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Blake Bortles vs. Teddy Bridgewater - The Case For The First Overall Pick Of The 2014 NFL Draft

The next franchise QB for the Houston Texans? - Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL, a team has to have a good to great quarterback to win a Super Bowl. In other news, water is wet. Everyone knows just how important the position is, yet there are multiple franchises mired in the NFL versions of hell or purgatory because they have not been able to get the right quarterback in years or even decades.

The Houston Texans could be counted as one of those teams. The franchise's first ever draft pick, David Carr, never came close to panning out. Previous head coach Gary Kubiak continuously staked his fortune on former Atlanta Falcons backup Matt Schaub; despite having teams with great running games and good defenses, Schaub was never able to win big games.

Now the Texans will look for their third significant quarterback in franchise history. The team doesn't necessarily need to take a quarterback with the first overall pick, but the chances are decent they will. Statistically speaking, they probably should.

The likelihood of drafting a successful player is obviously higher in the first round for any position, but most of all for quarterbacks. Of the last 10 Super Bowl champions, the only starting quarterbacks not taken in the first round were Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Brees was taken with the first pick of the second round, so that speaks to using the 33rd overall pick this year on the position. Brady is a once-in-a-lifetime diamond in the rough. If you look for another Hall of Fame quarterback on Day Three of the draft, you'll be looking for a while.

If the Texans do look to take a quarterback with the first overall pick, it will almost assuredly be Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater or Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. It is possible that the team might trade down, but as Dan Pompei pointed out, the top pick hasn't been traded since 2001 despite almost every owner and front office making overtures to do just that.

So how do Bridgewater and Bortles compare? Box score scouting between the two is relatively easy, given that the two played in the same conference and played seven common opponents (Florida International, Temple, Rutgers, South Florida, Connecticut, Houston and Memphis). Below is the statistical breakdown from their games against those shared opponents:

CMP

ATT

CMP%

Yards

Yards/Att

TD

INT

Bortles

131

197

66%

1828

9.3

12

3

Bridgewater

154

219

70%

1925

8.8

13

2

Statistically, there is not that much variation between the two. The TD/INT ratio is pretty similar, as is the yards per game, with only 14 yards more per contest for Bridgewater. Bridgewater's completion percentage is slightly higher, but Bortles' yards per attempt is a half yard higher. That may not sound significant, but it shows more downfield passing. Both YPA numbers are very good though.

How did this compare with the season statistical totals encompassing all the games? Over the entire season, Bridgewater had a higher YPA (9.3) and yards per game (305 vs. 275) as well as an 18/2 TD to INT ratio, showing that Teddy mopped up against Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Miami. His season completion percentage (71%) was pretty much the same as the seven games against common opponents.

Bortles' comparison to the rest of his season, which was one game less than Louisville's, surprised me a little. Bortles's YPA (9.3), completion percentage (67%), and yards per game (261) stayed relatively the same. The reason this impressed me is because outside of the seven common opponents, Central Florida faced an impressive slate of opponents in Louisville, Akron, Penn State, South Carolina, Southern Methodist and Baylor. Bortles's TD/INT ratio (25/9) did dip off against these other opponents, but overall Bortles remained consistent despite playing a tough out of conference schedule.

If box scores told the whole story, there would be no need to scout. Despite Bortles and Bridgewater playing similar opponents for half their seasons, they played under different conditions with different teammates in different schemes.

Recently, Greg Peshek (@NU_Gap on Twitter) of Rotoworld wrote a fantastic piece after charting every throw from Bortles, Bridgewater, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr. I highly suggest reading the whole article if you haven't already. I will be using some off Greg's findings to point out things I've seen on tape.

The first thing you see is that Bridgewater threw well below the average number of screens, which often pad a quarterback's completion percentage. He had an abundance of throws between 1 and 10 yards. This is not odd given the spread system he played in. Bortles, however, threw just about the average number of passes for each area of the field, with a slightly lower than average amount of deep passes. This is indicative of Central Florida's offense maintaining slightly more pro-style concepts than Lousiville, throwing more of the intermediate throws preferred in the NFL.

As for accuracy, Teddy cleans house. Bridgewater threw with significantly above average accuracy except for throws of 20 yards and more. Much has been made of Bridgewater's deep ball accuracy, but he was just slightly below average. Bortles, meanwhile, was at or slightly above average throwing with accuracy in the respective zones, but it should be noted he was more accurate with his deep ball.

For Bridgewater, I believe this is a sign of his heightened anticipation and refinement of his mechanics. Bridgewater excels at throwing to a spot and putting the necessary touch on the ball. The exception seems to be the deep ball, when Bridgewater appears to exert himself in an effort to make up for lackluster arm strength. This doesn't bother me because several quarterbacks gained arm strength in the NFL, notably Tom Brady and Drew Brees. I believe that Bridgewater can as well, and he reportedly has the work ethic to do whatever is possible to improve.

For Bortles, the accuracy numbers are a function of his inconsistencies due to a lack of refinement. Bortles has the arm to make any throw, but sometimes misses throws due to poor mechanics. Bortles suffers occasionally from poor footwork, and also falls away from his throws, especially on throws to his left. When you look at the chart on the second page of Greg's article, you'll notice a lot of blue dots (inaccurate throws) along the left sideline, much more than on the right side of the field.

The good news for Bortles' mechanics and accuracy is that he shows flashes of doing it the right way, and the inconsistencies are of the variety that can be fixed. Many have compared Bortles to Jake Locker or even Blaine Gabbert. In my opinion, this is just lazy analysis. I'll touch on the Gabbert comparison in a minute. As for Locker, he never showed the command of the offense or the accuracy that Bortles has while he (Locker) was at Washington. Essentially, they're both white quarterbacks that are athletic. End of comparison.

The category that continues to impress me about both quarterbacks is their pocket presence. While under pressure, which in this case is defined as being forced to move due to the pass rush, both Bortles and Bridgewater carried about a 63% completion percentage. You see this when watching film of them, as they time and again keep their eyes downfield while stepping up in the pocket or eluding the rush.

This is a quality that you can encourage but not teach, as some quarterbacks have the ability to operate from a muddy pocket (stolen Gerg Cosell term), while others don't (remember that Blaine Gabbert tease?). Both Bridgewater and Bortles showed a willingness to step into a throw despite knowing they were going to take a shot in the process.

The most impressive stat I've seen this offseason might be that Bridgewater completed 78% of his passes under normal conditions and 77% when blitzed. That was a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario for opposing defenses.

The other difference between the two is that besides possessing a stronger arm at this point, Bortles is also more of an athletic mover. Bortles went to Central Florida after most schools wanted to make him a tight end, and he moves like one. Before Mel Kiper updated his big board on January 29th, he wrote that Bortles was like a mixture of Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco as a runner. While I can see the Roethlisberger comparisons, I dare anyone to watch the Orange Bowl against Baylor and see Joe Flacco.

Despite this athletic ability, Bortles did not tuck the ball and run unnecessarily. Bridgewater isn't by any means immobile, but does not possess Bortles' running ability. Both do have the necessary athleticism to escape the rush and extend plays.

So which should be the Texans pick? If you ask me, the answer is Bridgewater. The only real limitation I see is the lack of arm strength, and as I said earlier I believe his arm can become stronger. As for the size concerns, I don't put much stock in this. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning are all somewhat slight of frame. Once Teddy gets into an NFL weight room, he'll put some weight on. Will he ever be Mr. Universe? No. Does he need to be? Nope.

Bridgewater's command of the offense is well above that of his peers. Bridgewater reminds me of Brady before the Patriots' offensive explosion in 2008. Back then, Brady never had statistically eye popping seasons, and most of his passes also were in the 1-10 yard range as the Patriots passed in this zone as a substitution for a running game. Brady excelled in this role because he knew exactly where to go with the ball based on the defense, and he had the accuracy to put it exactly where he wanted to. I think Bridgewater can excel in this role while he develops into a complete quarterback.

I do have a fence-sitting caveat to this. When Bill O'Brien was hired, I was ecstatic because of his ability to work with quarterbacks and identify talent at the position. If he feels like Bortles is his guy, I will trust him until given a reason not to.

I wouldn't feel this away about all the quarterbacks in the draft. With Bortles, I do. Bortles is certainly raw, but if he keeps developing at the pace he did this year, it is not absurd to think he will be the best quarterback of this draft class. His size, arm strength and athleticism are exactly what NFL personnel look for in a quarterback. If O'Brien feels that he can fix the flaws Bortles currently has, who am I to doubt him, given his track record with the position?

Much is made of the connections between Bortles and O'Brien, namely that Bortles' Central Florida team beat Penn State in 2013 and that Bortles was recruited by and played for George O'Leary, a mentor of O'Brien's. While I don't think that means as much as others do, the benefit of that relationship is O'Leary will likely be honest with O'Brien about Bortles' positives and negatives. Whether Bortles is a front runner for the job as some claim or not, O'Brien will certainly do his due diligence on every candidate, including Blake.

In that due diligence, O'Brien might determine that neither of these quarterbacks is worth the top pick and endorse the selection of standout South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. If that is the case, I would fully expect a quarterback to be taken at 33 or sooner with a trade back into the first round. I will do more homework on some of the quarterbacks possible for the draft pick and write my thoughts on them at a later date.

In the meantime, weigh in with your preference between the two or disagreements you might have with my analysis on either quarterback.

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