The Minnesota Vikings bided their time in looking for a franchise quarterback on Thursday night. They were rewarded with the best quarterback in the draft.
Blake Bortles looks more like an NFL quarterback. His 6'5", 232-pound frame makes him indistinguishable from a lineup of your prototypical NFL signal-callers. But many a quarterback has come in looking like a lion before being led to slaughter like a lamb.
Johnny Manziel is more exciting. He's the perfect solution for a fanbase who just wants to see its team on SportsCenter. His acrobatics and schoolyard style of play will no doubt make for great highlights—in a losing effort.
Bridgewater doesn't have the size of Bortles. At 6'2", 215 pounds, he's not the herculean figure that Bortles is. But he's not exactly short either.
He doesn't have the long highlight reel of Manziel. He's ran for a mere 170 yards in his three-year career at Louisville. Manziel ran for more yards than that in his freshman bowl game against Oklahoma.
What he does have, however, is a track record of being a quarterback who takes care of the ball, improves every year and wins ballgames. And those are the most important traits in a quarterback.
First, start with his ability to take care of the ball. If you want to find the most successful teams in the league, they are the ones that win the turnover battle on a week-to-week basis.
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In fact, last season was a prime example of just how important finding a quarterback who can take care of the ball can be to turning around a fledgling team, per Adam Schefter:
Chiefs lead the NFL in turnover margin this year (+11). Last year, they were tied for last in the NFL at -24.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 27, 2013
Of the three quarterbacks taken in the first round, Bridgewater is the one who has proved himself to be the most careful with the ball—all while making plays in the passing game.
Then there's the matter of improvement. If you're going to spend a first-round pick on a prospect, it only makes sense that there has been marked growth from one season to the next. With Bridgewater, that progression is easy to see.
In each season Bridgewater increased his yards, completion percentages and touchdowns all while throwing the ball more and throwing less interceptions.
Manziel, on the other hand, actually threw four more interceptions while working with an emergent Mike Evans in his second season as the Aggies starter.
Finally, in Bridgewater, the Vikings got a quarterback who will win games. Though fans may associate "Johnny Football" with being a winner, Bridgewater's 23-3 record as a starter for Louisville in the past two seasons is every bit as impressive as Manziel's 20-5 record at Texas A&M during the same time span.
The only difference is that the way Bridgewater won games—by being an accurate and efficient quarterback—is far more transferable to the NFL game. Clearly that's something the Vikings knew when they moved up to No. 32 to take their franchise quarterback.