|Class:||RS Junior||40 time:||N/A|
Amid several recent key events, namely Marcus Mariota‘s decision to return to school and Zach Mettenberger tearing his ACL, Central Florida‘s Blake Bortles has skyrocketed up the quarterback rankings of numerous NFL Draft evaluators. Though the redshirt junior was completely overlooked as a first-round candidate, there is now a good chance that he could earn himself a top-five selection.
Bortles seems to have all the most desirable qualities for an NFL signal-caller: size, a strong arm and accuracy. Perhaps most importantly, Bortles is an ideal candidate to contend with an NFL pass rush. He has great composure with defensive linemen coming at him, knows when to get rid of the ball and has fantastic mobility to extend the play if necessary.
Obviously, a major concern is his standard of competition, seeing as Central Florida played in Conference USA through last season and joined the stripped-down American Athletic Conference for 2013. Though it helps that former UCF quarterback Daunte Culpepper had success in the NFL, the greatest alleviation of this concern is the fact that Bortles has completed a combined 67 percent of his passes in games against South Carolina, Penn State, Ohio State, and Missouri over the past two seasons.
In the face of several elite pass rushers, including Jadaveon Clowney, Bortles was able to stay composed and do his job without much trouble.
He still has a few things to improve on before he becomes a starter in the NFL, though. Bortles needs to improve his accuracy on short passes, as he struggles to put the proper amount of touch and often over- or under-throws his target. It would also probably help him to refine his mechanics. He often winds up reaching far behind his head when making long passes, which could end up being a problem against quicker NFL pass rushers.
Though he is still a redshirt junior, Bortles stands to gain a lot from entering the 2014 draft. What was once talked about as the greatest group of quarterbacks ever to enter the league in one draft has suddenly thinned out in a draft where many teams are looking for QBs.
He’d be competing with relatively unproven players like Derek Carr, Johnny Manziel, Brett Hundley and A.J. McCarron to be the second quarterback taken, a more desirable situation for Bortles than what the class looked like. While he still has things to work on, it would make more sense for Bortles to enter the draft now and start getting NFL coaching rather than risking his draft status next year.
- Better size than any other top-ranked quarterback
- Good arm, makes accurate long throws downfield
- Works out of a pro-style offense, good experience working under center
- Exceptional accuracy when throwing towards the sidelines
- Smooth, quick release
- Good pocket awareness and sense of when to get rid of the ball
- Very good composure when faced with a pass rush
- Doesn’t have too many designed run plays, but moves around very well and does a good job of extending the play
- Has played well against tough competition: 54-for-84 (64%) against Missouri and Ohio State in 2012, 45-for-63 (71%) against Penn State and South Carolina in 2013
- Needs to work on short passes and throws behind the line of scrimmage, doesn’t get a proper amount of touch on the ball
- Angle of release is a bit unorthodox; tends to let go of the ball close to neck level
- Has a tendency to reach behind his head too much at times
- Needs to cut down on interceptions
- Hasn’t faced the best competition in the American Athletic Conference and Conference USA
- Still a redshirt junior and could stand to gain more experience
Bortles has been fantastic in 2013, leading the Knights to an 11-1 season and their first-ever BCS bowl appearance. He completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 3280 yards while throwing 22 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. In addition, he rushed 79 times for 179 yards and five touchdowns.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Bortles and his AAC squad was that they played well in a tough non-conference schedule, defeating Penn State and losing by just three points to South Carolina.
2014 Draft Projection: First Round