The quarterback position is the number one priority for a handful of teams drafting in the top ten. The Texans, Jaguars, Browns, Raiders, Buccaneers, and Vikings could all use huge upgrades at the position, and all will most likely have the opportunity to select one of the top three or four quarterback prospects.
Even though there is such a tremendous need at the top of the draft, that does not guarantee that those quarterbacks will be coming off the board early. Part of that is the lack of consensus among the top quarterbacks. Zach Links already looked at the current favorite to be the top quarterback taken in UCF’s Blake Bortles, but the original star of this quarterback class was Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. (For what it’s worth, Johnny Manziel also spent some time on the top of those big boards.)
Bridgewater stands tall enough between 6’2″ and 6’3″ depending on who you ask, but his slight frame leaves much to be desired. He certainly lacks the massive size of Bortles, but makes up for it with his own strengths. Bridgewater was a three year starter at Louisville before leaving after his junior season. Had he been allowed to leave after his sophomore season, he would have likely been the first quarterback off the board, ahead of both E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith. Thought of as “NFL ready” due to his quick release, poise in the pocket, and ability to quickly scan and read defenses, there were moments in time when it was a foregone conclusion that Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney would be drafted first and second overall, in some order.
Of course, throughout the draft process Bridgewater’s stock has dropped off. Bortles of course has passed him due to his prototypical size, and Manziel shot out of a rocket and has become such a love him or hate him prospect, it seems every team has either put him at the top of their wish list or taken him off their board altogether. Bridgewater struggled with accuracy and mechanics at his pro day, establishing red flags that made scouts and pundits question why they thought he was so “NFL ready” to begin with.
His play on the field is still impressive. He completed almost 69% of his passes as a sophomore, and improved that number to 71% as a junior. In those last two years, he posted 28 and 31 touchdowns against 7 and 4 interceptions, respectively. Bridgewater was often calm under pressure, and handled blitzes and pass rushers effectively and efficiently.
Draft expert Mike Mayock of NFL.com has downgraded Bridgewater out of his first-round projection.
“I’ve never seen a top-level quarterback in the last 10 years have a bad pro day, until Teddy Bridgewater. He had no accuracy, the ball came out funny, the arm strength wasn’t there, and it made me question everything I saw on tape because this was live. I went back and watched a bunch more tape and compared him to the rest of the guys in the draft,” said Mayock. “And like it or not, I’ve come to a conclusion — if I was a GM in the NFL, I would not take him in the first round of the draft.”
Not everyone has given up on Bridgewater completely. While he has clearly fallen behind Bortles as an option for the Texans (No. 1), Jaguars (No. 3), and Browns (No. 4), mock drafts still put him as high as the Buccaneers (No. 7) and Vikings (No. 8). Even for those who see him falling fast, there has been a narrative that see the Browns selecting one of the elite defensive players or a receiver such as Sammy Watkins with their first pick, and catching Bridgewater or possibly Derek Carr with the pick they received in the Trent Richardson deal with the Colts (No. 26).