With Josh Freeman’s time in Tampa essentially ending after being benched in favor of Mike Glennon, it’s time to look ahead to the 2014 NFL Draft to see if there’s a potential franchise QB waiting for the Buccaneers at Radio City Music Hall at the draft.
Here are some of the top draft prospects at quarterback:
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Birdgewater is the number one overall prospect in college football heading into the 2014 Draft according to CBS Sports.com’s prospect rankings. And according to draft expert Dan Brugler of CBS Sports, Bridgewater is ‘Mature and grounded… and appears to “get it,” elevating the play of those around him.”
The negatives for Bridgewater are mainly about the level of competition he’s faced in college, as the Big East and now AAC conferences don’t bring a ton of high-level talent to the table to stop Bridgewater and the high-powered Louisville offense.
Verdict: Bridgewater is a franchise QB waiting for draft day. He’s going to go with the first or second pick of the draft, which means the Buccaneers will likely wind up with him should they finish with the worst record in the league.
Brett Hundley, UCLA
There are some things about Hundley that worry me, but also some things that entice me. For starters, check out Hundley’s “weaknesses” on his draft profile at CBS.
Weaknesses: Right now, Hundley’s ball placement is a work-in-progress and he needs to improve his pocket awareness to feel the rush and quicken his reads to find a target. Like most young quarterbacks, he needs to develop his anticipation as a passer and show better rhythm with his weapons, but he has the qualities that can’t be coached. Good, but not great straight-line speed in the mold of elite dual-threat QBs.
Do those bolded parts remind you of anyone? Hundley is a fantastic talent, and he could be coached into a great quarterback.
Veridct: But for me, based on this evaluation from CBS Sports, I see far too much Josh Freeman in Brett Hundley. I might be a bit biased after seeing Freeman fall on his face, but any quarterback who resembles Freeman so closely is someone I’d rather pass up.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
I discussed Mariota a bit on Tuesday, when Sports Illustrated’s 2014 NFL Mock Draft was released. I have watched enough of Mariota to know that he’s not the best passer in the world, but he’s certainly good enough to be a dual threat like Colin Kaepernick. He’s got a huge athleticism advantage on Hundley, and plays against tougher competition than Bridgewater.
But he’s the product of a system which has given us multiple players who were great at Oregon, but didn’t do anything elsewhere. The hope for Mariota is that his raw ability shines through, even outside of the “Quack Attack.”
I spoke to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, who had this to say about Mariota:
Mariota has intriguing physical skills. He looks like a gazelle on the football field when he scrambles with his smooth strides and acceleration. He has quick eyes and goes through reads easily. He’s smart, good zip and velocity on his throws. He’s lean, but not skinny. Only a kid, just 19 years old but he should continue to grow and get better. Fits the mold of the athletic, strong-armed quarterbacks that are always en vogue in the NFL.
I also asked Ben Natan of With The First Pick about Mariota, and here’s what he had to say:
Marcus Mariota, as an NFL prospect, brings great physical tools to the table. As a passer, he moves well in the pocket and has underrated arm strength, great intermediate accuracy and has flashed nice deep touch. As a runner, Mariota is 6’4″ and 210 lbs. but does not move like a man of those measurements, he absolutely flies in the open field. Mariota is slowly being brought out of his shell in Oregon’s run heavy system and he needs show that he can consistently take over a game from the pocket, but as he is given more opportunities, he will grow into a high level quarterback prospect.
Verdict: Yes, please. There is no quarterback in the 2014 draft class that I want to see in red and pewter more than Marcus Mariota. He’s a tremendous athlete with good size and a good arm, and he has unlimited potential. Mariota is not the safest pick, but he is one of the most exciting, and I believe he’s going to be the best QB out of this draft in the long run.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Boyd is the only senior among the top four quarterbacks in the upcoming draft, meaning he’s the only one guaranteed to be there. He’s also lacking in ideal size for his position, standing around six feet tall.
But he has good pocket presence and good ball placement, according to CBS Sports. And that, combined with his athleticism, means he can find lanes to pass through and overcome his lack of height, or break out of the pocket and re-set his feet to throw with no defenders in his face.
He needs to work on his accuracy while running, which is a concern for an athletic quarterback. And he isn’t coming from the most complex system in college football, either. But he has the tools, they just need to be coached up.
Verdict: I would rather pass on Boyd, but he certainly has potential with a proven arm and excellent athleticism. He’s a better athlete than Hundley, and it seems like his mechanics are better than Hundley’s as well. So if Mariota and Bridgewater are gone, I’ll take Boyd rather than Hundley.
Best of the Rest
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: He’s probably a better NFL prospect than many give him credit for, but he’s yet to prove that he can dominate a game from the pocket. He’s not tall enough and doesn’t have a very strong arm, so there’s room for concern about his ability to translate his game to the NFL.
A.J. McCarron, Alabama: Thanks, but no thanks. McCarron doesn’t have the consistent accuracy needed to justify his lack of elite talent in any area. He’s not a special athlete, and will likely be little more than a game manager in the NFL.
David Fales, San Jose State: Fales doesn’t have great arm strength, but if the Buccaneers change to a West Coast offense, he could be a fit. This would free up a first round pick to select an impact defensive player like Jadeveon Clowney, or a star left tackle like Jake Matthews.