NFL draft prep: Evaluating potential QB targets

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NFL draft prep: Evaluating potential QB targets
September 16, 2013, 2:00 pm
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Oregon's Marcus Mariota has completed 59.8 percent of his passes so far this season with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. (AP)

Mike Vick looks as comfortable right now in Chip Kelly's offense as Michael Phelps does in an Olympic swimming pool. He jumped all over the Redskins in Week 1. He threw for a career-best 428 yards in Week 2.

Admittedly, discussing his departure at season's end seems a little silly at the moment, but reality is reality and Vick is 33 years old. He is in the last year of his contract. He has an undeniable injury history. And he plays the most important position in sports: quarterback. So his future and the future of the Eagles under center is still in the back of Birds fans' minds. With that in mind, here's a look at the weekend for signal callers in the college ranks.

The Fast Riser: Marcus Mariota, Oregon

He's still the guy I see the Eagles targeting if they do decide to draft quarterback. The sophomore put on a show en route to routing Tennessee on Saturday. He showcased all of the skills that will make him tough to pass up come April (assuming the sophomore eligible declares). He threw short. He threw long. He ran for a score. He made all of the right reads. It's an offense that he's been raised to play. He has ideal size and speed. He's answering the questions about his arm. Mariota threw for a career-best 456 yards Saturday and seems like a perfect match for Chip Kelly.

The Headline Maker: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

Everything Johnny Football does makes headlines, but this Saturday, his headlines came from his play on the field. In the much bally-hooed rematch with Alabama, the reigning Heisman winner showcased his full arsenal. He –- along with wide receiver Mike Evans –- teamed up to keep the Aggies in a game their defense left them little chance to win.

The biggest takeaway from many observers is that Manziel cemented his status as a future NFL quarterback. I do not share that opinion. To me, he's Vick's size, but he doesn't run like Vick. He throws the ball with less velocity than Matt Barkley. He mostly made good decisions on Saturday, but the two mistakes he did make were deadly. Specifically the awful throw on the alley-oop pass in the second quarter that was intercepted (which led to an Alabama touchdown and completely swung the momemtum of the game). To me, he's a second-round pick.

The Inspiration: Brett Hundley, UCLA

The Bruins' signal-caller dominated in Lincoln, Nebraska. UCLA found itself staring at a 21-3 deficit late in the second quarter. Hundley was facing a 3rd-and-12 from his own 39. Nebraska's front line was dominating and sent the house. Two separate Huskers had Hundley in their grasp.

Until they didn't.

The multi-talented sophomore escaped and ran for a first down, then on the next play delivered a 32-yard dart to receiver Devin Fuller. The two plays led to a Bruin touchdown and UCLA rode that momentum to a massive third quarter that turned an 18-point deficit into a 20-point win.

Even more inspiring, the Bruins were playing just six days after their teammate Nick Pasquale was killed when he was struck by a vehicle while he was walking in his hometown. Under the saddest of circumstances, facing a three-score deficit, Hundley carried his team to a victory. Impressive. Inspiring. And worth noting in April if you're an Eagles fan.

Steady and Ready: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

The nation's No. 7 team handled Kentucky, but Louisville was not spectacular. Of course, no team is going to play at peak level every week, so Bridgewater's modest game is understandable. Still, the likely No. 1 pick in next spring's draft finished with 250 yards passing and a TD. He didn't exactly help himself in the Heisman race. More on that in a bit.

Wish You Were Here: Jameis Winston, Florida State

The redshirt freshman is not eligible for this year's draft. But if he were, he might top this list. At least through two games. The Seminoles' signal-caller has thrown more touchdowns (six) than incompletions (five). A staggering start to a college career. On Saturday, the Seminoles ran 63 plays and scored 62 points. That's the kind of efficiency that makes Kelly salivate. It's a shame Winston's not eligible in this April's draft.

Here's my Heisman race through the first few weeks of the season:

1. Mariota
2. A.J. McCarron - Alabama
3. Manziel
4. Tajh Boyd - Clemson
5. Winston

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