NFL Nation: Jimmy Garoppolo

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A wrap-up of the New England Patriots' draft. Click here for a full list of Patriots draftees.

[+] EnlargeDominique Easley
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesFlorida's Dominique Easley will be an impact talent for the Patriots if he can stay healthy.
Best move: Reinvesting in the offensive line. The Patriots hadn't drafted an offensive lineman in 2012 or 2013, but they triple-dipped with fourth-round center Bryan Stork (Florida State), fourth-round tackle Cameron Fleming (Stanford) and sixth-round right guard Jon Halapio (Florida). Time will tell if the picks were the right ones, but from a general standpoint, the Patriots needed to pay attention to the line both from an infusing-the-pipeline standpoint and also with salary cap integrity in mind. What stands out is the size of Stork (6-3 7/8, 315), Fleming (6-4 7/8, 323) and Halapio (6-3 1/2, 323). The Patriots added an element of offensive toughness in this draft, while also planning for the future. This is a big year for the team's offensive line as it transitions from former coach Dante Scarnecchia to Dave DeGuglielmo.

Riskiest move: Easley. The first-round defensive lineman is a big-time talent who wouldn't have been available at No. 29 if healthy. But he tore both ACLs at Florida and that affected his ability to work out at 100 percent in the pre-draft process. If Easley returns to full health, the Patriots' willingness to assume the risk could pay off in a big way as the team's interior pass rush could use a boost. But if problems crop up with Easley's knees, the Patriots might ultimately regret their willingness to invest such a high draft pick on an injured player.

Most surprising move: Dominique Easley. Wouldn't have thought the Patriots' selection of a player who tore both ACLs in a span of three years was an option in the first round. They generally don't assume that much risk with their top pick, which has contributed to their solid first-round draft record.

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File it away: All the angst that might have been expressed about the Patriots' selecting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with a late second-round pick (No. 62) will most likely be looked back upon with a chuckle. The biggest question from this perspective is if the Patriots passed on a player who might have helped them more immediately (e.g., Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz to the Texans three picks later), and that's going to be an interesting dynamic to follow in the years to come. But overall, there is no more important position than quarterback. The 2011 Colts are the prime example of a team that didn't address the backup spot and the bottom fell out of their season when starter Peyton Manning was lost for the season. People lost jobs because of it. The Colts were fortunate to wind up with the rare can't-miss prospect (Andrew Luck) the next year in the draft, but most teams aren't that lucky, so the Patriots were wise to be thinking ahead at a hard-to-fill position. It's just a bit jarring to hear the team acknowledge the possibility of a succession plan with Tom Brady, which is still four years away (if not longer) from this viewpoint.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady shows no signs of decline, but the team isn't taking any chances. Hence the selection of Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the NFL draft (62nd overall), one of the more surprising league-wide picks.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Garoppolo
Bradley Leeb/USA TODAY Sports"The situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of drafting Jimmy Garoppolo.
“The situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future. I think you're better off being early rather than late at that position,” coach Bill Belichick said late Friday night.

It was a straightforward acknowledgement from a coach who often prefers to avoid them. "Life after Brady” has been bantered about only on sports talk radio in the region, but this is the first time the Patriots have publicly said it is part of their mindset as well.

Brady will be 37 this upcoming season, but is still playing at an extremely high level and is signed through 2017. Because of this, and also the presence of No. 2 quarterback Ryan Mallett -- who is under contract through the 2014 season -- debate was already raging locally Friday night as to whether the Patriots wasted such a high draft pick on a player who might not see the field for four seasons, if ever. That doesn't figure to subside anytime soon.

Meanwhile, in New York, Garoppolo noted the similarities between his draft-day wait and how the Green Bay Packers selected sliding signal-caller Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 first round as Brett Favre's heir apparent. He said it worked out for Rodgers, and now he hopes the same happens for him.

When might that be?

Up to this point, it hasn't been on the Patriots' radar. Now it is at least a consideration.

“We know what Ryan's contract situation is, we know what Tom's age and contract situation is, and I don't think you want to have one quarterback on your team,” Belichick explained. “I don't think that's responsible to the entire team or the organization.”

One needs only to look at the 2011 Indianapolis Colts as a prime example. When Peyton Manning was lost to a season-ending neck injury that year, the season went down with him, and it ultimately cost vice chairman (and current ESPN analyst) Bill Polian his job.

As for Garoppolo, Belichick said he spent one-on-one time with him this spring and “he has a lot of qualities that we admire in a quarterback.” Scouts have touted his smarts, anticipation and work ethic, and he looks like an ideal fit for the team's hard-driving program.

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The Houston Texans, it seems, had similar thoughts, as Garoppolo was believed to be a strong consideration for them at the top of the third round before the Patriots made the pick.

So instead, Garoppolo comes to New England to back up Brady and potentially replace him down the line.

Maybe it's in four years. Maybe it's longer.

Either way, for the first time, the Patriots let us know a potential succession is on their minds as well.

In their view, it's better to be early than late.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams went heavy on the beef on Day 1 of the NFL draft, adding Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

As we head toward Friday night's second and third rounds, the Rams have some pressing needs to address. Namely, they need help in the secondary with a nickel cornerback and a potential rangy safety type topping the list. The team could also look for their quarterback tonight, perhaps as early as their second-round choice at No. 44.

And we can't forget that the Rams showed interest in trading back up for Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin on Thursday night, meaning they considered doubling down on big men up front. They could well be tempted again if someone they like is available tonight.

Here's a quick rundown of some options at those positions:

Defensive back: There was a big run on cornerbacks and safeties in Round 1, but there is plenty of depth to be had at cornerback. At safety, not so much. However, there are some intriguing options. Florida State's dynamic duo of Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks provide a couple of strong options, with Joyner providing corner/safety versatility and Brooks fitting the role as a rangy free safety. Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir are intriguing prospects with size, but neither necessarily fits the bill to help in the nickel unless the Rams feel good about using Janoris Jenkins there or continuing to plug Rodney McLeod in there. In Mel Kiper Jr.'s Round 2 mock draft Insider, he has only Joyner, Brooks and Jean-Baptiste going in Round 2 amongst defensive backs.

Murray
Quarterback: The Rams want a quarterback who can push starter Sam Bradford, hence the interest in Johnny Manziel. Though they didn't feel comfortable enough with any of the prospects to draft them above other players at other positions they clearly liked better, they still want to get a quarterback who has starter potential even if it's not for 2014. There are still some intriguing names on the board like Fresno State's Derek Carr and Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo. I think the Rams have some interest in both, especially Garoppolo, but it seems unlikely either will fall to No. 44 with some quarterback-needy teams ahead of them. That leaves some other options, including Alabama's AJ McCarron, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Pittsburgh's Tom Savage. The Rams have shown interest in all of them, and all figure to go in the second or early third round. If the Rams want a quarterback from that group, they might have to pull the trigger in the second round, because they might not be there in Round 3.

Offensive line: The idea of spending another premium pick on an offensive lineman is probably not appealing to fans who weren't impressed by the meat and potatoes approach of the team on Thursday night. But there are some names that could be intriguing should the Rams look to go this route Friday night. Nevada's Joel Bitonio and UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo are two names the Rams have expressed interest in and would be good fits. The Rams have more pressing needs in the secondary, but the value of Bitonio or Su'a-Filo could be hard to resist. In Round 3, someone like North Dakota State's Billy Turner or Furman's Dakota Dozier could draw interest.

Elsewhere: By no means are the Rams committed to taking a player from one of these positions. There are some good receiver prospects still available, and the Rams could go that way though I believe the Rams will pass on wideouts until later believing that none of the players left there are true No. 1 types. In other words, the players left might be projects similar to what they already have, so they might as well see it through with their current crop. Linebacker is a possibility also as the Rams showed interest in a player like Alabama's C.J. Mosley in Round 1. It would be a surprise to see the Rams go with a tight end, running back or defensive lineman Friday night.

Prediction: I believe the Rams will sit with their two picks and make their choices from the secondary, quarterback and the offensive line. My hunch is that it will be a defensive back and a quarterback, though projecting the rounds for each is more difficult. I'm going to press my luck and offer these choices for the Rams tonight:

Second round, No. 44 overall -- Florida State DB Lamarcus Joyner
Third round, No. 75 overall -- Georgia QB Aaron Murray
MINNEAPOLIS -- Well, we've reached draft day at last, which means our series looking at the Vikings' quarterback possibilities comes to a conclusion today. This post will be a quick-hit look at some of the other options in the class. Several of them, like Alabama's AJ McCarron, could be viable possibilities for the Vikings in this draft, so we'll spend more time on some quarterbacks than others in this post, but this is meant to wrap up the series with some final words from our resident experts: ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick (a former pro personnel director for the Philadelphia Eagles) and ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson (who used to be a college and pro scout for the Cleveland Browns):

AJ McCarron, Alabama

2013 stats: 67.3 completion percentage, 3,063 yards, 28 touchdowns, seven interceptions

NFL combine measurements: 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, 31 1/2-inch arm length, 10-inch hand span

Williamson's take: "I don't like McCarron at all, especially not for them. I think he's vastly overrated as a player, and certainly as a passer."

Riddick's take: "I'm not someone who dings players for playing with other good players. AJ has shown more than enough, as far as executing the things you need to see a college quarterback execute, regardless of who he's playing with, to say he projects as being a good pro in the right context. Knowing his background, he's another guy that, despite playing in that pro style, can really benefit from going to a place where footwork, mechanics, progression reading, essentially staying within the structure of the offense and not being given any slack will benefit him greatly. A place like Kansas City -- and I say Kansas City because of Andy Reid -- is the kind of place he really needs to go. I like him a lot."

Aaron Murray, Georgia

2013 stats: 64.8 completion percentage, 3,075 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions

NFL combine measurements: 6-foot-1, 207 pounds, 30 5/8-inch arm length, 9 1/8-inch hand span

Riddick's take: "I've talked to people who say, 'Slow down (on his return from a torn ACL).' If you're going to draft him high, understand that it's probably best for him to sit a year, whether that be starting off on the PUP (physically unable to perform list). If it weren't for the knee, and how much it would benefit him to have a quote-unquote 'redshirt' year, and not have to be rushed into action, the only thing you would be noticing about Aaron Murray is the same thing you were noticing about Russell Wilson when he came out. It was just, 'But he's not 6-5.' That's the only thing you would be able to say, because the kid ran an offense that was as multiple as any in college football, and probably as multiple as many in the National Football League. He executed from the pocket, from the shotgun, he executed situational football brilliantly. He made big plays with his feet, he threw on the run. He did every single thing. This past year, he lost his top three receivers, his top two running backs, and was still balling. If it wasn't for the knee, there would be no other reason besides our preconceived notions (to keep him from) being a top-level pick. What else are you going to say? I like Aaron Murray a whole, whole lot."

Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois

2013 stats: 66.0 completion percentage, 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns, nine interceptions

NFL combine measurements: 6-foot-2, 226 pounds, 31-inch arm length, 9 1/4-inch hand span

Riddick's take: "Of all these guys, he has the longest road to travel before he's ready. His offense was nothing like what he's going to be asked to do in the NFL, unless they're going to take his offense there. He has so much to learn, just from a footwork perspective. He had a lot of yards last year, a lot of short passes, a lot of bubble screens, didn't look very comfortable in the pocket, didn't look comfortable at all under pressure. He seems to be the most green, and has the biggest road to travel as far as development. He's a great kid, very smart and he has a quick release. He doesn't have a great arm. He's never demonstrated pro-style footwork and/or mechanics, and he played at a lower level of competition, although he dominated that level of competition. To me, it's a very vague projection. It's almost more of a guess. When I start thinking in those terms, I'm not going very high for that player."

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

2013 stats: 56.6 completion percentage, 2,909 yards, 16 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

NFL combine measurements: 6-foot-6, 248 pounds, 34 1/4-inch arm length, 10 7/8-inch hand span

Williamson's take: "He might be a real good fit for Minnesota's offense. He's got a rocket launcher for a right arm, and he's got unbelievable physical characteristics, but he needs time. He's the type of guy that, if you draft him in the second or third round -- the second's probably a little rich -- you'd hope he doesn't see the field at all in 2014. You groom him, you let Norv (Turner) and (Matt) Cassel take him under their wing. To me, he's got more upside than (Zach) Mettenberger, (Tom) Savage, maybe more than anyone in the draft, to be honest with you. I think he's as gifted, and probably more so, in terms of arm strength, athletic ability, size, he's more gifted than anyone else in the draft."
One of the most intriguing quarterbacks in the draft -- Jimmy Garoppolo -- is visiting Wednesday with the New York Jets, according to a league source.

The Jets bolstered the quarterback position by signing Michael Vick to a one-year contract, but they're obviously doing their homework for the draft. Garoppolo, who broke Tony Romo's school records at Eastern Illinois, is interesting because he's considered a top-40 pick. If he doesn't sneak into the bottom of the first round, he could very well be picked at the top of the second by a team such as the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 39). The Jets own the 49th pick.

The Jets also have met this week with Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, although he's regarded as a mid-round prospect.

Could the Jets select a quarterback one year after taking Geno Smith with the 39th overall choice? It would be a surprise if they grab a quarterback in the top three rounds, but never say never. We're talking about a general manager, John Idzik, who belonged to the Seattle Seahawks when they drafted Russell Wilson in the third round even though they had signed Matt Flynn to a significant free-agent contract.
IRVING, Texas -- Before people get carried away with Kyle Orton's absence from the Dallas Cowboys' offseason program, two factors need to be put out there: the workouts are voluntary and he missed just one day.

But the Cowboys should not look at Orton's absence as a one-day deal. They should take a worst-case scenario look at it. They need to determine whether Orton really wants to play football in 2014, despite what they heard from the player's agent and the fact Orton would be walking away from $3.25 million.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsGiven some of the current uncertainty surrounding backup Kyle Orton, should the Cowboys look to select a quarterback in next month's draft?
It could be as simple as him not wanting to play anymore. He is the second-highest paid backup quarterback in the NFL behind Matt Moore ($4 million) of the Miami Dolphins, so money wouldn't seem to be an issue. He has been content in his role as a backup to Tony Romo, so opportunity wouldn't seem to be an issue.

Undoubtedly the Cowboys have spoken directly to Orton this offseason with the whispers of him thinking about retirement. What was discussed is not known. Did he tell them he would play or not play?

Orton holds the cards here because he does not have to show up until the mandatory June minicamp. If he does not report for that, then he would face fines up to close to $70,000. If he does report, what kind of condition is he in?

The Cowboys can trade him or release him. What kind of return would they get for a player who may or may not report to a new team? If they release him, then they would forfeit the right to pick up $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2011. After the Jeremiah Ratliff fiasco, you would think the Cowboys would be more vigilant in these kinds of cases.

They could keep him and hope he arrives at the June minicamp in good shape and is ready to go when the team reports to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp. Hope, however, should not be their strategy.

Yet there is a more immediate question raised from Orton's absence. Does it push quarterback up the ladder when it comes to the draft?

The Cowboys signed Brandon Weeden to a two-year deal in the offseason with no signing bonus. They liked him coming into the 2012 draft, but not as much as the Cleveland Browns liked him. He had more interceptions than touchdown passes, but the Cowboys have taken a no-risk look at him.

What can they learn about Weeden before the draft? Not much. Coaches are not allowed on the field with the players until Phase 2 of the offseason program, which comes the week of the draft.

The Cowboys attended Aaron Murray's workout at Georgia last week. They talked with Jimmy Garoppolo and David Fales at the NFL scouting combine. They had a number of quarterbacks at their Dallas Day workouts last week in Garrett Gilbert, Casey Pachall and James Franklin, but they did not have a quarterback among their national visitors.

The Cowboys aren't exactly being held hostage by Orton, but his decision (or indecision) could go a long way in how they plan to attack the draft.
The New England Patriots continue to devote attention and significant resources to the quarterback position in the NFL draft, as two weeks after creating a buzz by hosting Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater on visits at Gillette Stadium, they welcomed another top prospect earlier this week – Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois.

Some analysts, such as ESPN’s Bill Polian, have Garoppolo rated as high as a first-round draft choice.

The 6-foot-2 1/4, 226-pound Garoppolo earned the Walter Payton Award in 2013, which is given to the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision. In 14 games, he completed 375 of 568 passes for 5,050 yards with 53 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

NFL teams are allowed 30 in-house visits with out-of-town prospects, and the Patriots have devoted at least three of them to top quarterbacks (Manziel, Bridgewater, Garoppolo).

Starting quarterback Tom Brady turns 37 in August and is signed through 2017, while the only other signal-caller on the roster, Ryan Mallett, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2014 season.
As of now, the Dallas Cowboys don't have plans to visit with some of the top quarterbacks coming out for the NFL draft.

You can view this in several ways:

  • The Cowboys are not tipping their hand on which quarterbacks they actually like.
  • Maybe the Cowboys don't like any of the quarterbacks in this draft.
  • The Cowboys are comfortable with the three quarterbacks on their roster -- Tony Romo, Kyle Orton and Brandon Weeden.

Since 2000, the Cowboys have drafted three quarterbacks -- Quincy Carter (2001), Isaiah Stanback (2007) and Stephen McGee (2009).

[+] EnlargeTony Romo and Jerry jones
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsJerry Jones seems to be squeezing as much as he can out of Tony Romo, but the quarterback's title window may already be shut.
Carter became the starter, but his off-field problems knocked him out of the league. Stanback was moved to receiver, and McGee never developed.

In free agency this offseason the Cowboys snagged 2012 first-round pick Weeden, a 30-year-old quarterback whose pro baseball career enabled him to play college football at a later age. The Cowboys like Weeden's mental maturity and feel they can improve his skill set with help from head coach Jason Garrett and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, among others.

It's a good plan because Romo, who is coming off back surgery, can't play forever. But if you listen to owner and general manager Jerry Jones sometimes, you can come away thinking that he will.

Jones said you can't rebuild with Romo as the starter. Based on Jones' thoughts, the time to win a championship with Romo is now. However, he's been chasing a title with Romo since he became the full-time starter in 2006.

Windows open and close in the NFL all the time, so it's interesting to note, Romo's. In 2006, he came on like gangbusters for Drew Bledsoe and led the Cowboys to the No. 1 seed in the NFC the next season. After a playoff win in 2009, however, the franchise has been stuck in mediocrity. Three consecutive 8-8 seasons span from 2011-13.

Regardless of whether Romo is still a quality quarterback, the window for him to win a championship might be closed.

He's had all the pieces in place the last few years and still hasn't won a title. Just look at the talent base on offense. Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Terrell Owens, Marion Barber, Flozell Adams, Andre Gurode, Miles Austin, Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray all earned Pro Bowl berths with Romo under center.

Some of the names have changed at some positions: Bryant for Owens, Murray for Barber, Smith for Adams. But Romo remains.

The Cowboys don't want to waste a first-round pick on a quarterback, but it would be nice to see Jimmy Garoppolo selected at No. 16 next month. At some point, the Cowboys have to think about the future.

Not bringing in Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles or even Johnny Manziel for a visit to Valley Ranch isn't the end of the world. Manziel and Garoppolo met with team officials during the scouting combine and the Senior Bowl. But the lack of personal visits and workouts, which are readily available with the draft pushed to early May, is disappointing.

The secondary is a need this draft. So is tin he defensive line, despite what the Cowboys did in free agency. If you can find an upgrade at quarterback, don't you need to do it?

The answer seems obvious depending on your point of view.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings are continuing their search for a young quarterback at the end of the week, holding a private workout with Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo today, as ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported. The workout comes after the Vikings met with LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger following his pro day, and before the team plans to fly Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Twin Cities for a meeting next week.

General manager Rick Spielman said at the NFL scouting combine the Vikings would conduct private workouts with "eight or nine" quarterbacks, so it's no surprise to see them making the rounds with a month to go before the NFL draft. They'd already met with Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles, Fresno State's Derek Carr, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, and reportedly had a private workout with San Jose State's David Fales. The Vikings also met with South Carolina's Connor Shaw at the NFL scouting combine, and had a scout at his pro day, though Shaw isn't projected to go as high in the draft as the other quarterbacks the Vikings have scouted.

The Vikings are believed to be high on Mettenberger, who threw more than 100 passes at his pro day in an attempt to show the progress he's made since tearing his ACL last fall. The quarterback had dinner with four Vikings officials on Wednesday night, according to a league source, and seemed to click well with offensive coordinator Norv Turner; by the end of Mettenberger's workout, the source said, Turner was calling out the routes he wanted to see Mettenberger throw. The quarterback could be raw in some areas of his game, but he might have one of the stronger arms in the draft, and could be a good fit for Turner's deep passing game.

As we get closer to the draft, though, the Vikings will have to consider plenty of different permutations for the quarterback position. They'll have to decide if they want to take one in the first round, or wait until later in the draft, and they'll have to sift through a deep quarterback class where sure things are thought to be in short supply. And if Spielman has been known for one thing in his career, it's his thoroughness. We're certainly seeing that play out here.
The steady parade of quarterbacks into One Buccaneer Place likely isn’t a smokescreen.

Every action we’ve seen out of coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht so far has been very deliberate. That’s why Johnny Manziel's visit Thursday is the latest sign the Bucs might be serious about taking a quarterback in this year’s draft.

They’ve already had visits with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo and they still could bring in another quarterback or two. On the surface, the Bucs seem to have bigger needs than quarterback.

They seem to have a decent quarterback situation with veteran Josh McCown backed up by Mike Glennon. McCown is scheduled to make nearly $5 million in guaranteed money this season, so he’s not a guy the Bucs want carrying a clipboard.

In the modern NFL, if you draft a quarterback early, you’re expected to play him right away. But maybe the Bucs are thinking about going against that trend. They could draft a quarterback and let him sit for a year behind McCown.

Most mock drafts have the Bucs going in another direction. But I’m not ready to write off the possibility of them drafting a quarterback.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hosting one of the biggest names in this year’s NFL draft on Wednesday.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is visiting the Bucs, according to The Tampa Tribune’s Roy Cummings. Manziel becomes the third quarterback known to have visited with the Bucs. The team previously hosted Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo.

I never like to read too much into these visits because teams can bring in 30 players and some of them are nothing more than smokescreens. But it’s pretty obvious the Bucs, who already have veteran Josh McCown and second-year pro Mike Glennon, are at least doing their homework on this year's crop of quarterbacks.
In his column Tuesday, our Dan Graziano began with the question this blog asks, only in affirmative fashion.

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"The NFL draft is exactly one month away and, man, are the Houston Texans in a lousy spot," he writes.

He's not alone in that opinion and his rationale stems from his take on the quality of this year's quarterback crop. Graziano asserts that quarterback is, by far, the Texans' biggest need, and that there isn't an Andrew Luck in this year's draft.
"The quarterback class of 2014 is a collection of questions. Do you think you can turn a raw Blake Bortles into something special? Do you think Teddy Bridgewater is good enough to start right away? Can you get a Derek Carr or a Jimmy Garoppolo late in the first round or early in the second and expect to hit the lottery? And my goodness, what on earth do you make of Johnny Manziel?"

I present the question to you in poll form: Are the Texans in a bad spot?
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If the Jacksonville Jaguars don't take a quarterback with their first-round draft pick, they’re pretty much out of the running for Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles.

Carr
But there are plenty of other quarterbacks they can target, including former Fresno State standout Derek Carr -- whom the Jaguars will be playing host to on Wednesday, according to a league source.

Carr is among the group of quarterbacks most draft analysts rate just behind the Bridgewater/Manziel/Bortles trio. AJ McCarron, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Savage, and Zach Mettenberger also are in the group with Carr.

Some analysts believe Carr may actually be the best quarterback in the draft. ESPN’s Ashley Fox wrote about that on Saturday, and her reasoning makes a lot of sense. Unlike Manziel, Bortles and Garoppolo, Carr played in a pro-style offense at Fresno State -- for a year, anyway.

That was in 2011, when Carr played for coach Pat Hill, who also coached Carr’s older brother David, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft. Hill was fired after that season and was replaced by Tim DeRuyter, who ran a spread offense.

Fox writes that ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, a former director of pro personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, said teams evaluating Carr need to pop in 2011 tape to get an idea of how he fits in an NFL offense.

"If you limit your exposure to just 2013 or 2012, you're missing the boat," Riddick said. "If you limit yourself to 2012, you are missing 2011, when he ran a quote-unquote pro-style offense, which at a young age I thought he showed excellent proficiency given where he was developmentally at that time."

Jaguars general manager David Caldwell has said it's hard to evaluate college quarterbacks that played in spread offenses because you don't know if they can learn to stay in the pocket, make their reads and deliver the ball on time. That's especially true with Manziel.

The Jaguars coached Carr at the Senior Bowl in January and they liked what they saw. They're going to get a closer look on Wednesday.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As we get closer to next month's NFL draft, there is probably no Minnesota Vikings question we've discussed more than this one: If the Vikings find themselves with an opportunity to take a quarterback with the eighth overall pick on May 8, should they do it? Or should they address another need, return to the quarterback position later in the draft and take their chances on the players they find there?

That question has been complicated further by the fact that none of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft seems to have asserted himself as a sure thing. ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper said there is a "super seven" group of players at the top of the draft board -- in what many football people have called one of the best drafts in years -- and none of the quarterbacks are in it.

The group, Kiper said, consists of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans.

"That’s your super seven," Kiper said. "After that, I don’t see anybody that belongs in that group right now. I don’t think any of the quarterbacks do, and I don’t see any other players jumped up that far. So that’s your sensational seven, if you want to say that. Then you’re getting into the range where the eighth guy could be the 18th guy on some boards. To me, the seven are the consensus seven."

The problem for the Vikings with that group is that three members are offensive tackles. Minnesota is set at that position with Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt. Watkins or Evans could be an option, but with Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson already on the roster, the Vikings would probably take another receiver only if they thought stockpiling the position was worth passing on a chance to fill another need. Clowney and Mack seem likely to be gone by the time the Vikings pick.

But if one team above the Vikings takes a quarterback, or drafts another player, one of those seven players would be on the board at No. 8. Even if that group is gone, the Vikings could choose from a number of other players to help their defense. Is it worth passing on a quarterback to go that direction?

"It’s incredible. There are about a dozen quarterbacks that could be starters, and out of those dozen, there are some that argue that all 12 of them will never be a successful starter," Kiper said. "This is a crazy year for quarterbacks. There is a lot of quantity, but how much quality is debatable. But if [Central Florida's Blake] Bortles is there at 8, unless they just don’t like Bortles, it would be tough to pass him up.

"The bottom line with the Vikings -- and I’ve said this for three months -- is, I don’t care who they like or don’t like, they’ve got to get a quarterback. And however they do it, they’ve got to get a lot better at quarterback. You can’t be the fourth team in the division at quarterback by a wide margin and have any chance of being any more than a borderline playoff team at best, and probably in the cellar, more than likely, if things at other positions don’t go your way."

Of the top three quarterbacks in the draft, Kiper said Bortles was "more of a consensus" in the top eight picks than Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel or Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.

If the Vikings did pass on one in the first round, they could come back for someone like Fresno State's Derek Carr, Alabama's AJ McCarron, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo or Georgia's Aaron Murray later in the draft. Kiper said some teams feel Carr is better than the top three quarterbacks and assuaged some concerns about Murray's arm strength, saying it's "more than good enough."

"Which quarterback do [the Vikings] like? We don’t know right now. Everybody’s trying to figure that out," Kiper said. "Everybody’s not going to like Bortles, everybody’s not going to like Manziel, Bridgewater, Carr, this whole group. There’s some that really like these guys. There’s some that really don’t like these guys."
Like he did three years ago when he nabbed Colin Kaepernick in the second round, San Francisco 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh is spending a portion of this offseason working out quarterback draft prospects.

The odds are the 49ers will use one of their 11 draft picks, likely in the mid rounds, on a quarterback to groom as a backup behind Kaepernick. Harbaugh has already personally worked out Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo. He has upcoming workouts with Fresno Sate’s Derek Carr (who will likely be taken earlier than the 49ers want to take a quarterback) and San Jose State’s David Fales.

Harbaugh indicted he could work out more quarterbacks prior to the May 8-10 draft. Harbaugh, who was a quarterback in the NFL for 14 years, likes to play catch with the prospect during his private workouts.

“(I want to) see how he throws the football, more how they throw than the look in their eye,” Harbaugh said. “You’re always sizing somebody up as a player and so I kind of just use that in coaching as well to evaluate guys, try to size them up.”

He said the private workouts are an invaluable way to access a quarterback.

“Like to play catch with them. Like to see them throw,” Harbaugh said. "Go through their workout, see what kind of condition they’re in, and meet with them, talk to them. Talk football with them, protections. Try to get a feel for how much they know football-wise. Basically just talking football. Things you can’t do from watching the tape of a pro day.”

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