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As of this evening, a college football national champion will be crowned and we will be in full-blown NFL playoff mode. But even with the best games of the professional season still to come, it’s not too early to start talking draft. Players are declaring their candidacy for the draft, and the first rankings are firming up.
It wasn’t took long ago that Maurice Clarett of Ohio State and Mike Williams of USC tried to fight the power and go pro early, only to fail and have their careers derailed. Players are seeing the value of staying in college for an extra year and are making smarter choices as a result. There are very few instances where staying in school hurts a players’ draft stock. If it does, it’s minimal, such as with players like Matt Leinart who fell from the potential number one spot “all the way” to number ten.
In the NFL, it’s all about the quarterbacks. So to kick off this blog, we’re going to analyze all the top quarterbacks in college football and which of Goldilocks’ three bears they are. Did they stay too long, jump the gun and abandon ship too early, or did they leave when the time was just right?
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: Entering 2014 Draft, Right on time
Bridgewater announced he will enter the 2014 NFL Draft, and nobody can question his decision. He’s been on top of the QB rankings all season long and has the pole position in the race to go number one overall to the Houston Texans.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon: Staying in school, right on time
Mariota has always been an incredible, top-tier athlete, but scouts were even more impressed with his development as a passer this season. He shot up the board as he surpassed more heralded players in Eugene to become the featured player in one of the nation’s most exciting offenses. He would have had a shot to be number one overall this season, but there is also a chance he would have fallen down as the draft process progressed due to the fact that he is relatively raw compared to someone such as Teddy Bridgewater. Look for Mariota to be a favorite for number one in 2015.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Likely going pro, right on time
Johnny Football would have loved to have gone pro after his Heisman-winning freshman season, but he knew better than to fight against the NCAA and NFL collusive standards. It probably worked out for the best, as scouts have finally started to get over his off-field issues and instead are focusing on his playmaking and improvisational skills. Manziel should be drafted in the top five come April 2014.
Brett Hundley, UCLA: Staying in school, staying too long
Hundley is an intriguing prospect. Scouts love his athleticism, dual-threat capabilities, and quarterback makeup. His stock has increased substantially this season, yet he has decided to come back for another season at UCLA. Even in a deep 2014 QB class, Hundley would have a shot to go number one overall given the lack of a standout prospect, such as an Andrew Luck. He would almost certainly go in the top ten with many teams in desperate need of a signal-caller. Instead, next year he will have to compete with Mariota and Jameis Winston for the top billing at QB, along with whoever else decides to return to school.
Blake Bortles, Central Florida: Entering 2014 Draft, right on time
One month ago, if the average football fan heard the name Bortles, he or she might think that name belonged to a new kind of southern-style soup. Bortles came out of nowhere to lead UCF to a BCS Bowl game and display elite tools and an incredible high ceiling. At this point, Blake is ranked equally with Bridgewater, just above Manziel, and he seems to have made the right call by deciding to enter the draft.
Tahj Boyd, Clemson: Entering 2014 NFL Draft, stayed too long
Derek Carr, Fresno State: Likely entering 2014 NFL Draft, going too early
Zach Mettenberger, LSU: Entering 2014 NFL Draft, stayed too long
AJ McCarron, Alabama: Entering 2014 NFL Draft, right on time
Logan Thomas, Virginia tech: Entering 2014 NFL Draft, stayed too long