NFL Draft Stock
|Eastern Kentucky||W 44-7||23||32||397||4||0||1||-1||0|
|Florida International||W 72-0||17||22||212||4||0||3||1||0|
|@South Florida||W 34-3||25||29||344||3||0||5||-25||0|
|Miami (FL) [Bowl]||W 36-9||35||45||447||3||0||6||24||1|
|Missouri State||W 35-7||30||39||344||2||0||7||9||0|
|North Carolina||W 39-34||23||28||279||3||0||6||-15||0|
|@Florida International||W 28-21||19||36||194||2||2||4||16||1|
|@Southern Miss||W 21-17||9||13||85||1||1||6||-14||0|
|South Florida||W 27-25||21||25||256||2||0||10||74||0|
|Florida [Bowl]||W 33-23||20||32||266||2||1||7||-17||0|
|Murray State||W 21-9||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Florida International||L 24-17||2||2||14||0||0||0||0||0|
|@North Carolina||L 14-7||19||30||173||1||1||11||27||0|
|@West Virginia||W 38-35||21||27||246||1||1||5||-22||0|
|@South Florida||W 34-24||19||28||241||3||0||8||25||0|
|N.Carolina St. [Bowl]||L 31-24||24||43||274||2||3||9||-29||1|
In 2013, only one quarterback was selected in the first round of the NFL draft, but this year’s class features three signal callers likely to hear their names announced early on Day 1. Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, and Teddy Bridgewater have each staked a claim as 2014’s best quarterback prospect, and any one of them could end up being the first QB drafted, potentially even the top overall pick to the Houston Texans. For my money, however, the clear choice between the three is the former University of Louisville Cardinal.
Bridgewater improved his passing yardage, touchdowns, and completion percentage in each of his three seasons at Louisville, while also reducing his interceptions every year. Running a pro-style, progressive-read offense, Bridgewater completed 71 percent of his passes in 2013 (second best among FBS quarterbacks), throwing for 3,970 yards, 31 touchdowns, and just four interceptions on 427 attempts. That accuracy is one of the things that has scouts so excited about Bridgewater, as he has demonstrated an ability to consistently hit receivers in stride and puts them in a position to produce after the catch. Bridgewater also has tremendous touch at various distances and he has been an accurate passer both inside and outside of the pocket.
Critics of Bridgewater will note his smaller stature (6’2”, 214lbs) and the size of his hands (9.25 inches), which received considerable attention from the media during the NFL Combine. However, Bridgewater’s weight in Indianapolis was 18 pounds heavier than the playing weight listed for him at Louisville last year, and he had reportedly gained 9 pounds of muscle since the end of the season. Bridgewater’s weight was as high as 222 pounds while playing at Louisville, but oral surgery during his sophomore season in 2012 caused him to lose a significant amount of weight. He believes that he can easily get back into the 220-to-225 range ahead of his rookie season, a weight at which he says he can play very comfortably.
To the extent that Bridgewater’s size creates concerns about his durability, he was known for his toughness in college, breaking his wrist during a 2012 game against Connecticut, only to finish that triple-overtime victory with 331 yards passing on 53 attempts. Five days later, Bridgewater led Louisville to a BCS birth by defeating Rutgers while playing with the broken wrist and a sprained ankle. Additionally, Bridgewater led Louisville to a Sugar Bowl victory in 2013 against Florida after taking a vicious hit early in the first quarter.
Early Fantasy Insight
The fantasy value of any rookie – quarterback or otherwise – has as much to do with where they are drafted as their college pedigree. Fortunately for the quarterbacks in the 2014 draft, there are several viable destinations among teams selecting in the top 10 this year. The Texans (drafting at #1) have Arian Foster in the backfield and pass-catching targets that include Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Cleveland (#4) boasts perhaps the hottest young receiver in the game in Josh Gordon, along with emerging tight end Jordan Cameron. And the Vikings (#8) have offensive weapons like Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings, and Corderrelle Patterson. All of these teams are likely to at least consider a quarterback with their first pick in the draft, and each offers a potentially-fruitful landing spot for the top-three QB prospects of 2014.[ad id=”Ad1″]
Bridgewater has been hailed by many, including NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock, as the “most NFL-ready” quarterback in the 2014 draft. He is a confident player that has experience running a pro-style offense in which he made his own calls at the line of scrimmage (rare for most college quarterbacks) and was asked to scan the field and set protections pre-snap. He can operate under center or in the shotgun, has very solid mechanics, and has excellent ball placement skills. If Bridgewater ends up with Houston, Cleveland, or Minnesota, he could conceivably start from day one and have a nice arsenal of players around him on offense. That could be a recipe for fantasy success.
Work to Do After the Combine
After electing not to run or throw at the NFL Combine, Bridgewater will need to show well at his March 17th Pro Day in Louisville. In particular, scouts will want to see how well Bridgewater moves with the extra weight that he has gained in the offseason. While he is a pocket passer and not known for his scrambling prowess, Bridgewater will need to demonstrate the kind of elusiveness that he showed in college, understanding pressure and keeping plays alive. Doing that at 215-to-220 pounds could ease any lingering concerns about his durability.
Teddy Bridgewater is not the tallest quarterback prospect. He’s not the fastest and he doesn’t have the biggest hands. But after all the talk of Combine measureables dies down, Bridgewater’s film will speak for itself. He is the most NFL ready of any quarterback in this year’s draft, has uncanny touch and accuracy, is a proven leader, and at just 21-years old still has a ton of upside potential. If the Texans select a quarterback with the first pick of the 2014 draft, I think it should be Bridgewater. Otherwise, I find it hard to believe that he will slip past Cleveland at the fourth pick. Dynasty or keeper-league owners with investments in Josh Gordon, DeAndre Hopkins, or Corderrelle Patterson should be hoping that their guy is on the opposite end of Bridgewater passes next season.[ad id=”Ad2″]