NFL Draft 100: Matt Miller's Top Quarterbacks

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterMay 2, 2014

NFL Draft 100: Matt Miller's Top Quarterbacks

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Who is the best quarterback in the 2014 draft class? 

    That's a question that's caused heated debate for months, and yet there is no consensus as to who should be on top. 

    There isn't a Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck type of prospect in this class who blows everyone away and checks off every box. But there is a quarterback who sits safely within that next tier of prospects. Who is it?

    That's what the NFL Draft 100 identifies. Each list in this series was compiled after looking at the film for the top 100 players on my big board in order to determine who the best prospects are at each position and what they do best.

    The B/R NFL Draft 100 metric is based on scouting each player individually and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance on a 100-point scale. Unlike our NFL 1000 series, this project factors in upside for each player, as the NFL draft is as much about upside as it is about production.

    Quarterbacks are judged on accuracy (30 points), arm strength (20 points), mechanics (10), decision-making (20), upside (20) and all of the technique, athletic ability and football intelligence needed to play the position.

    In the case of ties, the ranking is based on which player I prefer personally.

    Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.

    I scouted each player with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study and in-person evaluation.

     

    All combine statistics and height/weight information courtesy of NFL.com.

8. AJ McCarron, Alabama

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Accuracy

    26/30

    Playing in a pro-style system, AJ McCarron has been asked to make big league throws. He's shown accuracy on intermediate and crossing patterns, but he struggled with consistent ball placement and timing on deeper, outside throws. When asked to push the ball outside—think deep outs and go routes—he's struggled to put the ball on a line. His passes tend to float over the head or away from the body of the intended target in these situations. Accuracy is generally something that's not refined at the next level, but McCarron could improve his ball placement with better timing and arm strength. 

    Arm Strength

    16/20

    The lack of a big arm is the biggest concern regarding McCarron. Despite having a big frame (6'3", 220 lbs), he doesn't drive the ball down the field well. He is at his best when throwing passes underneath 20 yards and inside the hashes. When asked to really put the ball on a line and work the boundary, his passes tend to float and flutter. This, despite his top-tier mechanics, shows that he'll need to get physically stronger in order to improve his velocity. 

    Decision-Making

    18/20

    In the pocket, McCarron makes pro-level reads and shows an understanding of coverages and defensive assignments. He's a quick decision-maker and doesn't linger in the pocket too long. When pressured, he can show happy feet and struggle to get the ball out if his receivers are covered up, as he doesn't have the arm to throw a receiver open. He's a high-completion passer and will take what the defense gives him, but he won't take many shots down the field.  

    Mechanics

    10/10

    McCarron has textbook motion and footwork in the pocket. He has a clean stroke and doesn't show any hitches or delays in his set up and delivery. His throws come out high and with proper follow-through. He played both under center and in the shotgun at Alabama, and he can quickly set his feet to throw from either formation.  

    Upside

    14/20

    McCarron spent five seasons at a premium college football program, so it's reasonable to think he's already developed as much as he's going to. The areas where he's strong—mechanics, accuracy and decision-making—are good, but his lack of arm strength and asking him to play in an offense without an all-world offensive line could cause drastic results.

    Overall

    84/100

7. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Accuracy

    25/30

    Jimmy Garoppolo looked the part while tearing up small-school competition in college, but how does his game project to the NFL? He has a quick release and anticipation skills. On film, you see him throwing to receivers with zip and ball placement that leads them away from defenders. He gets it in terms of where to put the football, and he backs it up with actual performance. He also shows the touch to make throws down the field and over the top, and he executes a good bucket-drop throw.  

    Arm Strength

    18/20

    Watching Garoppolo throw live at the Senior Bowl, I was impressed to see his quick release and velocity on passes to every level. He has the arm strength to cut through bad weather and wind. There isn't a level of the field he can't throw to with timing and zip. What you want to see from him is more consistency in his arm strength. At times, he didn't drive the ball well and failed to show the arm seen in practice situations. Garoppolo must step into his throws with more force and really use his full body to fuel the throw, like he did in Mobile. Perhaps most importantly, he just needs to let loose and rip the ball. 

    Decision-Making

    16/20

    Coming out of a spread offense at EIU, Garoppolo has made a ton of throws but hasn't always played against great competition. He was in an offense that also allowed him to make a lot of throws after one read or simplified things by asking him to read just one half of the field. The speed of an NFL defense will be a big adjustment for him coming from the Ohio Valley Conference. Due to his issues with confidence in the pocket, his decision-making under pressure becomes an unknown. That said, he shows vision and made very quick reads in college. 

    Mechanics

    8/10

    Garoppolo is a good athlete, and it shows in his mechanics. He has a quick delivery with a snap at the end, and he pushes the ball out very fast. From read to throw, he has one of the quickest releases in the draft class. The bottom end of his mechanics are less than ideal. He sees ghosts in the pocket—against some pretty low-level competition—and gets happy feet too often. By not setting his feet to throw, he's taking spin off his passes and is also showing hesitation in his delivery. That, coupled with a bit of a sidearm motion, gives you reason for concern about his passes getting batted down. 

    Upside

    19/20

    Bringing Garoppolo to the NFL after four years at Eastern Illinois will offer him access to coaching and training that he simply didn't see in college. With more time to spend with coaches and a higher level of training available, he could excel if he's able to clean up some mechanical and footwork issues.

    Overall

    86/100

6. Aaron Murray, Georgia

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    john bazemore/Associated Press

    Accuracy

    26/30

    The Georgia offense prepared Aaron Murray for the NFL, and his ability to throw with touch and anticipation are evident. He displays very good ball placement on throws inside of 20 yards. He's equally accurate on the run, as he shows athleticism to adjust his arm on the run in order to maintain his delivery and ball placement. In 2013, he became a much more consistent deep-ball thrower, showing touch and arc on such passes. He leads receivers well and throws a very catchable ball. You won't see Murray throwing between defenders often, and he does like to pass to open targets, but on short-to-intermediate throws, he displays high-level accuracy. 

    Arm Strength

    16/20

    The biggest flaw in Murray's game is his lack of a big arm. Passes coming from his 6'0", 207-pound frame don't generate a ton of spin. He did improve here in his senior season—showing much better velocity to the middle of the field with improved footwork—but he can't compete with the Derek Carrs and Zach Mettenbergers of the class.  

    Decision-Making

    20/20

    Murray has the highest football IQ of any player I spent time with this year, and it shows up on the field. He reads the defense and makes nearly flawless decisions on the go without being too conservative. He anticipates the defense and adjusts accordingly. And unlike so many college quarterbacks, he actually made calls at the line and ran the offense on his own. 

    Mechanics

    9/10

    A classic, over-the-top thrower, Murray has ideal arm mechanics. Until 2013, he struggled with consistently stepping into his passes, though, and he must prove that he won't be timid about exposing his repaired knee after undergoing ACL surgery. He does have a low release at times, but he climbs the pocket well to find passing lanes. He doesn't break down in the pocket and uses his mobility to slide, step and climb to find rushing or throwing windows. 

    Upside

    15/20

    Murray isn't going to get taller or much stronger in the NFL, and that's the league's biggest concern about his style of play. There will always be a place for super smart and accurate quarterbacks, but his lack of size and strength could ultimately keep him in a backup role.

    Overall

    86/100

5. Zach Mettenberger, LSU

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    Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    Accuracy

    24/30

    Zach Mettenberger looks like an NFL quarterback. At 6'5" and 224 pounds with 9.75" hands, he checks off every box physically. As a passer, however, he still needs a bit of work. In his senior year, he showed the ability to be a capable spot-thrower, but he will still put the ball outside the frame of the receiver when rushed through his mechanics. He was bailed out by great receivers—Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry—at times and played with exceptional talent around him. At the next level, he must work to better see over the top of defenders and put the ball where they can't make a play on it. You'll rarely see Mettenberger underthrow a receiver, as most of his off-target throws are sent too deep.

    Arm Strength

    19/20

    A big-armed passer, Mettenberger has the strength to put the ball anywhere on the field. He doesn't consistently step into throws and generate the velocity he's capable of, but the raw ability to rip passes deep or with great spin is there. He fits the ball into tight windows well and has the gunslinger mentality to throw his receivers open. 

    Decision-Making

    15/20

    As is often the case with big-armed passers, Mettenberger puts too much faith in his right arm at times. Sure, you want a quarterback who's not afraid to take chances, but you also want one who is also going to limit mistakes. His penchant for throwing late on deep routes allows safeties to make a play on the ball—and with his velocity, they wouldn't be able to do so if the ball were thrown earlier. His decision-making really improved in 2013, but it's a gamble to say definitively that he will continue to progress in this area. 

    Mechanics

    9/10

    Mettenberger's big, over-the-top motion is ideal. He doesn't have the fastest feet in the pocket and could stand to speed up his lower half in his throws. His back leg doesn't always swing through on quick throws, and he'll want to use more lower-body torque when powering outside throws against NFL speed.

    Upside

    20/20

    Evaluating Mettenberger from 2012 to 2013 and seeing his growth in a pro-style system under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is encouraging. The senior took off under Cameron and shows upside to continue growing and maturing as a passer with more time under pro coaches. His timetable to return from a torn ACL late last season remains a question mark for 2014.

    Overall

    87/100

4. Blake Bortles, UCF

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Accuracy

    28/30

    Blake Bortles looks like he walked out of central casting and right into the 2014 draft class. He needs to work on becoming a more refined passer overall, but he is an efficient QB on the move and does a nice job of throwing to spots. He finds openings and attacks them, and he has shown skills to throw receivers open while moving laterally. He doesn't buckle under pressure and shows the same accuracy when the pocket is clean or messy. His deep-ball accuracy is just average, but he showed big improvement here, both at the combine and at his pro day. He is a very raw passer fundamentally, and this affects his accuracy, but he has made major strides in fixing that with a quarterback coach. 

    Arm Strength

    19/20

    Bortles doesn't have a huge arm now, but he has the body type and strength to really improve his velocity and pure passing power in the future. Like some of the other mechanically flawed quarterbacks in this class, Bortles doesn't set his feet to throw. That means the ball is coming out with just his arm and upper body fueling it—instead of using his lower body to generate power. Right now, he throws a ball with enough zip, but his potential will be off the charts if he fixes some issues in his lower body. 

    Decision-Making

    16/20

    Playing at Central Florida, Bortles was able to get away with a lot of late throws over the middle and on passes thrown across his body while on the move. That won't fly in the NFL, as those late throws will ultimately become interceptions. At the next level, he must learn to take what's there while pushing the envelope against ideal matchups (man coverage). He is an athlete and has the frame to survive as a runner, but he has to learn when it's ideal to run, throw the ball away or gamble on a 50/50 pass. 

    Mechanics

    7/10

    A classic thrower with a smooth release, Bortles could stand to polish his set up and delivery. As mentioned above, too many of his throws come from a saddle-style stance (feet balanced, shoulder-width apart) and not from a classic stance. He has to learn to follow through on throws and get his back foot through the pass instead of relying purely upon arm and upper-body strength. He's a back-foot thrower too often and will struggle with too much air under his passes on throws that fade away from the line of scrimmage.

    Upside

    20/20

    Bortles has as much raw potential as any quarterback in the draft. The downside is that betting on quarterbacks to develop is risky. If Bortles were to never improve his mechanics and decision-making, he wouldn't be an acceptable NFL starter. Some team will bet on their ability to develop prospects and discern true upside, though, and that's where the most exciting part of his game comes from. 

    Overall

    90/100

3. Derek Carr, Fresno State

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    David Cleveland/Associated Press

    Accuracy

    27/30

    Derek Carr played in a pass-happy system at Fresno State which asked him to throw a lot of short, quick hits but also allowed him to stretch the field. The result is three years of quality film which shows him making solid throws on every route imaginable. He has enough spin on his passes to thread the ball into tight windows, as he'll put heat on the ball and get it into the receiver's hands quickly. You'd like to see him step into more throws in order to eliminate unneeded air under deep passes and out routes. When the pocket is clean, though, he delivers on-point passes to the hashes, both on time and with ideal placement. 

    Arm Strength

    20/20

    Carr has upper-level NFL arm strength. He put that on display at the Senior Bowl, where his passes routinely cut through a very windy and cold two days of practice. His passes have a visible and audible zip to them. He throws with excellent velocity, but he also knows how to take enough mustard off his passes to not throw everything as a fastball.  

    Decision-Making

    18/20

    Carr played in a system that allowed him to make a lot of checkdowns and single reads, but not every throw was a packaged play with a screen pass built in. He was asked to throw down the field and read safeties, too, and he did a nice job of exploiting ideal matchups. Carr played in two very contrasting systems at Fresno State and had no trouble moving to a new scheme and picking up where he left off.  

    Mechanics

    9/10

    A classic, prototypical drop-back passer, Carr has a fluid motion and release. He is a much better athlete than he is given credit for, and that shows in his footwork and setup. He slides in the pocket well and can evade rushers with agility. On the other hand, he does struggle to step up in the pocket against interior penetration and will fade away from the line too often. He does a good job of resetting his arm on the move and throws well going left or right and while on the run. He has a quick snap release. 

    Upside

    18/20

    Carr is a hard worker with a desire to prove himself as a great NFL quarterback, and that's the first step in becoming a capable pro. He'll need to work on staying strong in the pocket under pressure in order to realize his full potential, but there is undeniable talent and upside to his game. 

    Overall

    92/100

2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    Accuracy

    27/30

    Johnny Manziel is known for many things, but accuracy is not one of them. However, that's unfair given what he has shown on film. He demonstrates ball placement on deep throws, especially the go route, comeback route and back-shoulder fade. His accuracy over the middle hasn't been as tested, but when throwing outside the hashes, he has spot accuracy and can thread the ball between defenders. In the pros, some worry that his accuracy over the middle will be a concern because of his lack of height (6'0"). Manziel, like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, must learn to step up in the pocket in order to find passing lanes and hit those intermediate throws.  

    Arm Strength

    19/20

    When watching Manziel throw, you might not see great zip on his passes, but that's because his mechanics are out of whack. The fact that he can spin the ball as well as he does without using his lower body to power through throws is very impressive. If he fixes his feet, he will have a cannon. On short-to-intermediate throws, he must start stepping and throwing—just like a third baseman firing the ball to first base—in order to really put more heat behind his passes. By learning to step into throws, there's no pass Manziel can't make with his velocity and timing.

    Decision-Making

    19/20

    Evaluating Manziel's decision-making is tough. Out of 10 plays he makes, there might be two that really bother you, with the other eight being very smart, instinctive decisions. No quarterback in this class has the instincts that he shows, though. Whether he takes off running, assesses how defenses are adapting to him or in recognizing where Mike Evans is on the field—even when he can't see Evans yet—Manziel has proven that he is a highly intelligent player. The only decision of his you can really gripe about is his need to move away from the line of scrimmage when pressured instead of working for positive yardage. 

    Mechanics

    7/10

    Manziel has a lot of backyard football to this game, which is both good and bad. Mechanically, there's quiet a bit to fix. He tends to have a very stiff throwing motion and doesn't step into his throws—instead choosing to keep his front leg straight and whip the ball with core torque. That shows off his impressive strength, but it also indicates that he is not mechanically sound. The pause in his throwing motion is also troubling. He stops his motion with his arm at a 90-degree angle and the ball above his ear, and he then pushes through the throw. This has been cleaned up some by a quarterback coach, but he must be sure not to revert back to this under pressure. And finally, Manziel has to stop leaving his feet to make throws. He tends to jump before releasing the ball, and it adds absolutely nothing to his throw.

    Upside

    20/20

    Manziel ranks as the biggest of all the boom-or-bust prospects in this year's draft. While he has the tools to succeed and is a phenomenal athlete, questions about his size and playing style translating to the NFL should give any evaluator pause. 

    Overall

    92/100

1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Accuracy

    30/30

    Accuracy is the most important aspect to playing the quarterback position, and Teddy Bridgewater has plenty of it. Through three years of film, he's shown the touch and anticipation to deliver the ball on time and on the mark on both inside and outside throws. His deep accuracy is not great, but he has room to improve that—just like Tom Brady and others have—with NFL coaching. On underneath throws inside 20 yards, he's the best in the class at putting the ball where his receiver can get it. That might mean leading DeVante Parker above the rim versus Kentucky or throwing a fade route in man coverage against Florida, but he reads and recognizes where to put the ball and backs it up with accuracy.

    Arm Strength

    17/20

    We all saw his pro day performance, and it did highlight the biggest flaw in Bridgewater's game: He doesn't have the big arm for great deep throws. That's not to say he has a bad arm, but he doesn't throw with great velocity or zip on deep outs. Bridgewater does have very good anticipation skills, which allows him to speed up the process and make up for a lack of raw strength, but he can't compare to bigger arms in the NFL, or even the ones in this draft class. He does have above-adequate strength, though, and would not limit an NFL offense. 

    Decision-Making

    20/20

    Bridgewater always did something before the snap that most college quarterbacks don't do anymore: He scanned the defense and was tasked with making calls accordingly. In two-minute situations, he also ran the offense, calling the plays and putting the team on his back. It's that readiness and preparation that makes Bridgewater the most NFL-ready of all the quarterbacks in this class. With the ball in his hands, he showed a good mix of being a safe gambler. He'll throw the over-the-shoulder fade with a safety closing on the route, but he only threw four interceptions in his final college season and just 12 in his last 26 games. 

    Mechanics

    9/10

    Mechanically, there isn't much to complain about. Bridgewater has a classic, quick throwing motion without a delay in his forward motion. He will drop his elbow at times and lose some velocity on intermediate throws. He's athletic enough to slide his feet and climb the pocket, and he excels at keeping his eyes downfield to see late-breaking targets. If he cleans up the elbow drop, which is fixable, his mechanics will be ideal. 

    Upside

    20/20

    Playing in an ultra-conservative offense under Charlie Strong, Bridgewater was rarely let loose to use all his talents. In the NFL, he's likely to be allowed to do more as a runner, passer and improvisor. That's why he's given a very high grade in terms of upside—because we've yet to see him unleashed in an offense. 

    Overall

    96/100