Quarterbacks St. Louis Rams Should Target in 2014 NFL Draft
St. Louis Has To Fill Void Behind Sam Bradford
After Sam Bradford went down for the season with a torn ACL it became apparent that the St. Louis Rams need a back up plan. While he still holds the starting quarterback position when he returns according to Head Coach Jeff Fisher, St. Louis has a large hole on their roster. The recent signings of Austin Davis and Brady Quinn do next to nothing to fix the issue at hand. Quinn has had six years to find a team to stick with. After failing to prove he has any value to any team in his five previous stops, I find it hard to believe he will provide St. Louis with any real production. Davis has athletic abilities, but his preseason play left a lot to be desired. There may be hope for Davis yet, but he has a long ways to go before he is NFL ready.
St. Louis has to take the draft in April seriously in finding a quality backup that can fill in when needed or possibly take over if it is deemed that Bradford can't lead this team to success. The Washington Redskins took both Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins in the same draft causing many to wonder what their plan was. Now they have two quarterbacks that could start for many teams. Cousins also provides a viable trade chip if they were willing to part ways with him. St. Louis doesn't have to draft a guy with the hopes of him starting in year one. They do, however, need to find a young quarterback that they can develop behind Bradford.
Bradford has guaranteed money through the 2015 season, which means he has two seasons to deliver success in St. Louis. If they take a QB now, then they have the ability to re-evaluate Bradford at that juncture and decide whether to move on to someone they have groomed and coached up. This plan is similar to the one that the Green Bay Packers used with Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. I'm not saying that Bradford is the equivalent to Favre, but it is a plan that has worked for them. The Rams should take this chance to have an adequate backup that can learn without having to suffer the beating that Bradford took early in his career.
Teddy Bridgewater Is The Clear No. 1
Barring an unseen drop in play, Teddy Bridgewater will be the first QB taken off of the board come April. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Bridgewater could stand to add some pounds to his frame. He is the total package of skills teams will look for as a pocket passer with the ability to escape pressure and pick up yards with his legs in chunks. He has shown the ability to avoid careless throws while under pressure. He has led his team to being a relevant topic in college football again. He has had wrist and ankle injuries that could haunt his draft stock, but remaining healthy for the rest of the season will shake off any questions teams will have for him. Bridgewater's mechanics will need some work even though he has been remarkably accurate this season. His chances of success will improve if he doesn't have to step in and play right away. St. Louis could use his athletic ability if Bradford missed time in the future as he could escape pressure behind a subpar O-line. It's too bad for St. Louis that he will be the first QB off the board, if not the first player taken in the draft.
Is Johnny Manziel Worth The Risk?
Johnny Manziel, the most polarizing player in college football since Tim Tebow, is surrounded by many question marks. The questions about Manziel are of a completely different nature, though. There are questions about his personal life, autograph signings, and even some about if his abilities will transfer to the NFL. The one thing Johnny Football does is win. He has his own style of play that is similar to Brett Favre's gun-slinging and a younger Donovan McNabb's ability to extend plays. The problem with his gun-slinging is that he doesn't posses Favre's cannon, instead he has something more of a .22 caliber rifle.
Manziel's other downfall is his size at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. Those are the type of numbers that hurt Russell Wilson's draft stock, but we have all seen what he has done in his short career. Manziel has made every type of throw that can be made at the college level. He has made broken plays strike gold using his legs and ability to escape defenders to buy time for his receivers. In short, he is a dynamic playmaker that everyone wants to watch. Will his wild style work in the NFL where all defenders have better closing speed and technique?
Johnny Football may be the most intriguing player in the draft as he could go anywhere from early first round to middle of the second. Teams wouldn't pass on a guy more than twice if they need a QB. There is no clear-cut spot for him in the draft because of all the mysteries surrounding him. Manziel could be a difference maker in the NFL or he could be a devastating bust surrounded by the same circus that followed Tebow everywhere.
Bretty Hundley's Stock Is Going Up
Brett Hundley has grabbed the attention of NFL executives everywhere with his sudden surge of production this season. Hundley possesses the ideal size for an NFL quarterback at 6-foot-3 and 222 pounds. He has taken a huge step this year in his ability to take care of the ball and making good decisions. A strong arm and mobility are the two strengths that make him an intriguing prospect. He still lacks consistency in ball placement, and while he is athletic he lacks a natural feel for pressure in the pocket. The rise in his play this year could be a sign that he is starting to understand the position better with plenty of room left to grow.
Similar to Manziel he is a redshirt sophomore in his second year being a starter. He struggled with turnovers last year surrendering 11 fumbles. If he continues to produce he will most likely be a late first to middle of the second round pick, not bad for a guy that didn't have any hype coming into the season. St. Louis could utilize him as the backup to familiarize himself with the NFL and allow them to coach him up. He will be a player to watch come draft time if he decides to make that jump.
Tajh Boyd Will Be A Project
Tajh Boyd is another interesting prospect to watch the rest of the season. He doesn't posses ideal height at 6-foot-1, but he is a compact 225 pounds. His build will allow him to take hits better than some of the other prospects. Most college players are found to be shorter than advertised during the scouting combine so Boyd's stock could take a hit if he is shorter than the listed 6-foot-1. He does posses a strong arm that can't be taught. His mix of a cannon arm and ability to be a quick, shifty runner will make teams reach for him early in the draft.
The biggest knock on Boyd that could scare teams away is the shotgun offense he is running now. College QBs that come out of shotgun offense have to learn the proper footwork and reads needed at the NFL level. Few players come out and are successful right away because of their lack of experience in a pro style offense. Boyd will have to spend a lot of time perfecting these mechanics. A spot as a backup QB would be the absolute best situation for him, and if he is forced into action early he can use his athleticism to keep plays alive. A year or two on the bench would do him wonders.
Marcus Mariota Has A Lot To Learn
Just like Boyd, Marcus Mariota faces problems because of the system he is currently in. Mariota has all of the tools needed to be a high pick come April, but he lacks any experience in a pro style offense. If he can put together a solid combine and pro-day he could help his stock immensely. Mariota's 6-foot-4, 220 pound frame is what coaches dream of in their quarterbacks. Add in the fact he possesses above average speed and toughness, and scouts will be drooling. His arm strength is unquestioned as he puts zip on passes when needed with a smooth throwing motion.
Chip Kelly would probably like to grab Mariota for his offense in Philadelphia. Mariota will suffer a tough learning curve coming into the NFL if he has to take on a pro style offense. Mariota would probably fit best in Kelly's read-option offense, but too many teams are going to like his skill-set for him to drop past the second or third round at the latest. All of the footwork and pre/post-snap reads are going to be difficult for Mariota to master quickly enough to start in year one. If St. Louis wants a project that they could build an offense around, Mariota would be an interesting choice in the second round. Waiting until the third round could be costly for teams looking to add a strong armed, mobile QB.
Stephen Morris Full Of Untapped Potential
Stephen Morris reminds me of guys that I used to play baseball with. He's the kind of guy that was amazing in high school and college, but still had more to give. Morris is showing progress, but it seems like he is just missing something. He has the same tools and ability as nearly everyone on the list so far. There is a lot of inconsistency in his play with ups and downs occurring within drives. One play he drops a pass right into a receiver's hands deep, and the next he overthrows his target altogether. His consistency for the rest of the year will determine where he is drafted. Morris' solid 6-foot-2, 214-pound frame won't scare teams away come April.
He has a good arm, but not great. He is accurate, but not all of the time. He can pick up yards with his legs and escape pressure, but he doesn't use them as well as he could. See where I am going with this? For someone that is so talented, he leaves a lot to be desired. He has been banged up this year limiting his playing time in some games. Still, Morris is a top-level talent that could be coached up once he gets into the NFL. He would be a reach in the second round if you expect him to make a difference early. Drafting Morris in the third round would be a solid place for him. He is going to need time to build strength and learn, and he would do well if he had a veteran QB to help him along his journey.