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 Allen, Greg 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 situation -
Worst situation - Oakland Raiders.
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 situation - Houston 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
Worst situation - Cincinnati 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
3. Teddy Bridgewater - According to the buzz around the league,
Best situation - Jacksonville Jaguars. Gus Bradley is quickly turning this team around. The defense will continue to improve drastically, and with
Worst situation - Arizona Cardinals. There have been rumors that if
4. Derek Carr - Carr put up huge numbers at Fresno
Best situation - Minnesota Vikings. Carr would fit perfectly in the Norv Turner offense. Even though it wasn't abundant in his game at
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 situation -
6. Jimmy Garoppolo - Garoppolo was a deep sleeper from Eastern Illinois
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 Eifert, Jermaine 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 than
Worst situation - Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rumors are swirling that Mike Glennon will not be a fit for the new
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 situation -
Worst situation - New 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
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 situation - Tennessee 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 in
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 Murray -
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
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.