Blake Bortles did not wait too long to hear his name called on draft day. The Central Florida quarterback was taken No. 3 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the future is bright for the young passer.
This selection was a bit of a surprise at this stage of the draft, especially considering the amount of disagreement among scouts about which is the best quarterback in the class.
Many thought Johnny Manziel earned this distinction, but the former Heisman Trophy winner did not come off the board until No. 22 to the Cleveland Browns.
However, the Jaguars had no problem taking Bortles this early in the first round.
Jeff Darlington of NFL.com notes how the staff was in agreement about the player:
Jaguars HC Gus Bradley tells me the entire staff felt really good about Bortles, noting it's rare to have such unified feelings on a guy.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) May 9, 2014
According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch had good things to say about the passer:
Jaguars OC Jedd Fisch on Bortles- 'Strong, physical, big arm, can hang in there and take a hit! Prototype size & can move pocket.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) May 9, 2014
Meanwhile, Darlington reports the feeling appeared to be mutual:
Bortles told Gus Bradley on his visit: "If this was a college recruiting trip, I'd sign right now." ...says the chemistry/vibe was evident.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) May 9, 2014
This is a good way to start off a career in the NFL, with both sides being extremely happy about what occurred in the draft.
Unfortunately, Bortles enters a tough situation in Jacksonville after the squad has won just 11 games in the past three years combined. The defense gave up the fifth-most points in the NFL and the offense was dead last in scoring last season.
There are some quality receivers on the roster in Cecil Shorts, Mike Brown and Ace Sanders, but the squad is not expecting suspended wideout Justin Blackmon to play in 2014.
While things are improving under second-year head coach Gus Bradley—and the offensive line will be better with a full year of Luke Joeckel at tackle—the team still has a long way to go before being a playoff contender.
For this reason, fans should expect a slow start to Bortles' career. In reality, this would likely have happened in any situation. The UCF quarterback has nice potential, but he is incredibly raw, as noted by Mike Mayock of NFL Network:
Mayock: Bortles is raw. ... Might be a year away. Could benefit from time to develop.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) March 19, 2014
Instead of throwing him to the wolves in Week 1, the Jaguars should instead keep Chad Henne in the starting lineup while Bortles learns the ropes. He can use the time to develop and grow along with his young team before truly taking over as a starter.
Jacksonville has a relatively difficult opening schedule, with three of the first four games against division winners from last season. The squad will continue to struggle against tough teams all the way through the bye in Week 11.
In all likelihood, Bortles will be starting by this point and should be able to post some quality starts as he gets his first game action.
Although fans will be expecting the world, they should be patient as the quarterback develops. He will make mistakes and throw plenty of interceptions, but it will all be part of the growing process.
By the end of the year, the first-round pick will have a firm grasp of the offense and be able to post solid numbers to provide positive momentum heading into next season.
Projected stats: 8 starts, 1,624 passing yards, 61 percent completion rate, 10 touchdowns, 11 interceptions.
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