned about the lack of competition he faced in college. If he can “get it” between the ears, though, he certainly looks fantastic on paper.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: There’s no question he’s an electric player that will infuse any team’s fan base with excitement. Can his success at the college level translate to the pros, though? We’ve already seen what RGIII could do in year one, a player with somewhat similar skills. We’ve also seen what happens to a quarterback like that once they take numerous hits. Manziel seems like the type of player that would take even more hits than RGIII and the beating he took in college is already concerning. He’s probably the guy that could make the most immediate impact, but is he a sound long term investment?
3. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: He was probably the highest rated passer prior to the combine, but after not throwing there and having a subpar pro day, Bridgewater is now surrounded by the unknown. The fact remains he was highly rated coming into the process for a reason, and while he didn’t pass the last part of the information gathering process with flying colors he’s clearly still a capable prospect that may very well turn out to be the best of the class.
4. Derek Carr, Fresno State: Most view the quarterback prospects as a three horse race at the top with Carr a consensus fourth best, but don’t be surprised if he is the third taken and shoots up to the first half of the first round. Some feel he is the best pure passer of the bunch.
5. Zach Mettenberger, LSU: Like Bortles he has the size and arm strength you just can’t ignore. While he’s recovering from a significant ACL injury, he doesn’t rely on his speed (or lack thereof) at all so most teams believe he can bounce back. Most significant with Mettenberger is the improvements he made from his junior to senior year which all scouts took notice of. Without the injury he was almost assuredly a 1st round pick. He likely won’t play in 2014 but he’s a project that could possibly start as soon as 2015 and make an impact.
6. Jimmy Garopollo, Eastern Illinois: His stats speak for themselves. Like Bortles he didn’t face elite competition but it’s hard to ignore the numbers he put up. He’s also a high character player with an above average football IQ.
7. Tom Savage, Pitt: He’s shooting up boards thanks to a pretty solid season at Pitt and a size/game that translates well to the next level. The only issue with him is there is very little tape to go on. He only played last season and while he did well, some teams may be afraid to invest too high of a pick with the lack of information available.
8. A. J. McCarron, Alabama: This may be lower than some expected, but McCarron won a lot of games at Alabama managing the best talent that college football has to offer around him. It’s not clear how well he would have performed in any other environment. Don’t be surprised to see him fall much further than most expected. Most NFL teams know what they will get out of McCarron, which is a decent player and very solid game manager, but once you get to the 4th round many teams will select potential with a high ceiling (and a much lower floor) over that.
9. Aaron Murray, Georgia: Like Mettenberger he’s recovering from an ACL surgery. Unlike Mettenberger he doesn’t have the arm strength and size to make a high investment as likely. All that said Murray is a winner and he has repeatedly shown that even with a poor defense he can win games all by himself.
10. Tajh Boyd, Clemson: Before the season started many thought Boyd could be the first overall pick. While things didn’t play out like he had hoped, statistically his 2013 season was about the same as 2012. The guy is a decorated college player and while some will be scared away by his height he’s still a guy that could make an impact in the league.