The Jacksonville Jaguars created a stir in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by selecting Orlando area product Blake Bortles with the third overall pick. Many anticipated the Jags would jump on Johnny Manziel or Khalil Mack with their pick, with Johnny Football being an electrifying crowd pleaser and the high-motor Mack meeting a defensive need. Instead, the team went with the University of Central Florida senior with a strong arm and prototype quarterback size. The move could also generate some Orlando area excitement for the Jacksonville team.
Florida football fans exerted heavy pressure on the Jaguars to pick up Tim Tebow when he was available during his NFL career, which appears to be over at this point. The Jaguars languished on the field and at the box office. Giving Tebow a shot seemed to be a no-brainer for the fan starved team. By picking Bortles, the Jags may pick up some fans from the Orlando area. With three NFL teams in Florida, Orlando fans have tended to follow the Miami Dolphins or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers instead of the Jaguars. The driving time to Tampa and Jacksonville are roughly equivalent when leaving Orlando, so the Bortles pick may induce more fans to proceed north instead of west when choosing to catch a live action NFL game.
Bortles possesses great size for a quarterback, standing six feet five inches tall and weighing approximately 230 pounds. He moves well, although not known as a scrambler like Manziel. He shows very good arm strength, but not off the charts. He thrives in close games. UCF made comeback victories after being behind six times in the 2013 season with Bortles leading the attack. Bortles arrives to high-profile attention somewhat late in the game. He was lightly recruited out of high school and generated little NFL Draft buzz prior to his senior season. Given UCF’s Fiesta Bowl shellacking of Baylor and final AP ranking at 10, Bortles became a hot commodity in NFL circles. While many expected him to be drafted in the first round, a third overall draft slot selection for Orlando product Blake Bortles is viewed by some as a reach by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Bortles’ college coach, George O’Leary, surprised many when he said in March he did not see his player being a franchise QB. Although the statement itself was surprising, the explanation offered by O’Leary made sense. He said that true franchise quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck come out of college once a decade and most guys require a learning curve to adapt to the speed of the NFL game. The statement was not a denigration of Bortles’ ability, instead it reflected O’Leary’s belief that adapting to the challenges at the pro level take some time for most quarterbacks. Many believe that Bortles will need to learn more regarding read progressions as he develops into an NFL quarterback. Some time spent watching Chad Henne in the pocket may be beneficial to his overall development.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are taking a chance by selecting Orlando product Black Bortles with the third pick of the first round. He possesses the size and intangibles for a successful NFL career. By working his way up the depth chart at UCF, Bortles showed his determination to succeed at the college level. The Jags and many in the Orlando area are rooting for him to succeed in the professional ranks. The Jaguars hope some of Bortles’ fans even come to the games.
Commentary by William Costolo