Blake Bortles has had quite the rise up draft boards in recent months. He was once not even considered to be a first-round prospect, but now he's in the running to be the first player selected in the 2014 NFL draft.
The former UCF quarterback is, without a doubt, one of the best prospects in the country at his position, and he will garner much consideration from any QB-needy team that has a chance to draft him. The Houston Texans hold the first overall pick this year, and they could certainly use a breath of fresh air at the quarterback position.
They've already expressed, per Sports on Earth's Russ Lande, via CBSSports.com, that Bortles is one of their top choices (along with Johnny Manziel), but it looks like they're ready to pull the trigger on the former Knight. Manziel drew Tim Tebow-like media exposure while at Texas A&M and is opting not to throw at the combine, leaving Bortles in a rather advantageous position.
As we all know, the scouting combine is a premier chance for prospects to rise and fall, and Bortles will be looking to do the former come Sunday when the quarterbacks take over in Indy. While he will be getting a side-by-side comparison with Teddy Bridgewater, another top passer, Bortles won't have to out-throw the former Louisville Cardinal to prove he is the best choice for the Texans.
Who is the best choice for Houston long term?
I don't think anyone believes that Bortles is a more sound passer than Bridgewater at this point in time, but he does have a comparable ceiling. A word I'm seeing associated with him quite a bit is "raw," but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Surely, "raw" players coming out of college have gone on to have great careers in the NFL, and Bortles could be next in line.
Houston likely already has an idea of whom they want to draft with the No. 1 selection, but Bortles still has the combine to get through before any sure choice is made.
B/R's own Ryan Lownes recently did a scouting report of Bortles and spoke very highly of the former Knight:
While many felt Bortles would have been better served returning to school and refining his game, the physical and mental tools he brings to the table are undeniable. Equipped with prototypical size, mobility and strong leadership traits, he will appeal to a variety of schemes and is silly putty in the hands of a good offensive coach...Possessing considerable upside, several teams are sure to view him as a potential franchise quarterback.
Lownes' scouting report also notes that Bortles is a "smart player" with "a fairly high football IQ." Lownes even goes as far as saying that Bortles' ceiling is "exceptional." The coaches and scouts interviewing Bortles at the combine will no doubt be impressed by his composure and knowledge of the game, and that could be what pushes him over the edge.
While teams—namely, the Texans—shouldn't disregard the flaws in his mechanics, they should definitely see the potential. Bortles has prototypical size for a quarterback at 6'4" and 230 pounds, and he moves very intelligently in the pocket. He has shifty feet and notable mobility, which will help his case as the first overall pick.
Bortles' mobility affords him many chances to move out of the pocket and extend the play while also keeping his eyes downfield on his receiver. We saw a great example of that in UCF's game with Temple this past season when Bortles found J.J. Worton in the back of the end zone after scrambling outside the hash marks.
He will no doubt pass the eye test in Indianapolis and will likely show off his NFL-caliber arm in the passing drills. Bortles has all the tools to become a very respectable franchise quarterback, and his potential may be what helps him rise in the minds of Houston's front office.
The combine will be Bortles' biggest chance to prove he's worth the pick before the draft rolls around, and he will more than likely make a lasting impression.