Deep QB class proves tempting to NFL general managers
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Scouting the quarterbacks
1. Johnny Manziel
Texas A&M, 5-111⁄2, 207
Certifiable winner, leader, extremely productive (7,820 yards passing and 63 TD passes in two seasons) and the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Downside: Lack of size, tendency to abandon the pocket, potential durability issues. But his competitiveness is incontestable, and so is his ability to win. Loves the big stage, and no stage is bigger than the NFL. And Russell Wilson has proven a QB of his size can excel.
2. Blake Bortles
Central Florida, 6-5, 232
Roethlisberger-sized, he threw for 56 TDs and ran for 15 more in '13. Hard worker and coachable. Excellent in the pocket. But competition wasn't top-echelon, and neither is his ability to read defenses and throw downfield consistently.
3. Derek Carr
Fresno State, 6-2, 214
Best-in-class numbers: 87 TDs, 9,187 yards and only 15 INTs in last two seasons. Threw 306 consecutive passes without an INT. School-record 12,843 yards. Matthew Stafford-like, but some teams might be scared off because brother David was a bust as No. 1 overall pick.
4. Teddy Bridgewater
Louisville, 6-2, 214
Good arm, can extend the pocket and his stats are exceptional: 7,688 yards, 58 TDs, 12 INTs last two seasons. But he's slender and probably won't gain much more weight, and there are questions about long-term durability. Small hands also concern some teams.
5. A.J. McCarron
Alabama, 6-2, 220
He's far down some analysts' lists, partly because Alabama QBs often struggle in NFL. But he's an exceptional leader with huge stats (more than 6,000 yards the last two seasons in elite SEC), makes all the throws and is a proven winner. Might be most underrated player in draft.
6. Zach Mettenberger
LSU, 6-41⁄2, 224
Like Bortles, more of a classic, drop-back style QB with a very strong arm who can make any throw. Threw for 5,601 yards last two seasons. But there are injury (ACL) and character issues; he was thrown off Georgia's team following a March 2010 arrest. And he struggles at times while under pressure.
7. Jimmy Garappolo
Eastern Illinois, 6-2, 226
Broke most of Tony Romo's school records, throwing for 13,156 yards and 118 TDs. Lively arm. Won the 2013 Walter Payton Award in FCS but sometimes lacks velocity. Played in spread offense, so must get comfortable taking snaps under center.
8. Tom Savage
Pitt, 6-31⁄2, 228
Late riser on draft charts who could go early in second round. Teams like his above-average arm strength, velocity and toughness (was most-sacked QB in Division I with 43). Can be streaky, but tall, old-school-type dropback passers with leadership skills are always in demand.
9. Keith Wenning
Ball State, 6-21⁄2, 218
Could be a mid-round gamble who pays off big for a patient team. School records for TDs (92), passing yards (11,402) who is accurate short, midrange or deep. Downside: level of competition, always lined up in shotgun.
10. Aaron Murray
Georgia, 6-01⁄2, 207
Nice delivery; set SEC records for passing yards (13,166) and TD passes (121). Mobility to keep plays going. But he's mistake-prone when under heavy pressure, which suggests he could struggle in NFL.
Best fit for Steelers
Very unlikely the Steelers will expend a pick on a QB only one year after taking Landry Jones in fourth round. But Jeff Mathews (6-31⁄2, 223) of Cornell could be attractive if he isn't drafted. He has arm strength and velocity and set 17 Ivy League passing records.
One to watch
West Texas A&M, 6-5, 235
Vaughan could be a late-round find in this deep QB draft. He's tall, strong-armed and threw for a Division II-leading 5,501 yards in '13, and he wasn't overwhelmed in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Pitt, 6-31⁄2, 228
Savage could be only the third Pitt QB drafted as high as the second round, joining Dan Marino (first, '83) and Matt Cavanaugh (second, '78); no other QB has gone above the eighth round. Few would have predicted that before Savage's only Panthers season.
Is this the greatest quarterback draft class since 2004? Or a class that might get a half-dozen general managers fired within a few years?
Draft analysts Mike Mayock of NFL Network and Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN believe there might be a dozen quarterbacks in this draft who could start in the league.
But unlike the '04 trio of Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, this class led by Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater is causing as much trepidation as anticipation.
Each has a major upside — Manziel with his intangibles, Bortles with his classic QB stature, Bridgewater with his strong arm. Each seems likely to go in the first round — unlike a year ago, when EJ Manuel of Buffalo was the only QB chosen on Day 1.
But each has major risks, the kind that can sink a career.
There's such quality depth that even the fourth and fifth rounds will yield possible starters, Kiper said. But given that nine of the 14 GMs who took a QB in the first round since 2009 no longer have their jobs, the thosewho take Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater might go to sleep that night nervous.
Getty Images - Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel #2 throws a pass against LSU on Nov. 23, 2013.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pitt's Tom Savage takes off on a third-quarter run against Miami on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, at Heinz Field.
AP - Cornell Big Red QB Jeff Matthews #9 in action against the Monmouth Hawks in their NCAA college football game in West Long Branch, NJ, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. Monmouth won 48-23. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
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