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Teddy Bridgewater, AJ McCarron, and the Best Quarterback Prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft
Image via KYLures/Flickr
Image via KYLures/Flickr

If you are a college football or NFL Draft die-hard, you came to the right place.  This article will help you stay on top of the college football world and know about the best prospects before everyone else does.  Be sure to check out these other prospect articles too:

Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews and the best Wide Receiver Prospects For the 2014 NFL Draft.

The quarterbacks eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft fall into two categories: the polished veterans and the young, enticing talents.  As you have you may have seen, I do believe in the curse of the old quarterback, which may spell trouble for AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, David Fales, and Tajh Boyd.  However, because of the wide range of outcomes for these younger players, I erred on the side of giving the veterans the nod.  Note that the stats below are representative of performance in key games played against bowl-worthy opponents.  Also, feel free to check out the background on QB Readiness.

#1

QB Season Age College TD:INT Readiness Grade Adjusted Y/A HS Class Rivals Grd
Bridgewater, Teddy 2012 20 Louisville 3.25 113.28 10.06 2011 5.8

Bridgewater’s 2012 was the second best 20 year old season I’ve ever studied, coming in just behind Alex Smith’s 2004 (the Utah/Urban Meyer BCS year).  Now, before you jump to conclusions about Alex Smith, remember that he was the #1 overall pick in the 2005 draft so that should give you an idea of Bridgewater’s trajectory.  He consistently delivered the goods, recording 2+ TD passing games in 71% of key games.  Similarly, he took excellent care of the ball as indicated by the 3.25 TD:INT ratio, in striking distance of the hurdle rates established by Shawn Siegele in his risk of drafting a QB article.  While many say that Florida laid an egg in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, I think a fair case can be made that Louisville, and especially Bridgewater, really are THAT good.  They are expected to run the table in the American Athletic conference, which means that Bridgewater could join the group of Heisman winning QBs to play for a National Championship.

#2

QB Season Age College TD:INT Readiness Grade Adjusted Y/A HS Class Rivals Grd
McCarron, AJ 2012 22 Alabama 5.67 112.59 9.41 2009 5.9

McCarron went through an interesting transformation from 2011 to 2012.  His 2011 performance was in line with previous Saban/Alabama QBs like John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy in that he was a game manager with an exceptionally low interception rate and Saban-era-worst 7.07 yards per attempt, proving that he threw a lot of short passes.  McCarron’s job in 2011 was to NOT LOSE games.  However, McCarron’s 2012 performance–the 9th best 22 year old season in my database– indicates that Saban had incredibly high confidence in him to throw it down field and finish off drives with TD passes, rather than bruising TD runs.  When comparing McCarron’s 2012 to the five preceding Alabama/Saban QB seasons, AJ posted the highest yards per completion, by far the best TD rate, and the best overall QB season.  Here’s the catch: Alabama has such elite talent across the board, including in the run game, that McCarron usually has all the time in the world to do whatever he pleases.  That said, I think he has a chance to be the first elite Saban-QB prospect and has the size and throwing ability to be the #2 QB in this class.

#3

QB Season Age College TD:INT Readiness Grade Adjusted Y/A HS Class Rivals Grd
Murray, Aaron 2012 22 Georgia 2.14 101.61 9.39 2009 6

Murray has been one of the most confusing prospects of the past two seasons.  He has posted uncomfortably high interception rates, but has otherworldly yards/attempt numbers and is consistently delivering multi-TD passing performances.  What excites me about Murray though, is that despite being an “older” QB prospect, almost all of his efficiency metrics moved in the right direction last year, signifying that he hasn’t plateaued.  Similarly, I LOVE that he has a strong track record of throwing the ball down field, which bodes well for his ability to make NFL caliber throws, even if it does hurt his interception rate.  It’s weird for a stats guy like me to say this, but what I want to see most out of Murray in 2013 can’t be found on a spreadsheet.  I want to watch his games, see his passion to continually improve, and see that he isn’t just coasting through his senior year.  He has elite talent, as indicated by his Rivals grade and my metrics, but I want to see if he’s willing to play with a chip on his shoulder and consistently compete against premier SEC defenders.

#4

QB Season Age College TD:INT Readiness Grade Adjusted Y/A HS Class Rivals Grd
Fales, David 2012 22 SJSU 3.2 112.06 9.03 2009 5.4

Here’s your first “sleeper” of this list.  In his first season as a starter, Fales put together an amazing campaign that saw him climb from anonymity to become a legitimate candidate to be the #1 senior QB in the 2014 class.  His metrics look A LOT like Teddy Bridgewater’s but there are reasons he is rated several spots lower.  First, is the question about his track record; is he a one-year Mountain West wonder, or can he back up his 2012 campaign with an even better 2013?  Also, as mentioned, he posted comparable metrics to Bridgewater, but did so in his age 22 season, which ranked as only the 17th best 22 year old season in my database.  When I watched Fales in his bowl game, he certainly looked like a premium talent, but I guess I just need a bigger sample size before I move him any higher.

#5

QB Season Age College TD:INT Readiness Grade Adjusted Y/A HS Class Rivals Grd
Ash, David 2012 20 Texas 2.67 106.45 9.12 2011 5.7

Why do people hate David Ash?  When you isolate on his key game performance in 2012, he was really, really good, considering it was just his age 20 season.  How good?  If you compare Ash to where unquestioned Texas legends Colt McCoy and Vince Young were at age 20, Ash leads the trio.  In fact, he posted the 6th best season by a 20 year old in my database.  Ash’s 2012 season was not that far behind Vince Young’s 2005 (age 22) and Colt McCoy’s 2008 (age 22), in which both of those guys finished 2nd in the Heisman race.  2013 will be the first full season with Offensive Coordinator Major Applewhite’s up-tempo offense and I expect Ash to be one of the breakthrough players of the year.

#6

QB Season Age College TD:INT Readiness Grade Adjusted Y/A HS Class Rivals Grd
Mariota, Marcus 2012 19 Oregon 6.33 110.44 8.48 2011 5.7

Marcus Mariota is incredibly talented and incredibly young.  If things go well this fall and he were to enter the 2014 NFL Draft, he would be the youngest quarterback drafted since maybe ever, at just 20 years and six months on draft night.  Without the national fanfare, Mariota was nearly as good a dual-threat performer as Johnny Manziel was last season, posting 7.8 yards per touch (rush + pass attempts) for the season, compared to Manziel’s 8.1.  Why I like Mariota better is because he is younger, bigger, and a better passer.  Given his age, size, and dual threat ability, I would say that Marcus Mariota maybe has the most upside to become an RG3-like talent who could help revolutionize the game with his dual threat ability.

#7

QB Season Age College TD:INT Readiness Grade Adjusted Y/A HS Class Rivals Grd
Hundley, Brett 2012 19 UCLA 4.75 104.61 8.55 2011 5.9

It’s splitting hairs when it comes to Hundley vs Mariota, but I had to put one of them first.  Hundley is bigger and, possibly, the more advanced passer, but Mariota is the more explosive player.  You’ve also got to like the fact that Hundley’s coach, Jim Mora Jr., has an NFL background and can prepare him for the transition.  Personally, I think October 26th when Hundley and Mariota face off is one of the MUST WATCH games of 2013.

#8

QB Season Age College TD:INT Readiness Grade Adjusted Y/A HS Class Rivals Grd
Boyd, Tajh 2012 22 Clemson 1.92 101.31 8.28 2009 6

Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers hate my old QB theory and so does Tajh Boyd.  The Clemson QB accounted for 46 total touchdowns last year and is considered by NFLDraftScout to be the #1 QB in the senior class.  However, he had the worst interception rate of this cohort and averaged a meager 2.8 yards per carry on 186 attempts last year, so even though he’s considered a dual threat, he’s not a great, or even a good, runner.  Although he’s an “older” prospect, his metrics are still moving in the right direction, which gives me hope that he can live up to his billing.

#9

QB Season Age College TD:INT Readiness Grade Adjusted Y/A HS Class Rivals Grd
Gardner, Devin 2012 21 Michigan 2 94.52 8.59 2010 5.9

The sample size is small here–five starts at QB–but the upside is tantalizing.  Gardner was an elite QB recruit, turned wide receiver, turned back to QB when Denard Robinson got hurt last year.  I’ll reiterate that it’s a VERY SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, but Gardner’s efficiency metrics look a lot like EJ Manuel’s and Geno Smith’s did last year.  Oh yea, and he has wide receiver athleticism.  I’m not sure what 2013 will hold for Gardner, but he will be one of the most fascinating players to track throughout the season.

The Fun List

These guys aren’t high end prospects, but are just a ton of fun to watch.  They are the top 3 yards per touch quarterbacks from the 2012 season, who weren’t in my rankings above.

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M–You’re not going to like this, but he’s Case Keenum (another Sumlin product) with legs.

Terrance Broadway, UL-Lafayette–A former Sumlin QB at Houston, Broadway is like a small conference Tajh Boyd.  Defense is totally optional in the Sun Belt and Broadway takes full advantage of that en route to some gaudy performances.  If you’re a college football degenerate like me, this guy gives you an excuse to watch weeknight games.

Chuckie Keeton, Utah State–He and Kerwynn Williams set the world ablaze for the Aggies last season.  The YouTube reel is a ton of fun.  Gary Anderson and Kerwynn have left for greener pastures, but Keeton remains and should continue to make video game plays.

Casey Pachall, TCU–One of the highest QBs I graded in 2011, Pachall missed most of last season while recovering from drug/alcohol issues.  He’s sorta like the real life Joe Kane.  In all seriousness, I think he has the kind of major talent that could send him rising up draft boards during the 2013 reclamation project.

Disagree with my rankings?  Continue this conversation with me on Google+ or Twitter.

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