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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Knee Jerk Reactions: 2014 Draft Deep at QB

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Knee Jerk Reactions: 2014 Draft Deep at QB
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

There will be a very deep Quarterback Class for this year's Draft...

It is never too early to look ahead to the draft, and after watching the moves Cleveland has made this past week, as well as the absolutely pitiful Jacksonville Jaguars, there will be some competition for the first pick in the draft. There is still plenty of time to go in the NFL season, but depending on their records, teams like the Vikings, Buccaneers, Titans, Cardinals, Jets, and even Eagles could be looking to draft a quarterback in the first few rounds. The next few months will dictated what the 2014 draft will look like, which could make Jadeveon Clowney an afterthought.

After trading away last year's #1 pick Trent Richardson, and starting Brian Hoyer, it seems clear that the Browns have thrown in the towel on this year and are stockpiling picks, and evaluating talent for the team next year. Jacksonville has looked awful, scoring just 11 points in two games, and have had no production from either Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert at the quarterback position. These teams will likely be fighting for the #1 pick and the chance to draft the quarterback they want. The list of quality quarterbacks in the upcoming draft seems endless, but as of right now, it look like Teddy Bridgewater might be the best, and most pro-ready quarterback that will be coming out. Bridgewater has great poise in the pocket which helps his downfield vision. He keeps his eyes downfield and has a great arm, both in arm strength and touch, and understands the type of pass he needs to make in every situation. Many people thought that if head come out last year, he would have been the first quarterback taken, and that should be the case this year, barring some serious injury. Behind Bridgewater is likely Aaron Murray, who has shown flashes of greatness, but has had problems winning important games his entire college career. Murray has the tools to be a solid prospect, with decent size (6'1, 210), and has a strong arm, but needs to show consistency in big games. Murray has been able to quiet some doubters coming off a tough loss to now #3 Clemson, by beating South Carolina, a team he hadn't beaten his entire career. If Murray can lead Georgia to another SEC East title, and play another strong SEC Championship Game, he should secure the second quarterback spot. The next quarterback to go should be Taj Boyd, who has had an amazing career at Clemson, and could very well vie for a National Championship in his senior season. Like Murray, Boyd has decent size (6'1, 225), but is a much more mobile quarterback, and with many teams utilizing the read-option offense, Boyd could be more attractive to faster teams. Boyd also has a great arm and has shown the ability to be explosive with a star receiver, and could be a solid professional quarterback for years to come.

Mixed in the draft will be Miami's Stephen Morris, Michigan's Devin Gardner, and UNC's Brynn Renner. Expect these quarterbacks to come in ranked relatively low due to season results, but each will make strides during their pro days and during private evaluations. Gardner is the biggest X-Factor of the group because of the limited exposure he has had at the quarterback position, playing wide receiver for most of the last three years. However, there are three quarterbacks whose draft stock will be extremely interesting to watch; A.J. McCarron, Johnny Manziel, and Marcus Mariota. McCarron is a prototypical game manager, using Alabama's imposing running game and defense to help him build a lead, and then pick apart inexperienced and underwhelming secondaries. It's hard to know how good McCarron will be once he leaves Alabama, but it is likely that a team with a solid starting quarterback would take a chance on him with a later round pick (NE, PITT, SD). Who really knows what is going to happen with Johnny Football; he is a first round athlete, but as a quarterback, he will likely struggle to find success. Manziel is about the same size as Murray and Boyd, but his arm isn't as strong, and he is at his best when he can turn a structured play into chaos, something that doesn't translate we'll to the disciplined NFL. Manziel doesn't run the traditional read-option at A&M, but is extremely capable of making plays when nothing is there. Many NFL teams won't touch him because of his off the field issues, but that all comes with being the first freshman ever to win the Heisman, and having America captivated by his every move. Some team will likely trade into the late first round or early second round to take a risk on Manziel, it will be interesting to see how it works.

The most intriguing of all of the eligible quarterbacks is Marcus Mariota, who is a redshirt sophomore, and could as easily stay in school longer. However, if he does declare, he could be coveted early in the draft by the right team, mainly the Eagles. The Eagles are working on an extension right now with Michael Vick, but Chip Kelly needs a long term answer at quarterback for his system, and Nick Foles and Matt Barkley aren't those guys. Mariota has a big arm and is unbelievably athletic, a perfect combination for a team looking for a read-option quarterback. However, Mariota doesn't have to make many reads against defenses in Oregon's offense and struggled last year against a physical Stanford defense. If Oregon can beat Stanford, they will likely get the chance to face Alabama in the National Championship game, which will allow Mariota to showcase his talents against one of the best defenses in college football. If Mariota can lead his team to the National Championship, it will be because of his play which could intrigue NFL teams to draft him in the higher rounds.

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