2014 NFL Draft Position Review: Quarterbacks

Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2014 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2014 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
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This page was last updated April 25, 2014. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Position Review: Quarterbacks

Quarterback Class
Early-round talent: B+
Mid-round: B+
Late-round: B
Overall grade: B+

2014 prospects vs 2013
Blake Bortles > E.J. Manuel
Johnny Manziel > Geno Smith
Derek Carr > Mike Glennon
Teddy Bridgewater > Matt Barkley
Jimmy Garoppolo > Ryan Nassib
Zach Mettenberger > Tyler Wilson
A.J. McCarron > Landry Jones
Tom Savage > Brad Sorensen

The 2012 class was a banner year for quarterbacks. It looked great before the 2012 NFL Draft and has even gone beyond the high billing after the classes’ first two seasons in the NFL. The 2013 class was ugly in comparison, and unfortunately for the 2014 prospects, the 2012 class is fresh in the minds of evaluators with third-round pick Russell Wilson winning the Super Bowl in his only his second season. However, the 2014 class is an improvement over the weak 2013 group.

If you were to merge the two classes together, Manuel would be about equal to Bridgewater. Smith would be next, just ahead of Garoppolo. Glennon would go between McCarron and Savage. Barkley, Nassib, Wilson, Jones and Sorensen would all go behind Savage.

The 2014 NFL Draft also features some other potential diamonds in the rough who could be selected on on Day 2 or the mid-rounds. That group includes Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Wyoming’s Brett Smith, Georgia’s Aaron Murray, San Jose State’s David Fales and North Carolina’s Bryn Renner – among others.



Safest Pick: Derek Carr, Fresno State
Overall, Carr is the best pure passer in the 2014 NFL Draft. That isn’t just my opinion. I’ve heard that from NFL general managers, scouting directors, offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches. Carr is a polished passer with good accuracy, arm strength, field vision, decision making, intelligence and intangibles. He grew up at NFL facilities hanging around his older brother David Carr. It was phenomenal preparation for what Derek Carr is about to embark on, and he is the safest pick with the least amount of flaws of any quarterback prospect this year.

Biggest Bust Potential: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Can you really pick anyone else? Manziel has a number of flaws that could end up leading him to being a bust. He is undersized (5-11, 207) and needs to develop his field vision. Manziel has to change his game to run less because he probably will get injured if he doesn’t. Manziel needs a lot of work in reading defenses and becoming a pocket passer. Sources have said that whichever team drafts him will have to change its offense for him and become a mostly shotgun offense. Limitations never help to score points against NFL defenses.

Off the field, sources have said that the Texas A&M staff questioned his maturity in conversations with NFL teams, and these sources don’t know how well Manziel is going to handle the money and celebrity life style. They feel he could get distracted or possibly get into trouble.

There are a variety of ways that could lead to Manziel going bust. That being said, he also could be a boom pick. Manziel is a boom-or-bust prospect for the ages, and there may not be much middle ground.



Quarterback Rankings by Attributes


Accuracy:
NFL prototype: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
  1. Teddy Bridgewater
  2. Derek Carr
  3. Blake Bortles
  4. Johnny Manziel
  5. Jimmy Garoppolo
  6. A.J. McCarron
  7. Zach Mettenberger
  8. Tom Savage


Recap: The most important characteristic for any quarterback in the NFL is accuracy. Not only do accurate quarterbacks reduce turnovers and maintain time of possession, they increase the opportunities for skill-position players to have a bigger impact. Thus, accurate signal-callers will give teams more return on their dollars with high-priced wide receivers.

I’m torn on who to pick between Bridgewater and Carr. Both of them are accurate passers who can make some brilliant throws downfield. Each one has developed ball placement and throws a catchable ball. Over the last two seasons, Bridgewater had completion percentages of 71 and 69 percent. Carr recorded 69 and 63 percent during the same period. Both of them are accurate, but I give a narrow edge to Bridgewater.

Bortles really improved his accuracy in college, and it looks even better now that he improved his feet this offseason in workouts with Jordan Palmer. During his career, Bortles had his placement off at times, but he made strides. Accuracy potential is part of Bortles’ big upside.

Manziel had good completion percentages of 70 and 68 percent during the last two years, but his offense inflated that. Plus, he had a 6-foot-5 receiver who towered over most college defensive backs. Manziel needs to improve his accuracy for the NFL, but he made some throws that were jaw dropping.

Garoppolo has a lightning release and good mechanics, but his accuracy still has room for improvement. He completed 66 percent of his passes in 2013, but a lot of those were quick throws.

McCarron completed 67 percent of his throws the past two seasons, but that number is deceiving; he needs to improve his accuracy. McCarron attempted significantlt fewer passes than typical quarterbacks. He had a lot of wide open receivers because of his offense. McCarron also rarely made many throws into tight windows. When he saw pressure his accuracy struggled as well, but his great offensive lines helped disguise this flaw.

Between his junior and senior season, Mettenberger made a huge improvement as he went from 58 to 65 percent under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Mettenberger still has room to develop. Savage completed 61 percent of his passes last year and needs to improve for the NFL.

Arm Strength:
NFL prototype: Joe Flacco, Ravens
  1. Zach Mettenberger
  2. Tom Savage
  3. Johnny Manziel
  4. Derek Carr
  5. Jimmy Garoppolo
  6. Blake Bortles
  7. Teddy Bridgewater
  8. A.J. McCarron


Recap: The quarterback with the strongest arm in this draft class is Logan Thomas, and you could argue that Tajh Boyd has a better arm than any of the group above. Of this group, Mettenberger and Savage can clearly spin the ball better than the others. I give the edge to Mettenberger, but he’s pretty equal with Savage.

Manziel has a stronger arm than most realize. He can fire a fastball when he needs to. At his pro day, sources said that Manziel showed nice zip on his passes, and his arm strength improved over the past couple of seasons.

Carr and Garoppolo both have good arms. They can make all the NFL throws. At the Senior Bowl, they showed the arm strength to have their passes cut through the wind and hit receivers downfield. Both of them are above average.

Bortles and Bridgewater have above-average arms, but those aren’t particularly strong arms. Given Bortles’ size, many think he has a stronger arm than he actually does. His ball can flutter when he throws downfield. Still, Bortles and Bridgewater have enough to make all the throws needed in the NFL.

The only player in the eight above who lacks arm strength is McCarron. He doesn’t have the gun to fit passes into tight windows like the players above, or even an average NFL starter. His arm strength won’t be enough to beat pro defensive backs.



Field Vision:
NFL prototype: Peyton Manning, Broncos
  1. Teddy Bridgewater
  2. Derek Carr
  3. Blake Bortles
  4. Zach Mettenberger
  5. A.J. McCarron
  6. Jimmy Garoppolo
  7. Tom Savage
  8. Johnny Manziel


Recap: Field vision is one characteristic that separates the elite quarterbacks of the NFL. Quarterbacks who throw a lot of interceptions are inclined to lock onto their primary read and stare down receivers. Signal-callers with good field vision can quickly work through their progressions and see more than receiver on a route. They also can help get wide outs open by looking off safeties and playing games with their eyes. Many college quarterbacks enter the NFL with subpar field vision and have to improve this at the next level.

This was a tough call as Bridgewater and Carr both have excellent field vision entering the NFL. Both of them are advanced at reading defenses and working through their progressions to find the open receivers. Bridgewater and Carr also have shown the ability to look off safeties. The reason that Bridgewater is ranked first is because he stays patient in the pocket and delivers the ball well while under duress. Carr can get flustered under pressure.

Bortles shows the potential for good field vision. He improved as a junior and should only get better. Bortles hangs tough under pressure as well. Ditto for Mettenberger.

Even though McCarron didn’t get as many attempts, he showed a nice ability to stand tall in the pocket and work through his progressions. He has good patience to let his receivers work themselves open downfield.

Garoppolo needs to improve his field vision as his college offense was such a quick-throw style. He showed field vision potential at the all-star games, but he has to develop for the NFL. Savage also lacks experience and needs development.

Manziel needs a lot of improvement. He showed progress in 2013, but during his career, he would usually take off and run when his first option was covered. Manziel didn’t have a lot of complex plays called where he would drop back, survey many options and fire the ball to an open receiver. His offense was much more simplistic. Plus, Manziel would unnecessarily scramble and run at times when he had open receivers downfield who he just didn’t see. Field vision is a big point of emphasis for Manziel.

Decision-Making:
NFL prototype: QB Tom Brady, Patriots
  1. Teddy Bridgewater
  2. Derek Carr
  3. Blake Bortles
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Jimmy Garoppolo
  6. Zach Mettenberger
  7. Johnny Manziel
  8. Tom Savage


Recap: This was a tough one; Bridgewater, Carr, Bortles and McCarron were all pretty comparable. Bridgewater won out because he threw the ball in some tight windows and did a nice job of avoiding interceptions. Carr threw only eight interceptions as a senior despite a ton of attempts.

Bortles and McCarron both were adept at avoiding turnovers. Even though he needs development, Bortles has a real strength with his decision-making. McCarron is a good game-manager and protects the football.

Garoppolo made good decisions in college, but he faced weak competition. Mettenberger’s decision-making was questionable as a junior, but he made a big jump as a senior.

Manziel is hit or miss. At times, he makes great decisions and takes some smart gambles. Other plays, he’s far too careless with the football. That is part of his gunslinger style, and his team will need to coach him out of his mistakes as much as possible, but it may never really go away. Savage has to improve his decision-making.



Upside:
NFL prototype: Andrew Luck, Colts
  1. Blake Bortles
  2. Tom Savage
  3. Zach Mettenberger
  4. Johnny Manziel
  5. Derek Carr
  6. Jimmy Garoppolo
  7. Teddy Bridgewater
  8. A.J. McCarron


Recap: Numerous sources have stated regularly the quarterback who has the most upside in this draft class is Logan Thomas. However, of the top quarterback prospects it is Bortles – hands down. He has a good skill set with great work habits and intelligence. Bortles has the upside to become a good NFL quarterback.

The upside potential is the reason for Savage to have risen up draft boards during the months following the season. He has a good arm along with good size (6-4, 228). Savage didn’t play a lot in college, so teams feel that once he gets more development and playing time, he could turn into starter.

Mettenberger showed a big jump in his play from his junior to senior season when get got NFL coaching under Cam Cameron. That has caused teams to believe that Mettenberger could have his best football ahead of him.

Manziel has upside if he can develop his pocket-passing ability. If Manziel can become a consistent passer from the pocket, he could be dynamic quarterback.

Athletically, Carr and Garoppolo have some upside, but not as much as the players above.

Numerous sources feel that Bridgewater has limited upside. He has an average to above-average skill set, but athletically, he is pretty much a finished project. Bridgewater isn’t viewed as having a high ceiling. Ditto for McCarron, team contacts feel that McCarron won’t get much better than what he currently is entering the NFL.

Mobility:
NFL prototype: Cam Newton, Panthers
  1. Johnny Manziel
  2. Blake Bortles
  3. Teddy Bridgewater
  4. Jimmy Garoppolo
  5. Derek Carr
  6. Tom Savage
  7. A.J. McCarron
  8. Zach Mettenberger


Recap: Mobility is becoming a more sought after attribute for quarterbacks in the NFL. The league’s top young quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson all have excellent mobility. They aren’t the statues in the pocket like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

Offensive coordinators like to challenge defenses with spread-option plays. Mobility also can help a quarterback to avoid hits and, in turn, avoid injuries if the skill is used wisely. Jon Gruden and Rich Gannon have always maintained that there are a few third downs in every game that a mobile quarterback can provide a first down over other quarterbacks who may have to force a pass into a covered receiver. Having mobility is in demand.

Manziel is the most mobile quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft, and no one else is even close. He is a quick, shifty runner who can destroy defenses with his feet. Over the past two seasons, Manziel ran for over 2,000 yards with 30 touchdowns. His mobility and running ability is truly rare.

Bortles is a mobile quarterback. He is very skilled at moving around defenders and extending plays with his feet. He also can pick up yards.

There is a big drop off after Bortles. Bridgewater, Garoppolo and Carr all move pretty well. They can avoid some sacks and throw on rollouts.

Savage, McCarron and Mettenberger don’t offer mobility for the NFL.

Ball Security:
NFL prototype: Tom Brady, Patriots
  1. Teddy Bridgewater
  2. Derek Carr
  3. A.J. McCarron
  4. Blake Bortles
  5. Jimmy Garoppolo
  6. Zach Mettenberger
  7. Tom Savage
  8. Johnny Manziel


Recap: Obviously, turnovers are killers for offenses in the NFL, and quarterbacks who turn the ball over a lot won’t stay on the field long.

Bridgewater and Carr both have good ball security. They had 12 and 17 interceptions, respectively, over the past two seasons, but both of them threw the ball a lot. Bridgewater and Carr are smart about protecting the football and not making risky throws.

McCarron actually had less interceptions 10 across the past two years, but he didn’t have nearly the attempts of Bridgewater or Carr. McCarron’s ball security was protected by his offense as well. Still, he is a competent game-manager.

Bortles has good ball security. He protects the football and is a good decision-maker. The same holds with Garoppolo. He had nine interceptions as a senior.

Mettenberger needed to improve his ball security as a senior and was able to do that. Savage threw 16 interceptions in his two years as a starter and has room for improvement.

Manziel can be careless with the football at times and make some dumb throws. He also has a fumble risk with the amount of times he runs with the ball.

Intangibles:
NFL prototype: Drew Brees, Saints
  1. Derek Carr
  2. Teddy Bridgewater
  3. Blake Bortles
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Jimmy Garoppolo
  6. Zach Mettenberger
  7. Tom Savage
  8. Johnny Manziel


Recap: The only quarterbacks with questionable intangibles are Savage and Manziel. There are off-the-field maturity questions with Manziel and how he will respond to the money and celebrity status in the NFL. Savage bounced around in college, and some are questioning what that says about his commitment.

There was a lot of talk that Mettenberger was lazy early in his college career and enjoyed being a quarterback at a big school. However, he showed improvement over the last two years. Mettenberger still has some maturity questions around him.

The remaining five all have good intangibles. McCarron was a leader on championship teams. He’s intelligent and hard working. His intangibles are a plus.

Bortles is known as a hard worker who is really smart. He also led a lot of fourth-quarter comebacks. Bortles has the intangibles for him to take advantage of his immense upside.

Bridgewater is known to be a film junkie, intelligent and a good teammate. His intangibles are exemplary.

Carr has great intangibles in that he is a studious hard worker, but also has the unique development of having grown up in NFL facilities. He sat in on quarterback meetings for years and was on the practice fields with his older brother. Derek Carr has a better idea than almost any college quarterback about what is in store for him in the NFL. That experience puts Carr ahead of the other quarterback prospects.




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