Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater jumps during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 23. (USA TODAY Sports: Brian Spurlock)
Passing on Teddy Bridgewater could be a perilous decision for franchises with question marks at the quarterback position.
Poised and polished, accurate and articulate, Bridgewater comes with a choir boy image and history of success and production that in years past left scouts rushing to anoint similar prospects the next big thing. In short, he is the total package. Former coach Charlie Strong said he had the work ethic and professional approach of a coach, sometimes better, and there is no situation for which he isn’t prepared.
Why the pause with Bridgewater?
Starting with the Houston Texans at No. 1, down to the Jaguars (third overall), Browns (fourth) and Raiders (fifth), Bridgewater should be in play. He is efficient with enough arm talent to manage any offensive scheme. Sure, it’d be a challenge to ask him to play Peyton Manning under playoff pressure at age 21, but Bridgewater has a strong case in the ongoing front office debate over which of the 2014 quarterback prospects is the best.
The biggest knock on Bridgewater isn’t that he’s little. It’s that he’s too light. Not enough Boombozz Pizza, apparently.
The last quarterback prospect to overcome the anchor of size concerns — Super Bowl-winning second-year starter Russell Wilson — is 5-11, 204. Bridgewater is 6-2, weighed 208 at Monday’s workout. That raised eyebrows, if only because Bridgewater was 214 at the combine. He said he’d be 220-225 by the time he reports to training camp. He said he played at 222 as a sophomore before major jaw surgery led to drastic weight loss.
That frame would make him the near-body type double of a too-skinny prospect from Cal in 2005. Aaron Rodgers (6-2, 223 at his pro day) has done just fine, thanks. Robert Griffin III also measured 6-2, 223 before he was drafted second overall in 2012.
What limitations are forecast for a player perceived to have less-than-ideal bulk on his frame? Primarily, the worry is injuries. And Bridgewater’s health record isn’t clean. There are teams with serious concerns about his wrist — he played through a wrist fracture at Louisville — and the narrow lower body for his base. Can an underdeveloped lower half survive a season that, from training camp through the postseason is twice as long and demanding as the college football calendar?
There are scouts who believe he’s not a top-five pick, according to reports.
The boots on the ground at Louisville Monday indicate the interest backs up NFLDraftScout.com intel and evaluation that Bridgewater is the top of the class. Six NFL head coaches were on hand, including large contingencies for the Raiders and Jaguars, who sent head coach Gus Bradley, GM Dave Caldwell and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.
We’ll venture a guess that the full tribe wasn’t sent because Jacksonville is eyeing a trade out of the top five.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, Jets general manager John Idzik, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and a thick crowd witnessed his 4.78 40-yard time and awaiting his mid-morning throwing session.
The workout, practiced, rehearsed and mastered in the comfort of his home indoor practice facility, won’t sway teams with interest. If teams give Bridgewater’s on-film resume a look and sit down with him for an hour, we’re betting they, too, will buy in.
Passes were loose and wobbled into the hands of his receivers but he also showed touch in the red-zone portion of the workout, flashed deep accuracy that also lacked great timing on occasion and hit his receivers in stride while on the move in Monday’s session. Overall, his footwork was not great and his timing was average to poor on some throws.
He’s is not a perfect or a complete product. And of course, rookie success isn’t a sure thing with Bridgewater — Andrew Luck had 18 interceptions and nine fumbles in his first season, but the Colts quarterback is widely hailed as the best quarterback to enter the league in more than a decade.
The risk is worth the ultimate potential reward for the Texans, Jaguars, Browns and Raiders.
Pittsburgh, Washington and Miami were the only teams not represented Monday at Louisville’s pro day. The Minnesota Vikings, who own the eighth overall pick, met with him Sunday and as GM Rick Spielman said last month, the franchise must “keep spinning the wheel” until it hits on a young franchise-caliber quarterback.
Several teams have eyes for safety Calvin Pryor who is one of two first-round locks (Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the other) in NFLDraftScout.com’s rankings. Pryor met with 27 teams at the Scouting Combine for formal interviews and visited with the Eagles and Jets, who had a presence Monday, privately.