The top of next year’s NFL Draft is jam-packed with quarterback-needy teams. With news of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater considering a return to college, a once deep pool of draft-bound signal callers could now be considered an uncertainty.
Bridgewater, arguably the top-rated quarterback in next year’s draft, has thrown for 3523 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Aside from his statistical excellence, Bridgewater has the rocket-arm and running ability that scouts at the professional level drool over.
If Bridgewater decides to keep his NFL future on hold for another season, teams will be forced to take a chance on a second-tier quarterback early on in the first round—a decision that could not only cost a team financially, but hamper a team’s development in the long run.
One player that could benefit from Bridgewater returning to Louisville is Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. With the NFL trending towards pass-first spread offenses, teams need a quarterback who can escape the pocket and make plays on the run—Manziel fits the bill.
A gunslinger by nature, Manziel’s decision making on the field is questionable to say the least. However, this same mentality and his urge to take chances, is why he’s one of the top playmakers in the college ranks. Manziel has thrown for 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his redshirt sophomore season.
While still an underclassman, Manziel seems ready to test his skills at the highest level.
In an interview with Jimmy Burch of the Star Telegram, Manziel said that he feels ready to make the jump to the NFL.
If Bridgewater stays in school, what quarterback will be taken first?
“In my mind, I think I am,” Manziel said about being ready for the Draft. “I feel like I’m playing, for the most part, at a really high level of football.”
Another underclassmen turning heads is Central Florida’s Blake Bortles. As of late, Bortles has been rising up the draft boards. According to Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel, Sports Illustraded senior writer Peter King said on NBC's Football Night in America that he's spoken to a team that lists Bortles as the top quarterback on their draft board.
Still, neither Bortles or Manziel appear to have an edge over Bridgewater if he decides to enter the draft. Bridgewater has been mentioned, throughout the year, as a potential top-pick candidate. The current holders of that selection, the Houston Texans, are a talented team with a question mark at the quarterback spot.
Bridgewater's eminent decision could play a factor in the Texans' and general manager Rick Smith's decision if the current draft order holds true.
I considered Teddy Bridgewater a slam dunk to enter this year's class, but people close to him tell me it's not a sure thing right now.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 16, 2013
Through the duration of their current 12 game losing streak, Houston has seen former starter Matt Schaub relegated to backup duty and former undrafted free-agent Case Keenum take over. While Keenum has flashed potential, he's not the long-term answer at quarterback. With a new regime taking over next season, the incoming head coach might look to the draft to find a new quarterback.
With the insertion of an offensive minded head coach, Houston could be a young quarterback's paradise.
A quality running game is a young quarterback's best friend, and the combo of Ben Tate and Arian Foster provide just that. The receiving duo of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins doesn't hurt either.
When Bridgewater decides on his future, NFL teams will be all ears—especially the Houston Texans.