published Friday, December 20th, 2013

Quarterbacks proving difficult to track for 2014 NFL draft

The National Football League's 2014 draft will take place in May, roughly two weeks later than in recent years.

ESPN analyst Todd McShay could use the extra time. McShay admitted that projecting quarterbacks will be difficult for a second straight year and nothing like 2012, when Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III were the consensus top two choices.

"It's kind of been an interesting ride with these quarterbacks," McShay said Thursday. "I thought in the early to middle portion of the season that it was going to be a little bit stronger at the top. I thought [Oregon's] Marcus Mariota was headed toward becoming an elite quarterback and thought he was going to wind up coming out. That wasn't the case, and I think that was the right move to go back.

"The most improved player in this class is [LSU's] Zach Mettenberger, who I gave a seventh-round grade coming into the year and now have a second-round grade, but he winds up getting a knee injury, so he can't compete in a bowl game or in the Senior Bowl."

Complicating matters a year ago were quarterbacks who had their stock plummet through the course of the season. Southern Cal's Matt Barkley, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and Oklahoma's Landry Jones were considered first-round talents at the dawn of the 2012 season but wound up sliding to the fourth round this past April.

Now, injuries to Mettenberger and Georgia's Aaron Murray -- "I was so impressed with the way Aaron Murray played," McShay said -- and several decisions yet to be made are adding to the confusion.

McShay's latest mock draft has Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater going first overall to Houston, Central Florida's Blake Bortles going third to Oakland, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel going fourth to Jacksonville and Fresno State's Derek Carr going sixth to Cleveland. The draft order obviously could shuffle with two weeks remaining in the NFL's regular season, but Bridgewater, Bortles and Manziel are underclassmen who have yet to announce their intentions for next season.

Bridgewater is McShay's top projected pick but just his ninth prospect overall.

"There is still a long time left in this process with a lot of tape to study and a lot to learn with these guys," McShay said.

Bridgewater, Bortles, Manziel and Carr are the only quarterbacks McShay projects in the first round, and he believes Alabama's AJ McCarron could be the fifth quarterback selected.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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