NFL teams are often made or broken at the quarterback position. An elite quarterback can make a below-average team competitive while a dud under center can derail the championship hopes of an otherwise talented team. Currently, the Dallas Cowboys have one of the better quarterbacks in the game in Tony Romo, and are hoping that he won’t need to be replaced anytime soon. Still, Romo turns 34 in a few weeks, and is coming off of multiple back surgeries. With no heir apparent on the current roster, it would probably be in the best interest of the Cowboys to look for a successor sooner rather than later.
There seems to be a prevailing thought that the Cowboys might try and find that guy in this year’s Draft. Since quarterback isn’t a pressing need, and other positions need to be addressed first, it would be a shock if Dallas took a signal-caller with its first pick, but it isn’t unreasonable to think that they might start looking around on Day 2 or Day 3, especially if they trade back in Round 1 (a possibility) and acquire more picks in some of the earlier rounds.
The big names in this year’s quarterback crop are Johnny Mainzel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles. All three are expected to be long gone by the time the Cowboys are on the clock in the first round, let alone at a point when they might be looking for a quarterback. A newcomer to the party is Fresno State’s Derek Carr, who is looking more and more like he will sneak into the first round. None of those guys will be playing with a star on his helmet next season.
So what quarterbacks COULD be backing up Tony Romo in 2014? There are several intriguing prospects in this year’s class, who are projected to be taken between the second and fourth rounds: Zach Mettenberger (LSU), AJ McCarron (Alabama), Aaron Murray (Georgia) and Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois). Additionally, two guys that I seem to like more than most are Tom Savage from Pittsburgh and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw.
At 6’5, 230 lbs, Mettenberger certainly LOOKS the part, and might have the most upside of all the mid-round prospects. He absolutely has the arm and overall talent to succeed at the NFL level, but with all of that talent comes a lot of question marks. Mettenberger had a rocky career, which began at Georgia, and included multiple run-ins with the law, a dismissal from Georgia and a stop at community college. He took over as the starter at LSU in 2012, and was underwhelming and generally considered a disappointment.
Then, under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Mettenberger turned in a terrific senior season in 2013 and looked like a possible first-round draft pick. Unfortunately, a torn ACL ended his season early, also causing him to miss the Senior Bowl and Combine. He already struggled when forced to move outside of the pocket, so his injury is concerning, but these days we see players come back from ACLs all of the time with little to no discernible difference. The rise in play between his junior and senior seasons shows that he seems to respond well to coaching, and is an encouraging sign about his potential to progress as an NFL passer. If he drops low enough, and Dallas can grab him at a reasonable spot, he could be a terrific pick. Dallas can afford to let him recover at his own pace, and he won’t be forced into action anytime soon.