There will be a specter coming to the NFL in 2014 and—get this—it's not Jadeveon Clowney. It's Teddy Bridgewater.
All we've heard about the last two years is how good Clowney is, but Louisville's Bridgewater is a better 2014 draft prospect right now. He not only plays a more important position, but he also is equally talented as Clowney. That may be hard to believe but it's true.
The soon-to-be junior quarterback has absurd arm talent and all the traits scouts look for when studying the position. He's 6'3", 218 pounds and can sling the football all over the field. He can throw it with accuracy and velocity whether under pressure or not. He also places touch on passes when needed and can escape pressure with his feet when necessary.
In today's NFL, what else does one need in a quarterback?
For a potential No. 1 overall selection, not much. Bridgewater has it all and with another big season at Louisville, he could be poised to be the top player taken in next year's draft.
He showed his various skills throughout last season, such as against Florida. In the bowl game against Florida, he made several plays that were mighty impressive, including a first-down scramble on 3rd-and-10.
Standing five yards behind the line of scrimmage in pistol formation, Bridgewater caught the snap, took a quick three-step drop and immediately faced pressure. It came from the interior following a stunt by the defensive end and tackle to his left.
The pressure forced him to climb the pocket and while he did, he kept his eyes up the entire time. That indicated that he was looking for options to throw to despite being under duress. It's a sign of maturity for only a sophomore passer. To top it off, he slid after the marker for the first down to protect his body. How many times have you seen a young quarterback fail to slide and face unnecessary punishment for it?
Not Bridgewater (1:18 mark).
It's what one looks for in a signal-caller but that's not all he can do. In the same game, he was forced to once again climb the pocket after lining up in a pistol set, but this time he faced edge pressure.
When he dropped back, the defensive end to his right applied pressure on the edge and forced Bridgewater to step up. At that time, Bridgewater moved forward and once again kept his eyes up for targets to throw to. Once a receiver finally got open, Bridgewater set his feet to balance himself and threw a strike in the middle of the field for a first down on third down (2:55 mark).
Those are the downs that quarterbacks are made of, and the one down that they'll have to consistently make big throws on in the pros if they plan on becoming an upper-echelon passer.
In Week 9 against Cincinnati, he came from under center at the snap and executed a play-action fake to the running back. Upon the fake, he turned slid in the pocket while securing the ball with both hands and lofted a beautiful pass to his slot receiver running a crossing route. This touch is reminiscent of Robert Griffin III's, both while he was at Baylor and now with the Washington Redskins (:30 mark).
Last but not least, his sideline throw against Rutgers illustrated absurd accuracy that is hard to match.
It's the second-to-last game of the season. The third quarter is winding down and Louisville is down by four points. They are in the red zone and it's 1st-and-10.
Their star quarterback is in pistol set, lined up more than five yards behind the ball and the running back is another two yards behind him. When the play begins, Bridgewater shuffles his feet as he looks to his right and then quickly shifts his focus to his left. It's where his perimeter receiver is running a double move and Bridgewater targets him as the play unfolds.
The issue, however, is that the receiver takes a bit too long to develop his route. He's jammed and slowed down before he can continue running down the sideline. That leaves Bridgewater hanging in the pocket as pressure comes in.
Calm and collected, Bridgewater takes a few subtle steps to his left and away from the pressure before launching a high-arching pass over the cornerback. It lands in the perfect position: High and in front of the receiver. The referee raises his hands to signal touchdown. Louisville leads.
Bridgewater is only a junior, and there's no certainty he declares for the draft next year. He will have another year of eligibility remaining and it's entirely possible he takes advantage of it. Louisville is a strong and improving program under head coach Charlie Strong, who likely doesn't mind having Bridgewater at quarterback.
If Bridgewater does declare for the draft, he is likely to be the top quarterback selected and potentially the top overall player.
He has all the tools scouts look for in a quarterback. He has accuracy, velocity, pocket presence, mobility and touch. And he plays the most important position in football, which alone will draw the most attention to quarterback-hungry teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, who could very well have the top pick next year.
If he was in the 2013 draft, he would have been the top player taken because of positional importance and talent. In 2014, the same could be expected, provided he continues to develop and plays well for another season.