How Teddy Bridgewater Could Impact the 2013 NFL Draft

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2013

Jan 02, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) looks to pass the ball against the Florida Gators during the second half of the Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Louisville defeated Florida 33-23. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
USA Today Sports

Prior to the start of the Sugar Bowl, I tweeted about the importance of the game for Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. As one of the top prospects eligible for the 2014 draft, Bridgewater had the opportunity to build some momentum heading into his junior year. Little did I know just how quickly he would surge to the top of everyone's big board. 

Prior to his breakout performance in the Sugar Bowl, Bridgewater was already a consensus future top-10 prospect. In fact, Charlie Campbell of Walter Football recently placed Bridgewater as the second-overall selection in his 2014 mock draft

But much of the hype surrounding Bridgewater was based on projections. He had yet to be tested against elite competition and everything he had accomplished against Big East defenses had to be taken with a grain of salt. As a result, a down performance against Florida would have dealt a devastating blow to his draft stock. This was potentially his one and only shot at proving his worth against an elite defense. 

What Bridgewater demonstrated against the Gators was his poise under pressure. He took control of the game early and never panicked despite consistent pressure from the Florida defensive front seven. 

Bridgewater also showed that he is a true pocket passer. He did a phenomenal job using his mobility to buy time but always kept his eyes down the field. He concluded the game with just two rushing attempts, despite being forced out of the pocket on multiple occasions.  

Despite Bridgewater's impressive performance, and the fact that the Chiefs would almost certainly make him the number-one pick in this year's NFL draft, he is only a true sophomore and ineligible to jump to the pros. So how will he play a role in the 2013 draft?

At least four teams (Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills) need immediate help at quarterback and two others (Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets) should at least entertain the possibility of drafting a signal caller in the first round this year. Unfortunately, not a single quarterback in this year's class stands out as a clear-cut first round prospect. West Virginia's Geno Smith, USC's Matt Barkley, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, North Carolina State's Mike Glennon and Syracuse's Ryan Nassib have all been tossed around a potential targets, but all five have significant flaws and none will receive consensus first-round grades. 

On the other hand, Bridgewater already looks like a top-10 lock. Which---in theory---could cause a team with little hope of competing in 2013 to not elect to fill a need this year in hopes of having a shot at Bridgewater in 2013. 

If a team were to consider this strategy, the front office personnel would need to feel as though their jobs were secure. This would certainly apply to the Cardinals and Jets, both of which will select new general managers this offseason. 

Since the Cardinals and Jets also hold picks in the latter half of the top 10---meaning they will likely miss out on at least one of the top quarterbacks---this could further influence their decision to wait for Bridgewater. If the decision comes down to reaching for a guy like Glennon or waiting for potential opportunity to land Bridgewater, it should be an easy choice.