Since he opted not to throw at the NFL Scouting Combine or run the 40-yard dash, all eyes were on the former Cardinals star as he took the field indoors at the university's Trager Center to go through his workout. The young signal-caller needed a big performance considering who was in attendance, and he didn't exactly pass the test with flying colors.
Mike Mayock of NFL Network called Bridgewater's pro day "very average at best" on the network's telecast after Bridgewater was finished, per insider Ian Rapoport. In response to that, NFL.com's Bryan Fischer noted how rare it was to hear that a top QB prospect's pro day wasn't going well:
An uneven throwing session saw Bridgewater fare well on throws of 20 yards and closer for the most part, but his lack of precision on downfield passes was alarming. He opted not to throw with a glove—an unusual move since Bridgewater always threw with one in college.
In speaking with the media afterwards, Bridgewater felt confident in his abilities without the glove, per Jaguars.com's J.P. Shadrick:
Well, that didn't translate to the gridiron, and Rapoport's warning that some balls would be hitting the ground on Monday proved correct:
USA Today's Jarrett Bell initially counted five head coaches present—four of whom helm teams that have draft choices in the top eight and need a quarterback:
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report did caution against reading into the NFL teams at the pro day, noting the other potential top-flight draft prospects who were also showcasing their skills:
But that prior list of coaches suggests that at least some were evaluating Bridgewater with some intention of choosing him as their QB of the future. One of the criticisms Bridgewater faces is his slender stature, and when he weighed in at 208 pounds, Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke felt that an overreaction was in store:
The Cardinals' football Twitter account reported that Bridgewater ran an unofficial 40-yard dash of 4.78 seconds—and that he wouldn't run a second time as is usually customary:
As far as the passing was concerned, there were some surprises—and not in a good way. It did take a while for Bridgewater to find his rhythm, per Jaguars.com's John Oehser:
Bridgewater displayed premium ball placement after a shaky start, exceptional accuracy and made difficult throws running to his left that were on target. There was plenty of zip on the ball on his intermediate throws, which has been another knock on Bridgewater throughout the evaluation process.
However, he did miss some throws to the sidelines, which are critical in two-minute drills and in executing fine-line plays.
On the occasions where he had to uncork it deep down the field, it did seem that Bridgewater's balls hung a little bit and died. He didn't show the ability to combine air under the ball and distance on par with other top-flight NFL QBs.
As the scripted workout wore on, though, Bridgewater did seem to get more comfortable, and when he was on the move, he wasn't steering the deeper throws as much and let his sound mechanics take over. Sometimes that caused his passes to sail, but at least it showed he has a bit more arm talent in him.
Bridgewater remained upbeat in his post-workout interview, per CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman:
In speaking with the media afterwards, the 21-year-old implied that he tries to stay even-keeled and doesn't agonize over the perception about his draft status:
Albert Breer of NFL Network noted how the underwhelming workout looked in the context of Bridgewater's refusal to run through the majority of drills at the combine:
Even before the day began, Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated felt that Bridgewater had already established himself as the best signal-caller in the 2014 class:
Miller dismissed the significance of the pro day, too, while NFL.com's Gil Brandt was in the minority who felt the workout wasn't so bad:
Count yours truly as one who doubts Bridgewater after Monday's display, though. There were significant problems with mechanics when Bridgewater tried to let it rip to the deeper parts of the field. Not only did he misfire often, but he also compensated for his lack of arm strength by getting out of sorts with his footwork. The ball often fluttered and wobbled—and this was indoors.
Teams that play in cold weather often should be wary of selecting Bridgewater high in the draft despite his excellent football IQ and collegiate production. It's hard to remember the last time there were this many underwhelming reviews about a pro day regarding a mortal-lock first-round draft pick.
Trusting what you see on film is the most important part of the evaluation process. Savvy decision-making in a pro-style offense will aid Bridgewater's efforts to amend Monday's misstep, and he should still interview well enough to even be the first quarterback drafted.
Bridgewater needed to prove he had more of an "it" factor than Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and adequate physical tools to justify his selection over UCF's Blake Bortles. He did neither at the combine and his pro day, so he's in danger of seeing his stock tumble before May 8 rolls around.