The noun form of the word “potential” is defined as “latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.” That certainly applies to the most prominent QBs that are members of this year’s draft class. This despite the fact that there are questions encircling each of the primary prospects. It is fair to state that the assembly of options lacks a “can’t miss” classification that enables any of these signal callers to reside in the same category as an Andrew Luck. However, there is also more reason for optimism that what was provided by the underwhelming class of 2013.
It is very conceivable that Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel would have been the first two QBs selected during last April’s draft, if they had chosen to enter the process. Even though there are questions regarding both members of that tandem, along with the other most prominent members of this year’s assemblage, they still possess more perceived upside than last year’s initial three signal callers E. J. Manuel, Geno Smith, and Mike Glennon. There is still uncertainty regarding where this year’s candidates will be chosen. The NFL combine will commence on February 19, which will allow scouts to judge their decision making ability, assess their accuracy, examine their arm strength, and observe their agility. That creates potential for opinions to change among the collective decision makers from various NFL franchises. But as this article is being constructed, Bridgewater and Manziel, and Blake Bortles are viable candidates to be among the first five overall selections. Here is the latest assessment of that trio, along with the remaining signal callers that comprise the top five prospects.
After choosing to forgo his senior year at Louisville, Bridgewater appears to be the most NFL ready among all candidates at his position. And he could easily be the first QB selected. Bridgewater was highly impressive as a freshman in 2011, being named Big East Rookie of the Year, while also earning multiple All-American honors. He proceeded to demonstrate sizable improvement with each subsequent season of his collegiate career. His TD total steadily increased during his three years with the Cardinals, as the 14 that he generated 2011 nearly doubled in 2012 (27), then rose to 31 last year. Simultaneously, his INT total dropped in equally impressive fashion during his collegiate career, as his high of 12 in 2011 fell to eight in 2012, then just four last season. Bridgewater’s completion percentage of 71% was also second among all QBs last season. In addition to his accuracy, he is tall and athletic, and has exhibited the ability to execute the necessary throws that should allow him to succeed at the NFL level. Plus, he has displayed poise while under pressure, and can be an effective runner when necessary. The concerns that you are most likely to hear expressed will regard his mechanics, and the somewhat underwhelming level of competition that he faced throughout the majority of his tenure with the Cardinals.
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner will enter the draft with a legitimate opportunity to become next highly productive duel- threat QB. He generated 7,820 yards and 63 TDs through the air during his two-year tenure at Texas A&M, including the 4,114 yards and 37 TDs that he produced in 2013. He supplemented those totals by amassing 2,169 yards and 30 TDs on the ground, which were accumulated in great part after Manziel ran for 1,410 yards and 21 scores during his 2012 freshman year. Manziel has the potential to create nightmares for opponents, by utilizing his speed to create big plays. Plus, he is extremely proficient at seeing the field, even as pressure is building around him. His accuracy is also favorable, even when he throws while on the run. He has performed well in critical situations. However, the same propensity to seize the big stage, has created some problems for Manziel off the field. Questions regarding his maturity have surfaced multiple times as a result of several highly publicized issues. And at 6’0” and 200 pounds, his size will not intimidate opposing defenders. But the dynamic Manziel possesses massive upside that will be impossible to dismiss once the draft begins. While Bortles could conceivably vault above him, it is very likely that Manziel will be the second QB chosen during the draft process.
Bortles did not possess the pedigree of his more publicized peers entering college. In part because he lined up as a defensive back before moving under center as a junior. Then he spent the initial portion of his collegiate career as a backup, before ultimately maximizing the opportunity that he received from Central Florida. Now, he has joined Bridgewater and Manziel in the top tier of this year’s prospects. All of which appears justified in the aftermath of his accomplishments at Central Florida. He threw 56 TD pass in three seasons with the Knights, including 25 in both 2012 and 2013. Bortles produced 3,581 yards in the air during his final season, then culminated his collegiate career by generating 301 yards and three TDs in the Fiesta Bowl. He possesses solid athleticism for his size (6’4”, 230 pounds), and should primarily function as a drop-back passer. His experience in a pro-style offense will benefit him greatly, although it is critical that he avoid locking in on receivers. Otherwise, opposing defenders at the NFL level will extract a heavy price for his failure to do so. Still, even though some draft analysts are still giving Bortles a second round grade, there are simply far too many teams that are in severe need of an upgrade at QB, for him to fall beyond the top 10.
The landscape beyond Bridgewater, Manziel and Bortles contains immense uncertainty, although the status of the other QB candidates will gain clarity as the weeks progress. As of now, Carr has elevated into the fourth slot, as his stock has recently gathered considerable momentum. That is just the latest fluctuation in the overall perception of Carr, as a result of his divergent performances in both the Vegas Bowl and the Senior Bowl. Not only was he impressive both on and off the field leading up to the Senior Bowl, but he was very effective during the actual contests, and quelled the concerns that had emerged after he delivered underwhelming results during Fresno State’s Vegas Bowl loss to USC. That had temporarily offset the encouraging output that he supplied during the 2013 regular season, when he generated over 5,000 yards (5,083), while tossing 50 TD passes. His arm strength is excellent, and he is fully capable of completing all throws that are necessary to excel at the NFL level. In fact, Carr delivers a collection of positive attributes, including a favorable delivery, and an effective pocket presence. Plus, he has demonstrated a thorough commitment to the game. It is premature to predict whether or not he will be among the first round selections, as that will be determined by how he presents himself in upcoming workouts and interviews with team officials.
This spot could easily have been commandeered by Zach Mettinberger, had he not suffered a torn ACL during LSU's regular season finale. Instead, the less familiar Garoppolo will edge A. J. McCarron for the fifth slot. Garoppolo manufactured 13,156 yards and 118 TDs during his career at Eastern Illinois. That includes the 5,050 yards and 53 TDs that he amassed as a senior, when he connected on 66% percent of his throws. He also won the Walter Payton Award, and broke multiple school records that had previously been established by Tony Romo. Garolppolo was named MVP for the East, after generating 100 yards and a TD in the East--West Shrine game. Then followed up with another favorable effort in the Senior Bowl. Garoppolo's extreme quickness with both his release and his footwork have caught the attention of various scouts, as his high degree of football intelligence. He certainly possesses several areas of growth, including his decision making while under pressure. But he has asserted himself into the conversation as a top five signal caller, as he prepares for his next opportunity to impress team officials.