Todd McShay grades Bridgewater, Bortles, Manziel and Carr higher than Geno Smith

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Even with the loss of some big names and injuries to strong prospects, McShay gives the 2014 quarterback class positive reviews.

This time last year, Geno Smith was on top of most quarterback rankings and near the top of most mock drafts. He had finished up a stellar season at West Virginia and looked like the top quarterback in an otherwise weak class.

Then he got picked apart. A subpar performance in the Pinstripe Bowl led some to question Smith. The pre-draft process wasn't kind to Smith, either. He skipped the Senior Bowl and was not looked upon positively for it. For a guy who was at the top during the season, Smith took quite a fall when he was picked in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, behind E.J. Manuel.

A year later, the quarterback class looks stronger than it did a year ago. ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay at least thinks it's stronger. On a conference call Thursday, McShay said he has higher grades on Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr than he did on Smith a year ago. McShay cautioned that there is plenty of time left in the process, but it stands to reason he feels good about this class of quarterbacks coming out.

"It's kind of been an interesting ride with these quarterbacks," McShay said. "I thought kind of in the middle or the early middle portion of the season, I thought it was going to be a little bit stronger at the top. I thought Marcus Mariota was headed towards becoming an elite quarterback and thought he was going to wind up coming out."

McShay added that losing Murray and Mettenberger also hurt the class. He thinks Mettenberger was the most improved quarterback in this class before going down with an injury.

As for the underclassmen, McShay thinks Mariota made the right decision returning to school and thinks that Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley should follow Mariota's lead and go back for another year in college.

"Both of those guys need to go back to school," McShay said. "They're not ready for the NFL. The both have great natural  physical tools, but they're just not developed. I think the process would eat them up."

The sleeper in this class? Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

"I think he has a chance to, one day down the road, develop into a starter," McShay said.

Now it just comes down to how badly these quarterbacks will be picked apart over the next few months.

"There's a lot of time left in the process, a lot of tape to study and a lot to learn about these guys," McShay said.

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