Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston will be looked upon as franchise-changing draft picks in the first round of the NFL draft on April 30, but on May 2, in the latter part of the draft, a future NFL starting quarterback could get the big call. Tom Brady did, in the sixth round, and climbed his way to the top of the profession. Sleeper quarterbacks tend not to be drafted by NFL clubs in desperate need of a new starter, nor by those with their long-term futures fully secured at the position, either. Somewhere in between, teams with a solid established veteran starter, perhaps on the backside of his career prime, will take a flier on a sleeper rookie who could develop into an inexpensive answer in the right situation. Classic example: The Bears' pick of David Fales in Round 6 last year. Here are five sleeper quarterbacks who could get the chance to stick on a roster and become much more than a clipboard holder.
Carden got a chance to show NFL coaches and scouts what he can do at the Senior Bowl in January, and while there wasn't any Shane Carden buzz coming out of the practice week, it only takes one team to like what they see for a sleeper to stay on the right draft board. He is short on athleticism and arm strength, and like many others, comes from a shotgun system that will make for a steep learning curve in the NFL. Still, Carden was highly productive at ECU and has that fearless, gunslinger mentality.
NFL fit:San Diego Chargers. Carden wouldn't knock Philip Rivers out from under center, but he's old enough for the club to start thinking more about the future.
Fajardo surprisingly slipped a bit production-wise as a senior, throwing a career-high 11 interceptions while his completion percentage dipped an alarming 9 percent from 2013 to 2014 (68 percent to 59 percent). A good athlete who clocked a 4.63 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, Fajardo comes from a zone-read offense that will require him to adjust to a pro-style system. According to NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt, Fajardo's pro-day performance solidified him as a late draft pick.
NFL fit:Dallas Cowboys. Brandon Weeden is more of an in-game relief pitcher than a long-term possibility after Tony Romo's eventual exit. A flier on a young guy can't hurt.
Of all the quarterbacks who have a difficult adjustment to make from an offensive system standpoint, Halliday's might be the toughest. Washington State's offense is throw, throw, and throw again, and it's all from the shotgun. In just nine games last year in an injury-shortened season, Halliday threw 526 passes. He doesn't have the strongest arm, but posted some crazy numbers (66 touchdowns over the last two years) and anticipates holes in the defense with the best of the them.
NFL fit:New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees and backup Luke McCown have 25 years of NFL experience between them.
Bridge's size and arm strength are just what the NFL is looking for, and it's hard to find that combination late in the draft. Bridge's issue is mechanics, and the inaccuracy that has resulted. He completed barely more than 50 percent of his passes on the season and will need a lot of work under a good quarterback coach before his game is ready to leave the garage. Still, he has the needed traits that can't be coached, and therein lies hope.
NFL fit:New York Giants. Eli Manning hasn't missed a regular-season start in 10 years, making it harder for the club to really know what it has behind him.
The former Oregon quarterback has a cannon for an arm and at the Manning Passing Academy last summer, he threw harder and farther than many quarterbacks rated higher. Accuracy is another matter. He completed just under 50 percent of his throws at Southeastern Louisiana last year and doesn't grasp the concept of touch passes especially well. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl and showed eye-catching velocity there. NFL Media analyst Charles Davis chose him for the draft's All-Underrated Team.
NFL fit:Philadelphia Eagles. Bennett was once recruited to Oregon by Chip Kelly. If Kelly can't get Mariota at the start of the draft, why not another quarterback he likes at the end of it?