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1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
While lacking the wow factor, Bridgewater displays every major attribute needed to develop into a top-flight signal caller. He’s a general on the field. He demonstrates total command over his surroundings, frequently calling audibles at the line of scrimmage. His throwing mechanics are excellent and he gets rid of the ball quickly. He lacks the big arm to throw a great deep ball, but makes up for it with his accuracy, especially on the move. As a right-handed quarterback, he can roll left and maintain pinpoint accuracy. He has good eye discipline, as he routinely looks off coverage. Overall, Bridgewater is a polished prospect ready to start immediately. His mechanics, arm strength, and accuracy compare with current Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. However, unlike Ryan, he displays the mobility to extend plays with his legs.
2. Derek Carr, Fresno State
The brother of former No. 1 overall pick (and NFL bust) David Carr, the younger Carr has a release so quick, that it’s reminiscent to legendary quarterback Dan Marino. That doesn’t mean he’s the next Marino, though, as Carr often panics while under duress. As a result, he rushes his throws and forces them into coverage. This was apparent against Southern California in the Las Vegas Bowl, which was also the best defense Carr played against all year. His ball placement is outstanding, allowing his wide receivers to gain yards after the catch. In addition, he maintains his accuracy downfield and makes a good back-shoulder throw. The bowl game is discouraging, but he has the accuracy, arm strength, and mechanics to develop into a high-level starting NFL quarterback.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
With nearly 10,000 total yards in two seasons, Manziel will go down as one of the greatest college football players of his generation. Because of their similar size, many compare Manziel to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. However, further evaluation shows Manziel has work to do if he’s to live up to those lofty standards. In fact, as it stands right now, Manziel on-field play resembles N.Y. Jets quarterback Michael Vick. While Manziel lacks Vick’s big arm, he exhibits similar elusiveness in the open field as a runner and within the pocket. He can turn a potential sack into a 10-yard gain. When a play breaks down via pressure or something else, he’ll keep the play alive with his legs. However, instead of keeping his eyes downfield, his instincts are to run the ball. This makes him an exciting player to watch on television, but it isn’t necessary good for his long-term future. As a passer, Manziel’s arm strength is still improving. In fact, it improved considerably from his freshman season to his sophomore season. His footwork is inconsistent, as he doesn’t always step into his throws. While he does need to improve his ball placement, his back-shoulder throw -- which is becoming a staple of NFL offenses -- is impressive.
4. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
If not for a December torn ACL injury, Mettenberger would be in play as a first-round pick. His offensive coordinator in 2013 was former NFL coach Cam Cameron, who did wonders for his mechanics. Mettenberger has one of the biggest arms in the draft. He can thread the needle between defenders and consistently deliver strikes all over the field. He also stands tall in the pocket and delivers a good ball, even as he’s about to take a hit. He does need to improve his ball placement, but as a right-handed quarterback, he’s capable of rolling to his left and delivering an accurate throw. Sometimes Mettenberger will hold onto the ball too long and stare down his target. His injury will likely slow down his development, but he has the arm strength and toughness to develop into a quality NFL starting quarterback.
5. Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
In play to be the draft’s No. 1 overall pick, Bortles has the prototype arm strength, athleticism, and size scouts fawn over in quarterback prospects. He displays good accuracy on the run, while having the arm strength to throw into a tight window. He’ll hang in the pocket, take a bit hit, and deliver his throw. He also puts nice touch on the ball and uses his eyes to move coverage. His misgivings include poor decision-making, raw mechanics, and inconsistent accuracy. In particular, his decision-making is a cause for concern as he often forces the ball into coverage. Overall, despite red flags, Bortles has the natural talent to develop into a major NFL quarterback. Seasoning and quality coaching can correct everything wrong with him. His upside is high.
6. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
After outstanding performances in the weeks during the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, Garoppolo put himself in position to hear his name called in the first three rounds. Garoppolo exhibits outstanding pocket awareness. He feels incoming rushers and uses his mobility to avoid them to keep plays alive. In addition, he makes quick decisions with the football, making him incredibly difficult to sack. He’ll need to adjust to playing under center more and his arm strength is only above average, but he has the throwing mechanics, decision-making, and awareness of a future starter.
7. A.J. McCarron, Alabama
A throwback pocket passer, McCarron has more big game experience than any other quarterback available in this class does. He has superb accuracy, placing the ball where receivers can make plays after the catch. He does a good job of setting his feet while delivering a throw. His arm is good, not great. He lacks the athleticism to extend plays outside the pocket and is sometimes late with his throws. He's an average talent with limited upside, but he makes up for his misgivings with high-level accuracy. While he’ll never elevate the players around him, he could emerge as a consistent starter under the right circumstance ala Brad Johnson with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the early 2000s. You know what you’ll get with him.
8. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Murray suffered a torn ACL late last season. His draft stock took a tumble, as a result. Nevertheless, Murray displays the qualities to develop into a spot starter. He has the mobility to extend plays outside the pocket and throws with accuracy on the run. His accuracy is so good that is compensates for his average arm strength. Murray is probably a system quarterback at the next level. He’s not a fit for an offense that calls for a lot of downfield passing. Instead, his skill set fits a more traditional west coast offense, which calls for the quarterback to make quick-decisions and accurate throws.
9. Stephen Morris, Miami (FL)
A right ankle injury hindered Morris’ performance in 2013. Morris has good size (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) and arguably the strongest arm of this class of quarterbacks. He does a nice job of setting his feet and stepping into his throw, consistently putting good velocity on his balls. His ball placement is good, though he needs to work on his downfield accuracy. In fact, he’s the most erratic signal caller of this class. He takes too many shots deep, even if it means throwing into double coverage. He’ll need to cleanup his accuracy and decision-making to emerge as anything more than a backup.
10. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Unable to generate any buzz during the pre-draft process, it wouldn’t surprise me if Boyd goes undrafted. He’d be an enticing undrafted free agent if that were to come to fruition. Boyd is elusive in the pocket, but he also knows when to pick his spots to run. He senses pressure well and does a decent job of keeping his eyes downfield. Many attribute his success in college to the immense talent that surrounded him. There’s no question Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Andre Ellington elevated him, but Boyd also played within the system. In the right offense, he could develop into a backup capable of stepping in for an injured starter.
Best of the Rest
David Fales, San Jose State
Jeff Matthews, Cornell
Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Keith Price, Washington
Keith Wenning, Ball State