Though his Louisville Cardinals don't get much fanfare in the basketball-focused Big East, Teddy Bridgewater is a fantastic quarterback and could have gone No. 1 overall in this year's draft class.
A weak crop of signal-callers, lead by the up-and-down Geno Smith, is not exactly inspiring many NFL general managers to encourage their teams to pull a "Suck for Luck"-like end to the season.
Bridgewater, of prototypical height at 6'3", isn't in this year's class due to the fact that he's too young; consider though that he has more talent than any quarterback available.
On the year, this Louisville passer has thrown for 21 touchdowns and only five interceptions, along with 2,858 yards on 217-of-306 (70.9 percent) passing.
Some will argue that Bridgewater hasn't played against "good competition", but that's not his fault. He's done as well as possible against the teams he's faced, his only poor showing being in the heavy rain against Southern Mississippi, a game his team still won.
Besides, if performance against good competition is so important, A.J. McCarron should be the best quarterback in the draft class.
In terms of pro-grade attributes, Bridgewater has it all. Electing to wear a glove on his throwing hand, the quarterback still throws with rare accuracy on NFL-style routes, and he also makes a lot of calls and checks at the line, despite the fact that he's only a sophomore.
Underrated scrambling ability adds to the field general's allure, and his above-average athleticism can be seen when this Cardinal extends plays by moving around the pocket.
Another underrated component of his game is his arm strength, and UL journalist Howie Lindsey tweeted during the Cincinnati game that Bridgewater threw two balls north of 55 yards against the Bearcats.
Consider this play against Cincinnati. Here, on one down, Bridgewater sells me on his ability to be an NFL quarterback. The Louisville standout gives a very good play-action fake (a staple of many pro offenses), shuffles around the pocket (avoiding defenders and buying time) and then uncorks a 50-plus yard throw that could not have been placed more perfectly.
While many quarterbacks have been able to make that same throw in college but flame out in the NFL (JaMarcus Russell, Kyle Boller, etc.), Bridgewater is much different. The deep ball isn't his game; it's just a small piece of the puzzle. No quarterback, save for a few handcuffed by the limitations of their own offense, is as adept at taking what the defense gives him as Bridgewater is.
His accuracy on out-breaking routes in the 10-15 yard range is what really impresses me about him, considering those are usually the patterns that rookie quarterbacks have difficulty with.
Pro Football Focus' Ben Stockwell elaborates on the out route in a column from 2011, noting that the route was the most frequently thrown in the NFL, and that it requires the most skill from a quarterback to throw.
The pattern may be Bridgewater's strongest suit in terms of accuracy on a specific throw.
Bridgewater also has an interesting quirk with bubble gum, which could endear him to NFL fans. It's irrelevant, but a cool nugget nonetheless.
With underrated arm strength and scrambling ability, perfect size, rare accuracy and a very advanced football mind, this quarterback could turn around an NFL franchise as soon as 2013, if he was eligible for the draft.
Unfortunately, he's not, and a team like the Kansas City Chiefs or Jacksonville Jaguars will be stuck with Geno Smith, should either of those franchises succumb to both hype and fan pressure.
They may as well pick a defender and make a push for Bridgewater in 2013.
"Play Dead-y for Teddy"? It's certainly possible we'll be hearing that slogan next season.
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