Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles will forgo his senior season with the Knights and enter his name in the upcoming 2014 NFL draft, the player confirmed on Monday.
Bortles: I have decided to pursue my dream of playing in the NFL I'd like to thank UCF and couldn't be more proud to say I played at UCF.— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) January 6, 2014
Orlando Sentinel was the first to have the news:
UCF quarterback Blake Bortles will declare for the NFL draft, a source with direct knowledge told the Sentinel on Sunday.
The redshirt junior will forgo his final year of eligibility with the Knights and turn pro. An official announcement is expected on Monday morning.
The news comes on the heels of his impressive performance in Central Florida's upset win over Baylor at the Fiesta Bowl. The junior signal-caller started slow with two interceptions, but bounced back in a big way to finish with 394 total yards and four total touchdowns in the Knights' 52-42 victory.
At 6'4" and 230 pounds, Bortles is projected to be one of the first quarterbacks off the board in May's draft, per Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio:
While it’s unlikely that he’ll be regarded as good enough to acquire with the first overall pick, the Texans could choose to trade down with a team like the Falcons at No. 6, which may decide to make a play for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Of course, Bortles then would have to slide past the Jaguars at No. 3, the Browns at No. 4, and the Raiders at No. 5 before [Bill] O’Brien could put Bortles’ name on a draft card. Big performances on the biggest stages in college football tend to boost a quarterback’s draft stock, giving scouts comfort that a guy won’t gack under pressure.
In addition to his prototypical size and frame, the Oviedo, Fla., native possesses tremendous athleticism rarely seen at the quarterback position. Keep in mind that he rushed for 15 touchdowns during his three seasons at Central Florida.
Though he was recruited by several schools as a tight end coming out of high school, Knights head coach George O'Leary recognized Bortles' athleticism and was one of few willing to give him a shot under center, per Zach Buchanan, writing for the Miami Herald:
If he didn’t play quarterback, he’d be a heck of a tight end. That’s what I looked at. When you look at quarterbacks, I look at them as can they play another position? I think the day of just strictly the dropback quarterback is over. I think the pass rush, the pressures they put on athletes today, you got to be able to avoid a rush and make a play, take a bad play, make a good play out of it.
Will Blake Bortles be a top-10 draft pick in 2014?
Bortles redshirted in 2010 and played sparingly as a freshman in 2011, but he caught the attention of NFL scouts as a sophomore in 2012, when he threw for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushed for eight more scores.
However, his stellar play on the big stage in 2013—including his final act in Glendale, Ariz.—has to be even more encouraging for talent evaluators. Bortles' response after tossing his second interception in the first half of the Fiesta Bowl was near-flawless. He never blinked en route to leading his underdog squad to the biggest win in program history.
With the scouting combine and other workouts on the horizon, Bortles will have several more opportunities to impress scouts and boost his draft stock ahead of May 8.
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