This would normally be what I call "way too early". Not too early for the Bucs to start taking a look at college QB’s (I imagine Shelton Quarles is busy), but too early because we still have 2/3rd of a college football season left to play and an entire post-season set of workouts (Combine, Senior Bowl, private workouts). So rankings are subject to large change.
Up front the overall strength of this class could end up being anywhere from incredibly strong with 4 or perhaps 5 first round QB’s to perhaps very weak. The big differential will be the development of the QBs and most importantly how many underclassmen declare. Here is my rundown along with my rankings I show "where they would go now". This is essentially my view of their consensus value. Also no need to worry about whether or not they fit our current offensive scheme as I consider it likely a new coach and OC will be in charge of mentoring our potential 1st round pick next season.
1. Teddy Bridgewater 6’3" 196 Jr(RS) Louisville
1st Overall Pick
If a QB hungry team selects first, Bridgewater is a no brainer. John Elway or Andrew Luck coming out he’s not, but he’s pretty close. Bridgewater has a strong arm combined with tremendous precision on his intermediate and deep balls. He’s also improving on his short passing, showing he doesn’t need to pump everything in there like a fastball. There is still some work for Bridgewater to do, but he’s made strides in his read progression and pretty steadily can make it to his second or third read. His only real negative is the slight frame which could stand to be built out but I love the fact he’s improved every season.
So far he’s gone from completing 64.5% to 68.5% and this season is over 70%. Bridgewater will probably remain on top, barring injury; he’s that good. He’s NFL ready right now and while I wouldn’t say he’s Andrew Luck where I think he’s 50/50 to be one of the league’s top 5 QB’s in 5 seasons, I feel very confident saying he’ll be in the 6-12 range with Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, etc.. In short: if you have the chance to take him, think long and hard before passing. He’s a pretty sure bet to be just sub-elite and a guy who you can build a Super Bowl winner around.
2. Brett Hundley 6’3" 222lbs So(RS) UCLA
Brett has a limited sample size of games to evaluate and had some issues with ball security as a redshirt freshman last season but showed a really impressive skill set. If he comes out he’s unlikely to be instantly NFL ready and an offensive coordinator is going to need to mix in some read option and simple bubble screens to help Hundley initially. However, long term, Hundley has the top ceiling in this draft in terms of arm strength and mobility.
That’s not to say he’s strictly an athlete playing QB: he’s a legitimate signal caller with tremendous leadership skills and has shown that he can go through his downfield progression. His problem is actually much closer to the line on the presnap reads. Hundley fumbled 11 times as a freshman and does not pickup the blitz well at the line right now. He does throw exceptionally well and can fit the ball into tight spots that most others would not even try. Even with all that natural throwing ability Hundley doesn’t unnecessarily gamble throwing just 11 interceptions as a freshman in 479 attempts.
There is all kinds of talent with Hundley and I’m going to need to continue to see progress to continue to hold him in such a high regard; but his game against Nebraska was a statement game for me. The Bruins had just lost a teammate to an auto-accident and came out flat, Nebraska jumped on top early, only to see Hundley go the bench and rally his troops, keep his men’s heads up and lead by example. His QB skills will still need revision but I know he can lead a team and that’s huge.
3. Aaron Murray 6’1" 208lbs Sr. Georgia
Aaron Murray I have higher than most people do, but I’m either hopeful everyone else will come around, or of course always fine to go it on my own. The big negative on Murray is actually going to be arm strength: the Tampa native has adequate but not ideal arm strength. On intermediate and short routes Murray can put really quality zip on the ball even while on the move, but for deep balls Murray needs space and to be able to step into the throw. He has above average though not elite mobility but can change his delivery point and release techniques. As mentioned above he also does a very good job of throwing on the move.
Murray is a good leader at well and very experienced having started all four years under center for the Bulldogs when he comes out. Murray’s got experience working both under center and in the shotgun and outside of Bridgewater figures to be the most pro-ready QB out there. Let’s also not forget he’s one slipping receiver away from having led Georgia to a BCS Title Game appearance last season (not to mention an SEC Title) despite Alabama’s clear superiority in terms of talent. He’s another one that’s improved (almost) every season in Georgia only experiencing the dreaded sophomore slump before putting together a great junior year.
4. Stephen Morris 6’2" 218lbs Sr. Miami(FL)
Morris is a conundrum and I have a feeling a good deal of his value will be tied to his off-season performance. The talent level around Morris at Miami, particularly at WR, has been pretty shoddy during his time there so his evaluation is going to require a good deal of projection. Arm strength is a big check. He’s probably got a slightly stronger arm than Hundley and will bring the biggest arm into this draft. Morris also throws a nice deep ball and his deep out looks like an NFL throw. Read progression is very inconsistent though as is his footwork. Right now I would place Morris in round 2 because he’s more of a project QB than someone who is ready to start on day 1. He could be developed but as of this moment, he strikes me as someone whose pro career will be based on which team lands him.
5. Johnny Manziel 5’11" 200lbs So(RS) Texas A&M
This will be the most hotly debated QB evaluation if Manziel, as expected, declares for the 2014 draft. I have next to no doubts Johnny Football will be in the NFL next year and while the consensus is not there (why I wrote none) I have no doubts he’s going in round 1 at this point. His playmaking ability is just too intriguing and someone is going to fall in love with the diminutive QB with Texas sized swagger. Manziel is a modern day Broadway Joe. He acts, plays and lives big.
That said the really big issue for me is not necessarily the height or the read progression skills which need work, but will he be willing to put the work in at NFL level to be successful? Can I count on him to be the first guy in the building and the last one to leave? I don’t know, but I’d be doing more than a little kick on the tires with Manziel because he plays pretty wild at times and could bomb spectacularly. I wouldn’t be a buyer in round 1 but in round 2…maybe. In round 3, yes. He’s going to be either a spectacular pro or a spectacular bust. I wouldn’t want to stake my career on it if I’m a GM but as a fan he’d be interesting to watch. FYI…the Browns have scouted Manziel multiple times already.
6. Marcus Mariota 6’4" 211lbs So(RS) Oregon
Mariota either needs a really strong final 8 games or he needs to stay at Oregon another season. He has intelligence, arm strength, and is improving. However, right now, I wouldn’t want to see him in a pro offense. He’s working in a read option system right now and would need a major retooling in order to succeed. The raw skills are there but I really hope he develops further before testing the NFL waters.
7. A.J. McCarron 6’4" 214lbs SR Alabama
Its hard to place McCarron 7th on this list because I could see him going late round 1 or early round 2 and wouldn’t call it a reach. He’s a "what you see is what you get" kind of QB, though, and as such won’t offer much upside to an NFL team. He’s going to attract a good deal of attention because of his leadership and read progression ability but he hasn’t shown tremendous precision and does not have a strong arm. McCarron is going to be an NFL game manager as a QB and that’s not an insult. He strikes me as an Andy Dalton type. You can win and win a Super Bowl with McCarron but you’ll need an elite team around him because he has barely average mobility and decent progression skills but he really lacks the physical tools to scare a defense.
8. Jimmy Garoppolo 6’2" 222lbs SR E. Illinois(FCS)
Don’t be surprised if Garoppolo is a name you forget about till the post season gets here. He’s my deep watch candidate at the moment as Garoppolo has some real touch and accuracy on his passing while firing off a high volume of passes. He’s not doing it in a single read offense either: he’s making quality decisions and placing the ball where it needs to go. I probably have him high right now, but having watched a couple replays I’m feeling pretty good about his NFL chances.
9. Derek Carr 6’3" 215lbs SR Fresno St.
Yes that Carr’s little brother. Don’t blink now, but the strong armed gunslinger is actually putting together some nice games and has improved in terms of accuracy, precision and read progression so far. That he has a big arm is an understatement. He’s still not totally mobile or NFL ready and likely more of a project, but expect him to rise up draft boards if a good many of the juniors and sophomores decide to stay put.
10. Tajh Boyd 6’1" 225lbs SR Clemson
This is not a knock on Boyd. OK, it is, but it's not personal. Boyd is an athlete playing QB to me and not actually a QB. His accuracy numbers look impressive but every time I see Clemson I’m seeing a good many passes behind the line and in the short crossing route area. Having Sammy Watkins helps. What I’m certainly not seeing is the ability to read the secondary or any touch on the ball. Boyd has a big arm but doesn’t always control it well, his footwork is somewhere between bad and intentionally bad, his accuracy is largely scheme driven and he’s more of a system QB than a pro prospect to me. I had him higher last season and I was wrong.
Zack Mettenberger 6’5" 235lbs SR LSU – Better than last year but I’m not impressed yet.
Jeff Matthews 6’3" 224lbs SR Cornell(FCS) – I’ve had Matthews higher but I have some concerns about durability in addition to the level of competition. Nice arm and accuracy. Probably will get a roster spot at least on a practice squad.
David Fales 6’2" 220lbs SR San Jose St. – Going downhill fast. The accuracy that was there for the weak armed Fales has suddenly fallen apart. His receivers have not helped, but he looks like he’s taken a step backwards.
Chuckie Keeton 6’2" 210lbs JR Utah St. – I’m curious now but haven’t caught more than highlights and need to see him more.
Blake Bortles 6’3" 227lbs JR UCF – I’ve only seen one of his games while I was looking specifically at him, but the footwork was really inconsistent and while he showed some physical talent I’m not ready to move him up.
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