There isn’t any doubt in my mind that Louisville Cardinals product Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft, and I think Bill O’Brien would be making a mistake (sorry, Johnny Manziel) if he took anyone other than Bridgewater with the first pick in the draft. Most people believe that O’Brien will take Blake Bortles because that’s his “style” of quarterback, but I have absolutely no idea what the heck that means. Is Bridgewater not accurate enough for O’Brien? Because he’s much more accurate than Bortles. Is he not a good enough decision-maker for O’Brien? Because he doesn’t stare down receivers, reads through his progressions, and makes much better decisions than Bortles, who has “upside” but could struggle initially (click here for my scouting report on the intriguing UCF product). Also, click here for an excellent piece on why Bridgewater can most definitely fit O’Brien’s offense.
Let’s take a quick look at some of Bridgewater’s numbers last year.
- Completed 71.0% of his passes
- 31 TDs to just four interceptions
- Averaged 9.3 yards per attempt
- 9th-best yards per attempt in CFB, tenth-most total yards, 5th-best passer efficiency rating
- According to Second Round Stats, Bridgwater had the best completion percentage against the blitz of the “big four” QBs
- Easily the most accurate quarterback in the class, and he has deadly accuracy within 20 yards
- Not a running QB at all (please don’t make that a stereotype) but can run when needed, mostly using his rushing to rollout in an effort to spread defenses thin
- Best QB in the class at manipulating safeties in the class, the opposite of Bortles when it comes to looking off safeties
- Rarely makes a bad decision
- Unlike most draft prospects at the position, actually knows how to read through his progressions and is capable of waiting until his third or fourth option
- Sees the whole field, whereas other QB prospects like Manziel are merely restricted to watching one half of the field
- Ball placement is excellent, but his ability to hit “timing” routes in the intermediate region is even more impressive
- Knows how to use the sidelines to his advantage
- Terrific on third downs
- Blitz does not phase him at all, almost as good as Bortles under pressure
- Solid technique for the position
- Has the arm strength to make all the throws, even if he doesn’t possess a howitzer like Derek Carr
- Smartest QB in the class, bar none
- Should have a relatively easy transition to NFL due to football IQ and pro-style offense at Louisville
- Like Bortles, McCarron, and Murray, no question that he has the intangibles teams like at QB
- Very few weaknesses, easily the most well-rounded player at the position
- Footwork is good, but throwing motion could use work
- Not the most consistent deep passer
- Lack of a cannon does not allow him to drive the ball on deep “bullets”, usually has to use his placement to throw perfect fades near sideline over defenders…it works, but this is still technically a weakness
- Played well against elevated opponents but didn’t face the toughest competition either, which isn’t a concern unique to him either
- Could struggle at the next level when there are faster safeties who have much, much better instincts than ones in college
Most of the concerns (such as size) are manufactured when it comes to Bridgewater, and I think it’s ridiculous when people dock him and say, “Oh, he lacks a standout trait.” I’d rather have a guy who is extremely polished, smart, accurate, and has solid tools like Bridgewater than a high-ceiling, low-floor QB with no polish to back up his cannon arm. To me, Bridgewater is clearly the best quarterback in the draft, and he has much less bust potential than the talented-but-inconsistent trio of Carr, Bortles, and Manziel behind him. Unlike those QBs, Bridgewater actually knows how to read defenses and dictate the terms of a pro-style game, and his lack of elite physical tools are a mere footnote. I mean, we shouldn’t say that his lack of elite tools hurts him, but rather that his solid tools should help him.
Whenever I watch him on tape, especially in that Miami game, Bridgewater reminds me of Russell Wilson with his decision-making and vision. He doesn’t have Wilson’s arm strength, but I actually think the Louisville product has more accuracy than the Seattle Seahawks star. Due to his lack of glaring concerns, Bridgewater is an incredibly safe pick, and he has the tools to ensure that he doesn’t end up being a limited QB a la Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder. “Upside” is a dangerous cache word, and its improper use has led to some people unfairly underestimating Bridgewater’s value. I think it’s a stretch to say that he’s the only QB worth a first-round grade, but it’s clear to me that he’s the best QB in this draft class.