Questions Abound About Quarterbacks In The First Round Of The 2014 NFL Draft

Is Derek Carr back in the first round discussion? - Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

As the NFL Draft gets closer, the first round seems to just get harder to figure, particularly regarding quarterbacks.

A couple of weeks ago, the picture was fairly clear concerning quarterbacks in the NFL draft. There were the big three, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Johnny Manziel. It was possible all would go in the top five, and certainly they would be off the board in the first ten picks. Everybody else was just hanging around in the later rounds, hoping for a call.

Now, things are getting murky. All of the supposed top three quarterbacks are being seen as having some issues. Questions are being asked not only about whether one or the other is really a top five pick, there are some who doubt any of them should go that high. And some heretics are saying another name may be the first quarterback taken in the draft, while a small school sleeper is seen as a possible first-round crasher.

All of this could make for rather interesting decisions for the Dallas Cowboys. Sitting smack in the middle of the first round, the conventional wisdom was that there was no chance a quarterback would be in play, even though Kyle Orton's recent indecision about whether he wanted to play or retire this year has made drafting a quarterback something of a higher priority for Dallas. It was assumed that Dallas would not see any available quarterbacks that rated a first-round pick when they went on the clock at 16.

Whatever the reason, that is not nearly as certain now, at least in the minds of many writers. And some of the things that are being said seem to be based on things garnered from NFL team management, scouts, and coaches.

On the topic of the top three, Bucky Brooks wrote a column at NFL.com about players who had questions they needed to answer at their pro days, since they weren't fully answered at the NFL Combine. His first three questions pretty much sum up the view of the players everyone had been talking about for months.

1) Is Teddy Bridgewater a legitimate franchise quarterback?

2) Can Johnny Manziel excel as a pocket passer?

3) Can Blake Bortles develop into an elite NFL quarterback?

If these are the questions being asked after the Combine, then not a lot got answered before. Suddenly, all those confident projections that had the Texans, Jaguars, Browns and Raiders all wanting to draft a quarterback within the top five picks are looking a tad premature.

I assume you can do the math there. Not much room left for the top quarterbacks to go in the top five.

Here are some other recent things on the subject that are going around.

It is sometimes hard to filter out the noise in the Twitterverse and Blogosphere, but it is those constant references to people who actually work for NFL teams as the source of information that make me want to consider these things seriously.

And while those three are falling from the top, two are rising from below. Derek Carr was once considered one of the top prospects for the draft, but the combination of coming from a lesser known program (Fresno State) and a really bad performance in his team's bowl game seem to have driven him off the radar for many. He also, no matter how unfair it is, seems to suffer from being David Carr's younger brother. Now he is showing up on those radars again. Recent mocks by Brent Sobleski at USA Today and Pat Kirwan at CBS Sports have him making it into the tail end of the first round. Rob Rang, also at CBS Sports, has him much higher, projecting him as the eighth pick of the draft overall. Rang, however, still has the big three names all going before him. Others think he is better than that.

While Carr may be a case of someone who slipped a bit and is now rising, Jimmy Garoppolo is a case of someone coming from absolutely nowhere and threatening to force his way into the first round. He first started to turn heads at the East-West Shrine Game, was added to the Senior Bowl roster, and now he has people of all kinds paying attention to him. Like NFL head coaches.

And SB Nation's own resident draft guru.

I won't even mention a certain FPW here who has developed an almost unseemly mancrush on him. Or that the unmentioned KD Drummond has convinced most of the rest of us that Garoppolo is a pretty good quarterback, Maybe it was inevitable that he would get some respect around here, since he is from Eastern Illinois, the school that gave us one Tony Romo.

That is now five quarterbacks getting at least some credible mention as first round candidates. And in the eyes of many, none of them may really be worthy of a top five pick. This could mean that the Cowboys could get to their turn in the draft, and unexpectedly (at least to us) have a first round quality (in their eyes) quarterback available.

So what should they do then? Remember, a franchise quarterback is one of the hardest things to find for NFL teams. Even if you have one already on your roster, you have to ask how long they will remain at that level of performance. And you can always look at one of those as an investment, since if they truly are that quality of quarterback, you can trade them for high picks later. I'm not the only one who thinks that way.

A couple of weeks ago, I would have said this will never happen. Now, although it is a long way to go to the draft and things may change, I am starting to think it is not only possible, but it is starting to become likely.

Decisions will have to be made.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB
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