Teddy Bridgewater has been building his case to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft since his freshman year in 2011. He started from Day 1 at Louisville, and by the end of his sophomore season it was clear he would be highly regarded by NFL talent evaluators.
It was the gritty performance he had against Rutgers as a sophomore in which he played through and ankle injury. It was his dominant showing against Florida in the Sugar Bowl later that season. And it was his sometime spectacular and constantly efficient junior season. Bridgewater generated plenty of NFL Draft hype and decided to enter the draft a year early.
Now, he's dealing with the questions. What about his size? Is he tall enough? Heavy enough? Will his game translate to the NFL, and does he have what it takes to hold up to the beating? Bridgewater has been our top-ranked quarterback since the process began, though, and it's unlikely to change between now and May.
Arm strength: Bridgewater has plenty of arm strength and can make throws to all areas of the field. He may not have the best pure arm talent in this draft, but he makes up for whatever he lacks in arm strength with superior anticipation. Bridgewater regularly throws receivers open and anticipates windows opening up all over the field. He's not the best passer on straight vertical routes, but he does throw deep patterns fairly well. Bridgewater just seems to lack touch at times on vertical passes down the sideline.
Decision making: With only four interceptions during his junior season, Bridgewater has a proven track record of taking care of the football. He's more than willing to take shots deep down the field but knows when to take his shots and when to find the open receiver. When Bridgewater breaks contain and gets outside the pocket, he needs to improve his decision making when it comes to avoiding hits and sliding properly.
Field vision: Most young quarterbacks have plenty of room to grow when it comes to seeing the field, and Bridgewater is no exception. He has shown the ability to look off coverage and find open receivers in all areas of the field. Bridgewater does seem to have a bit of an easier time finding receivers open over the middle, but it's hardly an issue. He's often aided by his ability to recognize what the defense is trying to before the snap and reacting to what he sees in a timely fashion. Bridgewater consistently keeps his eyes down field and works through progressions quickly.
Mechanics: Because he has long arms, Bridgewater has a bit of a longer release than some other quarterbacks. Outside of that, he has solid footwork, excellent throwing mechanics and proper weight transfer. From an accuracy standpoint, Bridgewater has everything you look for. He doesn't need much fine tuning in any area.
Pocket awareness: No quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft is as skilled as sensing and avoiding pressure as Bridgewater. He does an outstanding job of keeping his eyes down field and resetting his feet in a crowded pocket. Bridgewater has the ability to throw from multiple platforms and arm slots, which helps his ability to deal with pressure. While he's not an elite athlete, Bridgewater is plenty mobile enough to move around int he pocket and make big-time throws on the run.
Pro Comparison: Russell Wilson: Like Wilson, Bridgewater gets knocked a bit for his size. But both Wilson and Bridgewater move well in the pocket and are efficient passers. Wilson's arm may a bit more live than Bridgewater's, but Bridgewater has the potential to develop.
Final word: Bridgewater is our top-ranked quarterback and our No. 2 overall player. He's a potential franchise passer due to his mental makeup, advanced pocket presence, accuracy and anticipation when throwing the football. Those knocking Bridgewater as overrated are overthinking things. In addition to his skills, he's proven to be tough as nails and doesn't get overwhelmed in big moments. Both of those traits will be important in the NFL.