Everyone loves the Quarterback.
While football is most definitely a team game, the quarterback position is very important for success. A great quarterback can cover a multitude of sins at other positions. So it is understandable that NFL teams and fans obsess about who they have behind center.
In this draft there are three quarterback that are universally at the top of teams draft boards: Blake Bortles (UCF), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and Terry Bridgewater (Louisville). While some will insist that there are other quarterbacks that belong in the conversation (Derek Carr?) it really isn’t that close. So the question is: Who goes first?
Any team that takes one of these quarterbacks is going to get a very good player. This is not a case of one player is clearly better than another. I find myself liking each of these players in their own right. I simply like one more than the others.
Johnny Manziel, Johnny Football. I wrote about him during his Heisman run. I insisted that he had to win the Heisman, there was simply no other choice. He is exciting, competitive, cocky. Those are good things. He has a rare ability to create plays from nothing that reminds me of Doug Flutie. He is the wildcard in this scenario. Manziel’s biggest asset is his biggest flaw. He is incredible when things break down, but that is not something you can coach up. There is no way to refine what makes him great, too much coaching may actually take away from his gifts. Then there is the bigger problem. His worst game last season was easily against LSU. The Tigers held him to 16 of 41 passing for 224 yards with two interceptions and only one touchdown in the Aggies 34-10 loss. The problem: simple LSU kept him in the pocket forcing him to win only with his arm not his legs. Until he shows he can play from the pocket there will be a huge question mark on Manziel.
Many analysts insist that Bridgewater is falling down draft boards, I find that hard to believe. He is mature, confindent, a leader. Bridgewater has a very good arm, he throws with touch and accuracy. Watching him play I see a smooth, polished passer. He makes me think of Joe Montana, Chad Pennington, and unfortunately Ken Dorsey. It is his frame that reminds me of Dorsey. Dorsey was a phenomenal college QB, leading the U to a national championship while racking up an impressive 38-2 record as a starter. The NFL was a different story. His slight frame and lack of arm strength worried teams, he was drafted in the 7th round by the San Francisco 49ers and had an unremarkable career. That is the concern with Bridgewater. Among the three quarterbacks he has the highest floor, meaning under the worst circumstances he will be better than the other two. The question remains what is his ceiling?
I am biased. I have watched every game Bortles played for the University of Central Florida. Every single snap. I watched when he came of the bench like a modern day Don Strock in relief of starter Jeff Godfrey. I was there when he took over the starting job in the 2012 season and I was there when he came from behind to beat Bridgewater’s Louisville team with a touchdown pass to that same Jeff Godfrey. He is big, strong, smart, he is a grinder. Bridgewater has the higher floor but Bortles has the higher ceiling. He just keeps getting better. He got better from his first start to when he beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. He got better from there to the combine and UCF’s pro day. At that pro day he said he did good…just good. Many observers felt he looked great. All Blake Bortles had to say was that he still had work to do, things to improve. That’s the guy I want. Confident, a leader, humble. A grinder.