Editor’s note: Over the next few weeks as we head into the 2014 NFL Draft, WFNY’s Joe Gilbert will break down his top five players at each position. We’re starting out with a bang as we dig in to the most-discussed position of the off-season: Quarterbacks.
The 2014 NFL Draft is just two weeks and the buzz is building. Before the draft begins, I will preview my top five prospects for each position. I am looking at the quarterbacks in this first piece. This is the most talked about position every year and this year is no exception, especially given the Browns’ needs. I believe that there are three players above the rest of the class, then a huge tier of about five or six prospects that are in the conversation for the next best players after the top three. Let’s dig in.
1) Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater has been at the top of my board since the beginning of the season and he still is even after his so called “horrible” pro-day. He is the best QB on the field and has the best tape to show for it. The 6-2, 214-pound Louisville product has great accuracy, completing 71% of his passes last year. Mel Kiper remarked this about his accuracy: “Bridgewater is poised and smart, and anticipates better than any QB in the draft. He throws to spots and openings, not just to open targets.”
His accuracy is also impressive under pressure. According to ESPN, he completed 53.5% of his passes when he was under pressure last year, which was third among qualified quarterbacks in college. This leads me to the other great characteristic of Bridgewater: He is a very smart player in terms reading defenses and knowing where the coverage is vulnerable. He does not fret under pressure and make bad passes because he trusts his ability to read the play and know where he can beat the pressure. His main flaw is that he does not have prototypical size and a huge arm. He has the height, but he will probably need to add a few pounds to be able to better take hits in the NFL. His arm strength is not a huge issue because he can still make all the throws that he will be asked to throw in the league. It is just not an elite arm.
2) Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel is the most polarizing player in the draft. The 5-11, 207-pound quarterback from Texas A&M has many great qualities that make me believe that he will succeed in the NFL: His play-making ability that separates him from all other QBs; he is very productive when he has the ball and his team need him to make a play; and his dual-threat ability gives him many ways to make a play either by running or passing.
Todd McShay says this about him: “Unique trait is ability to improvise (as a runner and thrower on the run). Rare instincts and escape ability.” The other great quality he has is his leadership. This was shown time and again when he led his team through two great seasons at Texas A&M. Manziel did not have the greatest defense this year, but he somehow got them going in their bowl game versus Duke. He led the team back from a huge deficit and took his team to a victory. He has a few flaws, however, specifically his size and reckless abandon. He could be injury prone if he does not hone his skills at staying with the play. The other thing he must improve is his decision making. He must learn to trust his arm more and leave the pocket when the first option is taken.
3) Blake Bortles, UCF
Blake Bortles has risen up the boards towards the end of the season and into the pre-draft process. He has the prototypical size that the NFL looks for at a sturdy 6-feet-5-inches and 232 pounds. The Central Florida star has one of the largest upsides in the draft. He has many great skills but his frame is the thing that most intrigues the NFL.
Bortles’ size can play in any weather and withstand a lot of hits. He also has great presence in terms of pressure and also late game situations. He does very well under pressure, ranking 6th among college quarterbacks regarding completion percentage when under pressure at 50.7% (ESPN). He is also great late in the game when the team needs him most.
Bortles, however, is very inconsistent and is still very raw. He can have great games like the Bowl Game versus Baylor and bad games like the loss versus South Carolina. He will need to sit and learn before playing.
4) Derek Carr, Fresno State
Derek Carr has one of the best arms in draft and that entices many teams. Ron Rang of CBS Sports said that he has “NFL-caliber arm strength to sling the ball all over the field, with the ability to throw the deep fade and fire passes into tight windows.” He also is a very good at leading his team pre-snap and getting them into the right position.
Carr has shown that he can run an offense where he can make pre-snap adjustments and lead his team to the right formation. The biggest flaws are his decision-making and ability to throw under pressure. This was shown to the world in his Bowl Game versus USC where he could not make the right decisions when pass rushers were coming at him. He rushed throws and threw many incompletions. He will need to learn to throw in midst of a pass rush and not get flustered when the rush pushes him.
5) Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Zach Mettenberger also has an extraordinary arm that is one of the best in the draft. He has a fastball that many in NFL do not have. The LSU product has all of the ability in the world and can make throws that will play well in all sorts of elements. Ron Jaworski says that, “When you watch him on tape, this guy has an NFL skill set.” He also has great size at a 6-4, 224 pounds. He has a couple of flaws though. His inability to move well will make him a sitting duck in the fast NFL. Also he does not always have an accurate arm. He must be able to control his arm strength and be more accurate in order to get a shot in the NFL.
Joe has been writing for WFNY since April 2014. He is a diehard Cleveland sports fan, who is just looking for a winner in this town. He has been around sports his entire life by working with the basketball and football teams at St. Ignatius High School and also with the football team at Baldwin Wallace. Besides watching and writing about sports, Joe loves to spend time with his family and two dogs.