College Football 24/7's quick-hit position overviews for the 2015 NFL Draft begins today with the most important position on the field.
Everyone who likes football loves high-level quarterback play. Alas, this is not a strong draft for quarterbacks. Florida State's Jameis Winston, who won the Heisman in 2013, and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, the 2014 Heisman winner, are far and away the top two quarterback prospects, and it would be a shocker if another quarterback is drafted in the first round. There might not be another quarterback who's worthy even of a second-round pick.
Winston and Mariota have the potential to be, at the least, good quarterbacks. But it wouldn't be that big a surprise if no other quarterback in this draft class ever becomes a starter. What it looks like is two top signal-callers, then a bunch of guys who look to be backups at best. Granted, a couple of them could be good backups. Still, when you're talking about a position group where a lot of the prospects could be good backups, it's not a strong position group.
Here's a quick look at the QB position in this draft.
Teams with greatest need (listed in draft order): Tampa Bay (1st pick), Tennessee (2nd), New York Jets (6th), Cleveland (12th), Buffalo (50th/no first-round pick).
Mike Mayock's top 5 at the position: 1. Oregon's Marcus Mariota; 2. Florida State's Jameis Winston; 3. Baylor's Bryce Petty; 4. Colorado State's Garrett Grayson; 5. UCLA's Brett Hundley
Biggest upside: Florida State's Jameis Winston. Winston is the most NFL-ready quarterback and also the guy with the biggest upside in this draft class. He has prototype pocket-passer size (6-foot-4, 231 pounds), a strong arm and experience in a pro-style attack. He has taken snaps from under center, called plays, read defenses, and called audibles. His off-field maturity is a concern, but if everything jells, he will be a productive, high-level starter for a decade.
Most underrated: East Carolina's Shane Carden. Carden's lack of size (6-2, 218) scares some teams, and he doesn't have a big arm. But he has an impressive football IQ and graduated with most of the important passing records at a school that produced NFL quarterbacks Jeff Blake and David Garrard. He remains poised under pressure and played in a pass-happy attack at ECU that was a version of Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense. He won't impress every NFL decision-maker, but he can be a productive backup if he lands on the right team and with a quarterback coach who understands his strong points.
Most overrated: UCLA's Brett Hundley. Hundley toyed with the idea of turning pro after his redshirt sophomore season in 2013 but came back for his junior season in an effort to improve as a quarterback. Truthfully, he didn't improve all that much, and the issues he had in 2013 remain. Hundley is a good athlete who runs the read-option quite well and has a nice arm. But considering his mobility, he takes way too many sacks, an offshoot of not being decisive in the pocket. He hasn't shown he can be a pocket passer, and that should scare NFL teams. Can he become one? Certainly. He is smart and athletic, but it will take a while -- it also might never happen.
Biggest sleeper: South Alabama's Brandon Bridge. Bridge is a Canadian who began his career at FCS member Alcorn State before deciding to transfer. He started for one season at South Alabama and has dual-threat ability. He is raw and needs a lot of technique work, but his size (6-5, 229) and strong arm probably mean he will be given a chance to sit on a bench (and in the film room) and learn how to be an NFL quarterback. The upside is intriguing.
Better pro than college player: Georgia's Hutson Mason. Mason (6-2, 209) only started for one season at Georgia and wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. But he is a cerebral guy who played in a pro-style attack and has solid accuracy and poise. His intangibles are a big positive, and should he be given an opportunity, he has the potential to become a long-term backup.
Top small-school prospect: Southeastern Louisiana's Bryan Bennett. He was in the mix to be Oregon's starting quarterback in 2012 before he was beaten out by Mariota. Bennett was a backup that fall, then transferred to FCS member Southeastern Louisiana for his final two seasons. He threw for 5,522 yards and 39 touchdowns and rushed for 1,715 yards and 31 TDs in his two seasons with the Lions. He is a good athlete, but he lacks a big arm and rarely has been under center. Still, he looks to be a third-day prospect.
First-round grades: Winston and Mariota. That's it.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.