Much of the talk surrounding the 2014 NFL Draft class has centered on either defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or the numerous quarterback prospects that could alter the future of several beleaguered franchises.
The draft has been called a crap shoot before, but teams in need of a quarterback like the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings might have to take a chance on a Blake Bortles or a Johnny Manziel in order to end their losing ways.
It’s no coincidence that the quarterback position is the most scrutinized during the draft process. Perhaps in no other sport is a single player asked to lead a team’s offense and locker room as well as stand as the face of the organization. There are also complexities to an NFL offense that have proven too difficult for even the most talented players to understand.
Teams like Cleveland, Oakland, Minnesota, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the No. 1 pick-holding Houston Texans are all looking for a quarterback to lead their offense, and make as seamless a transition from college to the pros as possible.
Below are the five best quarterback prospects that could be franchise stars.
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1.Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
The fact that he scored the highest on the Wunderlic test among quarterbacks is irrelevant. What really counts is Manziel’s ability to prolong broken plays. There were countless times at A&M in which Manziel slipped past a pass rush to find an inch of daylight and make more time for a huge pass down field. Manziel is the total package, a superstar in waiting who can break and set new records his rookie season.
Best Fit: Oakland. The Raiders offensive line allowed Terrelle Pryor to rush for 576 yards at 6.9 yards per carry. Manziel can rush for even more, and has the accuracy to hit any receivers Oakland also selects in May.
Prediction: Jacksonville at No. 3
2.Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Before the season began, Clowney was seen as the consensus No. 1 pick, but Bortles late-season surge and “impressive” pro day have put him in position to be Houston’s first selection. Many have put Bortles at the top of this class due to his prototypical size (6-foot-5, 232 pounds), big arm and 22-5 record as the Golden Knights starter. Bortles has proven he is clutch and should be successful at the next level, but he doesn’t possess the same intangibles as Manziel.
Best Fit: Jacksonville. The Jaguars have some solid receivers in Cecil Shorts III, Justin Blackmon and Ace Sanders that Bortles can hit easily. He’s already a star in Florida and can remain one.
Prediction: Cleveland at No. 4
3.Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Unfortunately, Bridgewater was in the spotlight for too long, and he’s been scrutinized far longer than any other quarterback in this class. But Bridgewater had the best accuracy among every player on this list (71 percent his junior season), and last year he tossed 31 touchdowns to a measly four interceptions. Reports of his mediocre pro day and his private workouts haven’t helped his stock, but Bridgewater should still go in the top 10.
Best Fit: Minnesota. The Vikings will still focus the offense on running back Adrian Peterson, which will allow Bridgewater to work himself in slowly.
Prediction: Minnesota at No. 8
4.Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Like Bridgewater, Boyd seemed like a lock for the first round and now he’s viewed more as a second-round choice. But Boyd is capable of making plays with his legs like Manziel, and he’s the ACC’s all-time touchdown pass leader. One NFL Network analyst even compared him to Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who fell to the third round in 2012 due to perceived issues with his size that now seem very short-sighted.
Best Fit: Tampa Bay in second round. New head coach Lovie Smith may or may not be sold on Mike Glennon as his starter, and Boyd certainly has the talent to make for a highly contested competition.
Prediction: Second or third round to maybe Tampa Bay or even Houston if they select Clowney at No. 1.
5.Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Mettenberger has size similar to Bortles and can take big hits. The torn ACL that ended his final season at LSU would be a red flag, but 13 weeks after surgery Mettenberger reportedly “wowed” scouts at his pro day. He has one of if not the strongest arm in the draft and could be a steal for teams in the second or third round.
Best Fit: Dallas or Miami in the second or third round. He won’t be asked to do much from the start, but Mettenberger can learn the in-and-outs and allow his knee in fully heal.
Prediction: Arizona in the third or fourth round.