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2014 NFL Draft: What you need to know about the top five QBs

By Dane Brugler | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst

More NFL offseason: NFL Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Top free agents

An average of 12 quarterbacks are selected each draft. This year? Take the over.

Draft classes are often graded based on the star power of the quarterback prospects and while this crop lacks an Andrew Luck type of no-brainer at No. 1, it is a very deep class.

I took some heat back on Jan. 3 when I inserted Central Florida QB Blake Bortles at No. 1 to the Houston Texans in my mock draft. So much so, that the backlash prompted me to write an article a few days later elaborating on why A) Bortles to Houston makes sense and B) Bortles to Houston is a REAL possibility.

Here we are almost three months later and the former UCF passer still appears at the top spot in my mock draft as we enter the final stretch, and several others have joined me with that prediction. Regardless if the Texans' decision makers have already made up their mind, they appear to be considering several of the top quarterback options this draft has to offer. But so are a host of other quarterback-needy teams early in the draft.

Below are my top five graded quarterbacks with possible landing spots for each of them:

1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (6-foot-2, 214 pounds)


Bridgewater has an athletic frame with decisive pocket movements, smooth footwork and mobility to make plays outside the pocket. He has good arm strength with strong throws on the move and can drive the ball with some extra juice when needed. Bridgewater shows above-average composure and patience in the pocket to allow routes to develop, operating with bullets buzzing past his ear and standing tough even when he knows the hit is coming. He does a nice job using his eyes to hold defenders and work his progressions with an outstanding thought process to digest information and implement it on the field. Bridgewater is a creature of habit with top-notch work ethic, already preparing like a meticulous and detailed professional.


Bridgewater is lean-muscled and lacks an imposing build with slender shoulders and thin hips, lacking the frame to get much bigger than his current weight. He doesn't always reset his feet and deliver, preferring to just flick his wrist at times with a lower-than-ideal release point. Bridgewater will force some throws, especially over the middle, showing inconsistent deep accuracy on throws of 20-plus yards. He has smaller-than-ideal hands and wore gloves on both hands in college. Bridgewater faced an average level of competition on a week-to-week basis in the Big East/AAC. He has long-term durability concerns due to thin body type and a propensity to hang tough in the pocket and take hits.


Bridgewater is the top quarterback in this class, in my opinion, because of what he can do above the neck. Those mental and intangible traits aren't always easy to project, but it's clear he has a graduate-level understanding of the game and should continue to get better. However, I don't think he will be the first quarterback drafted and he might not be the second, either. Right now I have him projected to the Minnesota Vikings with the eighth overall pick in the first round where he would instantly upgrade the position. Bridgewater is a very natural passer who has the mental aptitude and arm talent to be a long-term NFL starter and would stop the ever-spinning quarterback carousel in Minnesota.

2. Blake Bortles, Central Florida (6-5, 232)


Bortles has an NFL-style build and is an athletic mover, picking up chunks of yards with his legs and anticipating pressure to move the pocket. He displays quick feet with above-average pocket footwork and maneuverability to climb and keep his eyes downfield. Bortles has a good setup and delivery with a balanced base and quick eyes to survey his reads and take what is there. He shows terrific peripheral vision and feel to see the entire field with above-average poise and decision making, always appearing in control of the situation. He has a smooth release with good zip and the arm strength to get away with off-balance throws. Bortles has good rhythm and timing from snap to delivery and won't shy from tight windows with his confident arm. He is a tough, hard-nosed ball carrier and delivers well on the run, exuding toughness, leadership and confidence as a strong competitor. Bortles is coachable with a high football IQ and already prepares like a pro.


Bortles can make every throw, but lacks elite arm strength. His ball placement and touch have room for improvement with throwing mechanics that need refining, especially when under pressure. Bortles needs to learn how to better use his eyes to hold defenders and will too often lead defensive backs to the intended target. He has room to improve his spatial awareness from inside the pocket and ball security when scrambling needs improvement. Like Bridgewater, Bortles didn't face top-level competition on a weekly basis.


Once Bill O'Brien was hired in Houston, Bortles became the favorite in my mind to be the top pick and I'm still leaning that way today. He is a highly intelligent field general with ideal intangibles and football character. Bortles is a prototypical quarterback and flashes Andrew Luck's release and arm strength, Jake Locker's mobility and toughness and Ben Roethlisberger's confidence and clutch attributes. From a mental and physical standpoint, Bortles brings a lot to the table and it's easy to see why many around the league have him as the top passer in this class -- and that group might include the Houston Texans.

3. Derek Carr, Fresno State (6-2, 214)


Carr has above average-arm strength and top-shelf velocity with a quick, effortless release and the ability to spin it anywhere he wants on the field. He is a better athlete than expected with quickness, mobility and toughness to operate in and around the pocket. Carr is a confident thrower and not afraid to challenge small passing windows, always giving his guys a chance. He makes a lot of pre-snap adjustments based on his reads at the line of scrimmage, clearly studying film and diligently preparing for each opponent. Carr takes care of the football and has never had double-digit interceptions in a season despite gaudy pass attempts, setting the MWC record for consecutive passes without an interception (306). He was productive and accomplished as a three-year starter; his 12,843 career passing yards is a school record.


Carr has a lean body type and average height. He needs to refine his footwork and tends to forget about his base and lower-body technique. Carr looks to avoid contact with questionable pocket tolerance, often falling away from his target at the release point -- easily flustered with pressure and needs to improve his confidence and overall feel in the pocket. His touch is a work in progress; he needs to understand when the situation calls for him to take something off his fastball, especially on screens and short passes. There's some minor concerns about whether Carr will put in the needed time at the team facility in the NFL.

Carr has the qualities that make you think Matthew Stafford when watching him, but his flaws will bother enough teams that he likely won't be a top-10 pick and could slip to the second round. It won't shock me if he ends up going in the top 32 picks, but right now, I have him in the early second round to the Oakland Raiders. If you're looking for a technically sound passer with flawless footwork who will stand in the face of pressure, then Carr isn't for you, but if you want a golden-armed quarterback with a quick release and appetite for football, then Carr grows on you more and more.

4. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (6-0, 207)


Manziel has an extremely fluid lower body with electric feet, which makes him extremely slippery as a runner showing strong acceleration out of his cuts. He is an instinctive scrambler to follow blocks and keep plays alive, allowing for second-chance throws with his ability to escape pressure and make plays when everything breaks down. Manziel has a loose belt and uses his hip action well to add torque to his throws, showing improved arm strength. He is the point guard of the offense and understands what he sees to apply it on the field with improved accuracy outside the pocket and off balance, throwing well on the move. Manziel is a gritty competitor with noticeable confidence and moxie, feeding off the big stage with a short memory to not allow mistakes to linger. He was extremely productive with 5,116 yards of total offense in 2012 -- becoming the first player in NCAA history to surpass 5,000 total yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season -- and holds the Texas A&M records for career total offense (9,989), career completion percentage (68.9 percent) and career total touchdowns (93).


Manziel is short and lacks an ideal body type for the next level. He doesn't have the frame to consistently take a beating as a ball carrier, and there are strong durability concerns about whether he'll be able to hold up for a 16-game schedule. Manziel's ball placement and anticipation is very up and down, especially on deep and power throws, which stems from an inconsistent base and overall passing mechanics (both upper- and lower-body technique). He makes too many throws with his momentum falling and taking him backward, causing him to throw some lame ducks. He ignores fundamentals and relies on snap throws with his overconfidence. Manziel gets himself in trouble when he backtracks and retreats to try and avoid the rush, holding the ball too long and forgetting where he is on the field at times. He has some maturity and work-ethic questions and doesn't fit the personality of what many teams want at quarterback.


One of the most exciting and productive players in college football history, "Johnny Football" lives and dies with his backyard, spur-of-the-moment style and appears crazed and frantic as a scrambler, but he's in constant controlled-panic mode. There is a lot to like about Manziel, including his smarts, instincts and strong competitive spirit, but it's in his football DNA to extend plays and hold the ball until the last possible moment, and in a league where players are bigger, faster and stronger, some violent hits will be unavoidable. Manziel is an outside-the-box type of pick who could pay off in a huge way or it could backfire, but regardless, it should be exciting. In my current mock draft, I have Manziel landing in Cleveland with the fourth pick -- a selection that would inject some life at a position that has routinely kept the Browns organization in the cellar of the AFC North.

5. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois (6-2, 226)


Garoppolo has better-than-adequate arm strength with a snap release that produces some juice with all of his experience coming from pass-happy offenses. He has excellent passing vision with quick eyes to scan and a quick, natural delivery to get the ball out quickly. Garoppolo is smart and executes the offense well with a quick intellectual process on the football field. He displays above-average timing with little unnecessary movements, getting "happy feet" at times, but shows the ability to reset. Garoppolo is level-headed and always under control with a strong leadership presence. He has elite career production as a four-year starter at the FCS level, including a record-breaking senior season (won the 2013 Walter Payton Award) in which he broke almost all of Tony Romo's school records.


Garoppolo's lack of elite velocity will show on some NFL throws, and he needs to continue to improve his decision-making and not allow pressure to severely alter his process; he often forces throws in small windows. He needs to get his feet under control on a consistent basis and regularly step into his throws; he needs to develop his pocket awareness and internal clock to feel pressure. Garoppolo holds the ball too long at times and will take unnecessary hits. All of his experience is in a FCS spread shotgun attack; he lacks ideal experience with under-center snaps.


While most seem to be drawing a line in the sand regarding their feelings on the "top four" quarterback prospects, Garoppolo is generally well liked in NFL circles. Many teams around the league are smitten with his intelligence as a passer and quick process from snap to delivery. He has a chance to sneak into the first round, possibly as early as 26th overall to the Cleveland Browns. But he would also be a nice pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second round (the team that coached him at the Senior Bowl) if they decide to pass on a quarterback in the first, which is the current situation in my mock draft.

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