Rookie quarterbacks were not all the rage in this year’s NFL draft. Although Blake Bortles was the third overall selection, his counterparts slid deeper in the draft order. Johnny Manziel was taken with the 22nd overall pick by the Browns, Teddy Bridgewater was taken 32nd overall by the Vikings and Derek Carr was taken 36th overall, in the second round, by the Oakland Raiders. Of those top prospects, which quarterback has the best chance to succeed in 2014?
Before we hit on which quarterback is most likely to succeed, I’ll quickly address why I’m only looking at the top four quarterbacks in the draft. In short, they’re the guys most likely to be starters in 2014, and being the best options at their position, they’re also more likely to have successful NFL careers.
Now, to be frank, the top four quarterbacks in the draft are all entering rough positions. Of the four teams that drafted quarterbacks early in the draft, only Jacksonville took the initiative this offseason to give its young quarterback weapons to play with in the future.
Even before free agency, the Jaguars had Cecil Shorts III, Ace Sanders and big tight end Marcedes Lewis. Then, the team added running back Toby Gerhart in free agency. In addition, the Jags spent two second round selections on receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Finally, and possibly most importantly, the Jaguars worked to beef up their offensive line in an effort to keep its quarterback upright in 2014.
There’s no doubt all of these additions will take some time to gel together, but the pieces are in place, unlike in Oakland, Minnesota and Cleveland.
Also worth pointing out is the continuity that Jacksonville will have in 2014. This will be missing in Minnesota and Cleveland, both of which brought in new regimes after failing to make positive strides in 2013.
The Jaguars did make those positive strides under Gus Bradley a season ago. The Jags started the season 0-8, losing all eight of their first games by double digit margins. Then, the Jaguars finished the season on a 4-4 run, and that came with few play makers and a sketchy defense.
Throughout this offseason, the Jaguars have added plenty of talent while losing very little. That should allow Jacksonville to pick up right where they left off at the end of the 2013 season.
Finally, Bortles won’t be pressured to start as quickly as Manziel, Bridgewater and Carr. Those quarterbacks will be asked to pull more than their own weight early on. Bortles, by contrast, will have Chad Henne to serve as his mentor. If and when the Jaguars decide it’s time to put him in the starting lineup, he’ll have the necessary tools around him to succeed. Although Bortles may not be the “best” quarterback in the 2014 draft class, the fact that the Jaguars have placed the right pieces around him should give him a leg up moving forward, and it gives him the best possible opportunity to succeed in the future.