Make no mistake about it, the Cowboys don't have a quarterback debate as Tony Romo is the clear-cut present and future for the organization. But injuries are part of the game and the 34-year old has battled back issues, which could prompt the front office to examine the quarterback position in the draft – not necessarily for the 2015 season, but for down the road and possibly sooner if needed.
Dallas is in an envious position at quarterback because they have a Pro Bowl caliber passer on the roster, which would allow the coaches and scouts to shop for a prospect that can be developed as the eventual successor without being thrust into action from day one.
Below are five quarterback prospects at the college level worth keeping an eye on:
QB Brett Hundley, redshirt junior, UCLA (6-3, 227)
When studying the Arizona State and USC game tapes from this season, Hundley looks like a contender for the No. 1 overall pick, but it's his full body of work that create concerns and clouds his draft stock. With his size, athleticism and arm strength, Hundley has the physical traits that come in a NFL starter kit with the smarts and intangibles that coaches seek at the position. However, he struggles to speed up his reads and decision-making when pressured with streaky instincts and vision as a passer. Hundley, who is expected to declare early for the 2015 NFL Draft, will enter the NFL with questions, which could benefit a team selecting in the late first round willing to be patient while he continues his development.
QB Bryce Petty, redshirt senior, Baylor (6-3, 230)
While Baylor is fighting for a second straight Big 12 Championship, Petty is also trying to prove himself as a passer with a legitimate future as a NFL starter. He has the arm talent to spray the ball all over the field with excellent touch on vertical throws, but the struggles with his pro evaluation stem from Baylor's spread, one-read offense. Petty isn't asked to consistently work through progressions or move in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield, which creates a lot of unknown for his NFL transition. Petty has a good chance to be the first senior quarterback drafted, but the 2015 NFL Draft will likely be the first time in two decades that we don't see a senior passer drafted among the top-50 picks.
QB Sean Mannion, redshirt senior, Oregon State (6-5, 220)
The Pac-12 career leader in passing yards, Mannion has an impressive resume with strong leadership traits and preparation habits, already carrying himself as a professional. He has thrived in Oregon State's pro-style system and has the make-up of a traditional drop-back passer. But while he is adequate across the board from a physical standpoint, Mannion struggles to truly stand out in any one area. His mobility, arm strength and field vision are all good, but are they good enough? That question will be discussed among NFL front offices, along with the fact that Mannion hasn't looked nearly the same without WR Brandin Cooks this season.
QB Brandon Bridge, redshirt senior, South Alabama (6-5, 235)
In a below average senior class of quarterbacks, Bridge might be the most intriguing of them all. Although not a household name, he has the raw skills that give him a chance at the next level. A Canadian native, Bridge bounced around before winding up at South Alabama and finally earning his shot as the starter in 2014. He is tall, athletic and has the arm strength that rivals the howitzers in the NFL, showing a quick release with elite velocity to put the ball anywhere he wants on the field. Bridge displays a skill-set that is reminiscent of a very unrefined Colin Kaepernick, but he needs a year or two on the sidelines before ready for NFL action.
QB Shane Carden, senior, East Carolina (6-2, 221)
A Houston native, Carden holds the East Carolina records for completions, passing yards, touchdowns and a number of other categories. He operates extremely well in the Pirates shotgun spread attack, showing the quick strike ability to make accurate reads with timing and confidence. But while comfortable in the college game, Carden's skill-set projects best as a back-up in the NFL, who can contribute if needed. He compares favorably to Pittsburgh Steelers QB Bruce Gradkowski, who has been a quality reserve in the league for the last nine years.
Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) is the Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, a property of The Sports Xchange distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.