Where Will the Top 2014 NFL Draft Quarterbacks End Up?
There is no way to predict how the coming football season will go. That is why fans love it so much. It doesn't mean there is any harm in looking ahead to how things might shape up for the 2014 NFL draft. One key aspect of this list is it will hold off on predicting any players in college who will play the 2013 season as sophomores. This way it makes it easier to discern which players are likely to come out. With a deep crop of quarterbacks expected, which teams do they have the best shot to land on?
Teddy Bridgewater - Jacksonville Jaguars
There is no doubt head coach Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars front office did a good job improving a generally weak roster in free agency and the draft. The one glaring omission that experts continue to point out is their refusal to take a quarterback who can replace Blaine Gabbert. The 2011 first round pick hasn't lived up to expectations. A lot of that is playing on bad teams but sources believe after watching hours of film that Gabbert just doesn't seem to handle the speed of the pro game like other quarterbacks.
So if Jacksonville struggles like many predict, then they should have a leg up for the first overall pick. In which case if Teddy Bridgewater decides to come out after his junior year they should thank the many football gods. Scouts and experts are quickly falling in love with the Louisville star, especially following his heroic dismantling of the powerhouse Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl. He has the size, the arm and most impressively the footwork and pocket patience that the very best quarterbacks have. If he can duplicate or improve on his 2012 season then there is no doubt the Jaguars should make him their new offensive leader.
David Fales - Tennessee Titans
Another 2011 first round pick will certainly feel the heat this season in Jake Locker. He will have a revamped offensive line in front of him that includes two highly touted guards in Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack. With Chris Johnson in the backfield and a collection of good receivers there is no excuse for Locker to not improve, if not challenge Houston and Indianapolis for the division. Another lost season means the firing of head coach Mike Munchak and more than likely the end of Locker as well.
David Fales has the prototypical size and arm of a pro quarterback. What sets him apart, and what made him such a terror last season is his anticipation and accuracy. Couple that with a quick delivery and teams will look long and hard at him in the top ten if he can put together another outstanding season.
Tajh Boyd - Dallas Cowboys
Yes, Tony Romo got a fat, new contract extension. Yes, Jerry Jones has said repeatedly the future plans for Dallas rest with him. Yes, that is all true right up until the Cowboys miss the playoffs for the fourth-straight season. Romo turns 34 this year. He's been beat up a lot the last couple seasons. Can anybody really expect Dallas to go down swinging with him? Never mind the fact that Jason Garrett, the man who has built Romo into an effective quarterback, will lose his head coaching job if the Cowboys miss the post-season again. That is too much for anybody to survive.
If any quarterback in the 2014 class would be viewed as a good Romo-type replacement, it's Tajh Boyd of Clemson. Nobody questions his arm. He can make every throw in the playbook. His eyes are up to the proper standards, able to scan the field and check down when nothing is there. Mobility is also a big aspect of his game as he scored 10 touchdowns on 514 yards rushing. Perhaps the biggest boost to his stock was how he played against LSU in the Chik-fil-A Bowl. Boyd took a pounding from the tough Tigers defense all game long but played through it and got his team a deserving 25-24 victory. His slight size issue (6'1") should not scare anyone if he has another good season.
Aaron Murray - Houston Texans
The other Texas franchise isn't quite as desperate for quarterback help but Houston is approaching a big crossroads for their franchise. Matt Schaub deserves tons of credit for their success with two Pro Bowl appearances. That said, he's 31-years old and has one playoff win in six seasons. If he can't take the Texans to the next level then it is time for Gary Kubiak and the front office to think about finding a young understudy. A lot of fans will trumpet backup T.J. Yates, but the word "backup" to a guy like Schaub generally means he isn't meant to start.
That is why Aaron Murray makes a ton of sense. He had a great year in Georgia, almost upsetting the powerful Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC championship. If his growth continues he will come out of college with loads of experience in a pro style offense. Like Boyd he is a little undersized. He makes up for it in awareness, accuracy, and total command of his offense. Paired with his decent mobility, he will make an ideal selection for Houston since they will want to turn around very quickly to compete for a Super Bowl given their roster is championship-capable.
Logan Thomas - Chicago Bears
Make no mistake about it. Jay Cutler doesn't have that aura of untouchability he had under Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith. For all the talk about him being the most talented quarterback Chicago has ever had, his mind-numbing inconsistency has worn fans out. New GM Phil Emery still supports him but made it clear 2013 is a prove-it season. Cutler has the best offense, talent-wise, he's had yet with the Bears and a head coach in Marc Trestman who has a long history of offensive success. If Jay can't make the playoffs this year then Emery has already proven he isn't afraid to make changes.
One thing that is also clear about the Chicago manager is his love for players with size, speed and athleticism. That being the case, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas fits that mold. At 6'6" he has no size issues and his surprising athleticism makes him very hard to not only catch but tackle during a scramble. Best of all he has an absolute gun for arm. Where he needs to improve and what could hold him out of the top ten is his shaky pocket passing. There is nothing wrong with his throwing mechanics or spiral. It's a simple case of inconsistent accuracy. He also struggles reading defenses. Those are things that Chicago would struggle to fix under Smith. Now that they have Trestman, an athletic passer like Thomas is the best kind of project to scoop up.
Derek Carr - St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford will join Cutler and Schaub on the Prove-It tour this season. He finally has a stable coaching staff and a bundle of new weapons to throw to in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. After three seasons he is reaching a point where he must take that next step number one picks like him are expected to. Jeff Fisher signaled his belief in the young quarterback when St. Louis didn't draft any competition back in April. That doesn't mean his job is totally safe. After sweeping the division last season, expectations are high for St. Louis to put their string of good drafts to good use. Otherwise the front office must find someone who can.
The name Carr will conjure a lot of bad memories for football fans. After all it was David Carr who endured a very rough run with the expansion Houston Texans and never lived up to his draft billing. So when buzz began to build around his younger brother Derek in Fresno State, many wondered if he deserves the hype. Already some intelligence was seen when the junior quarterback chose to stay for his senior year to keep learning the position. This was surprising since he had such a great season for the Bulldogs. Scouts saw a passer with a lightning-fast delivery on a strong arm, good touch on his passes, the accuracy to pinpoint them and a willingness to scramble. Where he struggled, and where the red flags started to go up, was his shaky ability to handle pressure. Blitzes tend to confuse him and this forces throws off his back foot. He will have to improve in order to keep teams interested.
A.J. McCarron - New Orleans Saints
Saints fans never want the Drew Brees era to end. Who would? The size-challenged quarterback will go to the Hall of Fame one day and there is still time for him and head coach Sean Payton to make another run at a championship. Regardless, he is 34-years old. They can't ignore the need for an understudy much longer. The loss of young backup Chase Daniel to free agency didn't help. For this year they will stick by their usual plan of protecting Brees and running their offense. By next year though they have to take a look at injecting some youth behind the All-Pro.
Depending on how their season goes they could wait until the late first or early second round to snare A.J. McCarron. The senior quarterback is somehow a forgotten man despite winning back-to-back national championships. That can happen when one plays for Nick Saban and Alabama. Since the Crimson Tide thrive on power running and great defense, McCarron gets tagged most often as a game manager. However, most game managers don't throw 30 touchdowns in a 13-game season. McCarron did just that, while also only throwing 3 interceptions. He's 6'4", has a strong arm and is under the guise of the best college coach in football. That and his limited mobility make him a nice fit for what the Saints do. The fact he's a winner only helps.