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2014 NFL Draft: Armchair Scouting Blake Bortles

The last part in Matt Weston's bowl scouting series looks at Blake Bortles, the UCF quarterback prospect rising up everyone's draft boards.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

After stuffing myself full of beans (not black eyed peas because my family is a bunch of fascists), spanish rice and fajitas, I am about to watch my last college bowl game of the day. During this one, my amber eyes will be focused on the Blake Bortles supernova. Bortles is this year's edition of a player that comes out of nowhere and explodes his way up the "experts'" draft boards. Like Teddy Bridgewater, it is a damn shame we don't get to see him play against a top defense. In this showcase, he will be playing the all offense/what the hell is defense Baylor Bears. However, we will get to see him play in a quick, close, fast-paced game with the possibility of a wild one since the Fiesta Bowl is madhouse every year. Out of all the bowl games, this one out in the desert is always the most thrilling of the over-hyped grotesque college football affairs. It better be worth it since I am staying up until the rats come out tonight to watch this one.

1st Qtr

14:45 (7:52): First play is a zone read where Blake Bortles hands off to Storm Johnson. UCF trusts that Bortles has enough speed and durability to run the read option.

14:17 (7:53): Read option again and Bortles picks up 29 yards. He does not look particularly fast, but he has great vision when carrying the football. It is also worth mentioning that the play was blocked extremely well.

12:39 (7:55): Bortles keeps it again on the zone read and picks up the first down. On this play, he beats the OLB to the edge, turns the corner and is tackled over the marker. The first thing I have picked up on when watching him play is that Bortles is enormous. He stands out on the field and looks every bit of the 6'4", 230 lbs. he is listed at.

11:31: Touchdown, UCF. Bortles threw one pass on that drive and it was blown dead thanks to a Baylor defensive penalty. As of right now, I know nothing, other than UCF runs the read option a lot and Bortles is durable and fast enough to pull it off.

10:13 (8:03): UCF runs a play-action off the zone read they crushed Baylor with on their first drive and Bortles delivers a graceful throw down the sideline to Perriman on the wheel route. That was an impressive first throw.

Then Central Florida runs the ball four times in a row for a score. 14-0 UCF.

5:36 (8:21): Only running the zone read.

5:00 (8:22): Baylor finally was able to get some pressure on Bortles. He stood tall in the pocket and delivered an underthrown pass off his back foot into the flat.

4:55 (8:22): More pressure again. Bortles gets chased out of the pocket, rolls to his right and from his own end zone throws a pass too high for his running back to come down with. It seems like he does have instincts in the pocket and knows when to run and when to throw to his hot route.

3:13 (8:31): Best run yet. Cuts inside, jukes the outside linebacker and shows patience running the ball. He waits for his blockers before he accelerates, and shows instincts running the football that you rarely see in a quarterback.

1:24 (8:33): Almost another interception on a screen pass where the ball bounces off a defender's foot into the air. I would have lost my damn mind if it happened twice in the same day.

2nd Qtr

10:24 (8:52): Bortles throws a drag into the middle of the field with great arm strength and accuracy. I like his feet, how he steps into the throw, and how tall he stands in the pocket.

9:54 (8:53): Picked off on a deep pass into the middle of the field. I love his form on deep throws: 1-2-3-4-5, steps up into the pocket and delivers a pass that was a little overthrown. It was a better play by the corner than a poor throw on Bortles' part.

8:31 (9:01): Screen pass where the ball was tipped by the defensive lineman right in front of his face. This is hindsight, but it was a terrible decision. Most quarterbacks will throw the ball out of bounds or at the feet of the running back rather than force a short pass with no angle to the receiver and a defender staring into his soul. Bortles does seem a little slow-footed in the pocket and looks like he is moving underwater at times. He does not have the quickness to get away from pressure like that even though he has shown great straight line speed.

7:12 (9:11): Pass out to he sideline for four yards. His throws to the sideline do float some, but I like his anticipation.

5:28 (9:13): Pretty deep ball, but the pass was incomplete because of pass interference. From what I have seen so far, Teddy Bridgewater is better than Blake Bortles in every aspect of quarterback play except for deep passes.

5:16 (9:15): Simple screen to the wide receiver, Baylor misses multiple tackles and UCF races into the end zone for a 50 yard touchdown. Like Bridgewater against Miami, Bortles' numbers will be inflated thanks to screen passes like these.

2:27 (9:25): Hits as he throws to the sideline and still completes the pass. He does stand strong in the pocket and is tough to take down.

Now we get to see what a Bortles two minute drill looks like.

1:45 (9:27): Good quick passer. He is a quick decision maker and consistently steps back, plants and throws. There are no wasted steps and he does not stand around looking for someone to throw to when he is in the pocket. UCF will score at least a field goal on this drive since Baylor is letting Bortles have the checkdown.

:53 (9:32): Bortles throws a touchdown on another screen pass. He runs a good two minute/no-huddle because he quickly gets everyone to the line and is decisive. There is no wasted time about whether to spike, call a time out, run a play, etc.

3rd Qtr

13:37 (10:06): Blake knows he is bigger and stronger than everyone else on the field. As a result, he refuses to slide whenever he keeps the ball on zone read plays.

13:02 & 12:58 (10:07): Two overthrows and he is dealing with zero pass rush.

8:33 (10:22): Dinking and dunking all over the place with quick throws. I like his anticipation, footwork and quick decision making, but this is a gimmick offense. UCF utilizes a single run play (the read option), throws screens all over the field or quick 4-7 yard passes, only works out of the shotgun and takes chances when the safeties creep up. It is a beautiful high school/college offense, but there's no doubt Bortles will take some time to learn how to play in a real offense once he gets drafted. It's so simple that after watching one half and some change, I think I could come out and run it. No, that is not a hyperbole.

7:43 (10:26): Almost falls, somehow keeps his knee from touching the ground, steps up in the pocket and delivers another miraculous deep ball that hits the receiver in stride for a 38 yard gain.

5:44 (10:28): Bortles rolls to his right (hasn't rolled to the left once this game), squares up, and makes a superb throw to the corner of the end zone. It was delivered right at the edge where the defender couldn't make a play and where the receiver could get two feet in bounds. It was a perfect throw. If he threw it a foot farther to the right, his receiver probably couldn't plant two feet in bounds (Yes, I know in college you only need one foot). If it was a foot farther to the left, the defensive back could have made a play on the ball.

3:25 (10:41): Every run is a zone read. I don't think there has been one run that differed.

2:10 (10:43): Boot to the left. The ball does come out more awkwardly, as expected, than when he rolls to the right.

1:45 (10:44): His second bad decision. He took a chance deep into double coverage and was lucky that he was bailed out thanks to a penalty. I don't think he has instinct when to take shots deep. It seems more like they are forced chances due to the play-calling.

4th Qtr

15:00 (10:51): There's some serious straight line speed; I rarely care about things like this, but it will be interesting to see his 40 time when "Let's all watch grown men run around in spandex" season arrives. Bortles is not quick by any means, but he is a patient runner with great vision and straight line speed.

13: 45 (10:52): Great decision by him to cut to the sideline for the score. Another example of his vision when he carries the football. He is like Bridgewater in the fact that he does not scramble to be successful; he plays in the pocket and can make plays on the move if he needs to.

11:10 (11:06): Finally he throws a strong intermediate pass down the middle of the field. As I mentioned earlier, everything has been zone read, screens, quick game with some deep passes mixed in like floating particles in a Gatorade someone back-washed in. I had been waiting for an intermediate throw like this. It was excellent since he had a defender in his face, hit his receiver in stride and showed off some arm strength.

(11:06): If Baylor does not score on this drive, this game is over.

8:55 (11:16): GAME OVER. Get ready to see the zone read some more.

7:33 (11:18): I was also waiting for some type of creativity/wow play and here is the first example. Bortles deals with pressure from the outside and steps up into pocket, but there is interior pressure. As a result he breaks a tackle, moves to the outside, and hits his receiver in the the flat. I have heard some Ben Roethlisberger comparisons, but I did not see an example of this groupthink until this play.

UCF kicks a FG to make it a three possession game. I pack up my spiral, say goodbye to my friend and leave the 18 year old breeding ground known as the hookah cafe.

Hmmmmmmmmm..... where to begin? I'll start with the positives. Blake Bortles is the elephant in the room. He stands out amongst everyone else on the field. He is a big, strong guy and is a force in the pocket. Throughout the game, he did not deal with much pressure. When he did, it did not phase him; Bortles would stand in the pocket and deliver while also showing instinct when it came to leaving the pocket and when to step up and throw. Blake has a big arm even if he only showed it in spurts tonight. His deep balls are wondrous and he is better than Bridgewater in this regard. Bortles does have the arm strength to make every throw. When he runs, he is durable enough to take a tackle and fall forward for a few extra yards rather than sliding. Additionally, he shows great vision and straight line speed.

The negatives? Bortles plays in a gimmicky offense (if someone tells you he plays in a pro style offense, shake your head, laugh and walk away) that could be masking his flaws. This offense does make it hard to get a correct read on him. He ran the same plays over AND over AND over AND over again: zone read, screen, quick passes (slants, curls, etc.), and the occasional deep pass. Whoever drafts him will have to get him caught up to speed and teach him how to run a real offense. When he is in the pocket and has to move from pressure, he is heavy-footed. I don't know if he has any real quarterback instincts outside of when to run or stay in the pocket, because everything seems forced in this offense. Additionally, Bortles needs to work on his accuracy and placing the ball in better spots for his receivers.

To me, he is a lab experiment where two mad scientists put Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger's genes in a test tube and let them duke it out. He has the size of Big Ben, but his play more resembles Wacco Flacco. Both are big strong guys who can move in the pocket and let their ability to throw the ball deep mask their inaccuracy. He is worth a first round pick, but it would be hard to justify taking him in the top five.