What We Learned from Blake Bortles' NFL Scouting Combine Performance

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What We Learned from Blake Bortles' NFL Scouting Combine Performance
USA Today

INDIANAPOLIS — We spend the majority of our time talking about 40-yard-dash times, three-cone drills, vertical and broad jumps and all the other skill tests these prospects run through, but Central Florida's Blake Bortles is the only top quarterback prospect who elected to throw at the 2014 scouting combine.

Bortles has been touted as a potential No. 1 overall pick to the Houston Texans, but with so much unrest at the top of the draft class, is it really possible that he could be bumped to the top spot by something as simple as throwing to the receivers at the combine?

That may be a bit of a stretch, but he certainly didn't hurt his case with his showing at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday.

Here's a look at Bortles' numbers from his drills at the combine:

Blake Bortles Combine Numbers and Measurements
Height Weight Arm length Hand size 40-yard dash Vertical jump Broad jump
6'5" 232 pounds 32 7/8" 9 3/8" 4.93 seconds 32.5" 115"

NFL.com

But of course, it's not all about the workouts, especially when it comes to the quarterbacks. Here's a look at what we learned from Bortles' performance at the combine Sunday.

 

Bortles May Have Helped His Stock as Only Top QB to Throw

There are varying opinions about whether it's important to throw at the combine. Some believe that it can only hurt a quarterback to throw. Throwing to an unfamiliar set of receivers can make for plenty of passes landing anywhere but in the receiver's hands. That's usually enough to cause at least one top quarterback to shy away from the spotlight in Indianapolis. 

With both Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater deciding not to throw, Bortles was the only top quarterback prospect in the draft who elected to throw at the combine. Bortles explained his eagerness to work out for the scouts on Sunday (via Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports).

Why wait till pro day when you have an opportunity to make your first impression here in Indianapolis? I grew up watching this as a kid and dreamed of competing in it, why would I sit anything out and do any of that kind of stuff? [I am] just excited to be here and honored to be here, but definitely believe I belong here.

Those who think quarterbacks should throw at the combine often point to the competitive nature of sports. As an athlete seeking a professional career, the expectation is typically that the top quarterbacks should want to get out there and do whatever it takes to prove they deserve to be the top pick.

 

It Also Helps That He Threw Well

Just throwing in itself is not enough. Bortles did himself some favors by delivering some nice throws and showing off his technique. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports describes a throwing session that highlighted Bortles' strengths:

[Bortles] didn't disappoint with the spotlight on him, displaying his smooth set up and release and tossing darts down the field. Bortles' accuracy and footwork on his three-step drops were excellent, showing very good rhythm, timing and precision to rip it with very good target placement. He was a tick late with his seven-step drops and has room to improve his feet and balance in this area, but Bortles was still able to be accurate down the field, especially on deep bucket throws.

Brugler held Bortles in high regard heading into the weekend, but he isn't the only one who thought Bortles threw well on Sunday. The NFL's official college football account pointed out his prowess throwing out patterns:

The deep out is a tough throw to make, as it's a difficult angle from the quarterback's launch point. To make that throw look "effortless" is no small feat.

Of course, it's easier to be effortless when you're throwing against air, which brings me to the last point...

 

His Performance at the Combine Should Not Dramatically Alter Draft Boards

More important than throwing against air to receivers wearing shorts and t-shirts, though, is the game tape that these quarterbacks put together before the combine. In the case of Bortles, while most everyone believes he ranks somewhere in the top three quarterbacks in this year's class, not everyone is convinced he's worthy of a first-round pick.

Former NFL scout Greg Gabriel is one of those people who is not sold on Bortles enough to take him in the first round:

Unless you're one of the people who had him ranked as the top quarterback in this year's draft, any movement on the draft board as a result of Bortles' combine performance could be characterized as a knee-jerk reaction.

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or via team news releases. All measurements obtained via CBS Sports.

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