Future Top Drafted QBs?
Future Top NFL
The franchise quarterback. The face of an organization. Every team in the NFL craves him, but only a handful are fortunate enough to stake claim to an Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees or one of the Mannings, Peyton or Eli.
A month from now, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and likely Ryan Tannehill are going to be plucked out of the first round of the draft with very direct edicts from their new bosses—flatten the learning curve quickly, secure the starting job and eventually blossom into the kind of Pro Bowler who bring a Super Bowl to Indianapolis, the nation’s capital and Miami or Seattle, respectively. Anything less would be inadequate for a buzzy player commanding such a high price tag.
Luck is going off the board first, and Griffin will be No. 2, but who will be there successors in future years, those Cam Newton-esque gems who raise the hopes of an NFL city? Who’ll be the savior of 2013? 2014? How about 2017? It’s obviously early for such an exercise, but no less fun to speculate and debate over the would-be first round hurlers who’ve yet to complete their college—or even high school—careers.
Making no assumptions about which players will leave school with eligibility still on the table, here’s a look at future franchise quarterback contenders for the next five cycles of the NFL Draft.
The Sleeper - James Franklin, Missouri
Yeah, Franklin lacks consistency as a thrower, but his upside and total physical package will be intoxicating to pro scouts. For an opening statement on the resume, he accounted for 36 total touchdowns and 981 yards on the ground, while evolving as the 2011 season wore on. He’s a powerful, elusive scrambler, with enough time to sharpen his reads and his decision-making as a pure passer. In many ways, he’s Jake Locker, who also needed to fine-tune his overall game before the Tennessee Titans felt comfortable plucking him with the No. 8 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. Franklin will face two significant hurdles this fall as he continues his journey to the pros—healing a throwing shoulder surgically-repaired in March, and maintaining his production in the face of SEC defenses.
5. AJ McCarron, Alabama
Don’t sleep on McCarron just because his output doesn’t equal that of his peers. By design, it never will in a ‘Bama program that leans so heavily on defense and the running game. Although it’s easy to overlook the Mobile, Ala. native, his debut as the starter couldn’t have gone a whole lot better. He did pretty much what was needed to become a national championship-winning quarterback as a sophomore, throwing just five interceptions, three in the final dozen games. Still, McCarron is a lot more than just a mistake-free game manager, even if that doesn’t become blatantly obvious until he’s playing on Sundays. He throws an accurate, catchable ball, with just enough RPMs to get past defenders. And his mix of intangibles is consistent with those of winning quarterbacks, playing with an infectious amount of confidence and swagger.
4. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Murray could play his way into the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft , but for now the junior’s eligibility lasts through the 2014 season. His decision next January won’t be an easy one. While he has the required finesse to play quarterback, he also possesses the toughness and intangibles to be the face of a program—or an organization. The self-described workaholic is the first one in the film room, the last to leave practice and his own harshest critic. He’s not easily satisfied. Although he lacks ideal size, the ball jumps off his hand, generating comparisons to current New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees. If Murray is going to improve his stock, he’ll need to deliver more consistently in big games, and learn when not to force the action.
3. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Thomas is a walking enigma. At 6-6, he has the length of a blindside protecting left tackle. At 255 pounds, he possesses the girth and the mass to be a pass rushing defensive end. When he stays in the pocket, he throws tight darts on both intermediate and deep routes. And to opposing defenders, when he pulls the ball down and takes off, he might as well be a locomotive, especially in short yardage situations. He is literally an immense talent who got exponentially better as his starting debut unfolded in 2011. In terms of overall ability, think former NFL first-rounders Cam Newton of Carolina or Josh Freeman of Tampa Bay. If Thomas continues to improve, even at a modest pace, the sky is the limit for a budding superstar whose best days are clearly ahead of him.
2. Casey Pachall, TCU
As good as Andy Dalton was throughout his great career, last year, Pachall was better completing 67% of his passes for a record 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions, while running for two scores. The 6-5, 216-pound junior showed the fight and the mental toughness to be great in the clutch, coming through with a brilliant performance in the win over Boise State, and coming this close to bringing the Horned Frogs back in the opening night thriller against Robert Griffin and Baylor. He’s big, strong, and is a fearless passer who did a great job of spreading the ball around, pushing it down the field, and keeping the mistakes to a minimum throwing more than one pick in just one game – the win over San Diego State. While he might not be a big-time runner, he’s mobile enough to take off from time to time and he’ll fight for the first down when needed. A star recruit who was wanted by several of the bigger boys, he’s growing into top-shelf pro prospect who should be in for a huge year with a great receiving corps to work with.
1. Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Two years removed from Kingsburg (Calif.) High School, Bray remains a relative unknown since he’s yet to complete a full season. As a rookie, he began the year as Matt Simms’ caddy, and as a sophomore, he missed the heart of the season to a broken thumb. Still, when No. 8 has been on the field, fireworks have often ensued. In the equivalent of one full season of work, he’s already thrown for 35 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards. At 6-6 and 210 pounds, with a great arm, he has the physical tools to carve up opposing defenses, especially over the top. Bray’s untapped potential coupled with a dynamite corps of receivers could result in some phenomenal numbers for the Volunteers offense in 2012. If the junior can play a full season, and take his game to a new level, NFL scouts will be tripping over themselves to watch him play this fall.