NFL Media draft analyst Bucky Brooks projected Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron as a 2014 first-round draft pick Thursday in a video feature with NFL.com's Dave Dameshek, giving the fifth-year senior high marks in some of the intangible categories that mark winning quarterbacks around the NFL today.
"We've seen him in big games against LSU, make throws; 19 touchdowns this year and 13 have come against the blitz. This guy understands how to make plays when he's counted on," Brooks said. "I love it, I love his game. I think NFL evaluators as they get closer to the draft, you'll see AJ McCarron rise up and he will be a first-round pick."
McCarron is 34-2 as a starter at Alabama, and his track record for ball security is stellar. He has thrown as many interceptions in 36 career starts (11) as Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel has thrown this season alone; about one interception every third game on average. Still, some question whether he'll has the ability to take over a game at the next level.
For Brooks, however, the questions have been answered.
"I love AJ McCarron. I think AJ McCarron is what everyone wants on a winning team. Some guys want to see the flashy arm, want to see the A-plus arm talent, want to see a guy who makes all kinds of productive throws and have these wild numbers," Brooks added. "But really, the bottom line is, can you have a quarterback who can manage your team and get you to the winner's circle?"
Brooks projected Manziel to go higher in the first round than McCarron, in part because he has "that 'it' factor that you can't quantify."