NFL Draft 2014: Armed and Ready
By Andrew Fain
Special to Pro Football Guru
With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror, we can now focus on the 2014 season. More to the point, we can look at the opening of free agency and the NFL Draft.
This year’s draft has been called one of the deepest at the quarterback position since the 1983 draft (that was John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Dan Marino, Tony Eason and Ken O’Brien), but we won’t know how successful this group of arms is going to be until 2014 and beyond. After all, Dan Marino was picked by the Dolphins AFTER the Chiefs selected Todd Blackledge.
I think it is safe to say that Marino’s career was a wee bit better.
But with last names like Manziel, Carr, Bridgewater and Bortles all up for grabs, who fits the best with which team? Well based on team needs, draft position and talent levels; let’s take a look at who just might end up where.
The Houston Texans not only have the first pick, but look like they will be the first team in need of a quarterback. Apparently the days of Matt Schaub are done, and Case Keenum didn’t do enough to impress the brass to keep the job as starter. So who do the Texans like the most with the top pick?
At first glance, Johnny Manziel would be the obvious choice. After all, the Texas A&M product is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the draft. But that’s why teams take more than just a first glance.
Right now, the Texans’ brain trust is in favor of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. His combine numbers were fantastic and they think he has a level of maturity that Manziel doesn’t quite have. If the Texans decide to go quarterback with the top pick (there is talk of talking Jadeveon Clowney with that pick as well), Bortles will be the guy that the Texans choose to lead them.
The next team in need of a quarterback would be the Jacksonville Jaguars with the third pick in the draft. It appears they realize that the Blaine Gabbert experiment was a total disaster, and they need to start over. While there are plenty of great choices, the Jags not only need someone to lead the team, but need to put butts in the seats. So for them, “Johnny Football” (Manziel) is the obvious choice.
He’s got the arm and all the tools needed to be an NFL quarterback. The question is; does he have the head for it? He reminds me an awful lot of another highly drafted quarterback who had all the skill in the world, but had some “head issues,” that was Jeff George. Not sure Manziel will cause the same problems George caused, but only time and the Jaguars will find out.
The Cleveland Browns may have a new regime, but they still have issues at quarterback and they have the fourth pick in the draft. With Manziel and Bortles off the board, I believe Teddy Bridgewater will be the guy in Cleveland. Of course the Browns have had more starting quarterback’s since they rejoined the league than Kardashian’s have cameras on them.
But Bridgewater comes from pro-style, progression read offense where he scanned the whole field and set protections, much like he will be asked to do in the NFL. He has great timing, touch and footwork and is mature enough to step right on the field and leave.
His biggest drawback is his lack of arm-strength, which will really become apparent when the weather in Cleveland turns cold and windy. Of course having a guy like Josh Gordon on the other end of his passes will do nothing but help him, and may even make them forget about his shortcomings.
That leaves one quarterback with whom there seems to be a big disagreement about where his talent should land him. Some think Derek Carr is no more than a second- or third-round pick, while others think in the right surroundings; he could be the best quarterback in the draft.
Even with such dissention, Carr will not be one of the first three quarterbacks taken. But he could make some team seem very smart when they draft him later.
That team should be the Minnesota Vikings who have the eighth pick in the draft. In 2013, the Vikings went through Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman at quarterback, with none of them proving to be the answer this team was looking for. Which means Carr should be a perfect fit.
He has the poise and arm strength to be a solid NFL quarterback, and you add in a pretty good offensive line and the best running back in the game, Adrian Peterson, and it is all set up for Carr to succeed. Unlike his brother, who was thrown to the wolves with the expansion Texans, Derek Carr has it all going his way. In my opinion, he will be the best quarterback in the draft.
Yes, there are other teams that could use a quarterback. The Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals all come to mind. But it is the four teams mentioned above that will be looking to grab their guy in the first round, and ready or not, have them lead their squads in 2014.
Andrew “Fish” Fain has worked in the industry for the past 20 years as a writer/producer for such companies as FOX, ESPN, Directv and NFL Network. He can currently be heard every Monday night from 9-11 pm EST on Sports Infusion and every Thursday night from 7-9 pm EST on SportsJAM. His writing can be found at Sportsinfusion.net, Sportsjamnetwork.com and Celebrity loop.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @thefish1969.