For a long time, Teddy Bridgewater was considered to be the clear-cut No. 1 quarterback in this year's draft class, but his status as the country's best has faded, and it's unclear where he'll end up. While simple logic says that he should go first overall to the passer-needy Houston Texans, reports indicate he's not at the top of their list.
It is, in fact, the polarizing Johnny Manziel and recently-popularized Blake Bortles who lead the pack in Houston's mind. With the combine just days away, every aspect of Bridgewater's ability will be on display, and that could be what changes the Texans' preference.
Frankly, things could not be working out any better for him. Questions still surround Manziel, particularly his maturity and throwing ability, and Bortles doesn't have quite the tape that Bridgewater has. The combine will be the perfect opportunity for him to show teams that he is the total package at the quarterback position.
Of the three, Manziel is clearly the most gifted athlete; no other passer is as slippery or inventive in the pocket. He will undoubtedly run a fast 40 time, but the Texans shouldn't necessarily hold him in a higher regard than another quarterback just because he can run faster.
Even so, it's not like good ol' Teddy can't do a bit of running himself. For a quarterback, Bridgewater possesses great speed and athleticism, and that will show in his 40-yard dash. He doesn't need to have a blazing time—and he won't—but as long as he runs around a 4.7 he should remain in good stead with scouts. His size also makes him a more durable, bruising runner than Manziel.
Manziel said last week that he would not be throwing at the combine or his pro day, leaving the door wide open for Bridgewater to steal the show and Houston's attention. His best chance to flex his football muscle will be in the passing drills when he is side-by-side with Bortles and the rest of the year's crop of quarterbacks.
Now, Bridgewater may not have the strongest arm of the class, but he might have the smartest. That's not to say that Bridgewater doesn't have plenty of arm strength, but he often leads his receivers with the ball instead of just throwing it up and letting them catch it. He puts plenty of touch on the ball and places it where only his receiver can get it.
Bridgewater's blade-sharp accuracy will also catch the eyes of those at the combine, and could be what pushes him ahead of the competition.
The passing drills will be where Bridgewater rises above Bortles in the Houston's mind, as he lacks the mechanics Bridgewater has. Bortles has an elongated delivery, similar to the one that hindered Tim Tebow, and has issues with shifting his weight throughout his throwing motion which takes some zip off the ball at times.
Bridgewater, on the other hand, excels where Bortles lacks. His throwing motion is very sound technically and he has the strength to drive the ball outside the numbers.
At the end of the day, Bridgewater is the best, most NFL-ready quarterback in this draft, and his slide down some teams' draft boards is not an unusual phenomenon. B/R's own Shehan Peiris said it best in his recently posted article about Bridgewater:
Bridgewater entered the 2013 college season as the No. 1 QB in the class, but you know what happens when you’re the consensus No. 1 in whatever sport at whatever level? You attract a lot of attention. With that attention comes plenty of people nit-picking your game and finding a reason to knock you off that top spot. Just ask Jadeveon Clowney or Andrew Wiggins.
The 2014 NFL combine will act as a reminder to NFL teams, namely the Texans, that Bridgewater is for real and is the best available quarterback to take with their coveted first overall pick.
He doesn't have the size of Bortles or the persona of Manziel, but we just saw the 5'11" Russell Wilson help his team win the Super Bowl, and he's not the most exciting guy in press conferences. No other quarterback is as complete as Bridgewater, and that is what really matters.