Teddy Bridgewater's true potential has turned into one of the great mysteries of the NFL draft. From a potential franchise savior to a second-round project, Bridgewater's draft stock has gone through peaks, valleys and everything in between.
A botched pro day and the rise of the enigmatic Johnny Manziel and raw prototype Blake Bortles are the main culprits in Bridgewater's mock draft demise. There have been questions about his size as well as his propensity for wearing gloves, which he shirked during his pro day. Throw in the NFL pedigree of Derek Carr out of Fresno State, and you have a quarterback whose stock once had him as a front-runner for the No. 1 overall choice possibly falling into the middle rounds.
In CBSSports.com's mock draft roundup, only Pete Prisco has Bridgewater going in the first round, and it's to the Browns at No. 26. He is nowhere to be seen on the other four mock drafts.
Luckily for Bridgewater, there are plenty of teams that can use a quarterback, as the emphasis on passing in the NFL has never been greater. Not every scenario plays out like a fantasy for Bridgewater, but he does have a couple of potential situations that can either set him up for success or potentially stifle his NFL career.
Best-Case Scenario: Bridgewater goes No. 4 to the Cleveland Browns
Bridgewater's stock may be plummeting in the eyes of most draft gurus, but Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar recently placed Bridgewater on the top of his latest big board and gave a brief explanation for the No. 1 ranking on Twitter:
All I can say about Bridgewater is that when I went back to his games to write up the SI 64 report, I wound up liking him more.— SI_DougFarrar (@SI_DougFarrar) May 1, 2014
The Cleveland Browns, with the No. 4 and No. 26 picks in the first round, look increasingly likely to take a quarterback, especially one that might be a project like Bridgewater. If they take him early, that would immediately thrust Bridgewater back into the national spotlight and confound many of his critics.
Browns general manager Ray Farmer seems to place value on game tape over private workouts. Via Jeff Schudel of The Morning Journal:
It really comes down to how does he play football? The analogy that I keep throwing out is if we went outside and shot basketball and I can’t hit a shot — I just can’t buy a bucket; I can’t make a lay-up; I can’t really dribble; I dribbled off my foot twice; and it’s gone out of bounds — but then every time we play, I score 30, have 10 boards and five steals, do you want me on your team or are you going to pass me because I couldn’t warm up right?
The stats for Bridgewater hold up to scrutiny. He completed 71.7 percent of his throws in 2013, good for 3,970 yards and 31 touchdowns against just four interceptions.
The Browns also recently acquired a pair of veteran quarterbacks in Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen on one-year deals, as per NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. Bridgewater would have a fair amount of competition—despite Young's absence from a regular-season roster since 2011—as well as the tutelage of a pair of professionals who have navigated the ups and downs of an NFL quarterback's existence before.
Add that to Brian Hoyer, who played three games for the Browns in 2013 and finished with an 82.6 quarterback rating, and the Browns look very much like a team willing to let a young quarterback settle and grow into the professional game, but with ample opportunity for him to start when ready.
Worst-Case Scenario: Bridgewater goes to the Cincinnati Bengals
As of April 29th, NFL Network's Mike Mayock has Teddy Bridgewater in a tie with LSU's Zach Mettenberger as the fifth-best quarterback in the draft.
The Bengals are rumored to be discussing Bridgewater as a potential draft pick, according to ESPN Insider's Chris Mortensen.
Another "surprise" QB team to watch: Bengals, even though there are needs at CB & DL. Teddy Bridgewater is in discussion as fallback option— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) May 3, 2014
The Bengals appear to be a similar situation to the Browns for Bridgewater, with their own stockpile of veterans, but the lack of open competition could spell doom for Bridgewater if he didn't perform well early.
Andy Dalton has disappointed some in Cincinnati due to his postseason play (one touchdown against six interceptions in three starts). However, he's started 48 games for the Bengals and has been a huge factor in their recent success. The Red Rocket is also due for a contract extension soon, and should the Bengals commit to him, Bridgewater could find himself stuck behind Dalton without a chance to shine.
According to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, Marvin Lewis is convinced Dalton is capable of success in Cincy. Via Smith: “I’m very confident. And totally convinced. I don’t know how much more convinced and confident I could be with that. He is our quarterback.”
Which team would give Bridgewater the best shot at NFL success?
Even if Dalton didn't pan out as a Bengal, the competition on the bench is much stiffer than it is in Cleveland. Jason Campbell started nine games for the Browns in 2013 before signing with the Bengals, and Josh Johnson is a highly mobile quarterback with six years of NFL experience as a backup and occasional starter.