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Back in October, everyone was excited about the supposedly deep quarterback class in the 2014 NFL Draft.
One anonymous NFL scout told SI's Peter King, "It would not surprise me when we make our board if we have nine quarterbacks with first-round grades. Not at all. Obviously, that depends on which underclassmen declare, and you hear things out there. But I could see it."
Nine first-round quality quarterbacks! The most ever taken in the first round is six. Two were taken in the top-32 last year.
But things have changed dramatically in the last three months. In the latest expert consensus ranking of the 32 best prospects in the draft, there are only four quarterbacks.
So what happened? How does one of the most hyped QB classes ever fall apart before it even materializes?
In short, a few guys returned to school, a few guys got hurt, and a few guys underperformed a bit.
Marcus Mariota (Oregon) and Brett Hundley (UCLA) both decided to return for the 2014 season, despite being projected top-20 picks.
At the time he announced he was returning to Oregon, most experts had Mariota as the third-best player in the draft. He was slowed by a knee injury in the second half of his 2013 season, but scouts were still really high on him. One said he could be a better Colin Kaepernick.
Hundley isn't as polished as Mariota. He didn't play as well as many hoped this year, partly because of a bunch of injuries to his offensive line. But because of his size, speed, and raw talent, he could have still been one of the first QBs taken. According to Adam Schefter, two NFL teams had him as the best QB in the draft.
Injuries also hurt this draft class.
Zach Mettenberger, who got more and more draft buzz as the season wore on, tore his ACL in early December. CBS's draft writer Rob Rang says it could push him into the second day of the draft, even though he's a first-round talent.
Georgia's Aaron Murray also suffered a season-ending knee injury, and will face that stigma in the lead up to the draft.
Teddy Bridgewater, who was always the consensus No. 1 offensive player in the draft, has been getting picked apart in the last few weeks. He had a good but not crazy-good season for a Louisville team that wasn't as strong as expected. He slipped from No. 2 to No. 4 in our expert consensus rankings in the last three months. One scout even called him a "second-round pick" last week.
Right now the top QBs in the 2014 Draft are Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr, and Blake Bortles.
Drafting is an inexact science, and all of those guys could turn out to be great. But with the absence of Mariota and Hundley, the injury to Mettenberger, and the failure of Bridgewater to have a Heisman-type season, it's a step down from where things stood in October.
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