Teddy Bridgewater comes in first on my QB rankings. As many analysts are trending towards dropping the former Louisville standout in their rankings, I tend to believe more in his past two seasons of stellar play rather than a nerve filled pro day in a T-shirt and shorts. While Bridgewater missed a lot of throws in his pro-day, he completed most of these passes in live game action. He's coming off a season where he threw for over 3,900 yards with 31 touchdowns and an astonishingly low 4 interceptions. Many doubters tend to believe that his stats were inflated due to the mediocrity of the Big Eat Conference, where he didn't face the likes of tougher, SEC opponents. However, his precise accuracy, ability to read defenses, and quick release make him the most NFL ready Quarterback in this draft class.
Bridgewater has consistently shown the ability to read defenses, showing the courage to dump the ball off or find his second or third read rather than throwing into double coverage. Many people tend to fall in love with the hype of a player with breathtaking height/weight/speed measurables, and tend to forget how important the actual game tape is. Former first round busts such as Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, and Christian Ponder amazed scouts at their pro days, but what they tend to forget is that there's no pressure. You're not facing pressure from defenders or having to make quick decisions on the run. Bridgewater is highly skilled at all of these facets of the game of football, and it shouldn't be ignored.
His size might not wow you like Blake Bortles can, and he doesn't have the agility of a Johnny Manziel, but Teddy Bridgewater is the best QB in this class bar-none. He's incredibly accurate, and has the ability to throw receivers open, finding a pocket in the defense. Add to that, Bridgewater is a nimble athlete in the pocket. While he's not a mobile quarterback like Michael Vick or Robert Griffin, he can find room in the pocket to find his read.
The man is tough as nails as well. Besides being the unheralded leader with the Cardinals, Bridgewater infamously played with a broken wrist and a sprained ankle in a 2012 game. Bridgewater is a football junkie whom understands the game more than anyone in this draft class. I have no doubts that Bridgewater will succeed at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Russell Wilson
2. Johnny Manziel | Texas A&M
Surprise, surprise. I'm not sure if this is due to more of an appreciation for Manziel's game or if it's a slight to the lack of top tier talent in this quarterback class, but I think Manziel is the second best signal-caller in this class. The quarterback position in the NFL is rapidly turning into a duel-threat position. With the evolution of the mobile quarterback, Manziel is coming out at the perfect time. Offensive coordinators are falling in love with the amount of creativity that can be used with an athlete of Manziel's nature. Manziel is incredibly elusive in the pocket, displaying the ability to fly around lineman, buying time to find his read. He also is a talented runner out of the pocket, with an Allen Iverson like crossover that can tie up any defender in his way.
His deceptive speed as well as cat-like quickness make Manziel the duel threat quarterback to draft in this class. While the former Heisman winner is undersized, coming in at 5-foot-11, he possesses 9-7/8 inch hands. To understand how big they are, compare them to Bortles, whom at 6-foot-5 has 9-3/8 hands. Manziel's hand size is huge for his game, literally. It gives him the ability to put more under his throws as well as get a better grip in rainy or cold weather. Manziel doesn't need to see over lineman, as his game isn't predicated off three step drop passes. He likes to roam around and find space before making his throws.
The former Heisman winner needs to go to a team that will welcome him, and utilize him correctly. His off the field ego must be contained, and he must be put into a position where there is a stable group of veterans as well as a coach or quarterback to mentor him. Minnesota might be the best option for him, going into a city with limited off the field activities, as well as having a proven leader in Adrian Peterson and a veteran coach in Mike Zimmer whom can control a persona such as Johnny Football.
Comparison: Steve Young with the mental makeup of Chad Johnson. (Round 1)
3. Derek Carr | Fresno State
If Carr's name was Derek Manning, it's quite possible that he'd be the No. 1 quarterback on most experts rankings. It's extremely unfortunate that David Carr, former NFL bust, is the brother of Derek. To add fuel to the fire, their games do have some similarities. Derek's biggest weakness is his inability to throw when under pressure, which was eerily similar to the issues David had with Houston. Along with their size being around the same at 6-foot-2, 212 pounds both leading their Alma mater Fresno State to highly successful seasons, the comparisons end there. Derek has NFL ready mechanics, which is a rarity for today's NFL prospects.
His release is extremely quick, almost like a flick of the wrist, ala Tony Romo. In fact Romo is a great comparison for Carr. Along with his extraordinarily quick release, Romo has made a living using his underrated athleticism to scramble for time in the pocket. Carr is sneaky athletic, and very elusive in the pocket. His arm is also very good, showing the ability to throw nine route with ease. Carr made a living throwing intermediate level passes to fellow wingman Davante Adams, leading his partner in crime to a 1,718 yard season and a mind numbing 24 touchdowns last season. Carr is also incredibly efficient, with a 69% completion percentage this past season.
Derek can't be compared to David at the pro level. He has much more athleticism, and has displayed more accuracy in his time with Fresno State. However, it'd be wise to match up Derek with a team with a strong offensive line and No. 1 receiver, rather than throw him to the wolves just like David was. Look for Cleveland to jump on Derek with one of their first round picks, as its well built offensive line and game breaker Josh Gordon may be the perfect fit for Derek to continue his success at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Tony Romo (Round 1-2)
4. Blake Bortles | UCF
Bortles sits at No. 3 in my rankings, which is a bit lower than most analysts have him around the web. While Bortles comes in at a towering 6-foot-5 with an NFL frame, his arm strength doesn't necessarily backup his size. There have been a lot of comparisons with him and Joe Flacco. However, Flacco has an elite arm, and has one of the most beautiful deep balls in the NFL. Besides their size, they are nowhere near the same player. Bortles is however, more of a project, much like Flacco coming out. He does display solid pocket presence, and the ability to take on defenders while making throws. He's also very mobile for his size and has solid footwork. That sounds a lot like Ben Roethlisberger to me. While he may have the potential of a Big Ben, he needs to work on his reads. That's my biggest gripe with Bortles. He tends to dink and dunk most of his passes and didn't make any pro style reads in his days with UCF. That may be due to the style of his offense in college, but until we see it in the next level, we'll never truly know.
Bortles really does have the ability to become the next Big Ben. The toughness, along with the outstanding size and surprising mobile ability along great touch give Bortles a great foundation. If he can work on his reads, Bortles may be the real deal.
NFL Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger (Round 1)
5. Jimmy Garoppolo | Eastern Illinois
In lots of ways Garoppolo is very comparable to Derek Carr. Both players coming from small schools, sneaky athleticism, and a quick release. In fact, Garoppolo's release is even quicker than Carr's. From FCS competition to facing NFL defenders, his lightning quick release will pay dividends in the pro game. He also displays a lot of touch to his passes. He throws a very catchable ball, and knows how to get his receivers open. Garoppolo really knows how to find open seams in a defense, finding an opening passing to double covered receivers. He's also great with play action, selling it as good as anyone I've scouted in the past few years. His play action along with his astute knowledge of the game, and fiery motor draw comparisons to Chad Pennington coming out of Marshall over a decade ago. Both are extremely similar prospects, for better and worse.
Garoppolo's deep ball is suspect, and he needs to work on his deep throw accuracy in order to open up the rest of the playbook for himself. Coming out of the Ohio Valley Conference, many also tend to question his ability to face NFL competition.
Garoppolo displays some real intriguing traits that make him someone to look out for when the draft rolls around. His play style is best suited for a West Coast offense with a running back at the helm to loosen up the defenses he may be facing. Look for Houston to pounce on Garoppolo with its first pick in the second day of the draft.