The NFL Scouting Combine will feature three of the top quarterbacks throwing for scouts, but Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville has a legitimate chance of standing out above the rest and getting selected No. 1 overall by the Houston Texans as a result.
Both Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles will also be competing with Bridgewater for the No. 1 spot, as will defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Passing on three potential impact quarterbacks to draft Clowney would be a bold move, though, so I'm not sold on there being a high chance of that happening.
The case for Manziel is made mostly because of his playmaking ability at Texas A&M. His propensity to make big plays earned him the Heisman Trophy two seasons ago, but there are questions regarding how well his game will translate to the pros.
Manziel's small-ish frame and lack of knowledge regarding when to take a hit and when to slide to kill a play are obstacles that are simply too large to justify him going No. 1 overall, in my opinion. The possibilities are there for a Robert Griffin III-like performance in his rookie year, but so are the chances of an RGIII-like debacle in his second year.
Bortles possesses the size and arm strength to possibly succeed in the NFL, but his status as a relative unknown prior to this season suggests that he doesn't have the track record that Bridgewater and Manziel have.
Charles Davis of NFL.com echoes that sentiment:
Bortles' ascension has been rapid, and I think some people are taken aback that he is being discussed as a legitimate option for the Houston Texans at No. 1. He seemed to come out of nowhere in 2013, unlike the other highly publicized top candidates to go first overall—Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel—but Bortles had been playing well throughout his career at UCF before breaking out in his junior season, and being overlooked is nothing new to him (college teams once thought he would be a better tight end than a quarterback).
That lack of longevity would worry me if I were Texans general manager Rick Smith.
Bridgewater, on the other hand, is the safest of the three quarterbacks to select with the first overall pick.
He possesses an elite presence in the pocket, as well as the vision to minimize mistakes. He posted a completion percentage of 71 percent last season with Louisville, and he tossed just four interceptions compared to 71 touchdowns.
Louisville was 23-3 in its final two seasons with Bridgewater under center, culminating in a decisive victory against the Miami Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl this season.
Chris Weinke, a former Heisman Trophy winner and trainer of quarterback Michael O'Connor (who Texans head coach Bill O'Brien recruited while at Penn State), thinks Bridgewater has all the chops to succeed in O'Brien's system, via Jim Corbett of USA Today:
"Teddy has all the intangibles to be special. He's similar to Russell Wilson in terms of elusiveness, sensing danger with pocket feel. His accuracy is as good as I've ever seen."
Comparing him to Russell Wilson might be a stretch given the Seattle Seahawks quarterback's uncanny success in the NFL through two seasons, but the potential is there for Bridgewater to be something special.
Sometimes, you don't need a playmaker (Manziel) or a huge arm (Bortles) to win games in the NFL. Bridgewater can lead a Texans offense that has good weapons in Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins efficiently. He won't turn the ball over like Matt Schaub or Case Keenum, and he'll be a great candidate for O'Brien to build around for the future.
A strong showing at the NFL combine in Indianapolis would silence all those who think Manziel or Bortles should be taken before him.
Bridgewater has been a relatively quiet success. He doesn't make highlight plays, and he doesn't play for a big-time program. He can show off his NFL-readiness in Indy, though, and the Texans would be wise to use that No. 1 pick on him if he performs well.
He has the chance to turn that franchise around.
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