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2014 NFL Draft: Greg Cosell Questions Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater; Favors Blake Bortles

Noted draft pundit and film guru Greg Cosell has gone on record with his opinions for the three biggest quarterback prospects of 2014. Johnny Manziel fans may want to avert their eyes.

Joe Robbins

Greg Cosell, one of the most respected player evaluators in the football media world, took some time to go on the Ross Tucker football podcast and give his thoughts on Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Johnny Manziel. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Cosell said he had some questions about every quarterback in this year’s crop. However, If give an option to pick one of the "Big Three," Cosell is leaning towards the ever-expanding Blake Bortles camp.

I think at this point in time, and I’ll do more work because there is still two and a half months, I think the player that I would probably say with all the factors involved that can be a good NFL quarterback is Blake Bortles. You start with the size. Size is an attribute. I think at the combine he was over 6’4" and over 230. He certainly has things he has to work on - lower body mechanics, he has footwork and balance issues in the pocket - and now I’m talking about film study. All these guys work with college coaches after the season ends to work on their flaws. I think he has a good arm, not a great arm, but I think it’s probably stronger than you see on film because I think it can become stronger if he can correct those flawed lower body mechanics because again he’s a great example. He doesn’t really drive the ball because of that.

I think he does give you some read option elements if that’s something you’re interested in. He’s a big kid. There were examples when I watched him on tape where he was able to maintain his down field focus and throw the ball. Those were important things as you project him to the NFL. I would say that he is more of a finesse thrower than a true power thrower at this point but I think there is a lot to work with in Bortles. Ultimately I think he’s a pocket passer who can execute boot action, he can extend plays, and he can run effectively if that’s what you want to do. I think he’s someone I would want to look to that given time he can become a quality NFL starter.

Cosell then went on to reinforce the overwhelming narrative surrounding Teddy Bridgewater as a smart, accurate, nearly complete quarterback whose slender frame scares the hell out of front offices.

I like Bridgewater, okay. And with Bridgewater I think you can easily make the point watching him on film, and I think this is very valid, that there is a great rhythm and tempo to his movement and overall play. He’s a composed, comfortable kid. I think he does understand a lot of the subtleties of the position – how to manipulate safeties, how to move coverage. I think that his experience in a true pro-style offense has helped him tremendously. They asked him to do a lot at the line of scrimmage. He knows how to read fronts, he knows how to read coverage before the snap. I think he’s got the instincts of a pocket player.

The only problem you face with him, and again I know everybody is going to mention Russell Wilson but he had a top three run game and the best defense in the league so we have to leave that aside for the moment. The issue with Bridgewater is that he’s very slight. He’s not a big body. He’s good arm, not a great arm. Theoretically he can make every throw, but making every throw when you have clean pockets is different than making every throw when you don’t. He doesn’t really drive the ball, Bridgewater - he’s a bit of a short-armer. Now I like Teddy Bridgewater, but he bulked up two fourteen for the combine. I’ve spoken to people that said late in the year at Louisville he weighed one eighty eight so he probably bulked up just for the combine so the number would be good. That’s something you have to think about. He’s not a big kid. He’s a slight kid.

To a certain extent his [completion percentage is real] because of the nature of his offense. He’s not throwing a lot of bubble screens, he’s not making a lot of easy throws. He’s running an NFL offense. He’s got quick and light feet, he’s accurate. I like Teddy Bridgewater. I think at the end of the day it comes down to where he goes, and what team. He’s not a big, physical specimen. He’s not Andrew Luck in that sense that can put a team on his back which is essentially what Luck has done behind what is not a great O-line and a very up and down defense in Indianapolis in the last two years. He’s not at that level of physical talent, but I think for the most part he has many of those attributes and traits that you look for. The question is how much does he need around him to be an effective player.

Tucker then asked if the only difference between Bridgewater and Bortles was size.

Well [Bortles] is a bigger kid so physically he is a better talent, now again many people have different opinions on what is needed in the NFL. I think many people would say accuracy, ball placement, and decision making are key traits, and Bridgewater has that. But I guess it’s hard for me, and I guess others will have different points of view, if he’s ultimately going to be a guy who is maybe one ninety, one ninety five, I think that is small. Just because Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl, I think we have to be careful with having size and height as unimportant. I don’t think we can say that, Ross. Seattle is a unique team because of how good they are in all areas.

To close out the show, Cosell made his opinion known on Johnny Lightning Rod Football.

He’s a great example of how you try to project a transition from college to the NFL. I try to think of it this way – what do you hang your hat on when you think of Johnny Manziel? Watch him play, what stands out? Let’s say you’re watching TV, Ross. What stands out about Johnny Manziel? Making plays outside of structure, correct? So the question becomes for NFL people you’re the offensive coordinator, you’re the quarterbacks coach. You spend all week breaking down the opposing defense. You spend all week putting together your game plan. Isn’t that what they do? If your quarterback goes out and does not execute that and steps outside of structure when he does not need to, and that’s the critical point because that’s what you see when you watch Johnny Manziel on tape is how many balls he does not throw to open receivers. In fact I would make a reel of those and show him those if I was a team and have him explain the plays to me. But when you don’t do that and then you step outside of structure when you don’t need to, if that’s the basis for why you believe he’ll be a great NFL quarterback, based on my experience I would struggle with that as a reason for someone being a great NFL quarterback. I think it’s very hard in the NFL to live on the edge when you don’t need to live on the edge. If you live on the edge too often you will fall of the cliff, and that’s my view in the NFL.

I think there’s a balance between this idea that you have to be mobile to play in the NFL which has some validity with defenses and the pressure concepts. I think we all understand that. No one is saying that movement is negative in the player, but it’s when do you move and how do you move. I think Russell Wilson is a great example of someone whose movement is almost structured and that might sound contradictory, but I think when it’s third and six if Russell Wilson sees he can run for eight yards and get a first down, he just runs for eight yards and gets out of bounds. There’s a purpose to his movement. Now I’m interpreting Johnny Manziel on film, but quite frankly when he moves I see a guy who moves and then tries to figure it out and I’m not sure that it works in the NFL.

The pendulum has been swinging all over the place between these three quarterbacks since the final weeks of the regular season. Bridgewater had been the dominant name at the top of draft boards for nearly a year and a half. Then Bortles came out of nowhere to become the top dog, followed by the pre-combine Manziel hype train hitting critical mass. Two notable network analysts have come out in the last week and doubted Manziel’s NFL transition ability (as well as yours truly), and the public momentum seems to be swinging back to Bortles. Whether Bridgewater gets another turn behind the wheel is anyone’s guess, but his weigh-in at Louisville’s March 17th pro day might just be the most highly anticipated number in Battle Red Blog history.