For the hardcore football fans, there are few events as exciting as the NFL Draft, but after all the agonizing anticipation from the Super Bowl until May, it's over in a flash. We try to cling to draft grades and new team previews in an attempt to prolong the adrenaline rush that came with the addition of the new crop of prospects into the NFL. Once that "high" has subsided, we search for the next "fix" in preparing for fantasy football drafts. Now that the destinations for each player have been established, we can adjust the pre-draft rankings to prepare for the offseason activities. I have highlighted 15 quarterbacks from this draft class that will either make an immediate impact or will be worth monitoring throughout their careers until they finally get their opportunity.
This tier is designated for players that I can see producing at an elite level for most of their career. In my pre-draft rankings, I had just one player ranked in this tier, and the same hold true after the draft.
1. Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns -- Pre-Draft Ranking - # 1
In my pre-draft rankings article, I highlighted the Browns as the best situation for Manziel to land in. Kyle Shanahan, who molded the Redskin offense to fit Robert Griffin, will find the best way to utilize Manziel's unique talents. The offense will not be mostly zone read like in Washington but will use more play-action and bootlegs to get him out in space and allow for him to employ his improvisational skills. The Browns have insisted that Brian Hoyer will still be the starter for the start of the season, but I don't see it being too long until the pressure from the front office, media, and fanbase forces them to get Johnny Football on the field. As long as he can mature and continue to focus on football off the field, he should put up the best fantasy numbers from this class throughout his career.
This tier is for the players that could reach an elite level occasionally during their career but should mostly be graded in the lower QB1 or high QB2 range.
2. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars -- Pre-Draft Ranking - # 2
Bortles was the shock of the draft when he was selected #3 overall by the Jaguars. He is the most prototypical QB in this class, as far as size, but possesses some bad habits with his footwork that occasionally tends to cause inaccurate throws and diminishes his arm strength. The Jags Offensive Coordinator, Jedd Fisch, is more than capable of fixing these issues to fully maximize Bortles' potential in the NFL. They don't anticipate him starting immediately, but he should get his opportunity sometime this season. As the draft went on, the Jags put a focus on adding talent with their premium picks to help make the transition as easy as possible for when that time comes. They added offensive line help and weapons in Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson to add to the stable of Cecil Shorts and Ace Sanders. Gus Bradley was on hand to see the rise of Russell Wilson, and I can see him attempting to handle Bortles in a similar way. The team will be built around the defense while Bortles will manage the offense through mostly the run game and only be called upon to make plays when the situation calls for it. However, with the Jags' defense not near the level of Seattle's, Bortles should be forced to throw much more than Wilson did in his first two years.
3. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings -- Pre-Draft Ranking - # 3
After beings touted as the future #1 overall pick throughout the college season, questions about his frame and leadership forced him to fall to the last pick in the first round where the Vikings traded back in to get him. They attempted to trade up to get Manziel earlier in the draft but were forced to settle for Bridgewater when Cleveland offered the better deal. I don't think they will be too disappointed whenever Teddy gets on the field. His short to intermediate accuracy and football IQ is already at an elite level. In a Norv Turner offense, and with help from Adrian Peterson and a Mike Zimmer defense, Bridgewater will be the best QB to manage the Viking offense since Brett Favre. He does not have elite arm strength, but when working with short to intermediate weapons such as Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph, and Jarius Wright, he has more than enough to be successful with this team.
4. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders -- Pre-Draft Ranking - # 4
We likely won't see Carr until at least the 2015 season. The Raiders are locked in to Schaub to start this year because of the high guaranteed money in his contract. Carr will be able to sit and learn the offense while the Raiders can spend another year adding players that will help him when he finally gets called up to start. The main focus should be on the interior of the offensive line because of Carr's inability to handle quick pressure up the middle. When he does get time, he has shown the ability to make almost every throw an NFL QB would be asked to make. He also possesses an advanced football IQ for a young QB from learning as a teenager about blocking schemes and reading defenses from studying tape with his older brother, David. It's difficult to see exactly what this Raider team will look like in another year, but we do know that Carr should be the centerpiece moving forward.
This tier holds the prospects that have questions that could limit their game but with time, could earn a starting job and produce in the QB2 range in fantasy.
5. Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots -- Pre-Draft Ranking - # 6
Garoppolo has a fatal flaw of not being able to handle pressure that is very reminiscent of Blaine Gabbert, but New England is a great landing spot to hide that flaw and allow him to maximize his better traits such as reading defenses fast and getting the ball out quick. The Patriots put a major focus on upgrading the interior of their line and their offensive weapons, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen, and now Jeremy Gallon, excel in getting open quick and presenting a big target for the quarterback. Nobody knows how long Tom Brady will continue to play, but with time to develop, Garoppolo would be a good fit for this offense or just end up being trade bait for another team like all previous New England QBs.
6. Tom Savage, Houston Texans -- Pre-Draft Ranking - # 7
I have my reservations when I hear people say that Savage is the QB of the future for the Texans. If they had no doubts in his abilities, they would have picked him sooner than the fourth round. He is a developmental project, but if anyone is up to the task of turning a project into a serviceable starter, Bill O'Brien would be that guy. He has experience from coaching at Penn State and working with Matt McGloin and Christian Hackenburg. Both greatly exceeded expectations and brought a lowly team crippled by the Sandusky scandal to relevance in the nation's standings. If they deem him ready for the opportunity to start, Savage enters into a favorable situation with a good offensive line, an elite running game, a great WR duo in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, and a defense that will help to keep the young QB in better situations.
Just before the draft, news broke that Mettenberger has been dealing with a back issue that will continue to bother him throughout his career. I don't see this as a major problem since he learned to play with it at a high level at LSU. With Mettenberger, the situation that needs monitoring is with Jake Locker. They already declined to exercise his fifth year option and are essentially giving him a one year tryout to prove that he can be the franchise QB. If he fails to do so, Mettenberger should get the opportunity to step in with only Charlie Whitehurst and Tyler Wilson as the other options on the roster. Mettenberger is strictly a pocket passer, which is completely different from the more mobile Locker, but seems to fit more with Ken Whisenhunt's style of offense. If Mettenberger can work on his accuracy and decision making, he could be the next starting QB for the Titans by next season.
8. AJ McCarron, Cincinnati Bengals -- Pre-Draft Ranking - # 8
The "Game Manager" lands in Cincy and it's actually a really nice fit. For McCarron to be successful, he needs a good supporting cast. When you have weapons like AJ Green, Marvin Jones, Gio Bernard, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham, and Mohamed Sanu, that definitely qualifies. McCarron doesn't have any elite skills but doesn't make many mistakes. With many doubts surrounding Andy Dalton as the franchise QB, McCarron could be the safer option to a QB that has had 1 TD and 6 INTs in the last three playoff appearances.
This tier is composed of developmental quarterbacks that will spend a few years on the bench but could eventually see time later on in the future.
9. Aaron Murray, Kansas City -- Pre-Draft Ranking - # 9
If we've learned anything in dynasty football in the past few years, it is to always keep your eye on Andy Reid's QBs. Reid as made a living in developing QBs like Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Nick Foles. He even helped to resurrect Alex Smith's and Michael Vick's career. Alex Smith is in the middle of contract negotiations, which reportedly aren't going too well, Chase Daniel is another serviceable QB that could be dealt for the right price, and Tyler Bray is a project that could be a good QB if he gets his head on straight. Murray should step in and be the #3 QB on day 1 and begin to battle Daniel for the #2 job. He doesn't have great arm strength but it's good enough to play in this league. With some time to develop under Andy Reid, I can see him eventually getting an opportunity to start, either on the Chiefs or for another team when traded for a large ransom.
I love the fit of Fales to the Chicago Bears and the "QB Whisperer," Marc Trestman. Trestman was able to turn the journeyman, Josh McCown, into one of the hottest stars of the league in the few months that Culter was injured. I believe fails has the tools to do the same if necessary. He is the most accurate QB in the class and has great decision-making. His only flaw is arm strength, which would be ideal when throwing downfield to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but Trestman would be able to mold the offense to work with Foles' strengths. I don't see Foles taking over as the starting QB anytime soon, but he will be a great backup for many years and will be able to put up good fantasy numbers if Cutler happens to get injured yet again.
Bruce Arians seems to have an affinity for the bigger QBs. He has been successful with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and now currently with Carson Palmer. He apparently saw enough from Thomas to warrant him being the 6th QB to come off the board. Thomas will be a major project but you can't teach the size and athleticism that he possesses. From the last two years of game tape, it seems like a daunting task, but if Arians can fix his accuracy and decision-making and develop his football IQ, Thomas could reach his potential ceiling of being the next Big Ben in a few years. If not, he might be better served to switch to TE and attempt to reach his other ceiling of being the next Julius Thomas.
While Johnny Manziel was making headlines for being kicked out of the Manning Football Camp last offseason, Renner was gaining buzz because of his performance there. Peyton Manning was quoted as saying he was the best QB of all that attended. Then the buzz quickly faded as his first game was against South Carolina and Jadeveon Clowney. After struggling in that game, Renner's season was hampered by injuries. Now, he gets to work with Peyton again, this time in Denver to try to beat out Brock Osweiler, who hasn't impressed in his opportunities, and potentially become the QB that Peyton passes the baton to when he retires.
13. Brett Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Pre-Draft Ranking - # 12
Smith went udrafted and signed with the Buccs as a free agent. I like the situation with just the soon to be 35 year old, Josh McCown, and the "QB of the future" that they tried to get rid of, Mike Glennon, ahead of him on the depth chart. I'm not too sure about the fit, though. Jeff Tedford has worked with mostly pocket passing QBs such as Trent Dilfer, Aaron Rodgers, and the Carr family. Smith is seen as a Manziel-light that excels in improvising outside of the pocket, but he tends to lock on to his initial target and consistently makes bad decisions. I like the future potential of Smith, but I'd rather see him on another team that would maximize that potential, like with Chip Kelly and the Eagles.
14. Keith Wenning, Baltimore Ravens -- Pre-Draft Ranking - Honorable Mention
The Ravens feel like they have seen the best of Tyrod Taylor and are searching for a new backup quarterback. They drafted Keith Wenning in the sixth round, and he will immediately be competing for that position. Wenning is very similar to Joe Flacco. He has good pocket awareness and the best deep ball in the class because of his timing, placement, and arm strength. He just needs to prove he can withstand the jump from the small school competition at Ball State to the NFL. I believe he will become the #2 QB for Baltimore by the end of training camp.
The Jets took a flyer on Boyd in the sixth round. He enters the team competing with Geno Smith, Michael Vick, and Matt Simms. If he stays on the team, I anticipate that it will initially consist of a few years on the practice squad. He will get the opportunity to sit and learn from similar style QBs in Smith and Vick, but he needs time to develop his accuracy and football intelligence before coming close to cracking the 53-man roster.
Each of these QBs is worth monitoring as training camps approach. Situations can drastically change through injuries or simply poor play. For example, Tyler Wilson would've been ranked highly in Tier 2 at this time last year. It is very helpful to see what the beat writers are saying when it comes to these prospects to keep track of how they are adjusting at the pro level. However, just because a player has a bad practice, it doesn't merit an immediate, drastic fall in your rankings. It is just something to take note of and keep an eye on as you continue to prepare your final rankings for your fantasy drafts.