As the 2014 NFL draft approaches and fans make their final cases for why they want "player A" to be their team's first-round pick, those looking at Central Florida's Blake Bortles need to proceed with caution.
At 6'5", 232 pounds, Bortles looks the part of an elite quarterback prospect. He moves well for his size (4.93 40-yard dash) and has enough arm strength that it won't hinder his stock.
All of the intangibles are there for Bortles as well. He's confident and acts like someone you'd feel comfortable with leading your franchise.
He played under former NFL assistant George O'Leary at Central Florida, thus making league decision-makers a little more comfortable, as they have someone they can speak with about Bortles who's "been there."
So what's the issue?
Bortles is far from a finished product, which you can say for almost every college player, but it carries even more weight in this case.
His mechanics, decision-making and ball control are not at a level that should see him on an NFL field within his first year.
But as he's most likely going to be drafted within the first half of the first round Thursday, Bortles might not be given the time to develop he'll need in order to clean up some of these obvious flaws.
The risk isn't necessarily in Bortles the player as much as it is the organization's willingness to wait until he's ready to play. Throwing him in the fire before he's ready could be catastrophic to his development.
Bortles has also seemingly come out of nowhere over the past 12 months.
Sure, college football analysts and some forward-thinking draft evaluators might have known about him, but the majority of the football-talking community were largely unaware.
Even Bortles himself knows he's been a surprise, as he told Peter King in a recent Monday Morning Quarterback piece: "It is all very surreal. Most people don't even know who I am. If you said to anyone, even my friends, before the season that I'd be coming into the draft early, they'd all be shocked."
There's always a certain amount of caution that one needs to take with a player who just recently came onto the scene.
It's not any kind of a determinant on how Bortles' NFL career will progress or begin, but it's just another note to put into the file.
Bortles is considered a raw, developmental quarterback who will lean on the ability of whichever team selects him to improve in the following areas:
One of Bortles' biggest issues is throwing off his back foot. He'll routinely decide not to step into his throw, and his accuracy suffers as a result.
Here's a look at Bortles from last season:
As you can see from the sequence above, he had a clean pocket and didn't properly set his feet before throwing the ball.
He still left his front side completely open, and the accuracy down the field suffered in part.
When you combine sloppy footwork and poor decision-making, turnovers happen.
Bortles' issues with stepping into throws also lead to poor decisions on when to throw the football.
Here's another look from last season where Bortles had a little pressure in his face after hesitating to throw the football. He was late in his decision, and that, combined with poor mechanics, led to this interception:
As you can see in the pictures above, Bortles was late to throw the ball and hesitated at the top of his drop, allowing defenders to get into him. He lazily threw up a jump ball off his back foot, and Louisville safety Calvin Pryor made a fantastic one-handed interception in the end zone.
Another thing that jumped off the film on Bortles was his lack of ball control.
The ball found the ground quite often with Bortles scrambling around behind the line of scrimmage. It's not near the red-flag line of thinking, but it's something that will need to be cleaned up in a big way.
He had nine fumbles during the 2013 season.
These are the areas of concern.
There are no quarterback prospects in this draft who come without question marks, but selecting one who needs time to develop might be asking for something these teams will not allow.
Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth said it best in regard to Bortles:
Bortles is just gifted enough to be a success story but just flawed enough to become more kindling in some franchise's bonfire of disappointment. In a draft class that features the mercurial [Johnny] Manziel and vexing [Jadeveon] Clowney, the big-strong-bright-fast kid is somehow the biggest risk on the board. Though if Bortles slides just a bit, the risks diminish, and the rewards become great.
Most teams selecting high in the draft are doing so because they have plenty of issues, more than just the quarterback position.
Would they be willing to let their possible QB of the future sit while the team continues to struggle next season?
That's the million-dollar question with Bortles, and recent history has shown that quarterbacks selected in the first round are expected to play sooner rather than later.
Combine that with the skills he would still have to develop in order to successfully compete in the NFL, and this is why Bortles is a massive risk as a first-round pick in the upcoming draft.
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