The most debated position every draft season is at quarterback, because it’s the most important position in football. Or at the very least, the perceived position of most importance. And the 2014 NFL draft has been labeled everything from a good quarterback class to a bad quarterback class, but in my opinion it’s above-average. There’s no Andrew Luck or RG3, but there are many players who have franchise potential with lots of solid to great backups. So in this draft guide, I’m going to highlight every quarterback you need to know about and a few underrated quarterbacks who may surprise in the future.
A.J. McCarron, Alabama
Best Pro Comparison: More athletic version of Toby Korrodi
We hate him, because he’s a winner. Because he played on one of the most talented and successful football teams in the SEC and college football of all time. And because he has an attractive girlfriend. You may not like this extremely coddled quarterback’s attitude or the reality T.V. show wedding, but he may be the first quarterback to come out of Alabama to do anything significant in the NFL. McCarron wasn’t the most efficient quarterback to come out of the Alabama program in the last 15 years, but look for his lower body strength to shake off defenders as his true Achilles heel.
Aaron Murray, Georgia
Best Pro Comparison: A more refined Juston Wood
The most productive quarterback coming out of the SEC. Solid leadership skills and a resume of consistency. However, he’s never shown limitless potential when it comes to his talent. He’s extremely confident when he wants to be, but his talent can be stretched too thin at times. Murray’s best bet is to become a decade backup, but can win you a few games when it matters most.
Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Best Pro Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger with less arm strength
He’s one of the quarterback’s known more for his girlfriend than his skill set, but he’s a top quarterback in this class. In the spectrum of things, he’s Ben Roethlisberger with the arm of a Chad Pennington. A lot of it has to do with bad mechanics, but he is everything NFL teams want in a quarterback. Great pocket presence with the ability to bring his team back in the fourth-quarter. Character concerns are the only real thing that could throw Bortles off, but he has a great shot to be a franchise quarterback.
Bo Cordell, Tusculum
Best Pro Comparison: Thad Lewis
Punchy. Cordell is like the quarterback version of Scrappy Doo. He loves to compete, fight and has a good feel for the game. However, his brashness can get him into trouble. You can’t survive in the NFL as a guy who throws as many touchdowns as pick sixes. Cordell takes too many risks that will need to be coached out of him, but he’d be a great locker room addition.
Brendon Kay, Cincinnati
Best Pro Comparison: Weaker version of Brady Quinn with upside
Kay could surprise as more than a future backup, because he is one of the better athletes in this draft class. He’s stronger than you think from the pocket. Faster than you think when he has to scramble. Kay does need some work on his fundamentals. He also has a laundry list of serious injuries that will likely make him a priority free agent. However, this is a guy who should be followed if he makes strides in a training camp.
Brett Smith, Wyoming
Best Pro Comparison: More athletic version of Case Keenum with upside
Smith has a strong fan base on draft twitter and in many other circles of the media, but he’s far from a finished product. He has a solid base of athleticism to build on, but he’s not built. Smith is like a house without a foundation from a physical standpoint. He’s a good project to tinker with and a strong locker room presence. D.J. Shockley could be his top ceiling, but he’s years of sweat and blood away from a team feeling comfortable giving him the keys.
Brock Jensen, North Dakota State
Best Pro Comparison: More athletic version of Matt Flynn
All he does is win. He has won more National Championships than A.J. McCarron with three, and he did it without a super model girlfriend at his side. With Jensen you’re getting a strong locker room leader who always looks for the extra rep, but may lack the overall talent to be a starter. However, if he does have everything necessary to compete at the NFL level, than you should watch out for him. He’s also a guy who could have a long career as a head coach in college or even in the NFL.
Bryn Renner, North Carolina
Best Pro Comparison: Zac Robinson now, Chad Henne possibly later
Peyton Manning is very high on Renner and there is hope from his sophomore season of what he could have become. However, the best likely scenario for Renner is Chad Henne. Both quarterbacks have the look and feel of a franchise quarterback, but lack the extra bit of lower body strength and overall consistency to be that game changer. He’ll need to go to a team willing to develop him. Yet who wants to spend years developing somebody into Chad Henne?
Casey Pachall, TCU
Best Pro Comparison: Shades of Chad Henne
There are some slight character concerns with Pachall’s drug filled past, but he’s another quarterback whose best bet is Chad Henne. He’ll likely have success earlier than Renner. However, he has career backup written all over him. If he can keep his nose clean, he can have a decent career as a number two. But don’t expect your team’s fortune to be turned around by Pachall anytime soon.
Chase Rettig, Boston College
Best Pro Comparison: Patrick Ramsey with a dash of Greg Zolman
Patrick Ramsey is the best comp for Rettig. He can make some nice plays, but he makes too many bad plays to feel good about him. Rettig is also not the best athlete who will have to win from the pocket. However, he hasn’t shown enough of the extra qualities necessary to win exclusively from the pocket.
Cody Green, Tulsa
Best Pro Comparison: Heavy set version of Mike McMahon
Strong with the body of fullback, but woefully inaccurate at times. He’ll probably make the transition to a position other than quarterback. Yet Green will likely not get that chance at the next level due to the time and effort necessary to develop an average athlete. Some teams may bring him in during training camp, but he’ll likely just be a camp body.
Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Best Pro Comparison: More banged up version of Russell Wilson
The real Russell Wilson of this draft class, but he’s about 97% of what Russell Wilson was coming out of Wisconsin in terms of physical ability and production. That 3% may be the difference between Shaw being a career backup or a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Yet what if that 3% isn’t as significant as it seems. I believe if you put Shaw onto a defensive football team with a great running back rotation you will be very successful. It may sound crazy, but he could end up being the winningest quarterback from this draft class that nobody talked about.
D.J. Mendenhall, Urbana
Best Pro Comparison: Raw version of David Carr
Another small schooler who teams may give a strong look at after the draft. Mendenhall has good overall athleticism for the position, but will need to develop the mental side quickly. The mental mistakes he made at Urbana will show up a lot more often in the NFL, and he will have to work to not make the same mistake twice. He may not get any traction, but he’s another name who you should know in this draft class.
Danny O’Brien, Catawba
Best Pro Comparison: Mark Garcia
He’s a fluid athlete who should be able to refine his mechanics quicker than most. However, O’Brien is another case of too many mental mistakes performed at a lower level of competition. Teams will be intrigued by the size and athleticism, but they need to pick the right ones. And O’Brien is not one of those top-tier quarterback talents worth developing.
David Fales, San Jose State
Best Pro Comparison: Nate Davis as floor, but Marc Bulger as the ceiling
The best chemistry quarterback in this class, but lacks ideal lower body and arm strength for the position. Fales gets the juices going for a lot of draftniks, because of his intangibles on the field like Bridgewater. However, he has some of the worst physical limitations in this class. There is some Drew Brees comps, but he’s not as strong and lacks the athleticism Brees has to escape pressure. Fales can succeed in a West Coast offense, but his best bet is to have a Marc Bulger type career if he can improve his arm strength.
Derek Carr, Fresno State
Best Pro Comparison: Less athletic version of Geno Smith
Imagine a weaker version of Geno Smith. That’s Derek Carr. He’s been an extremely productive quarterback in a spread offense, but may lack the pocket presence necessary to win on every down. He’ll likely become a productive backup, but there is some ability to become a starter in the right system. The saving grace with Carr is he’s a high character player and that may be enough to remain a viable backup for a decade.
Derek Thompson, North Texas
Best Pro Comparison: James Pinkney
Thompson is a tweener at the quarterback position. He’s not very tall, strong or accurate. He’s in-between having a decent shot and barely making it to the second year. Thompson is average with virtually no starter qualities to his game. However, he’s just enough in the middle to have a team see something that isn’t there.
Dustin Vaughn, West Texas A&M
Best Pro Comparison: Derek Anderson with upside
Vaughn is an extremely enticing physical specimen. He was productive enough at West Texas A&M to have a decent shot at developing into a starter at the next level if he can make the adjustment to NFL speed. The biggest issue is his hand size. He has 8 7/8 inch hands, which is very small for a 6’5’’, 235 pound quarterback. Those hands could be his downfall if he can’t grip the ball well enough in bad weather games, but he has the arm and accuracy to become something interesting with time.
Dray Joseph, Southern
Best Pro Comparison: Raw version of Russell Wilson
Ball placement and arm strength is impressive. All Dray Joseph needs is an opportunity. Something rare in this business with small school prospects. However, Joseph has everything you want in a project quarterback. He may not be the tallest, but Joseph deserves a shot. He’s worth the price of admission if you want to tinker with him for a few years.
Garrett Gilbert, SMU
Best Pro Comparison: Jason White
He had a great Pro Day and a decent season at Southern Methodist in 2013, but Gilbert’s track record won’t appeal to many teams. Gilbert has a good shot to become a better version of Kevin Kolb with time. Or Brian Brohm could be another career arc. He will have a decent shot to make a roster, but there isn’t as much franchise potential as people think. Yet people continue propping him up for glory to no avail.
Griff Robles, Dixie State
Best Pro Comparison: More athletic version of Dave Ragone
Everybody likes Joe Don Duncan, but Griff Robles was throwing those passes to him. A team watching film on Duncan will see some interesting things from Robles. Whether they become more compelling than interesting is a different discussion. But Robles will get some interest, because of his size and solid efficiency at Dixie State. Look for him to get a shot in a training camp, but he could become a career backup at best.
Jeff Matthews, Cornell
Best Pro Comparison: Bill Burke
Some will bring up Ryan Fitzpatrick’s success as a benchmark for Matthews, but he’s isn’t remotely close to Fitzpatrick athletically speaking. Matthews has a big arm, but if you can’t dominate or be consistently successful at the Ivy League level, than how do you expect to dominate the NFL? Bill Burke of Michigan State is my best comp, and that’s rich. Matthews is intriguing to many teams, because of his arm strength, but he is way too raw to be worth the time in development. He’s another guy whose ultimate ceiling is Kyle Orton.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
Best Pro Comparison: Less athletic Mark Sanchez
Jimmy G is a bizarro version of Tony Romo. He’s physically identical to Tony Romo without the improvisational skills or pocket presence to succeed at the next level. Jimmy G could go high due to the Romo connection and his boyish good looks, but he’s not who they think he is. He’s simply a quarterback who looks the part, but doesn’t play the part like Mark Sanchez. However, he should have a career in sports media if he wants it.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Best Pro Comparison: Johnny Manziel
The 2014 NFL draft class starts and ends with Johnny Manziel, and he’s a big part of that fact. It’s amazing that a 5’11, 207 pound quarterback could turn himself into a first-round selection, but he is about to do it. The best Pro comparison, put Ben Roethlisberger into Russell Wilson’s body. This carries a lot of risks, because he isn’t as big as Ben or as conservative as Wilson. However, Manziel will find a way to become successful in the NFL, and how successful he becomes will define this class.
Jon Wolf, Minnesota State
Best Pro Comparison: Raw David Carr with more upside
If you’re interested in a project quarterback to develop and see what you get in year four. He has a lot of room to fill out his frame with enough athleticism to play now, which can improve exponentially with a few years in a NFL weight room. Teams do not usually develop quarterbacks like Jon Wolf, but he’s one of the few project quarterbacks that is worth that investment. Whether he can make the adjustment to the speed of the NFL is the risk you’re taking, but follow him if he starts to entrench himself on a NFL roster. Or if he ends up in the CFL.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Best Pro Comparison: More athletic Chris Leak
Tebow gets brought up a lot, but Lynch is a better passer. He’ll likely get moved to safety, linebacker, or running back. But Lynch is not nearly athletic enough to make the transition to another position easy. He’s a solid locker room guy though and teams will attempt to find a spot for him.
Keith Wenning, Ball State
Best Pro Comparison: Kirk Cousins with weaker legs
Imagine a weaker and slower version of Kirk Cousins. Now I know Wenning gets a lot of fanfare from dominating weaker competition in the MAC, and he does have a lot of translatable traits to become successful. However, like Cousins he lacks the little extra bit to make him more than a future backup. He only has enough athleticism to be a pocket passer, and has none of the speed, lower body strength or height to help him be as successful as possible from the pocket. A team may give him a shot at the starting job, and he could have some success, but the extra bit missing from physical tangibles could be what lands your team in purgatory.
Kenny Guiton, Ohio State
Best Pro Comparison: Colby Cameron
The Matt Cassel of this draft class. Guiton has been a career backup who filled in for Braxton Miller against lesser competition and generated buzz for playing well in his absence. Teams will be intrigued by the pedigree of Ohio State to give him a hard look. But most reports have him falling back to a career as an assistant coach at Ohio State. I’d be surprised if Guiton goes to a training camp after being undrafted, but he is one of the intriguing quarterbacks in this class due to his perceived upside by the media.
Kory Faulkner, Southern Illinois
Best Pro Comparison: Raw version of Drew Stanton with more upside
He has all of the physical tools necessary to succeed, but is too raw to expect success. Faulkner was also not the most efficient quarterback at Southern Illinois and that inefficiency will only be amplified at the next level. I know that there is a Tony Romo every now and then, but saying Faulkner has a shot to be Romo is like saying you have a shot to win the Lotto. There is a chance he can learn quickly and develop faster than about every other quarterback who enters the NFL, but it’s slim. A practice squad member is the most likely outcome unfortunately.
Kurt Hess, Youngstown State
Best Pro Comparison: Raw Bryan Hoyer with dash of Brees and Garcia
He stylistically reminds me of a cross between Drew Brees and Jeff Garcia. Now he’s not as polished as either of those guys, but Bryan Hoyer could be a nice ceiling for him. Hess is a very confident guy who will have that confidence severely tested. He’s had high highs and low lows. However, Hess has a shot to surprise in this class if he finds his niche team.
Logan Thomas, West Virginia
Best Pro Comparison: Josh Freeman
He’s Josh Freeman 2.0. The athletic ability will be enough to carry him through a few seasons as a starter if a team gave him the opportunity. However, he does not have the extra bit from a mental standpoint to take the next step into a more consistent quarterback. Thomas is also getting looks as a tight end. So he has the athletic ability to make a splash in the NFL, but I wouldn’t count on him becoming anything more than Josh Freeman.
Ross Metheny, South Alabama
Best Pro Comparison: Raw version of Christian Ponder
Solid athleticism and strength, but Metheny is also too inconsistent to be worth it. Especially for a quarterback coming from a lesser field at South Alabama. I like his measurables and some of his tape, but his best bet is a backup.
Seth Lobato, Northern Colorado
Best Pro Comparison: Raw version of Dan Orlovsky
Teams will be intrigued by his size at 6’5’’ and 230 pounds, but he’s far in terms of actual athleticism to match his size. Lobato is likely a priority free agent in this class. He wasn’t incredibly productive at Northern Colorado. Teams will take a look at him due to his height. However, I wouldn’t expect Lobato surprising anybody down the line.
Stephen Morris, Miami
Best Pro Comparison: More athletic version of Brock Berlin
Tough and flashes solid accuracy, but he’s another one of the least consistent quarterbacks in this class. Morris is often Jekyll and Hyde in the same game. He could have one good quarter and it all unravels in the next. If he could just be more consistent, you have a starter. However, Morris likely will not be a commodity as an inconsistent backup.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Best Pro Comparison: Joe Germaine
He could be a better version of Case Keenum, but he’s Joe Germaine now. And Boyd has a charisma about him that will endear him to many teams. However, he will have to tweak many parts of his game including ball placement. It’s not something that can’t be fixed, but it will take time. Time that many teams may not wait for improvement on.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Best Pro Comparison: Better version of Tyler Wilson
Bridgewater is the consensus top quarterback in the draftnik community, but not in the NFL community. He can become everything from an All-Pro player to Tyler Wilson. He’s a guy like Wilson who is tough, has good pocket presence, displays strong leadership skills and has some issues hitting the deep ball. Many of the methods the NFL uses to evaluate quarterbacks have gone horribly wrong for him. However, there is a leap of faith involved with Bridgewater that will have either side of the argument saying five years from now: what did I miss?
Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
Best Pro Comparison: Sam Keller
He’s a cheap version of Kyle Orton. The arm strength is there, but none of the accuracy. Sam Keller of Nebraska is another similar player. Savage can become a backup, but that’s as high as I would project his success. Some will point to NFL coaching fixing Savage a few years down the line, but the NFL isn’t about developing quarterbacks into Kyle Orton. They already have a guy available that’s a better version of Savage, and his name is, that’s right kids. Kyle Orton.
Tommy Rees, Notre Dame
Best Pro Comparison: Jared Allen, the Florida Atlantic one
Flashes impressive ball placement from time to time, but more often is woefully inconsistent. Rees has his moments. However, he doesn’t have the talent nor consistency to even be a backup. He may find himself as a number two or three, but more likely he’ll be out of the league in four years.
Tyler Sykora, Southern Arkansas
Best Pro Comparison: John Skelton with upside
He could be a better version of John Skelton. If he develops and adjusts to the speed of the NFL, then you have Derek Anderson. And there’s nothing wrong with Anderson. He had one solid year and has been a productive backup on a lot of teams. The odds are against Sykora becoming better Anderson, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. If that happens, then I’ll need to go back and see what I missed in a prospect like him.
Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Best Pro Comparison: Joe Flacco ceiling with Jamarcus Russell floor
He’s the big armed statue that some teams covet. His best comp is a shorter version of Joe Flacco. Like Flacco, he doesn’t feel pressure and is a long way from being a competent quarterback coming into the league, but he will give you a play here or there to keep you interested. He’ll never be incredibly accurate and will also be a turnover machine at times. However, if you build a solid team around him, you might be rewarded with a Super Bowl ring.
James Cobern is the lead writer for All Pro Football Source and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @Jmcobern1