At the current moment, the Miami Dolphins have a solid foundation at quarterback. Ryan Tannehill is entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback, although the jury is still out on whether he is the quarterback of the future for the organization. Veteran quarterback Matt Moore is the team’s backup quarterback. Widely considered one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league, Moore will enter his fourth year with the Dolphins in 2014. Pat Devlin is an exclusive rights free agent in 2014, but will likely be brought back for quarterback depth as the third-string quarterback next season.
There will be no quarterback competition for the starting quarterback gig next season. Tannehill has the organization’s trust—for now—and will be the team’s starting QB entering 2014. Having said that, beyond Tannehill, nothing is certain at the QB position for Miami entering 2014.
Although Moore was one of Miami’s biggest priorities as a free agent in the 2013 offseason, a year makes a big difference. Tannehill is no longer a raw and unproven quarterback, and has shown he is viable as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Moore has played sparingly over the past two seasons after having a solid season as the team’s starting quarterback in the 2011 campaign. He is owed a salary of $4 million, and if the Dolphins are able to find a cheaper and better alternative at the position, they won’t hesitate to release Moore and save $4 million.
Devlin is a huge question mark and has been in the organization for three years. He has never appeared in an NFL game, and has remained as Miami’s third-string quarterback for three consecutive years. On most game days, he’s inactive.
Although Tannehill will enter the 2014 season as the starting quarterback, beyond next season, nothing is a guarantee. If the third-year quarterback fails to lead the Dolphins to the playoffs for the third consecutive year, Miami will likely look to another quarterback to lead the franchise in 2015. Which is why the Dolphins should draft a quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft—this is where A.J. McCarron comes into the fold.
McCarron ended his collegiate career with two national championships, 36 victories in 40 appearances and more passing yards and touchdowns than any quarterback in Alabama history. But he’s not a hot prospect entering the draft. In fact, if you take a look at most draft boards, experts have him pegged anywhere from the seventh-best quarterback in the draft to the 11th-best quarterback. Many experts say McCarron’s likely draft spot will be in either the third or fourth rounds.
Due to the fact that the 2014 draft class is a strong one for quarterbacks, and due to the question marks surrounding McCarron’s ability to translate his college success into pro success, the Dolphins will likely have the opportunity to draft McCarron—and it’s an opportunity that they should not pass on. With the low-risk factor of drafting McCarron in the middle rounds, and due to the fact that the former Alabama quarterback will face zero pressure entering the Dolphins organization, with Tannehill entrenched as the team’s starter, what is there not to like about the move?
Yes, as is the case with any quarterback projected to be taken in the middle rounds, McCarron has question marks. The biggest one is his lack of arm strength and his lack of accuracy when it pertains to deep and intermediate routes.
However, if you surround McCarron with the right supporting cast — an offensive line and a solid running game — there is no question McCarron could succeed in the NFL as a game-manager quarterback almost immediately, with a chance to grow into something better as time goes on. He’s a proven winner who has played in the biggest games at the collegiate level. He has shown the ability to take tremendous care of the football despite facing the very best competition college football has to offer in the SEC Conference.
McCarron’s physical ability is unclear, but his intangibles are far better than any quarterback entering the 2014 NFL Draft. The Alabama quarterback may not have the career potential of a Teddy Bridgewater, but he has the ability to develop into a solid long-term starter in the league.
Remember Chad Pennington? McCarron could very well develop into the quarterback that Pennington was in the NFL for nearly a decade. Considering Pennington led the Dolphins to a division title at one point in time, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, now would it?