Teddy Bridgewater: A 2014 NFL Draft Casualty?


Teddy Bridgewater entered the 2013 season as a prospective No. 1 draft pick. NFL writers, in September, were talking about “Tanking for Teddy.” He led the nation in completion percentage and finished top 10 in yards/attempt and passer rating. He was still a prospective No. 1 when he left the field in December, after incinerating Miami for 447 yards and four total touchdowns in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

That was football season, though. Unfortunately for Teddy Bridgewater, his NFL Draft “season” has not gone quite as well.

A snow ball began rolling at the combine. Teddy alleviated some concerns about his size, bulking up to 214 pounds. Though his hands being 1/8 of an inch shorter than Blake Bortles raised concerns about his all-weather capabilities. Bridgewater didn’t throw, as a prospective No. 1 quarterback wouldn’t.  There was also some noise about him not “commanding respect” at the podium and not “looking the part.” The infamous body language.

A month later there was his Pro Day, which didn’t go so well. Bridgewater’s throwing session was described as “average at best.” Which is worrisome in a tailored workout. Some blamed his decision to eschew wearing his throwing glove.

Another month of silly season took him out of the first round entirely, with one coach actually comparing him to Any Given Sunday’s Willie Beamen.

Bridgewater entered the 2014 calendar year as the most accomplished quarterback in the draft, the most NFL ready in terms of reads and mechanics and a really nice kid to boot. Situational passing numbers strongly favored him. Four months of not playing football later, some have him going behind Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and…Derek Carr. Teddy seems to have a red flag, even if no one is quite sure what it is. Though some analysts have stepped away from the smoke and held true to their initial assessment.

Some may argue Bridgewater’s draft cycle was mishandled. He lingered over his representation decision, passing over more established agents to hire Kennard McGuire a couple weeks before the Combine. McGuire had high profile clients, including Andre Johnson and Brandon Marshall. But he had not managed a high-profile quarterback before. Mistakes such as “body language” and “not using a glove” were correctable. Also, none of the clear media manipulation seems to be swinging in Bridgewater’s direction.

Race should not be dismissed out of hand. Cam NewtonRobert Griffin III  and Geno Smith took character shots seldom leveled at white quarterbacks in recent years. But, no one has classified Bridgewater as a “running quarterback” yet. Matt Barkley who looks like this and has huge hands, was snowballed even harder heading into last year’s draft.

It also could just be how the NFL evaluates talent. Teams rank players in a physical hierarchy from workouts. They watch tape with that freshest in their mind. Quarterbacks who “move up the board” after football season tend to be athletes like E.J. Manuel, Ryan Tannehill, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker who weren’t that great as college players.

Quarterbacks who are overlooked tend to have traits such as  “anticipation” and “awareness” but are downgraded because of arm strength, or being two inches too short or having an unsightly mole. Andy Dalton may end up having a better NFL career than 10 of the quarterbacks taken in the first round since 2009. Teddy could be falling into that latter camp.

It looks as though Bridgewater will fall down the board, to some extent. But, since it’s the NFL Draft, we’d bet there’s more than one team hoping he does and conspiring to make that happen. Brady Quinn took a similar tumble. But, then again, so did Aaron Rodgers, a laid back guy who doesn’t naturally command a room.