In an increasingly quarterback-centric league, the opportunity to procure the rights to a foundational signal caller in the NFL Draft are fleeting and almost solely reserved for franchises with Top 10 picks. The amount of resources teams dump into identifying these potential stalwarts is mind-boggling, and with plenty of teams looking for QB help in the 2014 NFL Draft, this year’s quarterbacks will be as heavily scrutinized as any.
This year’s quarterback class doesn’t have the depth of 2012 or 2004 or 1983, but there are a few potential faces to the franchise available, starting with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater recently wrapped up his collegiate career with a 36-9 pasting of the Miami Hurricanes. In Brigdewater’s finale (he declared for the NFL Draft shortly thereafter), the star quarterback threw for 447 yards and racked up four total touchdowns.
It was a fitting end to a career that seemed to gradually establish Teddy Bridgewater as the top quarterback prospect in this year’s draft. He was poised and devastatingly accurate and effectively mobile, running for a touchdown on the night.
While most will be quick to point out that Bridgewater isn’t nearly as mobile as some of the other available options in the 2014 NFL Draft (Johnny Manziel, presumably, and even UCF’s Blake Bortles), he is capable of eluding the rush and dissecting opposing defenses from the confines of the pocket. He also throws accurately on the move, as evidenced by his inspired performance in a comeback victory over Cincinnati in the regular season finale.
However, Bridgewater’s biggest knock is certainly his slender frame. He has the height and the release point to have an unobstructed sight line from inside of the tackle box, but he is on the relatively light side at a listed 205 lbs.
Having seen Robert Griffin III (a similarly thin quarterback) struggle to stay healthy in first two seasons with the Washington Redskins may be enough to give teams like the Houston Texans (possessors of the No. 1 overall pick) pause for concern, but the reality is that Bridgewater is a dramatically different quarterback than RGIII. If the Texans can provide him the necessary protection, Bridgewater will avoid contact from the comfort of the pocket and that should add longevity in comparison to the more explosive Griffin.
Given Bridgewater’s status as the most polished passer available, it’d be hard for Houston not to take Bridgewater given their need at quarterback, and with skill players like Andre Johnson and a healthy Arian Foster in 2014, Bridgewater could be stepping into a situation where he can win immediately in Houston.
However, Bridgewater’s performance over the next several months leading into April’s NFL Draft will ultimately dictate whether or not he’s deserving of the No. 1 selection, and several other quarterbacks will also be in consideration for that pick.
Manziel and Bortles (neither of whom have officially declared for the draft, but both are likely to make that announcement sometime in the next week) are both potential first-rounders with significant upside, but they’re both raw talents who’d be selected more for what they bring to the table athletically than as NFL-ready quarterbacks.
The next most polished quarterback prospect is Fresno State’s Derek Carr, brother of former No. 1 pick David Carr.
Now, I don’t suspect Carr to be a serious option for the Houston Texans at No. 1, given the fact that Houston also drafted Carr’s brother at No. 1 with less than inspiring results. But, for a team in the Top 10 with a need at QB, Derek Carr will be an intriguing option.
Carr’s biggest knock will be the way he performed against superior competition, particularly with the way he played in the Las Vegas Bowl against USC. However, NFL-caliber arm strength and the bloodlines should make him a surefire first round pick as long as he performs well this offseason.
Both Rob Rang and Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com have Carr currently projected to go No. 8 overall to the Minnesota Vikings, and, depending on who Minnesota elects to hire, that could be a good fit for Carr, with a healthy Adrian Peterson alleviating some of the stress of fielding a rookie quarterback.
All told, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr look like the two most game-ready quarterbacks available this April, although it’s hard to pass on the pure energy of a guy like Manziel and the potential (given his combination of size and athleticism) of a guy like Bortles.
It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out, but with four quarterbacks still potentially going in the Top 10, despite everyone claiming it to be a down year for quarterback prospects, that says a lot about how important the position has become.