The NFL season is only a little more than half over, but there are still plenty of teams that are ready to move on towards next season, especially at the quarterback position. Last year’s draft didn’t provide much at quarterback outside of Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel, but this year’s draft class looks a lot more promising and much deeper, which is a good thing because there are a lot of teams that should be taking a close look at this year’s crop of college quarterbacks. Here are 10 teams that should be seriously considering taking a quarterback within the first few rounds of next year’s draft:
Arizona – The Cardinals are getting by this season with Carson Palmer, but he has only so many throws left in his arm, and they need to start looking for his replacement, even if Palmer still has another year or two left in him. Arizona could be stuck in the same division with Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick for a long time, and they need to find a quarterback that can measure up to those two guys. With Wilson and Kaepernick both being dual-threat quarterbacks, the Cardinals may be looking for someone in that same mold, perhaps Brett Hundley or Marcus Mariota if they pick high enough, or possibly Tajh Boyd is those two are off the board or decide to stay in school.
Cleveland – It looks like Brandon Weeden is all but finished as a starter in the NFL, and the Browns can’t afford to wait for Brian Hoyer to recover from his injury to see if he’s the real deal, which he probably isn’t after only a few good starts. Cleveland has been in this situation before and they’ve failed to find a franchise quarterback in the draft, but here’s one more chance to get it right. The Browns need to make a splash in some way, and while they’ve probably won too many games this season to have a chance at Teddy Bridgewater, if they have a chance to take Johnny Manziel, they should jump at it, as he would create the kind of excitement around their organization that they need.
Houston – It’s time for the Texans to move on from Matt Schaub, and it’s tough to be sold on Case Keenum just yet since the team isn’t winning games, so it’s more than likely that they’ll be looking for a franchise quarterback in the draft. Houston looks like a team that will be drafting high, but they could also wait until the second or third round to take a quarterback. The Texans may look to go the Andy Dalton route, which means college guys with a lot of experience like Aaron Murray, Stephen Morris or Derek Carr could be potential choices if they pass on taking a quarterback in the first round. Of course, if Gary Kubiak is fired, that could change the team’s approach depending on whom they hire to replace him.
Jacksonville – The Blaine Gabbert era has to be over in Jacksonville, and Chad Henne isn’t exactly the answer either. The Jaguars will do their homework, but it’s hard to imagine them not reaching the conclusion that Teddy Bridgewater is their best bet at quarterback. Of course, Bridgewater could decide to return to school (not implying that he will, just playing devil’s advocate), in which case the Jaguars would be in a tough spot, as there may not be another quarterback worthy of being the top overall pick, but they can’t really wait until the second round to take a quarterback.
Kansas City – No one’s trying to run Alex Smith out of town because the Chiefs are winning with him, but he’s not that young and he’s not a high-end quarterback that you feel confident can take you to the Super Bowl. Kansas City has the talented Tyler Bray on their roster, but they’ll want someone else who they know can push Smith for the job after a year or two, just like Colin Kaepernick did in San Francisco. Kansas City won’t be taking a quarterback in the first round, but if anyone catches Andy Reid’s eye in the second or third round, the Chiefs won’t hesitate to take him.
Minnesota – Let’s not pretend that Christian Ponder still has a chance of working out. Josh Freeman probably isn’t the guy the Vikings want to move forward either. Despite making the playoffs last year, Minnesota is right back where they were when they took Ponder a few years ago. The Vikings will be looking at quarterbacks with first round talent, which means Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, and Johnny Manziel are all possibilities.
Oakland – Just because Terrelle Pryor beat out Matt Flynn in the preseason doesn’t mean Pryor is the future. He has a chance to prove otherwise with his play throughout the rest of the season, but the Raiders should definitely be considering their options at quarterback. Oakland should be picking high this year, which will give them a chance to take Johnny Manziel or Marcus Mariota, or possibly Tajh Boyd early in the second round. They could also choose to play it safe and take another shot at a polished pocket passer like A.J. McCarron or Aaron Murray.
Pittsburgh – The Steelers drafted Landry Jones last year, but he’s probably more of a long-term backup or a stopgap if Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt. Rumor has it that Roethlisberger is looking to be traded this offseason, and even if that’s not true, Pittsburgh may need to start thinking about how much longer Roethlisberger is going to be able to play with the hits he’s taken the past few years. They could try waiting another year or two and see how Jones develops, but with a lot of good choices available this season, why wait if there’s someone they really like. The name to keep an eye on is Zach Mettenberger, who is a big guy with a big arm, and he could be ready to pick up where Roethlisberger leaves off.
St. Louis – Even before the injury to Sam Bradford, the Rams should have been looking at this year’s crop of college quarterbacks, and now it’s obvious that they’ll be looking to draft a quarterback early next year. Jeff Fisher is probably going to want more of a pocket passer, which could make Zach Mettenberger one of their top choices, although Tajh Boyd, Derek Carr, and Aaron Murray are also guys that could fit in St. Louis and take the reins from Bradford.
Tampa Bay – Greg Schiano may like Mike Glennon, but Schiano probably won’t be the head coach next season, and Glennon may not be the quarterback the new coach wants to move forward with. The Bucs didn’t draft Glennon high enough to owe him more of an opportunity, especially when they’ll have a high draft pick next year and a chance to take just about anybody they want. Just about every quarterback available is on the table for the Bucs, including Teddy Bridgewater if they end up with the top overall pick.