Although there are many talented players available in the 2014 NFL draft, many of the teams enter the draft with uncertainty in regards to the quarterback position. This has caused many draft experts to look beyond Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr to consider many other quarterbacks that should be available in the later rounds.
Since the draft has so many talented players who can make an impact right away at positions other than quarterback, many NFL executives are turning their attention to some of the quarterbacks that will be available after the first two rounds. Are these players so much different than the four who have received the most attention? That is what many General Managers are left to contemplate as we get closer to draft day. So many questions surround the top quarterbacks in the draft that it has become wise to look deeper in the talented pool of potential NFL passers.
Bridgewater has been unimpressive in pre-draft workouts, Manziel drifts outside the pocket too much and lacks NFL size, Bortels is still considered a little rough on the edges and Carr might suffer the same fate as his brother once did when he makes the jump to the speed of the NFL. Chances are, these four are not ready to make an immediate impact and guide any of the teams in need of a quarterback to the playoffs in 2014.
This leaves the door open for the following ten quarterbacks to find their way onto a roster in the NFL.
10. Jeff Mathews, Cornell
Jeff Mathews is not exactly a household name and Cornell is definitely not a college football powerhouse, but Mathews raised a few eyebrows at the East-West Shrine game. On one hand, Mathews has a great arm and can make the deep throws, great intelligence, good leadership qualities and NFL size, but he lacks athleticism and mobility which tends to lead to poor mechanics and mistakes when plays break down. This might be due to playing behind a very suspect Cornell offensive line, however, the speed of the NFL game might still make it difficult for him to adjust.
Mathews finished his career as the Ivy League’s all-time leading passer with 11,284 yards and 72 touchdowns. He did have 13 interceptions this past season and 42 for his career, which doesn’t bode well for the tighter coverage in the NFL.
Potential to be a little like Philip Rivers with more of an arm, if he can adjust to the pro game and improve his footwork.
9. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Former NFL quarterback and current coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, Steve Spurrier, called Connor Shaw the “best quarterback in school history.” Shaw might be too short, too small and his arm strength might be suspect, but all he does is win games and avoid making costly mistakes. He is a great athlete (4.66 40-yard dash speed at Combine), a terrific leader and his performance against Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl proves he can play. He completed 88% of his passes, while passing for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Shaw was not a gunslinger and was asked to manage games and make good decisions at South Carolina. He finished 2013 with 2,447 yards passing with 24 touchdown passes and only one interception. He also rushed for 558 yards with 6 touchdowns.
Potential to be a little like Russell Wilson with similar game management skills, elusiveness and ability to avoid making mistakes.
8. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Logan Thomas has the size, arm strength and scrambling ability to make any scout take notice. He can stand strong in the pocket and take a hit when he can’t find an open receiver or take off and use his legs to get positive yardage when the pocket breaks down. His size makes it easy for him to get off passes with great velocity, using very little wind up and little wasted motion. He can make all the NFL throws, but consistency is something that has so far been elusive for him. For all his apparent talent, he has a tendency to miss easy throws, open receivers and plays that he should be able to make.
Thomas has passed for about 3,000 yards in three straight college seasons, but has yet to complete over 60% of his passes. His inconsistency can also be found in his touchdown and interception totals, where he he has almost as many touchdowns as interceptions in his career (53 touchdowns, 39 interceptions)
Potential to be like Cam Newton if he can develop better accuracy, make better decisions and avoid making inconsistent throws.
7. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Tajh Boyd does many things well on the football field that might not necessarily show up in Pro-Day drills or the Combine. He throws tight spirals and can make most of the throws required of an NFL quarterback and is comfortable in the pocket and outside the pocket as well. He might not have ideal NFL height, but has a solid compact body and can take a hit. Boyd did most of his passing from the shotgun formation, but he has good footwork that should enable him to take the ball under center as well. Boyd can throw the ball to all parts of the field, but deciding where and when to make certain throws might be something he needs to improve.
Last season, Boyd passed for 3,851 yards, had 34 touchdown passes and completed 68.5% of his passes. He did , however, complete 11 passes to members of the other team.
Potential to be a little like Geno Smith, which might not be a good thing. Boyd will not be afraid to take his shots down the field.
6. Keith Wenning, Ball State
Keith Wenning is another quarterback who impressed scouts at the East-West Shrine Game. He does not possess a rocket arm, but does make most of the typical NFL throws with accuracy and good touch when it comes to hitting receivers in stride. He has a pretty good NFL quarterback frame, can avoid pressure in the pocket and is good at surveying the whole field. Wenning has improved each season he has been at Ball State and finished last season just behind Byron Leftwich and Ben Roethlisberger in Mid-American Conference all-time season passing yardage. He will face much stiffer pressure and smaller passing windows in the NFL, but has proven he can make adjustments.
Wenning went from having 2,786 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2011 to 4,148 yards, 35 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in 2013. In four seasons, he has only been sacked 48 times.
Potential to be a little like Matt Ryan.
5. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Aaron Murray is another quarterback who is missing that classic NFL size, but has some impressive skills and traits to make up for it. He might offer the shortest learning curve of many of these quarterbacks having played in a pro-style offense against the rugged defenses in the SEC. He sets up in the pocket quickly, sees the whole field and can throw tight spirals. His arm is better than one might expect from a player of his size and he can throw from different arm positions to get his passes off. He is a proven field general and knows where to attack a defense. While not having ideal size, he does have NFL worthy skills.
Murray is talented, having passed for over 3,000 yards in each of his four Georgia seasons. He has also passed for 121 touchdowns in his career versus only 41 interceptions. He has solid stats, but still has to prove he can come off ACL surgery in addition to the questions about his size.
Potential to be a lot like Drew Brees if he can become healthy and adapt to the pass rush and tighter passing lanes in the NFL.
4. David Fales, San Jose State
David Fales has the ability to see the whole field better than his ability to throw to all areas of it. He has the work ethic and study skills to be a well prepared NFL quarterback. He knows how to read defenses and figure out where he wants to go with the ball. In this respect, he is ahead of many of his peers. He does, however, lack elite athleticism, NFL quarterback size and arm strength. He is accurate and has nice touch, but can get in trouble in the NFL if he continues to put too much air under long balls. He can throw from the pocket, wait for receivers to come open and take a hit, but lacks the arm strength to throw off-balance or throw while avoiding the rush.
In 2013, Fales racked up 4,189 yards, threw 33 touchdown passes and had 13 interceptions, while completing 64.1% of his passes. Fales completed 72.5% of his passes in 2012, providing evidence to his outstanding accuracy.
Potential to be a little like Andy Dalton with similar size and arm strength. His preparation and work ethic borders that of Peyton Manning, even at this point in his football career.
3. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
Jimmy Garoppolo has received his share of coverage and pre-draft build up for his exploits at Eastern Illinois. He broke all of Tony Romo‘s records at Eastern Illinois and certainly knows how to throw the ball. Garoppolo has better than average arm strength, decent size, above average mobility and great downfield vision. He can make all of the NFL throws, pass from the pocket and has plenty of experience throwing the ball from playing four years in the pass happy Eastern Illinois offense. He was the winner of the 2013 Walter Payton award compiling 5,050 passing yards with 53 touchdowns. He was the Offensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game.
Garoppolo only had 9 interceptions in his 568 attempts during the 2013 season while passing for over 5,000 yards. He also completed 66% of his passes.
Potential to be like Tony Romo or better if his college stats translate to the ability to play at the next level.
2. Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
Tom Savage looks like an NFL quarterback, throws like an NFL quarterback and will more than likely get his chance to become one too. He has a rocket arm, good size and enough speed and strength to keep plays alive and escape the clutch of pass rushers off the edge. He can make all the difficult NFL throws and might only need to tone down the short stuff in order to be more effective at the next level. Savage is sturdy and strong, but has pretty good feet for his size, although throwing on the run is not one of his strong points. He does have a tendency to lock onto targets, due to the confidence in his arm strength, and might need to work through his progressions more in the NFL.
Savage passed for 2,958 yards last season and connected on 21 touchdown passes, while throwing 9 interception. His best game was a 424 yard, 6 touchdown effort against Duke.
Potential to be like Ben Roethlisberger without the athleticism that “Big Ben” has when he decides to take off and run.
1. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Zach Mettenberger is another quarterback with NFL size and arm strength. He can stand tall in the pocket, make all his downfield reads and is not afraid to step into a throw in the face of a pass rush. He has great velocity on his throws and a good sense of knowing when he can and can’t force throws. He is not going to be a threat as a runner, but will run when necessary and will pick up enough yardage to extend drives. Mettenberger is coming off ACL surgery and had some off-field issues earlier in his college career, so he might be a little undervalued at this point. If he prepares harder and keeps his focus, he has the ability to be the best quarterback in the draft.
In 2013, Mettenberger passed for 3,082 yards in only 296 attempts (10.41 yard average per attempt) threw 22 touchdown passes and only 8 interceptions. He completed 64.9% of his passes despite playing for LSU in the competitive SEC.
Potential to be like Tom Brady. He has the arm, knows when to give up on a play and is not an elite athlete, but is a competitor.