Throwback – Teddy Bridgewater and the NFL Draft

bridgewater 2Last December, I wrote the following commentary for Yahoo Contributor Network, making the case for Teddy Bridgewater to leave school a year early and declare for the draft. I said he was a candidate to be drafted first, and that he was ready to succeed from the first day.

I was partially right. He wasn’t picked first, not even close. Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel were picked ahead of Bridgewater, who fell to the bottom of the first round, to the Vikings. But on the plus side, he took over the starting job early in the season, and is 5-5 as Minnesota’s starter. Going into today’s game, he has a 61.9 completion rate and an 81.4 percent quarterback rating. He has ten touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Not the numbers of a blossoming Pro Bowler, but it looks like the job is his to lose going into next season.

Minnesota turned out to be a good situation for Bridgewater, and there’s no guarantee he would go higher in the 2015 draft. So I’m going to say I was right on this one.

It’s Teddy Bridgewater’s Time to Declare for NFL Draft

Rumors are abounding that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater might return to school for his senior season.

There are plenty of good reasons for Bridgewater to stick around Cardinal Stadium another year. He could polish his skills. He may want a shot at the Heisman. The Cards are going to the ACC next year — a win against Florida State would put Louisville into the national title discussion.

He’s wrapping up a bachelor’s degree in Sports Administration this month; maybe he wants to get a head start on his master’s.

Who knows? Perhaps football isn’t his muse, and he doesn’t want to go pro — maybe pull a Phil Robertson (of Duck Dynasty fame) and walk away to spend more time out in the woods hunting.

OK, maybe not.

But if he wants to play in the NFL, now is the time. Take care of business in the Russell Athletic Bowl, give coach Charlie Strong a big hug goodbye, and head off to prep for February’s NFL Draft Combine.

There will never be a better time for Bridgewater to make the leap to the NFL. He would immediately be the consensus top quarterback in the draft. Several teams will be in desperate need for a quarterback. He is already in the discussion as the possible number one draft pick.

How do you improve on that?

Is he ready for the NFL? Of course. He’s a three-year starter at a BCS school and has taken it to a bowl game each year. Statistics? Try 70% passing and 28 touchdowns this year. Want to nitpick at the level of competition? He walked into the Sugar Bowl last year and tore apart third-ranked Florida, completing 20 of 32 for two touchdowns and a 10-point win.

Physically, he’s fits the mold. He’s 6-3 (“prototypical height,” in scouting talk). At 205 pounds, he can use a little more meat on his bones, but that’s an easy fix. He’s athletic, cool under pressure, and effective scrambler — a perfect fit to run the read-option that’s all the rage in the NFL.

Sure, his stock could decline between now and May. Another quarterback could start looking better under further inspection. Teams at the top of the draft could decide they have greater needs than quarterbacks. Somebody could dig up a jaywalking ticket from 10 years ago to raise questions about his character. Did he ever show up late for class? But those types of issues, if they exist, will be waiting for him next year, just as they would be now.

His game footage will be more scrutinized than the Zapruder film. Every incompletion, every interception (four this year, by the way) will be dissected like a Roswell alien. Teams will find something to criticize — they always do. But in the end, they’ll see this:

December 5, 2013. Fourth Quarter. Down 14-10 to Cincinnati, at the Bearcat 22. Third and 8. Bridgewater, in the shotgun formation, takes the snap, and finds nobody open before a Cincinnati defender comes up the middle and gets two hands on him. Bridgewater rolls left and breaks the tackle, to find himself face to face with another Bearcat lineman. He spins back to the right, finds himself surrounded with no way out, and on the run, off-balance, flings a beautiful arching pass that floats into receiver Damian Copeland’s hands in the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

You can’t coach that, and another year of school isn’t going to make that play — or several others like it — any more amazing.

Another year in school could help Bridgewater build his resume, make him more NFL-ready. But plenty can happen between now and then. A couple of bad games could send his stock spiraling. There could be a deeper, more talented pool of quarterbacks clogging up the draft’s first round next year. And there’s always the chance of a career-ending injury.

There’s no guarantees this year, either. The turf is littered with projected No. 1s who wound up sorely disappointed on draft day. But as the old adage goes, strike while the iron is hot. And for Teddy Bridgewater, it’s red-hot now.

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