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Teddy Bridgewater as an NFL Quarterback
Minnesota Vikings 2014
From first overall to the end of the first round
Throughout the 2013 college football season, Teddy Bridgewater was a favorite for the Heisman trophy and many expected him to eventually be the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. When Louisville lost to University of Central Florida, Bridgewater's Heisman hopes and Louisville's national title hopes were lost. Bridgewater still put together an outstanding season, but questions about his size and arm strength started to pop up after the loss to Central Florida. While these questions may not be fair, they did play a role in Bridgewater's fall from the top of the first round to the very last pick. The draft status of this quarterback does not control his professional career going forward though, so a closer look at Bridgewater's skill-set will give a better idea of how his NFL career will unfold.
Pocket passing skills
Even though Teddy Bridgewater is a mobile quarterback, he prefers to style his game after the typical NFL pocket passer that has been so successful over the years. Bridgewater's ability to read a defense and stand tall in the pocket, was put on display last year when he was able to complete 53.5 percent of his passes when under duress. When the opposition blitzed him, he was able to make quick reads and get the ball to his receivers at an efficient rate of over 70 percent if the defense sent five or more on the rush. By throwing only 4 interceptions in 13 games played, Bridgewater proved that he is a very capable decision maker as a pocket passer. As a pocket passer in 2013, Bridgewater was able to pass for nearly 4,000 yards to go along with 31 touchdown passes. While there is some doubt about the level of competition that Louisville faced last season, against the best competition that he faced, Bridgewater completed 29 out of 38 passes for 341 yards to go along with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. Nothing about Bridgewater's college numbers would suggest a red flag for him at the next level.
At six feet and two inches tall, Bridgewater is not as tall as most teams want their prototypical franchise quarterback to be. Weighing only about 200 pounds also is a possible limitation because it means he does not have a very solid frame that can take the pounding of NFL football. One more possible limitation for Bridgewater would be that he does not have the strongest arm out of the quarterbacks in this draft class. On deep throws the ball tends to wobble on him and does not have the finishing velocity to be on time downfield. While all of these limitations are causes for concern, they are not reasons to believe that Bridgewater will not succeed. Offenses can be designed to avoid having the quarterback make throws 60 yards downfield, and Bridgewater is fully capable of driving throws up the field to the sidelines. His size is somewhat of a concern, but playing the most protected position on the field is going to help him to stay healthy. Having a strong running game and making the right reads to get the ball out in a timely fashion, will help Bridgewater to avoid taking unnecessary hits throughout his career. With all of his limitations considered, Teddy Bridgewater remains a very good quarterback prospect who has chance to blossom into a well above average NFL quarterback.
Recently retired quarterback Jeff Garcia is probably the player with the game most similar to the way Bridgewater plays the quarterback position. As a similar sized player, Garcia showed mobility and accuracy as a pocket passer who could read a defense very well, but had limited arm strength on downfield throws. Garcia was able to carve out a pretty good career for himself with four pro bowl appearances, despite having to start his career in the CFL. Russell Wilson is also another comparable quarterback to Bridgewater, because of his size and overall strong football IQ. There is no guarantee that Bridgewater will have the success of either one of these quarterbacks, but his talent that warranted a first round selection, has been recognizable for quite some time. Despite the limitations, the Vikings selected a very good player.
Ultimately it will be Bridgewater's accuracy and efficiency that makes him a successful quarterback in the NFL. By hitting key throws, he will open up things for the Vikings strong running game, which in turn will help him to have even more success on play-action. Bridgewater's fall from the potential first overall pick to the bottom of the first round, is no reason for concern and is just a reflection on the quality of quarterback play in the NFL recently. With very few teams needing quarterbacks, only three quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. Teddy Bridgewater's decision making will be what defines his career, and he has a chance to carve out a very solid career as the franchise quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.