NFL Handicapping for the Top 6 Quarterbacks from the Draft
by Trevor Whenham - 8/14/2014
When the smoke had cleared there were 16 quarterbacks selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. Some will never make a roster, and many will never start a game. The average casual fan very likely couldn't name half of the players who were chosen. The ones who went higher in the draft, though, will attract plenty of attention from those casual bettors. This isn't quite the QB frenzy we had a couple of years ago when Luck and Griffin went at the top of the draft. The QB is still the king of the field, though, so they get more than their share of attention, and expectations will be higher for this position than any other. Here's a look at the top six quarterbacks selected and their performance so far in camp:
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: The story we have heard since the draft was that Bortles was essentially going to redshirt this year, sitting on the bench and learning from Chad Henne before taking over next year. It was a theory that was so widely shared that it was taken as gospel. The only person who didn't get the memo, it seems, is Bortles. He has looked very good in camp, and was strong in his preseason debut. He completed 7 of his first 11 professional passes and looked composed and comfortable throughout. It wasn't enough for him to be rushed into action, but he will likely see more action in the preseason than he otherwise would have - and could even see time with the starters at some point. Still, though, it is important not to expect too much from Bortles. The Jaguars are well-coached, and they know that patience will be rewarded here. It's not like the QB will be the difference between a poor season and a Super Bowl, and Henne is capable. If anything, what we have learned from this start is that perhaps Bortles was deserving of his eye-opening high pick.
Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns: I hardly have to say anything here because every breath he has taken since he was drafted has been dissected by the media. How has he been so far? FIne. There were some strong moments in his preseason debut and more where he looked like a raw rookie. There is a lot to consider here, though. The Browns will face massive pressure to play him. They have a lot of talent issues that will make it tough on any starter. Brian Hoyer didn't exactly dominate his time in the first game, either, so this is a wide-open competition. Manziel will find his way in the league, and I am bullish. Unfortunately, so is the general betting public, so it will take a long time until we are able to find anything resembling value here.
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings: Matt Cassel is going to start for the Vikings when the season begins, barring an injury. You might as well just accept that now. This will be Bridgewater's team eventually, but there were doubts that he would be ready right away, and his first preseason action has confirmed that. He wasn't disastrous, but he was far from good. He needs to take some time to get physically ready, and he needs to learn to rely less on his talents and more on what he has learned. Like Jacksonville, Minnesota has a solid veteran starter, and it's not like they are going to threaten to win their very tough division. It is more important that they get Bridgewater ready for the next decade than it is that he starts in September. Unlike Manziel, the public is not particularly enthralled by Bridgewater, and they don't care about the Vikings, so when the time is right there could be some value to be had.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders: Carr looked pretty lousy in his first preseason action. But then so did presumed starter Matt Schaub. And so has every other Oakland starter, really, since Rich Gannon. This is a mess of an organization, and they seem to be focused far more on figuring out where they will be playing next year and into the future than they are about what is on the field. The talent is weak in key offensive spots, and any QB is going to struggle. Carr did not win the QB lottery by landing in Oakland. Until things sort out and stabilize it's hard to imagine any reason to bet on the team in most circumstances.
Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots: It doesn't take a genius to figure out who is going to be starting in New England. The only drama here is who is going to be backing up Tom Brady - a contest that comes down to fourth-year backup Ryan Mallett and Garoppolo. Early on it seemed like the veteran had a clear edge, but Mallett was lousy in his first preseason game as the starter, and the rookie was much better in relief. You can't get too excited about that - Mallett didn't have the benefit of most of the starting receivers to work with, and Garoppolo was playing against scrubs and no-hopers. Still, Garoppolo has used that performance as a confidence builder in action since, while Mallett has struggled with a sore knee. My hunch is that Garoppolo will get the nod as long as the Pats can find a way to get something for the asset that is Mallett.
Logan Thomas, Arizona Cardinals: Perhaps the biggest surprise on the QB front so far this year is that Thomas, a fourth-rounder, has been the star. It's early, and he was facing a pretty underwhelming group of reserves from Houston, but Thomas looked surgical as he went 11-of-12 and threw a TD. His accuracy was a real concern heading into the draft, but you would never guess it by how he has performed so far. He landed in a very good spot because Bruce Arians is as good as anyone at developing young QBs. He's not likely to see any meaningful time in a hurry, but Arizona is a team with some real potential, and it is sure easier to trust them with a viable backup given Carson Palmer's age.
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