When a player enters a season as a lock to be a top pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, his entire season will be under a microscope, and even the smallest of mistakes will become flaws that drop perceived draft stock.
For Teddy Bridgewater in 2013, an impressive performance to close out the 2012 season raised the stakes, and the Louisville quarterback didn’t deliver an out-of-this-world performance in his final season with the Cardinals. As a result, there’s plenty of buzz that Bridgewater isn’t worth a first-round pick any longer.
That buzz is wrong.
After taking a look at Teddy Bridgewater’s 2013 tape on draftbreakdown, here are the positives and negatives I take away from this talented quarterback.
- This is true for a lot of NFL prospects at QB, but it’s especially true for Bridgewater: There isn’t an NFL throw he can’t make. He has the arm talent to get the ball deep or fit it into a tight window underneath.
- He’s quite athletic, and capable of breaking away from defensive ends and linebackers as a scrambler. He’s not an elite runner like Johnny Manziel or Colin Kaepernick, but he’s definitely capable, like an Alex Smith or Aaron Rodgers type.
- But unlike Manziel, Bridgewater doesn’t bail out of the pocket the instant he feels pressure. He uses his speed wisely, only leaving the confines of the pocket when he needs to.
- Bridgewater shows a lot of poise and vision in the pocket, and is able to slide and step up despite rushers all around him.
- Louisville’s offense involved a lot of snaps from under center, so Bridgewater has a head start on the mechanics of the dropback from center that many college quarterbacks don’t have.
- Bridgewater’s timing on horizontal routes is very good, and he’s accurate with good ball placement. He does a very good job of finding receivers at the right time, and putting it in a place where they’re capable of catching it (and continuing to run, in certain cases).
- He has good vision downfield, scanning the field to consider all of his options before making a throw. I didn’t see many missed opportunities from Bridgewater.
- His play-action fakes are very well done. He’s already a professional when it comes to handling the football in the pocket.
- He is accurate on shorter throws on the run, capable of throwing on the move and resetting himself outside of the pocket to make the right pass.
- His footwork is sound, and he’s almost always throwing from a solid base.
- Bridgewater is a bit on the smaller side, especially when it comes to his weight. This is nothing an NFL diet and weight room can’t fix, but it must be mentioned.
- Bridgewater will miss the occasional pass with seemingly no explanation. He usually misses high when he does miss, but it’s not at an alarming rate. Still, there may be a mechanical flaw that leads to these misses.
- Further evidence of a possible flaw (or just a general weakness) is his propensity to throw a wobbly pass. Not every ball leaves his hand in a perfect spiral, so he may have issues gripping the ball at times, or his throwing motion may have a flaw along the way. I’ll admit I’m not knowledgable enough on QB mechanics to understand if this is the case, but there doesn’t appear to be any obvious hitches in his arm movement as he throws.
- Teddy can, and will, make big plays down the field, but he’s inconsistent on vertical routes. Much like Blake Bortles, they’re often slight misses rather than massive errors, but he definitely needs to fine tune his deep throws to beat NFL defenses deep.
- He’s not afraid to step up in the pocket in the face of pressure, but he doesn’t always throw like it. In other words, he’ll often step up into a pass rush and make a throw, only to see it go high or wind up short because he was phased by the rushers.
- Like many quarterbacks young and old, he’ll often lose track of secondary defenders in coverage. On multiple occasions he made the right read in finding a receiver who was past his defender, only to find that a safety or linebacker was underneath or to the inside and ready to break on the pass.
Assuming that his size isn’t the end of the world for a team’s coaching staff, and that the wobbly passes and occasional inaccuracies aren’t due to some horrible flaw in his mechanics, Bridgewater is a very solid quarterback prospect with the brain and arm to ascend to the top of the NFL.
I have previously said that he’s a lot like Aaron Rodgers, but watching him on tape revealed that comparison may not be completely accurate. I think the better comparison for Bridgewater is Russell Wilson.
Teddy is cool and collected in the pocket like Wilson, and has no trouble rolling out (and throwing on the run) just like Wilson. He’s creative, quick on his feet, and mature as a player (and by all accounts as a team leader) like Wilson, and has a height advantage that makes him a bit safer of a pick than Wilson was in the third round for the Seahawks.
After watching both Bortles and Bridgewater, I can’t say for sure that Bridgewater is the runaway “best QB in the draft.” I believe both have the potential to be among the best quarterbacks in the NFL once the current living legends retire (Brady, Manning, Brees and Rodgers).
The flaws are there for Bridgewater, just as they are for any other player, but I believe he’s definitely a top-10 pick. He’s got the physical tools and the mental capabilities to be the next star under center in the NFL.
It would be a huge mistake if the Buccaneers passed on an opportunity to add Bridgewater to their roster in this year’s draft.