2014 NFL Draft - Quarterback Rankings

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As the NFL teams work to finalize their draft boards to prepare for this week, the hardcore fantasy owners should be in the initial stages of preparing for their drafts and getting a jump on their competition. To help shake off the offseason cobwebs and get the fantasy gears grinding again, here are my pre-draft rankings of the top quarterback prospects for this year.

An exercise I use to get a jump on my competition is to rank all rookies before the NFL Draft. This helps to put a higher value on player's talent instead of strictly on the situation they end up in when drafted. A favorable situation creates a better chance of producing early, but if a player is truly talented, he will eventually get his opportunity to get on the field. If you rank any less talented player too high based solely on situation, that's when you end up drafting Justin Hunter,Robert Woods, or Aaron Dobson over Keenan AllenGreg Little over Randall Cobb, or even Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers. Allen, Cobb, & Rodgers all started buried on the depth chart. Their talent eventually brought them to the surface to produce at an elite level and became a very sore subject for the teams that passed on them. To prevent this from happening, rank the rookies strictly based on talent and divide them into tiers. After the draft, only use situation to adjust the rankings within those tiers.

These are my rankings for the top quarterbacks for the 2014 draft. I included best and worst situations to be drafted into for each player that could warrant any severe upgrade or downgrade in rankings.

Tier 1 - This tier is designated for players that I can see producing at an elite level for most of their career. For this class, I only have one player in this tier.

1. Johnny Manziel - As long as Manziel goes to a team that will let him be Johnny Football and do what he does best, he should easily be the #1 fantasy QB from this draft. The rushing yards he will accumulate will be a huge advantage in fantasy. He is not a pure speedster like Robert Griffin but has unique instincts to bait and fool defenders in the open field. He is also one of the best in this class in arm strength and accuracy, especially on deep balls. He has enough confidence in his game to throw it up to his receivers and give them a chance to come down with it, and his improvising in the pocket gives them extra time to get open. He does come with significant risk, as his small stature and reckless style of play could lead to injuries and, of course, the maturity questions that could lead to more off-the-field issues. It has been a while since we heard about Johnny's wild, adventurous outings, so hopefully he continues to mature and these issues don't return when he's paid.

Best situationCleveland Browns. With Mike Pettine being a defensive minde coach, he should defer the offense to the Offensive Coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, who helped build the Redskin offense around Robert Griffin. Manziel would put up huge numbers throwing it up to Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron every week.

Worst situationOakland RaidersOakland may be the worst situation for any young QB but especially for Manziel. If they draft him to be the QB of the future, I just don't see him being successful with a severe lack of offensive weapons and a weak offensive line that's been pieced together every year primarily through free agency.

Tier 2 - 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 - The most prototypical QB in the class. He compares favorably to Ben Roethlisberger, but although he is big in stature, he does not necessarily have the big arm that Big Ben showcases. Bortles needs to focus on fixing his footwork which should help to improve both his accuracy and arm strength substantially. He has good mobility and is not afraid to get out of the pocket and use his big body to gain rushing yards if needed. If he goes to a team with a good QB Coach to help him with the fixable details of his game, he just might have the upside of Roethlisberger.

Best situationHouston Texans. Bortles' Head Coach at UCF was George O'Leary. O'Leary was a mentor for both Texans' Head Coach, Bill O'Brien and QB Coach, George Godsey. This should give the Texans a head start on knowing who exactly Bortles is and what they need to work on to improve his game. The team will be QB friendly with an elite running game, a great WR duo in Andre Johnson & DeAndre Hopkins , and a good defense to help keep the young QB in better situations.

Worst situationCincinnati Bengals. If Bortles falls far enough to come in reach of the Bengals, they might draft him to push Andy Dalton and have a backup plan if they decide not to extend him. However, I do not think this would be the best fit to maximize the potential of Bortles because of the lack of a "QB guru" on the staff. Ken Zampese, the Bengals QB Coach, has done a decent job of almost turning Dalton into a playoff-caliber QB, but I would rather see Bortles under the tutelage of somebody with a better track record of molding franchise quarterbacks.

3. Teddy Bridgewater - According to the buzz around the league, Bridgewater could see a significant fall on draft day, possibly into the second round. This would be a huge mistake for teams passing on him but an incredible blessing for the team that ultimately drafts him. He does not have the prototypical sized frame but is the most NFL ready in this class because of his elite accuracy and anticipation in his throws and his outstanding decision making and football IQ. He does struggle a bit with his deep ball but not enough to downgrade him that severely. I see him filling a similar role to Russell Wilson last year. He will mostly be used as a game manager but will make plays when needed.

Best situationJacksonville Jaguars. Gus Bradley is quickly turning this team around. The defense will continue to improve drastically, and with Bridgewater in the fold, he will have the perfect QB to manage the offense and actually put some points on the scoreboard to win games.

Worst situationArizona Cardinals. There have been rumors that if Bridgewater falls, the Cardinals would be tempted to draft him as the QB of the future, but Bruce Arians' offense relies heavily on the deep passing game, which is Bridgewater 's greatest weakness.

4. Derek Carr - Carr put up huge numbers at Fresno State , but worked through an offense that heavily utilized screen passes and short slants. His one chance to prove he was capable against tougher competition was against USC in the Vegas Bowl. It ended up being his worst game of the seaon, severely struggling against the interior pressure from the USC defense. When he has time, he has shown that he can make just about any throw and his football IQ is very advanced for a young QB. He began learning about reading defenses and protection schemes as a teenager through the help of his brother, David Carr.

Best situationMinnesota Vikings. Carr would fit perfectly in the Norv Turner offense. Even though it wasn't abundant in his game at Fresno , Carr has shown that he can throw the deep ball with touch and accuracy. If Norv decides to tailor some of his offense to what Carr did best in his senior year, they have one of the best receivers in the league to throw screens and quick slants to in Cordarrelle Patterson.

Worst situation - Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags lost a lot of interior lineman during free agency. Carr needs a strong interior line to hold off pressure and give him enough comfort to succeed. If Carr was the selection, he'd likely end up being just like their last signal caller, Blaine Gabbert, with the inability to handle pressure.

Tier 3 - This teir 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. Zach Mettenberger - Mettenberger has the greatest arm strength in this class but still needs some work to put it to good use. His accuracy and touch are questionable. It could be argued that his two great receivers at LSU, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, helped him more than he helped them. He also had his senior season cut short with an ACL injury. In spite of this, he has rare tools that are at a high demand in the league and with some development, could become a formidable franchise quarterback.

Best situation - Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals should be looking for the heir apparent to Carson Palmer. This will allow Mettenberger to learn as a backup for a year or two and fully maximize his skills before taking command of the offense that has an improving offensive line and young, dynamic weapons in Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington.

Worst situationCleveland Browns. If drafted by the Browns, he will most likely be pushed to be the starter before he is ready. With Mettenberger, I would see Kyle Shanahan molding the offense similarly to what he had with Matt Schaub in Houston with a lot of bootlegs. I don't see Mettenberger as a good fit for that type of offense because of his lack of mobility, which was made worse by the injury.

6. Jimmy Garoppolo - Garoppolo was a deep sleeper from Eastern Illinois that started to gain some buzz toward the end of the season. When he got his chance to prove himself in front of NFL scouts at the college all star games, he greatly impressed and began to vault up boards. He is very smart and has quick instincts to read defenses and get the ball out fast. However, if his initial reads aren't there he tends to panic and bails from the pocket too soon. He also senses pressure that isn't there in some instances. This is similar to Blaine Gabbert's fatal flaw, but Garoppolo does this against small school competition. What happens when he faces the much more intimidating pressure of the NFL?

Best situation - Cincinnati Bengals. If the Bengals want to draft a backup QB in the second round, Garoppolo could be a good fit because of the weapons they have accumulated. Guys like Tyler EifertJermaine Gresham,Mohamed Sanu, and Gio Bernard are the available options that he can get the ball to quickly and, of course, they have AJ Green and Marvin Jones lining up outside. Garoppolo has a better arm and is a better decision maker thanDalton . He could be the one to get the Bengals over the hump of a one-and-done team in the playoffs.

Worst situationTampa Bay Buccaneers. Rumors are swirling that Mike Glennon will not be a fit for the newTampa offense and may be on the move. If Tampa is looking for a potential QB of the future to compete with Josh McCown, a team without a reliable tight end, a prominent slot receiver, or even a reliable #2 receiver, would not be a good fit for Garoppolo, who needs to get the ball out immediately to be successful.

7. Tom Savage - Nobody has risen up the boards like Tom Savage. He was relatively unknown after the season as he was passed up for every single college all star game. Once teams started watching the tape, they noticed that he possessed the traits of an NFL quarterback but was hidden behind one of the worst offensive lines in college football. He is similar to Mettenberger in that he has a strong arm but lacks mobility, elite accuracy, and good decision making. It would be best for him to spend at least one year on the bench to learn and develop his skills.

Best situationChicago Bears. The Bears are in need of a backup QB. Mark Trestman, has deservedly earned the nickname "The QB Whisperer." He took a journeyman in Josh McCown and turned him into a superstar in the few weeks that Cutler was injured. Savage has the skills to do the same with the help of weapons like Brandon MarshallAlshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett.

Worst situationNew England Patriots. I have seen many rumors linking Savage to the Patriots. I don't see this as the best fit for him because his greatest talent is his arm strength and it would be wasted with the current Patriot roster. The Patriots have struggled to find a good deep threat receiver since Randy Moss. Savage could still be successful in the offense because of his velocity on throws that can get to the underneath receivers quickly out of their breaks, but I would rather see him in an offense with deep threat receivers to be able to put up those bigger fantasy numbers.

8. AJ McCarron - "Game Manager" is the phrase that has been synonymous with McCarron over the past few years. He isn't elite in any skill set but doesn't make many mistakes. He relied heavily on the best supporting cast in the nation at Alabama and will need similar help to succeed in the NFL. He has proved that he is willing to put in the work after playing for the most demanding coach in college football, Nick Saban, and being so successful.

Best situation - New England Patriots. Ryan Mallett is another QB that could be on the block. McCarron would be a good replacement. He would fit well with Bill Belichick simply because he would work hard and won't make many mistakes. One of the consistent top teams in football would make for a more than adequate supporting cast for McCarron whenever Tom Brady decides to retire.

Worst situationTennessee Titans. Ken Whisenhunt, has worked with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner, and Phillip Rivers. These quarterbacks have shown the ability to put the team on their shoulders and make plays to win the game. McCarron has not proven to be that type of player. If drafted by the Titans to replace Jake Locker, I see McCarron's career taking a similar path to that of Matt Leinart, who also played under Whisenhunt inArizona .

Tier 4 - 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 MurrayMurray was a four-year starter at Georgia that had a lot of success but seemed to always struggle against top ranked teams. He is undersized but knows how to move in the pocket to create passing lanes, similar to Drew Brees. He is accurate and also makes good decisions. With a few years of development, he could win a starting job.

10. David Fales - Fales has everything you want in a franchise QB except for arm strength. He is the most accurate QB in the class and makes good decisions. However, some teams have said that they would have to take out some of their plays if they drafted him because he cannot make the deeper throws that would be necessary to execute them. If a team drafted him and could tailor their offense to his skills and hide his deficiency, he could be a good starting quarterback for them. He will more likely be one of the better backups in the league for the next decade.

11. Logan Thomas - A couple years ago, Thomas was a lock to be a future #1 overall pick because of his size, athleticism, and comparisons to Cam Newton. After his junior and senior years, he has regressed to only being a possible mid-round pick because of the potential that teams are still salivating over. He hasn't shown the accuracy or decision making to be a successful QB in the league, but some team will draft him because they have the confidence that they will be able to "fix" him. If it doesn't work out, he could possibly make a position switch to tight end. The numbers that he put up at the Combine were very similar to or better than some of the top tight ends of the past few years.

12. Brett Smith - Many have described Smith as the poor man's Johnny Manziel because he has the ability to create remarkable plays by moving around in the pocket while evading defenders, but his decision making is a huge flaw in his game. He constantly locks onto one target and throws into coverage. With a few years to develop, he could be a dynamic playmaker. I would think being matched up with Chip Kelly would be a great fit, but Smith wanted nothing more than to be recruited by Oregon when Kelly was there but never received an offer. Maybe Chip will see that there is something to work with and finally give Smith a chance to play for him.

The 2014 class of quarterback is dripping with potential. I didn't even include other prospects such as Tahj Boyd, Bryn Renner, Dustin Vaughn, and Keith Wenning that will have a good opportunity to stick on a roster and develop for a shot at future playing time. The depth of this QB class is outstanding when compared to the weak 2013 class. However, similar to last year, there may only be two or three that will be fantasy relevant in year one. The rest of the class will warrant keeping an eye on as they lie in wait at the depths of the roster for their opportunity to exchange their possible potential for proven production.

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