Jan 2, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron (10) runs with the ball against the Oklahoma Sooners in the first half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
McCarron is almost the opposite of Mettenberger: his physical skills are questionable, but you couldn’t ask for better intangibles. Together, the two would form quite an elite prospect. If only. McCarron had one of the most successful collegiate campaigns that you’ll ever see, winning three National Championship (two as a starter), and setting Alabama records for passing yards in a season (3,063) and career (10,019) and passing touchdowns in a career (77). At 6’3, 220, size isn’t a concern, but he still has only an average build. His arm strength leaves a lot to be desired, and getting balls into the small windows in the NFL might prove difficult for him. Nothing about his career suggests that he is anything other than a great guy off of the field, a smart guy on the field and a leader in the locker room, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a starting quarterback in the NFL. He might eventually turn into one, but he shouldn’t be any team’s number one option at this point. If Dallas is looking for a terrific backup who can win a few games in that role, then he’s a good pick. But if they’re truly looking for a future franchise quarterback, I don’t think he’s that guy.
Murray is very much the same boat as McCarron, except at 6’1, his size hurts him. Even though quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have shown it’s possible to succeed in the NFL without ideal size, it’s still not preferred. Murray had a lot of balls batted down at the line of scrimmage in college, and you would image that won’t change much in the NFL. Murray had a prolific career at Georgia, despite facing criticism early on that he shrunk in big games. After winning several high-profile games in 2013, an ACL injury also ended his season. Physically, he has a better arm than McCarron, and is probably more mobile and able to move around in the pocket better than either McCarron or Mettenberger. Overall, I’d put Murray behind Mettenberger but ahead of McCarron. Much like Mettenberger, he could be a guy that would fit into Dallas very well if he fell far enough to where Dallas could take a chance on him.
Garoppolo, who broke most of Tony Romo’s records at Eastern Illinois, was already on the radar of NFL scouts and has really been rising up Draft boards after a great performance at the Senior Bowl. Some Cowboys fans will see the Eastern Illinois link between he and Romo and try and draw a comparison, but that always seems silly to me. The fact that the two guys attended the same college almost a decade apart is pretty irrelevant. Still, Garoppolo is a legitimate NFL prospect, and could very well end up being a bona fide starter. While I think linking Garoppolo and Romo because of the school they went to is stretching, Garoppolo is comparable to Romo as a player. He doesn’t have great size, or a great arm, but is a smart player and uses his understanding of the game to help him overcome his lack of elite physical skills. He did play in a very pass-happy offense in college, and needs to work on taking snaps under center and taking drops. Also, like any quarterback who played at a smaller school, the hardest part of evaluating Garoppolo is trying to figure out how he would fare against better competition. Do the Cowboys think that lightning can strike twice, and try and grab another Eastern Illinois product? That remains to be seen, but I think Garoppolo is too much of a project to be valuable to Dallas at this point.
Finally, my two wild cards are Savage and Shaw. Savage started at Rutgers but lost his job to injury, and had a stop in Arizona before finally landing in Pittsburgh. He didn’t put up great numbers, but he wasn’t necessarily asked to. He’s a great-looking prospect, and seems to have the physical tools to succeed at the NFL level. If he’s still around in the fourth or fifth round, Dallas should give him a look.
Savage has at least gotten some recent buzz, but Shaw is barely talked about amongst the quarterbacks this year, and some project that he might not even be drafted. Shaw can run, and takes care of the ball (he threw ONE interception last season. In the SEC.). But he’s only 6’0 and isn’t a pure passer. He’ll probably still be around in the sixth round or so, and if Dallas is looking for a young backup, he should be on their radar, although I wouldn’t label him an heir apparent.
Does Dallas NEED a quarterback in the 2014 Draft? No, they don’t. But Romo isn’t getting any younger, and planning for the future has to start at some point. After a few years of speculation that it may happen, I think might finally be the year that Dallas pulls the trigger on a young signal-caller that they think can be groomed to eventually take over for Romo.