BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino
The quarterback crop for the 2014 NFL draft will be greatly influenced by the potential early declarations of Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Brett Hundley (UCLA) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M). Among the senior quarterbacks, however, there are two who stand out from the pack: Fresno State’s Derek Carr and San Jose State’s David Fales.
I grade both Carr and Fales as first-round draft selections. The rest of the group combines a mixture of solid physical ability, good makeup and intangibles, but none of them put it all together. (Then again, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers weren’t the total package when they were drafted either)
Overall, this year’s quarterback class is much deeper than that of the 2013 NFL draft, which had just three quarterbacks selected in the first three rounds and 11 total quarterbacks selected.
From now until the week before the Senior Bowl, I will be releasing a set of rankings for one position group each week, breaking down the top 2014 NFL draft prospects at each position. These rankings will include seniors only.
This week, we start with the draft class’ top-10 senior quarterbacks.
1. Derek Carr, Fresno State (6’3’’, 218 lbs)
Carr displays more characteristics of an NFL quarterback than any of the other senior quarterback prospect. He has a beautiful, effortless and quick release.
Because of the many screens and short passes Fresno State runs, it’s easy to say he makes decisions quickly. While that is true, he also does a great job throwing the ball downfield and in the intermediate range. He does a great job manipulating defenses with his pump fake. He understands when receiver have leverage advantages over their opponent.
With an accurate, strong arm, Carr shows the ability to throw the ball through tight windows with great velocity. He has also shown good mobility in the pocket, and he throws with anticipation. He understands coverage concepts and where to go with the football.
I am excited to see what an NFL team can do with Carr’s incredible arm talent.
2. David Fales, San Jose State (6’3’’, 220 lbs)
Fales has performed extremely well since transferring into San Jose State from the junior college ranks in 2012. In 20 games, he has thrown for an average of 330.9 yards per game while totaling 50 touchdowns against 17 interceptions while completing 68.4% of his throws.
While Fales does not have elite arm strength, it is better than people give him credit for. He overcomes his arm strength deficiency with excellent ball placement and throwing with anticipation. Fales can throw the ball to a covered receiver and place it in a spot that gives him a good chance at catching the ball.
Fales has a good release and throwing motion. He understands coverages and where to go with the football. While Fales has not been as good in his senior season compared to his junior year, he has the accuracy and decision-making to be a solid NFL quarterback prospect.
3. AJ McCarron, Alabama (6’4’’, 214 lbs)
McCarron has been the definition of a winner in his career with Alabama: he has a 33-2 record as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback, and is in search of his third consecutive national championship this year.
McCarron is a very intelligent football player. His fundamentals are sound, he is smart with the football and he is a solid decision-maker. Impressively, McCarron had a span of 291 passing attempts between 2011-12 without throwing an interception. He goes through his progressions methodically and understands how to read defenses.
From a physical standpoint, McCarron is not extremely athletic. He has good movement within the pocket and can avoid pressure, but is not much of a threat to run with the ball. Overall, however, his skill set translates favorably to what is needed to succeed in the NFL.
4. Zach Mettenberger, LSU (6’5’’, 235 lbs)
Mettenberger has really blossomed during his senior season at LSU. He has always had a big arm with great throwing velocity, but has seemed to really progress in his final campaign, showing great field vision and the ability to make any throw. Under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Mettenberger has developed a good feel for throwing with anticipation and throwing receivers open.
While his development is well-documented, his struggles prior to this season should not be overlooked. He does not have great athleticism and I am concerned with his pocket presence and ability to handle pressure. His decision-making has been suspect and he has thrown costly interceptions. Perhaps LSU’s elite tandem of wide receivers receivers, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., have helped hide some of the previous flaws that were so prevalent in his game.
Even with his flaws, Mettenberger could nicely fit a team looking for a big-armed passer.
5. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (6’1’’, 225 lbs)
Boyd throws an excellent deep ball and excels at making plays downfield. He is an athletic playmaker who can scramble and make accurate throws on the run. He does a great job of getting open receivers the ball. He has adequate arm strength and can get throws off at a variety of angles.
Despite being a solid athlete, Boyd is not very elusive or great in the pocket. He holds onto the ball too long and needs to become a quicker decision-maker. He makes some head-scratching throws and has a concerning tendency to throw back across his body. His ball placement and ability to throw with anticipation also need some improvement, and his lack of height will also be a question for NFL scouts.
I am left with more questions than answers when studying Boyd, but he is still an intriguing player.
6. Aaron Murray, Georgia (6’1’’, 208 lbs)
Murray has started nearly 50 games against top competition in the SEC and is the conference’s all-time leading passer, but there are concerns about how well his game will translate to the next level.
Murray has decent accuracy, consistently hits short crosses and slant throws and does a good job of finding open receivers and getting them the ball. He can throw on the run, has a quick release and throws the ball with decent anticipation. His ball placement is good and he gets the ball out quickly.
His small frame for an NFL quarterback. He doesn’t consistently go through his progressions and tends to lock onto his first read. He doesn’t put great velocity on his throws, nor is he able to drive the ball down the field consistently well. He is not a great athlete, though he has displayed more athleticism as a senior than in previous years.
Murray has the potential to have a long but unheralded NFL career as a backup quarterback.
7. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (6’6’’, 254 lbs)
Thomas has started Virginia Tech’s last 34 consecutive games at quarterback. The results have been mixed. After the 2011 season, Thomas was being compared to the likes of Cam Newton in terms of physical ability. Since then, he has never fulfilled those lofty expectations and has been a disappointment to scouts.
Although he has been inconsistent, Thomas’ skill set brings a lot to the table. He has terrific size combined with great athleticism. He has a strong arm and is capable of making any throw on the field. He goes through his reads and throws with decent anticipation.
On the other hand, he is inconsistent with his accuracy and turns the ball over too much. He holds the ball low in his dropbacks and has a bit of a hitch in his delivery. Thomas doesn’t consistently hit touch passes either.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Thomas overdrafted because of his physical tools, but he will need to develop consistency in his game to succeed at the next level.
8. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois (6’3’’, 222 lbs)
Garoppolo has already had a more productive career at Eastern Illinois than former EIU and current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Through his first eight games as a senior, Garoppolo is averaging 390.7 yards per game and has already tied his career high with 35 passing touchdowns while completing 65.6% of his passes.
Garoppolo has an extremely quick release and a smooth delivery. He has great footwork and mechanics which give him a great foundation to work with as a prospect. He goes through his progressions well and has decent arm strength.
Garoppolo can be erratic, however, with his downfield throwing accuracy. Considering he has thrown 49 combined interceptions in 38 career games at EIU, I question his field vision as it seems he often misses underneath coverages.
Garoppolo is a small-school sleeper with some flaws to improve, but he has some legitimate tools to work with as an NFL prospect.
9. Keith Price, Washington (6’1’’, 202 lbs)
Along with head coach Steve Sarkisian, Price has helped restore the Washington Huskies football program to respectability. Inconsistency, however, has been mixed in with his great moments.
When Price is at his best, he is a decisive passer who delivers the football accurately and trusts his receivers to make plays. This worked out tremendously for him against Stanford this season, when he had what I thought was the best game of his career by completing 33-of-48 passing attempts for 350 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He was throwing receivers open, hitting back-shoulder throws and working all areas of the field very effectively.
Price has displayed great mobility and a willingness to deliver the football even with pressure coming right at him. In many games, however, he has struggled with touch passes and sailing balls away from his receivers. His long delivery, wide throwing stance and small frame are also concerns.
Price has some significant flaws, but his intriguing skill set and intangibles should get him selected as a developmental prospect.
10. Stephen Morris, Miami (6’2’’, 218 lbs)
When I study Morris on tape, I see a very inconsistent player. When he has success, it is because he is able to set his feet and deliver the football in rhythm. When that doesn’t happen, Morris is all over the place with his ball placement.
Morris throws with great anticipation at times, but at other times it’s hard to figure out what his plan was with the football. Overall, his decision-making has to be quicker and better.
From a physical standpoint, Morris has good size and athletic ability. He can escape the pocket and scramble for yards or throw on the run. Morris is capable of driving the ball down the field with good velocity, but makes weak throws when he sways from his mechanics.
Morris has enough physical ability to warrant a draft pick, but he must develop upon that physical ability to be a successful NFL quarterback.
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, Alabama, Clemson, David Fales, Derek Carr, Eastern Illinois, Fresno State, Georgia, Jimmy Garoppolo, Keith Price, Logan Thomas, LSU, Miami, Positional Rankings, Quarterbacks, San Jose State, Seniors, Stephen Morris, Tajh Boyd, Virginia Tech, Washington, Zach Mettenberger