How Falling Down the Draft Board Could Be a Blessing in Disguise for Bridgewater

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How Falling Down the Draft Board Could Be a Blessing in Disguise for Bridgewater
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At one point, Teddy Bridgewater was the media’s consensus No. 1 overall pick. Even if Bridgewater didn’t go No. 1 overall, he was the No. 1 quarterback and would go off the board to a needy team in the top five—no longer.

After a lackluster pro day, Bridgewater’s draft stock has been in a free fall.  There is even some talk that less-heralded quarterbacks like Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Savage could go ahead of Bridgewater, which would have been insane to think just a few weeks ago. To many draftniks, it still is.

If we assume for a second that the recent buzz is closer to the truth, that NFL teams which spend millions of dollars and put in thousands of hours scouting are right, that only prompts more questions. How far will Bridgewater fall? Which team will take him? Why are NFL teams so down on Bridgewater?

No matter what the answer is to all those questions, Bridgewater’s fall down the board could end up being a very good thing for him. If Bridgewater is as good as many people seem to think he is, then getting drafted later will only be benefit him for many reasons.

 

Better Teams

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers slipped down draft boards after the 49ers passed over him at No. 1 overall in the 2005 NFL draft. Rodgers ended up going No. 24 overall to the Packers and sitting on the bench for three years behind Brett Favre.

Rodgers was lucky enough to be drafted by one of the most stable organizations in football. Although the Packers did end up making a coaching change after Rodgers’ rookie season, the front office has been a model of consistency. The Packers have also not changed their head coach in the last eight years.

Starting as a Backup
Quarterback Overall Pick # # of QBs Drafted Ahead Busts Years at Backup Years as Starter
Aaron Rodgers 24 1 0 3 6
Brock Osweiler 57 4 1 2 0

nfl.com

There’s no telling what would have happened to Rodgers if he would have been drafted No. 1 overall instead of Smith. Rodgers would have played immediately in San Francisco with a subpar supporting cast.

There was constant change as the 49ers cycled through offensive coordinators and head coaches for several years. Dropping down the draft can be a good thing for a prospect if it means being drafted by a better team—Rodgers is proof.

The Denver Broncos have plotted the same course for quarterback Brock Osweiler, who has been sitting on the bench behind Peyton Manning. Osweiler, a second-rounder of the 2012 NFL draft, has improved in several areas in limited action.

It’s impossible to know if Osweiler will be as good as Rodgers was after sitting for a few years, but he’ll have as good a chance as anyone because of the strong supporting cast. This is assuming the Broncos can hold on to to their best players and Manning doesn’t play until he’s 50, but that’s probably a safe bet at this point.

If Bridgewater has some flaws in his game, there is no better place to work them out than sitting behind Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Rodgers. Bridgewater could also find a place as the backup behind Alex Smith in Kansas City or Philip Rivers in San Diego.

Having a stable environment for a young quarterback is important. Consistent coaching, a well-established system and a good supporting cast can all help a young quarterback. There aren't that many Andrew Lucks out there who can elevate an entire team. 

 

Low Pressure

Even if Bridgewater has to play immediately, falling down the board can be a benefit. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Andy Dalton in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, and they have now been to the playoffs three years in a row.

Dalton isn’t a perfect quarterback, but he also isn’t a bad one. Although the Bengals were coming off a 4-12 season, they were able to add wide receiver A.J. Green in the first round of the same draft. Green directly benefited Dalton and made quarterback Carson Palmer expendable in trade.

Expectations for a second-round pick are a lot lower than a first-round pick, so second-round quarterbacks have considerably more time to work out bugs in their games. Dalton is still trying to figure out how to win in the playoffs.

Colin Kaepernick is another example of a quarterback who fell to the second round and has had success. Kaepernick was able to sit and learn behind Smith in San Francisco for a year and a half before taking over the starting job.

Like Dalton, Kaepernick wasn’t widely considered a top prospect at the position. Four quarterbacks went in the first round ahead of them, and at least two of the four are busts. Dave Razzano, now a senior scout for the Indianapolis Colts, said Kaepernick might be the cream of the crop at the position in 2011 and was inching into first-round consideration in early April.

Starting With Less Pressure
Player Overall Pick # of QBs selected before Years as Starter Team Playoff Appearances 1st Round Pick
Andy Dalton 35 4 3 3 A.J. Green
Colin Kaepernick 36 5 1.5 3 Aldon Smith
Drew Brees 32 1 12 6 LaDainian Tomlinson

NFL.com

Five quarterbacks would go off the board before Kaepernick, but he may be the best of the bunch today. Falling, even to a bad team, can still work for a top quarterback prospect if that team uses their earlier picks wisely. 

The Chargers selected Brees in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft, and he turned into a solid starter in San Diego. One thing that helped Brees was that the Chargers had drafted running back LaDainian Tomlinson with the fifth overall selection of that very same draft.

Brees also didn’t have to start immediately and spent his first season backing up quarterback Doug Flutie. With the pressure reduced or eliminated for a year or two, there are plenty of examples of quarterbacks having success who weren't drafted in the top five or even in the first round.

 

Financial Ramifications

NFL teams have the right to exercise a fifth-year option on all players drafted in the first round. This was added as part of the NFL’s latest collective bargaining agreement, which also added the rookie wage scale.

These fifth-year options are not fully guaranteed like the original four-year rookie contracts. For players drafted 11-32, the salaries are based on the average of the top 25 players at their position. For players drafted in the top 10, players get fifth-year options worth the average of the top 10 at their position.

Fifth-Year Options on Rookie Contracts
Overall 5th-Year Option
1-10 Top 10 at Position
11-32 Top 25 at Position
Round 2-7 None

nfl.com

For a quarterback many believe could turn into a franchise quarterback in the future, being a free agent in Year 5 could be worth a lot of money. Bridgewater is just 21, which means he can hit the market at a very young age of 25.

Bridgewater may then get a new contract at 29 or 30 and another before he hits 35. If Bridgewater is as good as some people think, he may make a lot of money in the long run by not being drafted in the first round.

This is the same case for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who fell to the third round mostly because of his less-than-ideal height. Bridgewater’s size could also be one of the things that are hurting him besides his poor pro day, but instead of his height, it’s his thin build and “skinny knees.”

 

Conclusion

Maybe the extra two weeks for the draft has turned the annual NFL draft silly season into ridiculous season, but there is also the possibility that teams never had Bridgewater as high on their boards as the media and draftniks did. Many former NFL personnel people have pretty much confirmed that this was the case. 

At least one NFC executive has Bridgewater as a fourth-rounder, per Charlie Campbell of Walter Football. That NFC executive isn’t alone.

Former NFL personnel man turned analyst Bryan Broaddus doesn’t have Bridgewater on his big board of the top 50 prospects. He does have Garoppolo ranked 45th.

Most analysts now expect Bridgewater to come off the board at some point in the second round, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be early in the second. Regardless of where Bridgewater comes off the board, falling in the draft will be a benefit if he can play.

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