The 2014 NFL Draft will be one of the most stacked quarterback classes in recent memory, with both elite mobile and pocket passers. There are a multitude of teams that need a quarterback to lead their respective franchises, and this draft class will produce five star quarterbacks. Lets look at these future NFLers.
1) Teddy Bridgewater- Louisville Cardinals
Teddy Bridgewater is the real deal. He throws the ball with power and precision, a rarity for college QBs. He possesses the physical and mental toughness that an NFL quarterback needs, evident by how he played with a sprained wrist and ankle to get the Cardinals to the Sugar Bowl. The only drawback that Bridgewater faces during the NFL interviews is the strength of Louisville’s schedule because they don’t play a top 25 team this year. But Bridgewater does not make the schedule, and he had an extremely impressive game against Florida last year, throwing for 266 yards and 2Tds with 1INT. He has the talent to play with anybody.
NFL Comparison: Aaron Rodgers
This comparison is not perfect as Aaron Rodgers learned the QB position behind Brett Favre, making for a smoother learning curve. Bridgewater probably won’t be as lucky, and will need to develop a quick rapport with his receivers and contribute from game 1. Teddy has great accuracy and touch in the red zone, just like Rodgers. Rodgers has a stronger arm, but Bridgewater’s arm strength will improve, and he will be a nightmare for defenses. The other apt comparison is the subtle athleticism. Rodgers is deadly spreading out secondaries and then rushing to gain the first down. Bridgewater has the same ability, to run when least expected, exploiting the seems in the defense. It’s high praise to be compared to Aaron Rodgers, and Mr. Bridgewater deserves the honor.
2.) Johnny Manziel- Texas A&M Aggies
Johnny Football has been all the rage this summer, from offseason partying to the photograph scandal. Don’t be distracted, Manziel is gifted, and other pundits argue Manziel is a top 5 pick. Manziel annihilated the best defense in college football in Alabama, and has excelled on the biggest stages. He has a strong arm with good, not great accuracy, and terrific mobility. The biggest issue for Johnny may be convincing NFL executives that he is ready to lead a franchise. His off-the-field issues may drop his stock with some teams, but Manziel is a unique talent with tremendous upside.
NFL Comparison: Drew Brees
Manziel will not likely land with a team nearly as talented as the Saints, but he has the potential to be the NFL Offensive and Drew Brees is a natural leader, has a big arm and comes hard every game. Manziel mimics Brees’ qualities, including a risk-taking tendency. Brees’ presence is stellar, and Manziel needs to mature so he can command the NFL huddle.
3.) Tajh Boyd- Clemson Tigers
Tajh Boyd is turning heads this year Courtesy of ESPN
Tajh Boyd is a stout presence in the pocket, has good overall quarterback tools and leadership qualities. All positives but his throwing motion has worried NFL executives, and raised questions about whether he will be able to pass over the huge defensive lines. This seems to be a fixable problem according to many QB gurus and could be solved by draft time. Boyd has been impressive this season with 6 TDs and no interceptions and a passer rating of 148. Boyd will be a franchise player with a nice upside if he’s put in the right system.
Pro Comparison: Russell Wilson
The critiques of each quarterback are the same, so it is easy to make the comparison. Tajh probably won’t have the luxury of being selected by a talented team like the Seahawks, but he could have a tremendous impact on any wavering franchise. If Boyd continues on his current pace, he will rise on draft boards and maybe to #2 on my list.
4.) Marcus Mariota-Oregon Ducks
Under the tutelage of Chip Kelly, Marcus Mariota has emerged as an tremendous read-option quarterback with the potential to grow into a dangerous duel-threat quarterback. He has tremendous speed in both the open field and out of the backfield along with a decent arm. Mariota will have to learn how to throw accurately from 3 and 5 step drop backs and adjust to new NFL formations besides the shotgun. He will take some grooming but he has the skills to emerge as a solid to top 10 quarterback in the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Lesser Version of Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick played the spread offense at Nevada similarly to Mariota in Oregon. Kaepernick has all-world physical tools and possibly the strongest arm in NFL. Kaepernick had the opportunity to learn under Alex Smith for a season and figure the important details of being an NFL quarterback and now he has shown his talent. If a team with an older quarterback that has only a couple of years left, Mariota could be stored in a Kaepernick type fashion and then take over in 1-2 years after being drafted.
5.) AJ McCarron- Alabama Crimson Tide
AJ McCarron has two more national titles than all of the aforementioned quarterbacks and has the best team in college football on his side. He has shown he can play in big games but scouts question if he is a product of Nick Saban’s environment or is his true talent really showing. Saban’s mentality for a QB is to not make mistakes and let the stout offensive line wear down opposing defenses and then run the ball. In the NFL, McCarron won’t have the best talent at almost every position, and he will be required to take more risks.
NFL Comparison: Carson Palmer
Palmer played with a talented USC team and shot up draft boards because of his elevated stats. McCarron has the same deal at Alabama with it’s tremendous offensive line and TJ Yeldon is one of the best running backs in college football. AJ McCarron may develop into a good NFL QB, only time and opportunity will tell.
The quarterback position had a solid week three because there were nine players who scored over 20 points. Many quarterbacks were able to succeed this week because of the quarterback’s dual threat ability. This week, quarterbacks may not experience similar success because many of the top quarterbacks are facing difficult defenses.
Peyton Manning will be the best quarterback this week. Last week, I thought Manning would be the top quarterback. Although he did not meet my expectations, he finished fourth with 24 points. However, Manning would have recorded the most points if he did not stop throwing in the second half. This week, Manning will probably have to pass for the whole game. The Broncos are playing the Eagles this week at home. The Eagles possess one of the worst defenses in the league. Opposing quarterbacks, Griffin, Rivers, and Smith, have averaged 18 points against the Eagles this season. However, Manning is a significantly better quarterback than the other players. Manning has been extremely consistent this season. With the help of the best receiving core in the league, Manning has been the best player in the league. Manning does not need to take risks because his receivers are great at finding holes in the defense and exposing the flaws in the opposing team’s defense. Manning has thrown 12 touchdowns, while only throwing 1 interception, and over 300 yards each season. Manning should have a great week and produce for every fantasy owner.
Quarterback with a Risk:
Matthew Stafford will not fulfill the expectations that ESPN laid out for him this week. Stafford is suppose to record 19 points against the Chicago Bears, according to ESPN. However, I do not see Stafford recording more than 15 points. Stafford has been the sixth best fantasy quarterback this season, but he has played mediocre competition, Min, Ari, and Was. Although the Bears do not resemble the 85 Bears, they are a team that knows how to take the ball away from the offense. Stafford has been known as a risk taker and a quarterback who throws interceptions. The Bears secondary should be ready intercept a few passes. The Bears have allowed an average of 14 points per game to quarterbacks this season. Stafford will be out without top running back Reggie Bush for the game this week. When Stafford has been without a running back, he has not been as successful a quarterback. Matt will have his struggles this game so owners should be wary starting him this week.
Tony Romo should have his second straight 20 point game when he plays the San Diego Chargers this week. Last week, Romo threw for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns, while accumulating 20 fantasy points. Romo will have another successful game this week because the Chargers are a horrible defense. The Chargers have been the worst team against quarterback this season. This season, the Chargers have yet to hold a quarterback under 23 fantasy points. The Chargers have not even played great quarterbacks during their first few weeks, Schaub, Vick, and Locker. The receiving core for the Cowboys is starting to become a serious threat, which will help Romo. Although Bryant has not been great this season, he is a dynamic wide receiver that can score on any possession. Witten is a steady pass catcher, especially on third down. Romo should be able to feast against the Chargers and score about 24 points this week. Unless a owner has a top 3 quarterback, I would start Romo, even over quarterbacks Matt Ryan, Vick, and Griffin.
Other underrated QBs: Luck, Rivers, Manuel, and Griffin (Pryor if healthy)
The running backs did not have a great week, as only 3 of them recorded 20 fantasy points. However, there looks a number of running backs this week will eclipse the 20 point barrier. Owners should start the running back in the flex this week because of the multitude of good options.
Top Running Back:
Adrian Peterson has yet to breakout and have a signature game this season. Week one, Peterson did run for 2 touchdowns and caught 1 TD, but he only ran for 93 yards, one attempt was for 70+ yards. Peterson should be given a lot of touches this week as the Vikes travel across the pond to play the Steelers in London. Although Peterson is the third ranked running back, the last two weeks he has combined to 22 fantasy points while fumbling twice and recording only 1 touchdown. The Vikings will be forced to start Matt Cassel at quarterback because of the injury to starter Christian Ponder. Cassel is a bad quarterback so Leslie Frazier will probably call Peterson number at least 25 times this game. The Steelers have been horrible this season at stopping the run. The Steelers are the 4th worst fantasy defense against the rush this season. Every running back has recorded at least 95+ yards and 1 touchdown against the Steelers. Peterson should be looking to capitalize on the amount of touches he receives and the lack of physicality from the Steelers. Peterson ail record over 25 fantasy points this week.
Overrated Running Back:
Chris Johnson should be avoided by fantasy owners this week as the Titans play the Jets at home. Johnson has not been very good this season. Chris has yet to record more than 10 points, rush for 100 yards, or score a touchdown during his first three games. Johnson does not seem to have the burst that made him one of the premier running backs a few years ago. In fantasy football, it is extremely difficult to have big fantasy days without scoring touchdowns. The Titans running backs have only reached the back of the end zone one time during the first few weeks. Although Johnson receives a lot of carries, he has is not given the ball near the end zone and has done very little with his carries. Last week, Jake Locker had one of his best games of his career. The Titans should be looking to give him more passing attempts, which will take chances away from Johnson. Chris will also be playing the Jets. The Jets have been one of the best fantasy defenses against the run, 8.3 points per game. I do not expect Johnson to record double digits so owners should keep him on the bench.
Running Back that should be started:
Darren McFadden should be started by every fantasy owner this week against the Washington Redskins. After a bizarre week where McFadden had more fantasy points than rushing yards, Darren should have a solid game for the Raiders. The Raiders will be forced to rely upon McFadden, especially if Pryor cannot play this week. McFadden will be given more carries, even if Pryor plays, because the Oakland coaching staff will not want Pryor running, while injured. Although McFadden has only recorded more than 50 yards once this season, he has recorded two touchdowns and at least 10 fantasy points every week. However, McFadden should have his best game of the season against the Redskins this week. The Skins have let running backs score at least 18 points during every game this season, 3rd to worst in the league. McFadden is expected to score 18 points according to ESPN. However, I believe he may be able to reach 20 points if the Raiders give him the ball inside the red zone this week.
Other underrated RBs: MJD, Powell, Forte, and Richardson
Week 3 was a strange week for receivers as none of the top six receivers from last week were started in more than 65% of leagues. This looks like a good week for wide receivers as many of the top guys are playing easy competition.
Top Wide Receiver:
Dez Bryant should be one of the best wide receivers in the NFL for week 4. The stud wide receiver is facing the San Diego Chargers on the road. For the first time all season, Bryant’s status is not being questioned because of his nagging foot injury. When healthy Bryant is one of the most dynamic receivers in the game because of his physical attributes and skill. Although Bryant has not had huge receiving games in terms of yardage, Dez has scored a touchdown in each of the last two weeks. San Diego has been torched by stud wide receivers during the first three weeks of the schedule. In week 1, Andre Johnson tallied 146 yards in receiving and 14 fantasy points. In week 2, DeSean Jackson had 193 yards and a touchdown while recording 25 fantasy points. Dez should be the next wide out to benefit owners as the Chargers do not have a corner that can stop his physicality and skill.
Wide Receiver unlikely to meet expectations:
Larry Fitzgerald should not be started by fantasy owners unless they are absolutely desperate at wide receiver this week. Fitz has been bothered by a nagging hamstring over the last two games. After a great week 1, Fitz has totaled only nine points over the last two weeks. This week, it does not become easier for him as he must line up against Darrelle Revis, the top corner in the league. Revis Island looks great this season as the team’s top wide receivers rarely catches the ball. Although ESPN expects Larry to record 12 points, I believe he will only score 5 or less. Revis will be blanketing Larry and Carson Palmer does not have the skill to fit the ball into tight windows. Besides Revis, the Bucs have a lot of good players in their secondary, like Mark Barron and Deshon Goldson. With all of the obstacles in Larry’s way, hamstring, Revis, and bad QB, Larry should ride the bench for another week.
Wide Receiver destined to surprise owners:
Torrey Smith has a good chance of having a big game for the Ravens this week against the Buffalo Bills. Smith has been an extremely consistent receiver, but as not recorded a touchdown this season. Smith has tallied 9,8, and 9 points during the first three weeks of the season. This week, Smith is due for a touchdown. The Bills have been torched by wide receivers all season. The Bills have allowed more than 30 points to receivers twice in the last three weeks. Last week, the Jets had two receivers that had more than 15 fantasy points, which is a lot for a poor passing team. Flacco will be pressured to throw the ball since Ray Rice is recovering from an injury. Luckily, Smith is one of the few receivers that has big play ability on the Ravens. The Bills have lost a number of players in their secondary so Smith should be able to record a few big plays. Smith should record at least 15 points this week so fantasy owners should put him in their starting roster.
Other wide receivers: Garcon, Moore, Decker, and Bowe
The tight ends had a disappointing week as only 5 of them recorded more than 10 points. However, two tight ends, Cameron and Graham, recorded more than 20 points in their respective games.
Jimmy Graham will look to continue his success as the Saints take on the Miami Dolphins this week on Monday Night Football. Graham has been, by far, the best fantasy tight end, 59 points, through the first three games of the season. Graham has been incredibly consistent this year. Through the first three games, Graham has scored 4 touchdowns and managed at least 23 fantasy points the last two weeks. Last week, he fulfilled my expectations and scored the most fantasy points among tight ends, as I expected. Graham has another favorable matchup this week against the Dolphins. The Dolphins have allowed a touchdown to a tight end during each of their first three games. The Dolphins are ranked 29th against fantasy tight ends. The streak should continue since Brees and Graham have a connection that cannot be stopped. Fantasy owners should rely on Graham to put up at least 17 points this week.
Owen Daniels should be benched this week by fantasy owners. Daniels and the Texans are facing the Seattle Seahawks at home. The Seahawks defense is absolutely nasty, but particularly great against opposing tight ends. Tight ends average less than 3 points per game against the Seahawks and they have yet to score a touchdown. If Daniels was a great tight end, I may take a chance on him and start him this week. However, Daniels’ production has steadily decreased during every week of the season. After a great week one, Daniels has yet to tally more than 30 yards receiving in a game. Daniels’ touches will be diminished because of the emergence of DeAndre Hopkins and the return of Andre Johnson. The talented wide receivers are going to take receptions from Daniels, which hurts his fantasy value.
Heath Miller is one of the most underrated tight ends in the NFL. Miller is Roethlisberger’s favorite target because he catches everything that is thrown his way and records first downs. After missing the first two games, Miller returned last week, but was ineffective. However, Miller should be huge for the Steelers against the Vikings in London. The Vikes have been the 31st best defense at stopping opposing fantasy tight ends. Fantasy tight ends have averaged about 17 points per game against the Vikings this season. Miller should be no exception. Miller’s reliabilty and ability to find openings near the red zone should result in a touchdown and double digit fantasy points.
Other TE options: Gates, Witten, Chandler, and Fleener
The Browns shocked the NFL world Wednesday by trading Trent Richardson, the 3rd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick in this years draft. The new Browns’ front office clearly viewed the former Alabama star as expendable and proceeded to make the first major move of the regime. Cleveland will look to rebuild for the future using the first round pick to find a definitive franchise player. Let’s look at the trade’s impact for both teams.
The Indianapolis Colts now have two of the top three picks in the 2012 draft and maybe one of the most dangerous young duos in the NFL. Trent Richardson will provide balance to an air-raid squad that ranked 22nd in rushing yards last year and only scored 11 rushing touchdowns , with five of those from Andrew Luck. Trent Richardson will also provide protection for Luck, another necessity for the Colts. Jim Irsay has been vocal about protecting his young star QB, and has even tweeted about it. Another dimension of this trade is Richardson’s pass catching ability. He caught 58 passes with the Browns last year and should exceed that amount with Luck at QB. This is a major move for the Colts, and a big plus in establishing a more balanced and potent offense.
It seems that every year is either a bounce-back or rebuilding year for the Browns, but this may really be the last year of tanking for Cleveland fans. The Browns experimented with the 29-year old Brandon Weeden, and now it is time for the Browns to get serious about turning around their franchise. Although T-Rich was clearly their most talented and most promising player, the modern day NFL places emphasis on throwing the ball downfield. With this year’s potent QB draft class, the Browns should have little trouble finding the right man to lead their franchise. If they have don’t have the top pick to take an elite QB, they could use the Colts’ pick as a trading piece to move up and select their quarterback. We have seen rookies turn around franchises (see Luck and the Colts, RG3 and the Redskins and Russell Wilson and the Seahawks), and the Browns have the potential to do the same. Cleveland has young and emerging players like Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon, who have great potential. If the Browns add more offense skill position players using their other picks, look for the Browns to become a threat in the AFC North. Though talented, Trent Richardson was expendable according to the new Browns’ regime, and they used his value set the stage for a much better future.
This trade should be a win-win for both teams. Trent Richardson will contribute in Indy, and expand their offense options substantially, and Cleveland will finally land its franchise QB in a stacked draft. Let’s hope Richardson stays healthy and avoids injuries which have nagged him at Alabama and in the NFL. And for the Browns, there are no guaranteed successes in the draft, but the deal looks good for everyone.