In the lead-up to the 2014 NFL Draft, there have been a lot of comparisons made between Johnny Manziel and Russell Wilson because of their height, as both are considered undersized for the quarterback position. However, if there’s one quarterback that should be drawing a strong comparison to Wilson, it’s former Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Wilson doesn’t necessarily rank among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks when it comes to size, arm strength or overall talent, but he’s certainly established himself over the past two years as one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league. His intelligence and his understanding of the game have helped him achieve a great deal of success early in his career.
Meanwhile, of all the quarterbacks available in this year’s draft, Bridgewater is easily the best at making pre-snap reads and knowing how to attack the defense before the play begins. That intelligence and maturity will put Bridgewater in a position to succeed in the NFL early in his career, much like it did for Wilson.
Perhaps the biggest similarity between Wilson and Bridgewater is in their mobility. Neither fits the description of a running QB, but both possess enough athleticism to get outside the pocket when they need to. More importantly, both are exceptional at keeping their eyes downfield when they do leave the pocket. That means that both players rarely think about running the ball when they leave the pocket, even if they can easily pick up a big chunk of yards by doing so.
Instead, they look for receivers downfield who are more likely to be open after having a couple extra seconds to break free from defenders. This has been a huge part of Wilson’s success over the last two years, and it’s a weapon that could help Bridgewater immensely early in his career as well.
The comparison between Wilson and Bridgewater isn’t so obvious because of the difference in the size between them. However, while Bridgewater’s height gives him an advantage in some areas, he lacks the strength that Wilson has in his frame, which makes Wilson more durable than Bridgewater will be when he enters the league. Moreover, the size difference between the two is not nearly as important as the similarities in intelligence and skill set.
Of the young quarterbacks in the NFL, few possess the intelligence and ability to leave the pocket for the purpose of throwing the ball, two distinct traits that Wilson shares with Bridgewater. While these two quarterbacks do have their differences, if there’s a quarterback in this year’s draft class that best resembles Wilson, it’s Bridgewater.
Even though that doesn’t guarantee that he’ll have Wilson’s level of instant success in the NFL, it does bode well for whichever team ends up drafting Bridgewater.