Depending on which players go pro, the 2014 NFL Draft quarterback class has a little bit of something for everyone. While a lot will change between now and next April, the next quarterback group looks like a better one.
The headliner, of course, is Louisville junior Teddy Bridgewater. Right behind him is the athletic Tajh Boyd of Clemson. But chances are another quarterback is going to work his way to the top of the next year's quarterback rankings. Here's a look at Bridgewater, Boyd and the quarterbacks they'll be judged against.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson: As the 2012 season progressed, so did Boyd as a legitimate NFL prospect. After struggling with inconsistency early in his career, Boyd improved his decision making in Clemson's high-octane offense. Of all the top quarterback prospects in the 2014 draft, Boyd is arguably the most athletic.
Derek Carr, Fresno State: At the end of a stellar junior season, Carr faltered some in his bowl game. But he has a picture-perfect release. He gets the ball out quickly and has good size. Carr throws a nice deep pass and can execute on designed roll outs. Carr requires a clean pocket because he has trouble with pressure. Read more about Carr here.
David Fales, San Jose State: Currently the love interest of the ever-expanding NFL Draft analyst community, Fales burst onto the radar during San Jose State's closing stretch of games in 2012. But while the Spartans won their final seven games, Fales also threw six interceptions in that span. But Fales' accuracy is as good as anyone in the class. He never dipped below 65 percent in any game last season, finishing at 72.5 percent on the year. He's got a strong enough arm and doesn't float his passes. Now, after just one season at SJSU after a community college, Fales needs to show the same skills for another season.
A.J. McCarron, Alabama: Is McCarron a good prospect or a product of the copious talent surrounding him? That's what NFL evaluators will have to figure out during his final season of college football. McCarron's tools are solid across the board. He's got decent arm strength, is regarded as a team leader and isn't the type of quarterback that will lose his team games. The key with McCarron is his footwork. When he's pressured, he has a tendency to shift his feet too much in the pocket. It's something that puts wobble in his throws and what he'll need to improve the most.
Zach Mettenberger, LSU: The expectation in Mettenberger's first year as a starter last season was that he could have a sensational year and bolt to the first round of the draft. Mettenberger started the year flat, however, and never gained traction until the end of the season. His 298 yards and tow touchdowns against Alabama turned heads, as did his follow-up of 273 yards against a talented Mississippi State secondary.
Stephen Morris, Miami: Despite the more ballyhooed names listed here, Morris might have the best arm. He can absolutely uncork some throws and will look like a superstar at his pro day workout. How he looks between now and then will determine his draft stock. Morris had a solid season in 2012, punctuated during Miami's final three games where he threw nine touchdowns and no interceptions while completing more than 60 percent of his throws. But Morris was inconsistent as a junior and needs to be more consistent making throws from the pocket.
Aaron Murray, Georgia: Murray is like the 2014 version of Matt Barkley, but with somewhat better arm strength. Known as a film-room junkie, Murray will be considered among the smarter quarterbacks in the draft. As a junior, Murray threw for 3,893 yards to go with 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The NFL Draft advisory committee graded Murray out as a second or third round pick. Advanced draft hyperbole: Murray will be known as a low ceiling, high floor prospect.
Keith Price, Washington: Remember the 2012 Alamo Bowl when Price went toe-to-toe with Robert Griffin III in a shootout loss? That game got Price the headlines heading into last season. The trouble is he didn't fully capitalize on it as a junior. His completion percent, yards and touchdowns dropped while his interception total went up.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech: At this time last year, Thomas was hailed as the next Ben Roethlisberger and a top five pick in the 2013 draft. But his junior tape was bad. Thomas couldn't throw from the pocket and his ball placement was off all season. Throwing nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns last season, Thomas appears to be a project quarterback. But with his size – a listed 6-foot-6 and 257 pounds – some team is going to fall in love if he has even an average season.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: A blue chip recruit spurned by LSU, Bridgewater flourished at Louisville last season. To simply analyze Bridgewater, his passes just consistently look better than other prospects. He doesn't float throws and knows how put zip on his passes. When the pressure is on Bridgewater on third and fourth down, he only seems to get better. Bridgewater's biggest knock is inconsistency, but you'd expect that from a sophomore. With a fairly easy schedule, expect him to put up big numbers this season.
Devin Gardner, Michigan: In replacing Denard Robinson as Michigan's starter at the end of last season, Gardner showed plenty to be considered a legit NFL Draft prospect. Moving back to quarterback from wide receiver, Gardner displayed an NFL arm and a solid grasp of the offense. Gardner's throwing motion needs some refinement, as does his footwork. But he has the natural tools to be developed into a starting quarterback at the next level.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State: Despite entering his third season as the starting quarterback at Ohio State, Miller's NFL position is still in question. While he's come along as a passer, Miller is a dangerous runner. So much so that it overshadows the strides he's made as a pocket passer. If he can continue improving his completion percentage, work the entire field and not always break the pocket, he'll get more consideration as an NFL quarterback.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The Heisman Trophy winner will be the most polarizing player in the draft, whenever he chooses to go pro. On the negative side, Manziel doesn't appear to have the strongest arm and isn't a natural pocket passer. On the positive, he's an inventive playmaker who can gain yards with his feet and arm.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon: A lot of the same pros and cons used on Manziel will be used on Mariota. What the Oregon quarterback has going for him, though, is that he's bigger and has a stronger arm. Mariota needs to continue getting stronger and show that he can read the entire field.
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