|10-28-2013, 12:31 PM||Topic Starter|
Kicking Ass and Chewing Bubble
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Kiper and McShay on the 14 QB Class
The discussion: Could the 2014 NFL draft give us one of the all-time great QB classes?
McShay: In answering this question, I think it's very important not to confuse depth with quality. Where the 2014 class of quarterbacks is potentially very strong is in its depth; but when it comes to top-shelf talent, this group isn't on the same level as the 2012 class.
There's no Andrew Luck in the 2014 draft class, and while I think that Oregon's Marcus Mariota has an extraordinarily high ceiling (and he has been more durable to this point in his career), I would argue that Robert Griffin III was playing at a higher level at this point in his senior season than Mariota is playing right now as a redshirt sophomore. The biggest difference is that RG III was making a lot more deep vertical throws than Mariota is asked to attempt in the Ducks offense, and Griffin's improvement with his touch and ball placement on downfield throws during his final season at Baylor was remarkable.
If we were to merge the 2012 class with the 2014 class (note that the grades on the 2014 guys are far from final) and stack them up based on the ratings (out of 100) I gave them, this is how the top five would look:
Andrew Luck: 99
Robert Griffin III: 98
Marcus Mariota: 95
Ryan Tannehill: 94
Teddy Bridgewater: 94
This isn't meant to knock Mariota or Bridgewater or even UCLA's Brett Hundley (whom we are currently giving a grade of 90, but who I think would benefit from another year with the Bruins); after all, Luck received the highest grade for any player I've ever evaluated, and RG III was just a notch behind him.
But where the 2014 class could be one of the strongest that we've seen in many years is in its depth. Just as in 2012, we currently rate eight QBs as having first-, second- or early third-round grades in this class: Mariota, Bridgewater, Hundley, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Alabama's AJ McCarron, Miami's Stephen Morris and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas. We also have six more players with "draftable" grades: Georgia's Aaron Murray, Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Fresno State's Derek Carr, Ohio State's Braxton Miller, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo and San Jose State's David Fales.
There are several underclassmen in this group, so obviously things will depend upon which players declare. But in terms of depth -- both developmental prospects and potential backups -- this could be a really good class. Still, Mariota and Bridgewater are a step below what we saw with Luck and RG III at the top of the 2012 draft.
Kiper: I hate to do it, Todd, for the sake of an argument, but I agree, with a couple of key factors in mind:
1. This class is loaded with excellent traits, but doesn't yet have that complete product you're ready to hand the franchise keys to.
I look at Mariota and see the extraordinary athleticism, the ability to ruin any thought of blitzing effectively because of his ability to extend plays. He also has a big arm and does a good job of scanning the field. But he's still growing as a rhythm passer who can really anticipate, and as you said his mechanics and deep ball still need work. It's like this all over with this class. Bridgewater has a ton of talent if not a huge arm, and you want to see him against better competition regularly. Hundley has the big arm, but is inconsistent still with his accuracy. Manziel is a master of making the most out of plays, but whether he can hold up and deliver strikes with that frame and arm -- it's still a question. There's a lot of talent, but everybody has a question mark.
2. It still lacks a clear No. 1, which means it clearly lacks that sure thing great classes are built around.
You mentioned the Luck class, but I was around for the 1983 draft as well (I was 23, but I was around), and that class had John Elway at the top, and guys named Jim Kelly and Dan Marino who came later. Hindsight makes it all look better, but you knew you had at least one really good one with Elway. And what happened to Ryan Leaf doesn't take away from the fact that Peyton Manning was there in 1998. Again, the kind of guy you draft and know you're ready to hand him the keys. We might get three to four really good starters out of this class, and the landscape will change a lot between now and next spring, but right now there isn't that dead-set lock as a likely No. 1. It's a deep class -- there could be 14 or 15 players taken who are pretty darn good QBs -- but it still needs that lock.
Lastly then, it's worth noting that there's still a lot of youth involved here. Every single guy at the top of my recent top 10 has the option to come back until we get down to Mettenberger. And as you should recall, it was Luck who came back when he would have gone No. 1, ahead of Cam Newton in 2011.
If you think this class is good, think if three or four of those guys stick around.