From 1st Overall to Free-Falling: What Happened to Teddy Bridgewater?

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From 1st Overall to Free-Falling: What Happened to Teddy Bridgewater?
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It wasn't that long ago that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was the favorite to be selected first overall in the 2014 NFL draft.

Back in February, the NFL Network's Mike Mayock told Mary Kay Cabot of the Northeast Ohio Media Group that Bridgewater was his top quarterback, "the most ready to play" of this year's class and a probable top-five pick.

Now? Mayock recently told the Petros and Money Show (per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk) that "if I was a GM in the NFL, I would not take him in the first round of the draft.”

Mayock is far from alone in his falling esteem for Bridgewater, and it begs a question.

What exactly happened to make Bridgewater fall so far so fast?

It isn't just Mayock. Neither Mel Kiper nor Todd McShay's latest mock drafts (subscription required) at ESPN have Bridgewater among the first 32 picks in this year's draft.

Say what you will about Kiper's hair, but the man has a track record of being pretty good at predicting which players will or won't be taken in the first round.

It certainly didn't look like we'd be having this conversation in January.

Back then, so many months ago (all of four), Bridgewater was coming off another wildly successful season for the Cardinals, a junior campaign in which Bridgewater threw for nearly 4,000 yards with 31 touchdowns against only four interceptions.

Teddy Bridgewater Stats
Year Att Comp. Pct. Yards TD INT Rating
2012 287 419 68.5 3718 27 8 160.5
2013 303 427 71.0 3970 31 4 171.1

Per CFB Stats

It was the second straight year in which Bridgewater topped 3,500 passing yards, and it vaulted Bridgewater into the thick of the conversation as this year's top signal-caller.

As a matter of fact, just before the calendar turned to 2014, Dane Brugler and Rob Rang of CBS Sports went so far as to compare Bridgewater to one of the benchmarks for quarterbacks in today's NFL:

"NFL analysts often say that if Russell Wilson was 3-4 inches taller, he would have been a first round pick. Well, that might hold true with Bridgewater, who is a similar prospect as Wilson (smart, athletic, mature, accurate) except he is taller with more prototypical height for the NFL."

And then, in the span of one afternoon in Kentucky, everything changed.

Bridgewater's pro day at Louisville in March was something of a mess. Bridgewater's accuracy was off. His deep passes fluttered. ESPN's Ron Jaworski told Jarrett Bell of USA Today that "I can't sugar coat it, He was inconsistent."

The NFL Network's Kurt Warner called the workout just "OK." McShay wasn't as kind while speaking to Michael DiRocco of ESPN:

In coming to these pro day workouts for 14-15 years, the vast majority of them, almost all of them, the QB ends up outperforming what you see on tape. There's no defense. There's no pass rush. You're in shorts and a T-shirt and it's a scripted workout that you've been working on for 30-40 days with your wide receiver. So to see Bridgewater come out here today and be the exception to the rule ... this is a rare occurrence for a QB in his pro day, who is not nearly as efficient and effective when he is when studying his tape.

Bridgewater blamed the poor showing on his decision not to wear gloves:

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Whatever the cause, the damage was done. Many draftniks used Bridgewater's pro day as the springboard for a new wave of criticism, spotting a number of flaws they had failed to mention in previous discussions of Bridgewater.

Suddenly Bridgewater's hand size and arm strength were much larger concerns. Pundits such as NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki began lamenting Bridgewater's "lean, narrow frame with limited bulk."

As Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reported, rumors began circling (which Bridgewater's camp denied) that Bridgewater wasn't faring especially well in private workouts either.

Mayock admitted that it was that pro day that led to Bridgewater's free-fall:

I would say in general, tape is worth about 85 percent of an overall grade, and the rest of the process is set up for red flags, and to go back and watch more tape to try to confirm what you saw or didn’t see. I saw about four of his tapes prior to the combine, and I really liked him. I thought he had a chance to be a franchise quarterback from what I saw on the tape. . . . Except you’ve got to see the quarterbacks throw the ball live. I’ve never seen a top-level quarterback in the last 10 years have a bad pro day, until Teddy Bridgewater. He had no accuracy, the ball came out funny, the arm strength wasn’t there, and it made me question everything I saw on tape because this was live.

The ironic thing is that it was also Mayock who told Cabot "I don't want to overanalyze these guys because there's a danger in that also."

Because that sure seems to be what a lot of draftniks are doing.

Yes, Teddy Bridgewater's hands are on the small side. He doesn't have the strongest arm in this year's class by any stretch (that may well be Pitt's Tom Savage, who has become the flavor of the week among many scouts):

Still, there were two years of tape readily available on Bridgewater's small hands and pop-gun arm, which limited him to a 70 percent completion percentage, passer rating of well over 160 and 58/12 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the past two seasons at Louisville.

What a bum.

There's an old saying that "tape doesn't lie." But you can make it say what you want, and for many draftniks right now the narrative is "Teddy Bridgewater: Exposed."

The rough pro day has them looking for flaws, and by God, they're gonna find them.

Of course, not everyone has jumped on the Bash Bridgewater Bandwagon. Bleacher Report AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen thinks the nitpicking has officially gotten out of hand:

Some pundits are also sticking to their guns. Among them is Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar, who not only ranked Bridgewater as the top quarterback in this year's class but also as the top prospect overall:

The more I go back and rewatch Bridgewater tape, the less willing I am to drop into the seemingly common perception that he had some abnormally low ceiling, and that he’ll top off pretty quickly in the NFL. Most of his deep ball issues can be fixed by the kinds of coaching and strength training that all kinds of quarterbacks (Drew Brees and Tom Brady come immediately to mind) have benefited from in obvious ways. And yes, he played at about 190 pounds through the final bit of his 2013 season, but showing up weighing 214 pounds at the combine was a definite statement. And yes, he really blew it at his pro day … but let’s be real here: Any NFL executive who will throw multiple scouted games out the window based on a shirt-and-shorts session, whether positive or negative, is probably on his way out the door.

In one respect, Farrar is spot-on. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what Mayock thinks of Teddy Bridgewater. Or Farrar, for that matter. Or me. Or you.

The only opinions that matter are the ones of the people in "war rooms" across the NFL on draft day.

If they're anywhere near as split on Teddy Bridgewater's NFL draft prospects as draftniks have become over the past few months, then Bridgewater certainly isn't a lock (or even the favorite) to be the first quarterback taken.

He may not even hear his name called on the draft's first day.

And if the tape really doesn't lie, some team will probably be getting a steal.

 

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