As we begin the countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.
College: Central Florida
Hands: 9 1/4”
Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.93
Vertical Jump: 32 1/2”
Broad Jump: 9’ 7”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.21
Background (College Stats)
Unlike Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel, Bortles was not a highly sought-after quarterback recruit coming out of high school. In fact, only four colleges had interest in him and two of them wanted to convert him into a tight end. After redshirting his first year, Bortles began to prove the Knights right for leaving him at his natural position when he earned Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors while appearing in 10 games in 2011. As a sophomore, he started all 14 games and finished behind Bridgewater as a second-team all-conference pick after throwing for 3,059 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Still, the Oviedo (Fla.) native remained a relative unknown until Central Florida’s fourth-quarter rally fell three points short against SEC power South Carolina in September 2013. However, Bortles and his Knights got the big-time win they desired a few weeks later when they overcame a 21-point third-quarter deficit against one of the top defenses in the country (Louisville) on national television. He then capped off the Knights’ finest season in school history by leading Central Florida to a 52-42 victory against heavily-favored Baylor in the school’s first-ever BCS bowl game, throwing for 301 yards and three touchdowns while adding 93 yards on the ground and another score in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
NFL Player Comp(s): A young Ben Roethlisberger
- Prototypical size with very good athleticism; has the ability to rip off a 20-30 yard run and/or extend plays.
- Does not possess rocket-launcher arm strength, but does not struggle to make all the necessary throws.
- Adept as a passer rolling to the left or right, will square his shoulders on the run to ensure an accurate throw.
- Shows a good feel for pressure, keeps his eyes downfield and moves well inside the pocket.
- Throws with anticipation on the deep ball and displays the ability to “throw his receiver open”.
- Mental strength, ability to rally the troops and competitive drive show up repeatedly; has a short memory and bounces back well after a mistake.
- Decision-making (especially on deep throws) can be questioned and ball security was an issue in final season (eight fumbles).
- Doesn’t always do a great job of locating the safety on downfield throws.
- Tends to get lazy with his footwork and will throw off-balance on occasion inside the pocket.
- Inconsistent mechanics really show up when he is required to make an intermediate-to-deep throw against the blitz.
- Runs hot-and-cold in terms of his willingness to “look down the gun barrel” and doesn’t always react well when pressure comes up the middle.
- Touch passes are a work in progress.
On one hand, Bortles looks the part as much as any of the top draft-eligible quarterback (along with LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and perhaps Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas). On the other hand, the 2013 AAC Offensive Player of the Year sported a 9:7 TD-to-INT ratio against South Carolina, Louisville, South Florida and Baylor – the four top 40 pass defenses on the Knights’ 2013 schedule – and a 16:2 mark against every other opponent. In those four “difficult” matchups, it should be noted that a great deal of Bortles’ statistical success came as a result of what his receivers and running backs did after the catch. It is hard to deny that Bortles has all the physical gifts necessary to be an upper-echelon NFL quarterback, but his decision-making and ball-security issues are legitimate concerns. While his ceiling is arguably higher than any other quarterback in this draft, he isn’t nearly as ready for rookie-year success as Bridgewater, so the team that selects will almost certainly need to protect him with a good rushing attack since the likelihood is high he will begin the season as a starter. Bortles’ boom-bust meter isn’t nearly as volatile as Manziel’s nor does he possess the polish Bridgewater, but his physical skill set easily surpasses that of his other two aforementioned counterparts. Short of an Andrew Luck-type quarterback who enters the league with prototypical size, athletic ability AND a refined skill set, NFL teams will almost always value a signal-caller that has Bortles’ size and athletic ability along with the potential to develop the skill set over a player with a refined skill set that may lack his size and athletic ability. It’s not hard to see how Bortles could one day be a top 10 NFL quarterback when he’s on his game, but there’s also more than enough film of him to suggest that consistency may be a problem for him as well.