Grading the pro potential: Quarterbacks

The hot prospects in January might just be hoping to maintain a first-round status now, while a few mid-round possibilities then are now looking like second-rounders. NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas gives his personal opinions on where and when the top QBs could fall, along with some late-round prospects, and wraps it all up with his in-depth grading system.

While my staff put together the draft projections on the 2014 NFL Draft Class, this report takes a look at those athletes from a professional standpoint – where will they be three years from now, a time period teams look at to see if they received true value on that selection.

As you have seen during recent months, no position is as polarized as the 2014 quarterback crop. Whether it was premature analysis earlier in the year, or perhaps teams having too much extra time to find fault in these passers, quite a few of those that enticed earlier are now just hoping to remain in the first-round picture.

Teddy Bridgewater appears to be the one quarterback in danger of doing a draft freefall. Once considered a favorite to wear a Houston uniform next season, that could still happen, but after teams examined his frail-looking frame, smallish hands and less than impressive pro day, his chances of playing for the Texans could come early in the second round. Bridgewater's situation appears to be very similar to West Virginia's Geno Smith last year and the jury is still out on the Jets' decision to mortgage the future with a guy The NFL Draft Report labeled with a "Buyer Beware" tag last season.

Many still regard Blake Bortles as the top quarterback prospect, but some wonder if this is just infatuation or the next franchise quarterback. While we do agree that he will likely be the first passer to hear his name called in a few weeks, this is not a franchise quarterback, not by any means. On our draft board, we still consider Bortles as a first-round selection, along with Derek Carr, but neither of these quarterbacks is better than the crop of talent left behind that should have scouts tripping over themselves to see next season.

Tom Savage seems to be the new "eye candy" that teams are falling in love with, but while you can see striking similarities in his game that even the Patriots staff has nicknamed him "Tom Two," this is a player that left on bad terms when he transferred from Rutgers, only to find a less-than-receptive staff at Arizona, again moving on until he found a team of his liking in Pittsburgh.

Few things can kill the chemistry on a team quicker than a coach and quarterback not on the same page, and this could be how Savage's story eventually will play out. However, with the Pats' affection towards former Rutgers players, and his former Scarlet Knights coach vouching for him, Savage appears to be ready to serve as Tom Brady's caddy for the next few years.

With Ryan Mallett having matured under the Patriots system, Savage could be the team's next reclamation project, likely with a second-round pick, unless the whispers of Houston's interest is true, forcing New England's hand with the 29th pick in the draft.

The second round could see just two quarterback be selected, one being Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo, who has the attention from the Minnesota Vikings. Often compared to a player that came out of his school, Tony Romo, I see a player that has talent, but one that will needs lots of mechanical refinement, both with his throwing motion and footwork. Either Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater could join Garoppolo in the second round, but it seems logical that some team in the second half of round one will take the Fresno State product (Cleveland).

Injuries have seen several one-time early-round prospects slip into the draft's second and third days. Louisiana State's Zach Mettenberger is getting lots of attention, but still looks like a PUP candidate as he recovers from knee surgery. Teams will still wonder if the 2013 season showing when he was healthy is the real player they will get. There are still concerns about his maturity, as he's had several off-field issues, including one that led to him leaving Georgia a few years ago.

Speaking of Georgia, Aaron Murray appears well on the road to full recovery, but teams still look at his just-under 6:01 frame as a reason he would not have gone any earlier in the draft, even if he never suffered a left knee ACL tear. Another Southeastern Conference quarterback that should be selected before the end of the third round is Alabama's A.J. McCarron, called by some the "safest" bet at this position but has been compared to Cincinnati's adequate passer, Andy Dalton.

The third day of the draft is where teams will feel more comfortable gambling with a pick, hoping they have the luck Green Bay always seems to have in finding late-round passers to develop and trade for higher value in a few years. Those that fit into that group is Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, who I still feel is just a patient coach away from being a potential down-the-road starter. Some teams look at his athleticism and wonder what might happen if they return him to the position Tech originally recruited him to play – tight end.

Ball State's Keith Wenning is getting lots of attention from the Browns and Houston, as both teams are looking to bring in a few young arms, both early and late, in this draft. It is puzzling that Wyoming's Brett Smith was left behind when other quarterbacks went to Indianapolis for the 2014 Combine. With his footwork and powerful arm, Smith could emerge as the steal of the draft at this position. Knowing the sharp mind of Packers GM Ted Thompson, Smith would be a nice third option behind Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn on Green Bay's depth chart next season.

Some free agent types that could make noise in training camp are Brock Jensen (North Dakota State), who also might get a look as a running back; Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois) is another read-option type that has potential position move written for his future; oft-troubled TCU passer Casey Pachall has fourth-round talent but too much baggage off the field for a team to use anything more than a possible seventh-round pick; Jeff Matthews (Cornell), Stephen Morris (Miami) and Dustin Vaughn (West Texas A&M) are all potential practice squad candidates.


CREAM OF THE CROP: Derek Carr (Fresno State)
BEST OF THE REST: Blake Bortles (Central Florida)
MOST UNDERRATED: Tom Savage (Pittsburgh)
MOST OVERRATED: Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
SUPER SLEEPER: Brett Smith (Wyoming


#BORTLES, Blake 6:052324.9332 1/209'07"
CARR, Derek 6:022144.6934 1/209'02"
SAVAGE, Tom 6:042284.972708'09"4.367.336.72
%METTENBERGER, Zach 6:052245.183309'08"
MCCARRON, A.J. 6:032204.942808'03"4.347.186.43-4
#MANZIEL, Johnny 6:002074.6831 1/209'05"4.036.756.41
#BRIDGEWATER, Teddy 6:022144.793009'05"
GAROPPOLO, Jimmy 6:022264.9730 1/209'02"
%MURRAY, Aaron 6:012074.843109'05"4.307.166.05
#SMITH, Brett 6:022064.593110'08"4.186.985.85-6
THOMAS, Logan 6:062484.6135 1/209'10"
WENNING, Keith 6:032185.002808'04"
SHAW, Connor 6:002064.663409'08"4.337.075.37
GILBERT, Garrett 6:032234.7830 ½09'04"4.407.175.27-PFA
FALES, David 6:022124.992808'07"4.507.555.16
BOYD, Tajh 6:012224.8430 1/208'10"4.237.335.06-7
JENSEN, Brock (TB) 6:032234.703409'02"4.357.065.0PFA
MORRIS, Stephen 6:022134.633009'03"4.497.364.97-PFA
VAUGHAN, Dustin 6:052354.952909'00"4.437.254.8PFA
RENNER, Bryn 6:032284.8725 1/209'00"4.307.224.8PFA
MATHEWS, Jeff 6:042235.2625 1/208'09"4.367.144.7PFA
PACHALL, Casey 6:032164.962908'08"4.657.094.7FA
LYNCH, Jordan (TB/DS) 6:002174.7629 1/209'01"4.206.554.6PFA
PRICE, Keith 6:011964.733009'
KAY, Brendon 6:032264.64     4.5CMP
%RUSSELL, Tyler 6:042274.873109'07"4.307.164.4FA
KENNEDY, Adam 6:052235.12     4.4FA
FRANKLIN, James 6:022284.72     4.3FA
GUITON, Kenny 6:022044.80     4.3CMP
CLANCY, Joe 6:022135.01     4.3CMP
THOMPSON, Derek 6:042184.96     4.2CMP
RETTIG, Chase 6:022154.99     4.2CMP
HERRING, Caleb 6:032095.08     4.1CMP
BROWNING, Kolton 6:012234.74     4.1CMP
REES, Tommy 6:022105.14     4.1CMP


When reading my ratings, please refer to the chart below to understand the grade that will be provided on each player. To understand how I arrive at this rating, I consider the player's "critical factors," which allow the teams to take the following into consideration when drafting; size, strength, competitiveness, speed, athletic ability, potential and productivity.

8.1-9.0FranchiseImmediate starter...Should have a major impact to the success of the franchise, barring injury...Possesses superior critical factors...Plays with consistency and without abnormal extra effort...Rare talent.
7.6-8.0Star QualityEventual starter...Should make a significant contribution in his first year...Possesses above average critical factors...Has the talent and skills to start...Will contribute to upgrading the team...Can play without abnormal effort, but has some inconsistency in his play that will improve with refinement and development...Has no real weakness.
7.0-7.5Impact PlayerPossesses at least average to above average critical factors in all areas...Will contribute immediately, whether as a starter or a valuable reserve...Will move into the starting lineup with seasoning...Above average player who needs to refine certain areas.
6.5-6.9Eventual StarterCould move into the starting lineup within three years...Has average critical factors in all areas...Needs further development, but has the ability to contribute.
6.0-6.4Potential StarterCould force himself into the starting lineup with improved perform- ances...Will make a team...Has average critical factors in most areas, but at least one with less than average quality that he will have a hard time overcoming...Probable draft choice.
5.5-5.9Roster PlayerHas the ability to serve as a key reserve and possible future starter... Possesses average critical factors, but more than several areas are less than average...Plays with normal extra effort.
5.0-5.4ProjectHas the skills to play pro ball with proper tutoring...May make a team based on need...Possesses no real strong critical factors and is probably below average in several areas that the player will have a hard time overcoming...Possible draft choice, but only if that team is caught short on talent available at that position.
4.6-4.9Develop- mental Could make a team with an impressive showing in training camp... Not strong in most critical factors...Deficient in more than one area that he will not be able to overcome...At least average in the factor of competitiveness...May not make a team due to his limitations.
4.1-4.5Camp PlayerHas redeeming qualities that could allow him to play in the pros with improved performances...Deficient in more than one critical factor... Might make a team, but will always be the player that squad will look to replace.
3.5-4.0RejectMight make a team, but has glaring deficiencies in several critical factors...Below average competitor whose athletic skills will allow him to enter training camp, but has a difficult time in trying to make a team.
2UnratedSerious injury or off-field problem.

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