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Blake Bortles 2014 NFL Draft scouting report

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What does Blake Bortles need to do in order to become a franchise quarterback?

Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

Blake Bortles looks the part.

At the very least, most people can agree on that. At 6'5 and 230-plus pounds, the Central Florida quarterback is typical of what the NFL has come to expect of its franchise passers. Bortles is also athletic enough to make defenses pay with his legs. He's everything the NFL loves in a quarterback.

The pre-draft process was made for guys like Bortles. Sure, he did plenty on the field in 2013 to warrant the hype. He played well against Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville in a win. He scrambled all over the field in the Fiesta Bowl to beat Baylor. He put together a productive season and led Central Florida to the best season in program history.

But he still needs refinement before he's doing the same thing for an NFL franchise. His mechanics are a work in progress, and he's rough around the edges in a lot of areas. Still, the physical tools will entice some teams. So will how he carries himself -- with confidence and professionalism. The best part? Bortles knows he needs coaching.

"I have no problem with that," Bortles said at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February. "There's no doubt I need coaching, I need help. I think everybody in the game does. There's reasons why all these greats out there are continuing to play and continuing to work in the offseason and get coached. 100 percent, I need coaching, I need help and I'm going to work my butt off to do everything I can to be the best that I can be to help a team be the best that they can be."

Arm strength and accuracy

Bortles' arm strength is one of the true enigmas of this draft. During the 2012 season, Bortles actually showed a fair amount of zip on his passes and seemed to have the deep accuracy to "wow" teams during the pre-draft process. His 2013 season told a different story, however. His lower body mechanics were an issue all season and it affected his arm strength. He wasn't driving the football with velocity, particularly on passes toward the sideline. At his pro day, Bortles seemed to correct this by stepping into his targets and driving the ball a bit better.

However, these are the types of habits that die hard. Showing improvement at a pro day simply shows that Bortles recognizes the problem. Being able to show significant improvement in live game action is the key. Bortles has shown the proper mechanics in flashes, and the results are impressive. He just needs to put it together consistently, because the natural arm strength is there. Bortles was often throwing off balance or while fading away from the line of scrimmage, and often he still had the arm strength to get the ball to his target.

In terms of accuracy and touch, Bortles has a bit of a ways to go. His mechanics don't help him here, either. When he doesn't step into his passes, Bortles has a tendency to show inconsistent ball placement. His deep ball could also use some work. Bortles doesn't always put the best touch on his passes.

Decision-making

When you draft a quarterback in the top 10 of the NFL Draft, you want him to be aggressive. You want a player who believes in his arm and in his teammates' abilities to make plays. You want a guy who wants the ball in his hands to make a play with the game on the line. Bortles is that guy. He's not afraid to pull the trigger on passes to any area of the field regardless of the game situation.

The challenge will not be reining Bortles' aggression in a bit. At times, it's tough to tell whether Bortles is being aggressive or not properly reading what he's seeing from the defense. He definitely has a tendency to lock onto his receivers and telegraph what he's doing with the football. That in combination with his lack of velocity on some passes led to a few bad interceptions.

Still, the aggressive mentality is encouraging to see from Bortles. He believes in his ability, and that led to some big moments from him late in games.

Field vision

Generally speaking, Bortles has a good feel for the game and shows the ability to process what he's saying. What he needs to learn is eye discipline. He's sometimes slow to come off his first read, and when he does find his read he tends to lock into the target, especially on deeper passes. This leads to Bortles tipping defenders off to what he and his receivers are doing. Bortles does have experience making reads in an offense that will resemble what he could run in the NFL, but that doesn't mean he's fully developed in this area.

It's worth noting, however, that Bortles actually has excellent field vision as a runner. Any team looking to run the read option will be able to do so with Bortles, who has a feel for when to hand the ball off and when to take off running. This is also as good a time as any to mention how athletic Bortles is. He's a dangerous runner because of his combination of size and speed.

Mechanics

Ah, mechanics. The sticking point for a lot of quarterback prospects. Every coach thinks he can fix mechanics, but certain flaws aren't fixable. We mentioned Bortles' biggest flaws above, most of which seem correctable with coaching and repetition. He fades away from the line of scrimmage when throwing occasionally. He doesn't always step into his throws. And he was even guilty of pushing the ball instead of throwing it at times this season. That may have caused some of his deep passes to hang in the air a bit. Nothing he does will cripple his development. With strong quarterback coaching, Bortles should be able to correct most of his flaws. He just needs to do it early on before it becomes ingrained in what he does.

Pocket awareness

The single most detrimental trait a quarterback can have is the inability to sense or deal with pressure in the pocket. A quarterback who can't keep his eyes downfield in the face of pressure and stand in to take a hit and deliver the ball to his receivers will have the steepest learning curve in the NFL. Bortles won't have that problem early in his career.

Of all the quarterbacks in this draft class, only Teddy Bridgewater maneuvers throughout the pocket better than Bortles. Bortles' first instinct is always to climb the pocket in the face of pressure. He also has the ability to extend plays with his legs, so he can move the pocket and keep his eyes downfield. Remember that aggressive mentality we talked about earlier? That starts in the pocket. He doesn't panic when the pocket gets messy. Instead, he looks downfield for an open receiver and pulls the trigger. There is very little hesitation in his game. Everything seems to come naturally to him in the pocket.

Pro Comparison: Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans

Because of some of his flaws with mechanics and accuracy, Bortles compares to Jake Locker. He probably has similar upside, but he also has a few more desirable characteristics. In particular, Bortles' pocket presence separates him from Locker a bit. For a more optimistic player comparison, Bortles shows flashes of Steve McNair in his game, but he doesn't quite have the arm strength that McNair possessed in his prime.

Final word

Bortles is not the best quarterback in this draft class. He's not nearly as ready to step in and play from day one as Bridgewater is, and he may not have the upside Johnny Manziel does. What he does have is size and quite a bit of developmental potential. He's an athletic quarterback who is extremely competitive and shows great leadership qualities. Those traits are all things the NFL loves. For that reason, it shouldn't surprise anyone if Bortles is the first quarterback off the board in May.