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Draft top 5: Quarterbacks

Who tops Greg Gabriel's list in this class? Greg Gabriel

Print This April 15, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

The conventional thinking among many draft analysts the last few months was that three of four quarterbacks would be drafted in the top 10 of this year’s draft. With Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland all having a strong need and all picking in the top 10, many agreed with that theory.

I’ve been saying and writing for months that the quarterback position as a whole may be the most overrated position in the draft. It’s not that they don’t have talent, they do, but none of them have top 10 talent. There are much better players available other than quarterback when you are picking that high this year.

When you look at the lack of success of the quarterbacks drafted in the first round the last decade, you further see the foolishness of selecting a quarterback that high. It is my belief that the clubs needing quarterbacks this year will either try to trade down and select a quarterback lower or wait for their second pick to take one. This allows clubs to take the quarterback at a spot much closer to their value.

Three of the four clubs drafting high that have a quarterback need, all drafted a quarterback in recent years and all these players have failed. I can’t see them making the same mistake twice. The following are my top five quarterbacks in this year’s class. After watching a minimum of six tapes on each player, my rankings are a little different than the conventional thinking in the draft analyst community.

1) Derek Carr – Fresno

Carr is the most NFL ready quarterback in this class. While he played in an up-tempo spread offense at Fresno, he showed at the Senior Bowl that he could play from under center in an NFL-style scheme.
At 6023 – 214, Carr has good NFL size. He has the foot speed and quickness to move around in the pocket and create plays with his feet. He has very good arm strength, throws a tight ball, and his short and deep accuracy is as good as any in the draft.

Those critical of Carr, don’t feel he handles pressure well. While I agree that happened in the USC game, I also feel that it was a Fresno problem not a Carr problem. USC was the far superior team that day.
More than any other quarterback in this draft Carr has the “it” factor that is needed to succeed in the NFL. He is a strong leader with a strong passion for the game and has already overcome adversity in his life. I have less concern about his game compared to the other four quarterbacks. He has the talent and desire to lead his team to the playoffs on a consistent basis.

2) Johnny Manziel - Texas A&M

Manziel is different than any other quarterback in this draft. He lacks size at 5116 – 212, but he is very athletic and has, maybe, the strongest arm. He can ad-lib and create with a high level of efficiency.

There are questions about his maturity and leadership, and rightfully so. People I have talked to close to the program tell me that he has grown as a leader and a worker in the last year. At 21 years old, he is still going to party, but what clubs want to know is if he will be 100% football once he signs a contract. None of us has the answer to that question.

The club that drafts Manziel has to be creative. If they think that he is going to be a conventional drop back NFL passer a good percentage of the time, they are mistaken. He has some special qualities within him and needs to be used much like Seattle uses Russell Wilson. He can be much more successful if he is allowed to rollout, run boots, and play form a moving pocket. Will he be able to play from an NFL-style offense? Yes, but not 100% of the time. His new team has to design an offense to fit Manziel’s strengths.

3) Teddy Bridgewater – Louisville

After the first few games in the 2013 college season, most in the media were writing that Bridgewater was going to be the first pick in the draft. The problem with the media writing things like that is they are writers, not professional football evaluators. When you study the tape, there is much to be concerned with in Bridgewater’s game.

He has a strong arm and throws a nice tight ball, but he lacks accuracy and anticipation. Evaluators want to see a quarterback make a throw before his receivers cut. Bridgewater seldom does that. Too often you see his receiver waiting on the ball. While he can get away with that in college, it won’t happen in the NFL.

Another thing that is a huge concern is his accuracy on deeper throws. There are a number of throws on tape over 20 yards where he isn’t close to completing the pass. The last thing that concerns me is that while he started off the 2013 season very strong, his play leveled off. It wasn’t until their bowl game that he came back with a consistent performance.

I feel Bridgewater is still a work in progress. I agree that he is talented, but he is not ready to step in and lead a team as a rookie. 

4. Blake Bortles – Central Florida

Until November, not many in the NFL were even thinking about Bortles entering the draft. Analysts for ESPN all of a sudden started saying he was a top five pick. While many draft analysts have jumped on the bandwagon, I’m still waiting for NFL people to publicly say what a great prospect Bortles is.

I’m on record as saying that Bortles would have been better served if he had stayed in school another year. I have not changed my mind about that. While he does have talent, he is not ready to make the jump to the NFL.

He has great size (6050 – 232), but he is not the athlete people thought he was. His 40 time was only 4.93 and his jumps were slightly above average. He did show quickness and body control with the agility drills.
Bortles has a good, not great, arm, and his delivery quickness is average. Like Bridgewater, he does not have top anticipation with his throws. On many throws, he waits for the receiver to make his cut before he throws the ball. I question his overall decision making. I have seen far too many instances when he throws into coverage and comes away lucky that the ball wasn’t intercepted. In the second quarter of the Baylor game, he threw two interceptions and very easily could have had two others. Also, like Bridgewater, his deep accuracy is average at best.

I feel Bortles has a chance to become an adequate NFL quarterback. I doubt he will ever be a Pro Bowl type player. He still is a long ways away from being ready to step in and start. He needs a lot of developing. If he can play behind a good veteran for a year, it will do him wonders.

5) A.J. McCarron – Alabama

After Carr, I feel McCarron is the next “best ready” to make the jump to the NFL. While he may not have some of the natural physical traits of some of the other four, he is an outstanding leader and decision maker.

Some critics will say he is the product of a strong Alabama team, but I don’t buy that. While he has always had excellent lines and running backs, his receivers have been adequate.

McCarron has strong football character. The game is very important to him, and he wants to be a great player. His work ethic is second to none in this class. He has played in an NFL-style offense and performed for perhaps the highest profile school in college football. He has won two national championships and been highly productive year after year.

From a technical viewpoint, he has a good enough arm, with a quick release and very good accuracy and ball placement. He has a strong feel for pass rushers and is a good enough athlete to keep plays alive with his feet.

In short, he will be a winning NFL quarterback for years to come.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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