Summary: Over the past couple of seasons, Bridgewater was one of the best quarterbacks in college football. His excelling in a pro-style offense illustrated he has the ability to be a dangerous pocket passer in the NFL.
Bridgewater was highly recruited out of high school and was going to go to Miami before the school fired Randy Shannon. Louisville's then-head coach Charlie Strong stole Bridgewater and got him to travel up to Kentucky. The true freshman took college football by storm in 2011 and was named the Big East Rookie of the Year. Bridgewater completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011. He ran for 265 yards (66 net) and four touchdowns, too.
In 2012, the sophomore completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He ran for 237 yards (211 net) and a touchdown, too. Florida safety Matt Elam (Ravens first-round pick) said that Bridgewater was the best quarterback the Gators played that season. That was high praise considering Florida took on Johnny Manziel, Tyler Bray, Aaron Murray and E.J. Manuel. Against a Gators' defense that had just dominated Manuel, Bridgewater completed 20-of-33 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns and an interception on a tipped pass.
Bridgewater completed 71 percent of his passes in 2013 for 3,970 yards with 31 touchdowns and four interceptions. He started strongly before slowing down in the final month of the season. The junior came back to end his collegiate career with one of his best games in a win over Miami.
Bridgewater has a decent skill set, but not a great one, according to NFL evaluators. He is not the athlete or passer that other top picks have been like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck or Matthew Stafford. Bridgewater has an above-average arm, but not a powerful arm. He hangs tough to deliver passes in the face of pass rush, has mobility on rollouts, and can get in rhythms of nice accuracy. Bridgewater plays well on third downs, too. He shows great poise in the pocket and is patient.
One of his best traits is his intelligence and work habits. Bridgewater is known as a very smart signal-caller who is a film-room junkie. He enters the NFL with a very developed understanding of the game and defenses. Work ethic and preparation should never be problems for Bridgewater.
Bridgewater has plenty to improve, which is why he isn't grading out as a candidate for the first pick. Sources from around the NFL have told WalterFootball.com that Bridgewater is not grading out like other recent No. 1 picks. He needs to improve his footwork, ball placement, throwing mechanics and accuracy. Bridgewater also can hold onto the ball too long and that leads to him taking some unnecessary hits and sacks.
At his pro day, Bridgewater was average at best as he didn't throw all that well. Bridgewater had some issues with ball placement, accuracy and footwork. Sources with teams picking in the top five that attended Bridgewater's pro day told WalterFootball.com that the signal-caller didn't help himself. After passing on working out at the Combine, Bridgewater needed a good pro day, and he didn't deliver.
Sources from around the NFL have been lukewarm on Bridgewater. WalterFootball.com knows that three of the six quarterback-needy teams in the top 10 have Blake Bortles rated ahead of Bridgewater.
All that being said, Bridgewater should go in the top 10 given his pocket-passing ability. He just isn't the elite quarterback prospect some have made him out to be. If Bridgewater lands in a nice spot with good coaching and talent around him, he could turn into a quality starting quarterback in the NFL.
Player Comparison: Sam Bradford. Bradford (6-4, 230) is significantly bigger than Bridgewater, but they have a similar style of play. They are pocket passers who can move when they have to. When both quarterbacks are playing well, they can be deadly as pocket passers. Bridgewater could have some consistency issues like Bradford has had, and Bridgewater's size could also lead to durability problems like Bradford. Bradford went with the first-overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Bridgewater should go early, but not that early.
NFL Matches: Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Minnesota
There are a lot of teams that would be thrilled to land Bridgewater in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The highest that he could hope to go would be to the Texans with the first pick. Houston needs a franchise quarterback and could reach for a quarterback because of the need.
The Jaguars have a massive hole at quarterback and reportedly have been hot for Bridgewater for months. General manager David Caldwell traveled to see Bridgewater during the 2013 season and Jacksonville has scouted him aggressively.
The Browns are in dire need of a franchise quarterback, and Bridgewater could be their guy. Reportedly, general manager Ray Farmer is more open to Bridgewater than the previous general manager.
Oakland needs a quarterback, but there are reports that the Raiders aren't big fans of Bridgewater. WalterFootball.com has heard the same thing from sources. That being said, Bridgewater would be lucky to land with Oakland's quarterback guru, Greg Olson.
If Bridgewater falls out of the top five, Tampa Bay could end his fall. Lovie Smith could groom Bridgewater behind Josh McCown for a year before handing the reins over to Bridgewater. Personality-wise, he would be a nice fit for Smith.
The Vikings could grab Bridgewater with the eighth pick. He would be a nice project for offensive coordinator Norv Turner. If Minnesota passes on Bridgewater, he could fall to late in the first round.