Teddy Bridgewater went from being the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2014 NFL draft class to an offseason enigma after a panned pro day and concerns about his slight frame and modest arm talent.
Now the ex-Louisville star will have the opportunity to prove that he will indeed be a franchise-changing force under center after the Minnesota Vikings selected Bridgewater after trading up to the last pick in the 1st round:
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network describes the scene:
CBS' Jason La Canfora gives the trade details:
KFAN's A.J. Mansour adds some insight into why the Vikings made the move:
USA Today's Tom Pelissero has a note on Bridgewater's health:
Pelissero also added this:
Even though the perception of Bridgewater changed for the negative leading up to the draft, he remained upbeat and didn't acknowledge that it impacted him. More than anything, it seems Bridgewater just wants to get down to business and back onto the gridiron.
"It feels like it's been years since I touched the football and played a game in pads," said Bridgewater, per an April 22 report by NFL.com's Bryan Fischer. "I've been positive throughout the entire process, only worrying about the things that I can control. Basically, I look at every day as a blessing and a new opportunity."
Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller didn't doubt Bridgewater even after the lackluster pro day:
One late riser on draft boards was Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage, whom few had barely even thought of at the start of the 2013 college football season. It prompted this analysis from Sporting News' Ross Tucker:
Bridgewater threw for 3,970 yards and 31 touchdowns to just four interceptions in his final season at Louisville, completing 71 percent of his passes at 9.3 yards per attempt. What was more impressive is that he executed a pro-style offense in doing so. Neither a spread scheme nor a sensational supporting cast inflated his numbers.
The gaudy yards per attempt suggests that Bridgewater doesn't check it down or throw exclusively between the numbers and in the short to intermediate areas. Chicago Bears superstar receiver Brandon Marshall felt that Bridgewater can make all the throws after working out with him, per ESPN's Ed Werder:
But doubts linger about Bridgewater's size. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he weighed in at 214 pounds and measured 6'2", which isn't bad but is hardly a prototypical frame for a franchise QB.
One of the biggest hits in recent college football history occurred when Bridgewater took a lick in one of his most dominant performances as a sophomore in a Sugar Bowl victory over Florida, as seen in the video below:
Intangibles, football IQ and toughness are all attributes that few of Bridgewater's peers can rival him in. An even more diminutive quarterback—albeit a stronger-armed one—in Russell Wilson just guided the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl in his second NFL season.
While the situation and supporting cast has to be ideal, Bridgewater has the smarts and preternatural understanding of complex schematics to thrive right away at the next level, just as Wilson did and has.
Christian Ponder was selected in the 1st round to be Minnesota's quarterback of the future, but after a shaky start, it appears the Vikings are ready to start grooming the next face of the franchise.
After being universally praised and held in such high regard, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Bridgewater play with a chip on his shoulder as he tries to prove himself as the Vikings' long-term answer at the NFL's most important position. A quiet, lead-by-example style of leadership seems to be Bridgewater's modus operandi on the field, and there's nothing away from the field to suggest any character red flags.
That's a style veterans can get behind. At the ripe age of 21, it's a lot to ask for established pros to buy in to a hotshot college prospect sometimes. With Bridgewater's calm countenance and demonstrated prowess as a field general, he should win his new teammates over sooner rather than later.
All of those signs point to the pre-draft bashing of Bridgewater being overblown, because he still has upside to improve his arm strength and already has the acumen to put his team in position to succeed. Minnesota should be pleased it was able to land Bridgewater, as he may become the best quarterback in this 2014 class.