The 2014 NFL Combine saw quarterbacks take the field for scouts in Indianapolis on Sunday, most of them leaving without a lot to hang their hats on. The elite signal-callers, such as Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr highlighted a slightly underwhelming quarterback showing. The four are all projected to be high first-rounders in the 2014 NFL Draft, but none besides Bortles truly helped his own cause with his performance at the annual combine.
Many eyes were on Texas A&M lynchpin, Johnny Manziel, the former freshman Heisman trophy winner. The electrifying “Johnny Football” had an interesting day, putting his ballyhooed athleticism on the table for scouts to see. He posted a 4.68 40-yard dash time, impressive to some but also slightly slower than many anticipated. NFL Media draft analyst, Mike Mayock, had mixed thoughts on Manziel’s day.
The athleticism Manziel showed was to be expected, but he elected not to throw at the combine, a decision that did nothing to quell any of the question marks surrounding him as a pro prospect. Manziel’s accuracy from the pocket and decision-making when he is unable to roll outside are legitimate concerns keeping him from being a surefire home run quarterback selection. Fellow top prospect, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, left even more to be desired than Manziel did. Bridgewater bypassed almost every drill at the combine, even oddly deciding at the last minute to not run a 40-yard dash.
One of the big knocks on Bridgewater has been his size, something that he has worked on since the season ended by gaining 18 pounds. Scouts were clamoring to see how he moved around with some added bulk, but the possible No. 1 overall pick only participated in broad jump and vertical leap drills. Bridgewater has been the consensus top pick for months, so he has little to prove at the combine. Regardless, it is still concerning that he skipped out on drills and mostly just came to the combine to do interviews. Many scouts would have liked to see how he dealt with the added size, but he, too, will be waiting for his pro day to attempt to silence any critics he may have.
The beneficiary of Bridgewater and Manziel sticking to the sidelines was Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. He was the lone elite prospect to show off his arm in front of scouts, and he did not disappoint. Bortles displayed a powerful frame, and an ability to drive through the ball down the field. His 4.93 40-yard dash time did come in a bit slower than expected for the 6’5″ 232-pounder.
NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst, Dane Brugler, spent the day at Lucas Oil Stadium witnessing the combine, and came away impressed with Bortles. “Bortles’ accuracy and footwork on his three-step drops were excellent, showing very good rhythm, timing and precision to rip it with very good placement,” he said.
On a day at the NFL Combine, where quarterbacks are supposed to wow the audience, there was a smattering of uncertainty in the air. Bortles’ was the lone prospect to stake his claim, firmly entrenching himself in the conversation as the possible No. 1 overall pick to the Houston Texans. The combine is not the end with pro days coming in the near future, but round one most definitely went to Bortles. The UCF product has placed a much bigger onus on Bridgewater and Manziel.
Editorial by Justin Hussong