Although Blake Bortles was drafted third overall by the Jaguars, the 2014 quarterback class failed to capture the imagination of NFL general managers this past May. Johnny Manziel’s hype got him drafted 26th overall, and Teddy Bridgewater was once thought to be the first pick of the first round, and ended up being the last pick of round one.
Derek Carr, Tom Savage, A.J. McCarron, Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray, Logan Thomas and Tahj Boyd all had dreams of being first-round picks at some point during their college careers. Whether those dreams were realistic or not at any point are questionable, but they seemed possible while they were still tearing through their respective conferences.
Even still, two quarterbacks that will be lining up representing their universities come late August would have had a chance to jump all of those drafted. Chase Goodbread of NFL.com caught up with both of these players, who spoke about their NFL futures.
Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion Jameis Winston was only a freshman last year and ineligible for a draft in which he outperformed every single player at his position in college. He led Florida State University all the way to the promise land, and produced one of the greatest seasons by a freshman in the history of college football.
The third-year sophomore could have been the first quarterback taken if he was eligible for the draft, but although he will be able to enter the league next year, it is no certainty that he will. “It’s very important to me. I was always raised as a student first and an athlete second,” Winston said. “I think that’s the main purpose in college. Some athletes lose that perspective. It’s about being a student-athlete, and not just getting that easy money and going to the league. Even if kids leave early, I would want them to come back and get that degree.”
Marcus Mariota of Oregon was eligible for the draft, but elected to return to school. Mariota possesses the combination of size and speed to go along with the traditional quarterback skills that make him one of the most sought after prospects in football. The versatility he will bring to an offense is unlimited, and there was speculation that he could have been the first quarterback taken had he decided to leave school.
The fourth-year junior has two years of eligibility remaining, and has yet to make a decision about entering the 2015 NFL Draft. “We’ll see, I’m not too sure,” said Mariota. “The opportunity to leave obviously is there, but at the same time, college is fun and I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.”
Although both players seem ambivalent about their hurry to get to the professional level, Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk expects both players to be with an NFL team this time next year. Both would be expected to be selected very high in the first round. Of course, the same could be said for a number of quarterbacks this past draft, from Manziel to Boyd. A lot can happen in a football season.