2014 NFL Draft Rapid Reaction: Thoughts on UCF QB Blake Bortles

Jan 1, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Central Florida Knights quarterback Blake Bortles celebrates after defeating the Baylor Bears during the Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Central Florida defeated Baylor 52-42. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the 2014 NFL Draft lacking in glaring needs, yet holding the seventh pick in a talent-rich draft. So which direction should the Buccaneers go?

One option is to upgrade at quarterback. Mike Glennon is serviceable, and capable of winning games in the NFL. But he lacks any special qualities, and has flaws which may be exposed in a second run through an NFL schedule.

Teddy Bridgewater figures to be the first QB off the board during the selection meeting, with Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr also figuring into the first-round discussion. With Blake Bortles adding his name to the list by declaring for the draft, there’s yet another top-notch signal caller for teams at the top of the draft to consider.

So who is Blake Bortles, and is he worth the Buccaneers’ seventh pick? Here are some quick thoughts after watching several of Bortles’ 2013 games.

Positives: 

  • Bortles has all the size you want in a QB. Good height and a sturdy build that doesn’t make it seem like he’s a house of cards when he’s on the move.
  • His arm is good enough to make any throw. Deep, back-shoulder throws seem effortless for Bortles. This would be a huge asset with Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson at receiver.
  • He has athleticism to be a threat as a runner. It’s more like Alex Smith than Colin Kaepernick, but Bortles can make things happen in the open field. He’ll need to learn to slide, but he can take a hit or two if he needs to fight for yardage.
  • His throws on the run are impressive, as is his ability to reset after escaping the pocket. He seems to be able to properly compensate for odd throwing angles very well and make good throws from poor foundations.
  • He is relatively fearless in the pocket. He’ll stand in and make throws with pressure in his face.
  • He reads the field well. I didn’t see a single instance of him failing to see a defender on a play. This isn’t to say he’s a perfect decision maker, but he certainly sees the whole field very well.
  • Bortles has a knack for coming up big in key moments. The Knights were in some close games in 2013, and he showed no signs of being shy on the trigger in big moments.

Weaknesses:

  • His footwork is spotty, and when it’s wrong, things get bad in a hurry. Of the interceptions Bortles threw this season that I was able to watch, all but one came as a result of poor footwork. He knows he has a big arm, so he’ll often throw from flat feet, or with his leading foot pointed in some random direction.
  • His deep ball accuracy isn’t great. Specifically on “go” routes, or 9′s. He isn’t way off the mark, but he certainly doesn’t have the perfect touch to loft a deep throw down the seam or sideline. A receiver like Vincent Jackson could catch many of his deep throws, but his UCF teammates couldn’t adjust to his slight misses.
  • Bortles seems to have a loose grip on the ball in the pocket, as he lost the handle on the football multiple times in 2013. Ball security is a must for an NFL quarterback, as they have enough to worry about, and NFL defenders are trained to go from the strip along with the sack.
  • Level of competition isn’t something I worry about, but if that’s something you’re big on, he certainly didn’t face a tough schedule in 2013. He played well against South Carolina, Penn State, Louisville and Baylor, but that’s still a small sample size.

Overview and Comparison:

I believe that Blake Bortles is worth a top-10 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, because his footwork issues are fixable with the right coaching. Even with the occasional issue with footwork, he has the arm talent to bail himself out at times.

For the Buccaneers, a QB guru like Jeff Tedford would be the perfect mentor for Bortles as he begins his career in the NFL, which is why I think he’d be a great fit in Tampa Bay.

In terms of comparisons, I believe Bortles reminds me of a mix between Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. He’s sturdy and tough to bring down, yet athletic and capable of picking up yards on the ground. He lacks Luck’s presence at the line of scrimmage, but shares Luck’s arm talent when his footwork is right.

Topics: Blake Bortles, NFL Draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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