The 2014 NFL draft quarterback class has been shaken up multiple times throughout the offseason.
One name that has slightly risen to the top is Blake Bortles. The 6'5", 232-pound signal-caller set the world on fire during his final season with the UCF Knights and returned to the school for his pro day workouts on Wednesday afternoon.
And after a sensational combine that solidified his spot atop most draft boards, Bortles was sure to draw a crowd. Will Brinson of CBS Sports noted the scouts and coaches that were in attendance at the workout:
27 of 32 NFL teams repped at UCF pro day to see Blake Bortles per Sal Pal on SC. Jaguars and Vikes already met with him.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) March 19, 2014
John Middlekauff of 95.7 The Game also highlighted another team that has met with the future NFL quarterback:
#Raiders coaching staff having a private meeting w/Blake Bortles today & will attend pro day tomorrow.— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) March 18, 2014
Needless to say, it was a pretty crucial day for Bortles' draft stock and apparently the entire NFL, as Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated joked:
I'm at Bortles' Pro Day and I feel confident enough to say this is the most important day of his life-- nay, in the history of pro football.— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) March 19, 2014
With the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings all holding coveted top-10 picks in the NFL draft, Bortles simply needed to finish off the process with a strong pro day at Central Florida. Leading up to the big day for his former quarterback, Knights coach George O'Leary spoke about what type of player he is, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today:
He's a guy that has the physical tools to be very well at the league. Obviously, he did everything we needed him to do here.
But I think that's what the next level's for. Most college quarterbacks are staring down something. When you look at the guys who make it in that league, consistently it's guys of his stature, because they can take a hit but they can also see. I think it'll work out.
After getting backing from his former head coach and already having a good showing at the combine, Bortles went out and showed off his skills at the UCF pro day.
Here's a look at his results and the reaction from Twitter on his overall performance:
Bortles Pro Day Recap
For anyone hoping to see the 6'5" quarterback show off his daunting speed again, he made the decision early to only participate in throwing drills. And after watching his former teammates run the 40, jump the broad jump and other drills, it was time for Bortles to take the stage.
Along with early reports from both Brinson and Middlekauff on those in attendance, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times and Anwar Richardson of Yahoo Sports gave a more specific look at the coaches and executives watching Bortles throw:
Bucs GM Jason Licht here at UCF to see QB Blake Bortles work out for scouts at Knights' pro day. pic.twitter.com/cY2IqvZSy4— Greg Auman (@gregauman) March 19, 2014
NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock gave his thoughts on Bortles before the start of his pro day, according to NFL Media:
Mayock on UCF Pro Day: "I fully expect that Blake Bortles is going to knock this out of the park."— NFL Media PR (@InsideNFLMedia) March 19, 2014
With all the pressure placed squarely on his shoulders, Bortles went out and shined yet again at Central Florida. Each pass was thrown with precision and on target throughout the short routes.
During an assortment of slant and out routes that went no longer than 10 yards down the field, Bortles hit every receiver or running back in stride with relative ease. Richardson and John McClain of the Houston Chronicle gave their analysis of the first few passes during Bortles' throwing drills:
Bortles starts. 7 for 7. QB guru Jordan Palmer is telling everyone what's he's doing. 10 for 10. No ball has touched the ground.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 19, 2014
Five minutes into #NFL draft prospect Blake Bortles workout and one ball hasn't hit the ground yet. Putting pressure on Teddy Bridgewater— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) March 19, 2014
It wouldn't all be sunshine and rainbows for Bortles, though, as he did have a few passes hit the turf. After starting off nearly perfect, one of Bortles' throws hit his receiver in the hands and dropped to the canvas. His wideout let out a huge scream in disappointment.
Another pass would later tip off a receiver's hands that was thrown just over his head. McClain noted that the wideouts were working hard to help Bortles, who wasn't especially sharp near the end of the drills:
Bortles WRs are helping him out on throws a little off target.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 19, 2014
Despite the fact that multiple passes were dropped and some balls sailed wide of their target, Richardson still believes the quarterback helped himself by exhibiting velocity on his passes:
Lots of zip in Bortles' passes. He's definitely not hurting himself today #NFL— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) March 19, 2014
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report spoke about Bortles' prospects during the pro day workouts and his insight for the future of the UCF signal-caller:
Bortles: Potential to be best QB in this class and high-end starter, but current skills aren't NFL-ready. High ceiling, very low floor.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 19, 2014
You can tell Bortles has made a lot of progress working on matching lower and upper body mechanics. Still a work in progress.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 19, 2014
Not everyone enjoyed the passing abilities of Bortles throughout the day, however. Some analysts noted that Bortles appeared gassed down the stretch, which caused quite a few deep balls to miss their targets.
Charles Davis of NFL.com and Chris Simms of B/R gave their thoughts on Bortles following the pro day (via NFL Network and Adam Lefkoe of B/R):
"I think he had a VERY nice day." - @CFD22 on Blake Bortles' Pro Day Performance— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 19, 2014
While some coaches, scouts and executives don't put much stock in the pro day workouts for players, Bortles has two impressive set of results to lean on heading into the draft. After showing out at the combine, Bortles once again wowed in more comfortable confines.
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley was impressed with Bortles' performance, per Richardson:
Along with Bradley, Texans coach Bill O'Brien and former-quarterback-turned-ESPN-analyst Ron Jaworski were equally excited with the results he saw on the field, per McClain:
Bill Obrien on Bortles: "it was a good workout. He made all the throws. Shoes good footwork. I was impressed."— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 19, 2014
Ron Jaworski "On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd give him a ten today. He was well-prepared and made every throw."— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 19, 2014
With both Teddy Bridgewater and Bortles now throwing during their pro days, Michael Connor of Sports Talk 790 in Houston notes that the ball is now in Johnny Manziel's court:
Teddy disappointed, Bortles impressing...your move Johnny.— Michael Connor (@MC790) March 19, 2014
Should Bortles be the No. 1 QB taken?
Perhaps the best of this year's class, Bortles has nailed down a spot in the top 10 and could still be the top quarterback taken. With the size to go along with his skill, Bortles looks every bit the part of a franchise quarterback.
Now the only question that remains is: Where will he fall in the draft?
Regardless of where Bortles ultimately lands in the NFL draft process, he has clearly shown that he has the footwork and zip on his passes to get the job done at the next level.
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