By Julian Reed
The 2014 NFL Draft is a showcase of philosophy and ideology. Arguably one of the deepest drafts in over a decade, many prospects seek to make an immediate impact at the NFL level.
Test subject B, Blake Bortles, quarterback, University of Central Florida. Unlike many of the other top prospects, Bortles is considered the late bloomer of the group. Measuring at 6’4 230 lbs, Bortles has the ideal size of a prototypical NFL Quarterback. Coming off an impressive performance in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl with 300 yards and 3 touchdowns, Bortles has NFL scouts drooling over his long term potential.
It’s no secret that Quarterback is the toughest position in sports as well as the most highly coveted and scrutinized. Because of those factors, the position is judged and graded on a much harsher scale than any other. Intangible qualities like leadership and character play a much bigger role than with other positions where speed, strength, and technique by and large are the determining factors.
With Blake Bortles on tape, I tried to spot as much of the intangible qualities as I could. How he reacted to interceptions, sideline demeanor, pocket poise, ability to command the huddle and galvanize team, late game and pivotal moment poise, 3rd Down management, field vision, internal clock (How long it takes to get the ball out), footwork, delivery, release, touch, arm strength, etc.
For Bortles, I studied UCF games against Baylor (Fiesta Bowl), Louisville and South Carolina. I focused most on his game against the Gamecocks of South Carolina given that as an SEC team, they provided the best talent matchup against Bortles. Many defensive linemen and DB’s who will one day join Bortles in the NFL including the other top prospect/talent of this year’s draft, Jadeveon Clowney.
On tape, Bortles long term upside was evident. Besides having the ideal size, he also has an NFL arm. Bortles can get the ball 30 to 40 yards downfield with no challenge. He also possesses some mobility (Ran 4.93 seconds In 40 yard dash at the Combine) which will help him tremendously in an evolving NFL where ability to get out of the pocket and move comes at a premium. The strength of his passing up to this point is built on short and intermediate throws.
The knock on Bortles, “is not yet a finished product” says Nolan Nawrocki, Senior Editor of Pro Football Weekly. Based on what I saw on tape, fully agree with that assessment. Has some upside down the road, but lacks consistent footwork, played in a spread offense in college that elevated his numbers, ultimately has to prove he can be a franchise QB. Particularly in the South Carolina game, level of competition highlighted some of his weaknesses. I liked what I saw as far as poise, ability to extend plays and get the ball out without taking sacks, but he didn’t play to the level that he did against lesser competition. Debatable if that’s a red flag or not.
Bortles enters the upcoming NFL Draft as the chief “project” headlining the top of the 1st round. Like all of the top Quarterbacks in this class, has some things to prove, as well as major development ahead to get to his ceiling. Despite all of that, has great potential and the ideal size to survive the brutal NFL game. For any team potentially drafting Bortles, it’s a question of time. “Do we have the time and necessary resources/coaching to develop Bortles?”. “Can we afford to draft a project at the top of the 1st round?”. There isn’t a clear consensus on Bortles which should make the Draft all the more interesting.