Teddy Bridgewater is considered to be the most polished quarterback prospect in the 2014 NFL draft class, but he's also the least dynamic in terms of athleticism and the "it" factor so coveted for players at his position.
It's not the 6'2", 214-pound Bridgewater's fault that he's not nearly as imposing as UCF's Blake Bortles (6'5", 232 lbs) or that he pales in comparison to Texas A&M Heisman winner Johnny Manziel with regard to star power, but that's why the Louisville product needs an excellent pro day.
To make himself stand out from the crowd and put to rest any concerns about arm talent or being able to deliver all the throws required in the pros, Bridgewater needs to be borderline flawless.
Bridgewater opted out of many drills at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which is fine—as long as he performs well in them on March 17. It's a bit of a risk to tie everything to that day, and throwing to receivers with which he's familiar puts even more pressure on him to put together a peerless performance.
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Former NFL general manager Phil Savage believes Bridgewater is taking a substantial risk.
"What happens if he strains his hamstring doing the 40?" said Savage, per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread. "Now that's going to impact the rest of his workout. So you are putting all your eggs in one basket."
Accuracy is Bridgewater's strong suit, and he has the football acuity to walk up to the line of scrimmage with multiple plays at his disposal. That's part of his grooming in the Cardinals' pro-style offense under coach Charlie Strong, and superior football knowledge is something Bridgewater must show off.
If he flashed that football IQ in combine interview rooms, the 21-year-old signal-caller didn't display the smarts to stand out in Indianapolis by taking the risk, being a competitor and throwing for the scouts that lined up to see him.
That prompted some fighting words from former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who has received far less acclaim leading up to the draft than Bridgewater, as relayed by ESPN's Josina Anderson:
Just caught up with Tajh Boyd and asked him what he thought about Bridgewater not throwing/ running. "I thought we were here to compete."— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) February 23, 2014
Despite that, Bleacher Report expert Matt Miller maintains Bridgewater is the premier quarterback in this draft class:
I maintain that Bridgewater is an elite QB prospect. RT @adammwilson: Is there an elite QB though?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 24, 2014
Bridgewater has decent mobility even though he's primarily a pocket passer, yet he still didn't run the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis. He has plenty to prove in terms of how he stacks up athletically to Bortles, Manziel and even Fresno State's Derek Carr.
Oh, and Bridgewater flat-out stated at the combine that he's the best quarterback in the draft class—even though he did little to nothing to prove it that week:
Teddy Bridgewater will throw at his March 17 pro day, says "I feel that I'm the best QB in this draft"— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) February 23, 2014
Harsh but true words. The combine left much to be desired from Bridgewater, and now he's put all his chances to wow evaluators and enhance his stock on the field in his pro day at Louisville. Being bold is something Bridgewater hasn't shied away from recently, but a lot is at stake given the closeness of competition between him and the other top quarterbacks.
While it may not be a bad thing for Bridgewater to slip a bit in the draft and fall to a perhaps slightly better franchise, he must back up his talk that he's the best by erasing any lingering doubts about his game on the field on March 17.