How the times have changed.
Now Bridgewater is the one causing rapid fluctuations in opinion among draft experts after an alleged iffy pro day and further film analysis. As a result, the various views from those in the know suggest Bridgewater could go from anywhere in the top five to out of the first round completely.
But first, let's allow Bridgewater to defend himself, as he brought up a good point on ESPN (h/t NFL.com) that his collegiate film from his time at Louisville speaks for itself:
Put on the game tape. The game tape speaks volumes because I'm in live action, I'm out there making reads, going through progressions, redirection protection, signaling hot routes, getting the offense in and out of the right play. Looking at those things, I think those things outweigh the pro day.
Plenty of experts agree with this thought process, with the narrative of small hands and skinny knees taking a backseat to actual talent. Bleacher Report's Ty Schalter is one such expert:
All it takes is for one team to see what I, Miller, Jeremiah, Farrar and many others have seen on tape for Bridgewater's name to be called.
Those who passed on Bridgewater because they didn't weigh his college game film as heavily as small hands, skinny knees, face-of-the-franchise potential and other silly non-football stuff?
They won't need to watch much of Bridgewater's NFL game film to realize they were wrong.
CBS Sports' Dane Brugler and Sports Talk 790's Lance Zierlein don't see Bridgewater getting out of the first round:
With that said, Brugler's latest first-round mock draft doesn't feature the Louisville signal-caller.
So what's the problem? Are members of the media catching up to the thought processes of NFL teams? Hype? Smokescreens?
In his annual chat with the press, NFL Network's Mike Mayock went in depth on some of the issues that have come to fruition as the lengthy draft process has raged onward:
With Bridgewater, I don't feel an 'it' factor. I see a really good kid. But I don't know if he's ready to be the guy. Because of that, I think he's going to need at least a year to get used to that environment. He needs a redshirt year, in other words. If you need a redshirt year, you're probably going to get drafted at a different level.
So that's a long way of saying that the Bridgewater thing has confused me, it's confused teams. But I'd be surprised at this point if he goes in the first round.
It's a fair analysis, although many will point to Bridgewater's gritty play, quiet leadership and ability to lead his team to wins while injured as a counterargument.
Of course, the NFL has transitioned mostly away from allowing quarterbacks to redshirt in a "What have you done for me lately?" approach, so if the league feels he needs to sit and learn, he likely won't be off the board until the second round.
There are also notable experts who expect Bridgewater to come off the board in the first round. NFL Network's Bucky Brooks is one in his latest mock draft, with the Cleveland Browns being the location at No. 26.
This is a move that has gained steam in recent weeks, as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport points out:
Two of Brooks' colleagues also have Bridgewater going No. 8 overall to the Minnesota Vikings, a team that coincidentally would not have an issue with a redshirt scenario thanks to the presence of veteran Matt Cassel. Another colleague has Bridgewater off the board at No. 11 to Tennessee.
However, around 20th overall seems to be the sweet spot for those experts brave enough to keep Bridgewater in the first round.
As ESPN's Chris Mortensen muses, No. 24 overall to Cincinnati is very much a possibility:
Another team that may not be averse to a redshirt situation is Jacksonville, owner of the No. 3 overall pick. Bridgewater is the No. 1 overall player on Bleacher Report's Matt Miller's big board and he also mocks him to the Jaguars in a "what should happen" scenario:
With Henne there, Bridgewater wouldn't have to play immediately, but he can and should be given the chance to win the starting job. With his pre-snap IQ and post-snap smoothness, the former Louisville signal-caller would give the Jaguars something they haven't had since Mark Brunell—a true franchise quarterback.
Remember, it takes just one team to go against the grain and take a prospect off the board despite an overwhelmingly mixed review by those in the media.
It's strange that this is where we are with Bridgewater, who has transformed into one of the more high-profile, unpredictable prospects in recent memory. His plight on draft day and eventual revenge tour—should he fall—as a pro make for the most interesting angle of all come Thursday.