This is going to be one of the toughest groups to work out.
At various points this season all of the ‘big names’ have looked the part. They’ve also shown worrying trends and suffered dips in form.
And really, I’m not sure there’s anyone I’d want to hang my hat on.
Not as a franchise-changer, anyway.
Teddy Bridgewater is going to be the first taken, I’m pretty sure about that. But I’m not overwhelmed with his potential. He’s an extremely competent college quarterback, and very traditional in his approach.
Is he a special player? I’m not sure.
What’s his upside? What can he become?
He doesn’t have great mobility, but he has enough to avoid pressure and extend the odd play. He won’t be particularly elusive or much of a runner.
He’s accurate, but not flawless in that regard. He can hit receivers in stride, he’ll make plays downfield. His timing can be inconsistent though and he will miss in frustrating fashion on occasions.
Arm strength, size, personality — all above average, yet not mind-blowing.
I think overall he’ll be considered a safe option for a team that has seriously underachieved in 2013. It’s quite fortunate for Bridgewater that there are some candidates in that regard, rather than the usual bevy of useless teams that usually fill up the early picks in a draft.
He’s unlikely to transform a franchise on his own. With a decent supporting cast he should be able to move the ball around and be productive.
So really it depends on the team he gets saddled with. For me there’s little point Jacksonville going down that road because they have a paper thin roster. He’s not going to galvanise that team single handed and he might suffer long term damage by starting early for the Jags (a thankless task).
Houston, Minnesota and Cleveland make a lot more sense. The Texans should be able to plug him in quite quickly, the Vikings have Adrian Peterson and the Browns are a talented group just lacking a consistently healthy signal caller.
Bridgewater should find a home within the top five picks. He is the best available, even if he’s not quite as good as some will have you believe.
After that it’s a much cloudier picture.
Oregon’s Marcus Mariota worries me.
I hate comparing prospects and basing judgements on that kind of approach because no two unrelated players will be the same. Yet it’s watching Colin Kaepernick this year that has me wondering what type of player Mariota will be at the next level.
For starters any team that drafts him has to let the guy move around and run the ball. Reigning in Kaepernick early this year took away a lot of his effectiveness. He isn’t a brilliant pocket passer and he never was at Nevada. He’s a rangy, athletic runner with the ability to make some plays and improvise.
Restrict him to the pocket and you see a guy who struggles to go through his progressions (well documented) and looks permanently flustered under duress.
Asking Mariota to sit tight and read a defense would be pretty similar. He just looks so effective on the move. Yet if you’re drafting a guy in the top ten, you’re also going to want to protect that investment. So while a running Mariota will give you the best chance of success, it’s also your best way to guarantee he gets hurt.
San Francisco, I’m guessing, at least tried to limit how often Kaepernick ran the ball. And it has had an adverse effect. But they had to try it.
This is almost exclusively down to the Oregon offense, but I haven’t seen any evidence of Mariota going 1-2-3 with his reads and then checking down. It’s not what the Ducks do. So you have to project a quarterback’s ability without any core evidence that he can do the basics well. And that’s where my concern lies.
I have seen evidence where he’s tried to force the ball to his favoured receiver or original target. It took him an age to throw his first pick, but there were a few close calls long before the Arizona game.
And the one area Kaepernick is evidently superior is arm strength. Mariota doesn’t have a weak arm, but he doesn’t have a rifle like Kaepernick. And it’s such a huge weapon for the San Fran quarterback, I’m not sure what he’d be without it.
If Mariota declares — and that’s up in the air — I think a GM or coach somewhere will convince themselves that he’s worth a high pick. But I’m not totally convinced. Not yet.
Zach Mettenberger at LSU started the season showing major improvement from last year and the potential to be an early pick.
Those days are long gone.
In the last few weeks Mettenberger has looked lethargic. He’s started to force way too many passes.
A great example was a pick against Arkansas on Friday. Having lost Odell Beckham (back injury), he was zoning in on the equally talented Jarvis Landry. It was too obvious. And eventually his opponent made him pay, put a blanket over Landry and forced an ugly high pass for a turnover.
He has an arm, he can spread it around. But he’s also a statue in the pocket and when the going’s got tough over the last few weeks, he’s regressed back into something akin to his 2012 form.
Mettenberger left the Arkansas game with a knee injury and that could have even more impact on his stock. Right now he looks like a mid-round pick. He looks like a poor man’s Ryan Mallett.
Derek Carr leads the nation for yardage and in his last two games has 13 touchdowns.
The hype button has well and truly been activated.
I like Carr and argued his case when he wasn’t getting much attention earlier in the year. But suddenly I’m seeing him ranked as a top ten pick.
It’s a classic example of internet hype. He’s productive, he’s been winning (until this week) and people look at the arm strength and the mechanics and feel comfortable.
Let’s take a step back here. He features in an ultimate spread offense that accentuates the passing game. He’s throwing endless swing passes and WR screens and using YAC.
He isn’t being asked to negotiate through reads, break down a defense, fit the ball into tight spots. Throwing over the middle at the intermediate level has been a struggle at times.
The competition he’s facing most weeks is derisory. It’s a shame Fresno State couldn’t keep winning — it would’ve been very interesting to see him go up against a big school in a BCS game.
For now I think he deserves a solid round 2-3 grade with the potential to keep moving up. Putting him among the top ten picks seems a bit reactionary. I like Carr — but nobody can tell me this is the performance of a top-ten quarterback.
Johnny Manziel had another difficult day yesterday against Missouri. It followed up a tough outing at LSU.
When he’s at his creative best — scrambling away from pressure, having the time to set and throw out of the pocket — there isn’t a more exciting player in college football. When teams are able to contain his receivers and stay organised — he looks frustratingly average.
Last night he couldn’t get anything going. Not really. And when the game was on the line his accuracy deserted him. On one play he attempted a simple screen pass to Mike Evans on a crucial third down, trailing by seven. He managed to throw it high and wide of the 6-5 receiver and the play was buried before it ever had a chance to succeed.
Texas A&M never got the ball back on offense after that.
The magic he displayed against Alabama and Auburn was nowhere to be seen.
It’s really difficult to work out what he’s going to be at the next level. He’s a player of extremes. The thing about Russell Wilson (who he gets compared with far too often) is when the game is going against him, he finds ways to have an impact.
Essentially, an average Russell Wilson performance can still be a winning display. He’ll take what’s on offer, be patient. Keep battling and staying in the game.
When Johnny Manziel is having an off day, Texas A&M can forget about it. Contain Manziel, win the day. When he’s not feeling it, he drifts into struggling. He gets agitated, he starts to force things. You can see in his body language a level of irritation developing that for me, engulfs his ability to stay ice cool the way Wilson does.
At the next level it’s hard to imagine what he could be. Can he still produce the same magic as a scrambling phenomena? Has he got the arm strength and accuracy to make it count against better defensive backs and schemes that will confuse the heck out of him? On a day when the magic isn’t there, can he sit in the pocket and make simple throws faced with complex looks at the LOS?
And aside from all that, how will teams grade his mental make-up?
Wilson is a student of the game, a tireless worker. And he needs to be to succeed. I just can’t see Manziel emulating that work ethic. He’ll need to.
I want to cling to the cliche ‘it only takes one team’. I do suspect somebody will give him his shot. I just wonder whether that shot will come in round two where the risk is less severe.
Alabama’s A.J McCarron is very intriguing. I think he’s improved in pretty much every area he needed to improve — including arm strength. He’s more mobile than people imagine and he can avoid pressure and scramble when required. He’s vastly superior to his predecessors Greg McElroy and John Parker Wilson.
He’s not a great improviser and for that reason he’ll be fairly limited. He’ll take a call and execute it in the NFL, but when things go south I doubt he’s going to be able to adapt and still make a chain-moving play.
McCarron will also make errors — he’ll undersell a pass trying to thread it in behind two DB’s, he’ll miss on a crossing route by throwing slightly behind.
There’s no reason why he can’t be an Andy Dalton-level quarterback. That means completely frustrating at times and bordering on holding back his team. Then on other occasions he’ll be very productive and give the impression he’s a legit franchise starter.
Like Dalton he’s also quite an emotional character — this also leads to some erraticism.
I could see him going in the early part of the second round to a team that wants solid rather than spectacular. But he’s a decent player who has too many unfair critics. As I said, his greatest issue is a lack of improvisation. But he’ll still enter the league a much better player than guys like Christian Ponder and Geno Smith.
Of the others I think Brett Hundley should return to UCLA (debatable whether he will), Tajh Boyd has proven just a little too inaccurate and inconsistent, Logan Thomas hasn’t done enough to repair his stock (but will still go earlier than some think — round 2-3 I suspect) and Aaron Murray’s ACL injury might secure his position as an UDFA candidate.
I’ve flip-flopped on this group all year and I’m still searching for a clarity.
Thank goodness for Russell Wilson.