Long rumored to be the unanimous first overall selection in the 2014 NFL draft, former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has seen his draft stock lose some momentum recently. For the Cleveland Browns, this is fantastic news.
Since returning to the NFL in 1999 after a three-year absence, the Browns have had a total of 20 different starting quarterbacks, the most of any team in the league. Owners of the No. 4 overall pick this year, they have an opportunity to reverse that trend by selecting Bridgewater.
Considering their quarterback position has been a revolving door for the last decade-and-a-half, the Browns would be wise to avoid falling in love with Derek Carr's arm or Johnny Manziel's legs. Rather than focusing on physical tools, Cleveland needs to be looking at the mental presence and NFL readiness of these prospects. The Browns need consistency, not excitement.
Unsurprisingly, new general manager Ray Farmer agrees. During an interview at the Senior Bowl with Browns Radio Network's Dustin Fox, Farmer described what he's looking for in a QB:
The No. 1 and most critical variable is the ability to make decisions. How quickly he can decipher what’s going on, what’s happening, what’s the defense doing, where is the rush coming form. How much information can you process in two and a half seconds...And it’s not just about those two and a half. It’s the five seconds at the line of scrimmage. It’s while you’re standing in the huddle, you’re mentally going through situations.
If this truly is what Farmer is looking for, then Bridgewater is his guy. He's by far the most advanced pre-snap QB in this year's class, and he deals with pressure incredibly well. Here is a comparison of how the top four quarterbacks performed against the blitz last season (per Rotoworld):
While Bortles, Carr and Manziel have significantly lower completion percentages when the defense brings the house, Bridgewater is equally as effective. This is something the Browns should value very highly after giving up the third most sacks in the NFL last season.
Here is one of his more spectacular completions against the blitz:
The other areas that Bridgewater scores extremely high in are his leadership and motivation. For a team that has underachieved for so long, those are traits that should be of paramount importance when choosing a quarterback. There is no more effective way to turn a franchise around than by drafting a QB that can lead and one who is intent on getting better each and every day.
Just look at the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. In the four years prior to Russell Wilson's arrival, they were 23-41. Now, after two years with Wilson under center, they're an absolute juggernaut. Of course, there are many other factors that have contributed to their success, but Wilson has played a huge part.
Well, Bridgewater already sounds just like him (via NFL.com's Mike Huguenin):
When I'm tough on myself, I'm never satisfied. I'm eager to just get better each and every day. Sometimes you do get too tough on yourself and you do think the impossible, but that's just the way I want to be. I want to think that I can do the impossible. I'm just going to continue to think that way. I'm just going to continue to think that way and motivate myself.
Pointing out that the Browns would be smart to value the mental capabilities of Bridgewater over the physical tools of the other to prospects doesn't mean Bridgewater lacks in that area, either. He has the arm strength to make every throw and his ability to escape the pocket is underrated.
Check out his run at the beginning of this highlight film from a 2012 game against USF (he ran for 74 yards on 10 carries in this one):
Who Should the Cleveland Browns Draft in the First Round?
The Browns can't afford to miss with their selection this season. That's why Bridgewater is the perfect fit. Even if it takes some time for him to succeed in the league, he possesses mental attributes that will take years for some of the other prospects in his class to master.
Make the right choice, Cleveland.