Summary: A year ago, Blake Bortles wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a high first-round pick. The underestimating of Bortles has gone on for years going back to high school when then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer recruited Jeff Driskell to the Gators from the same area instead of Bortles. Many schools looked at Bortles as a tight end. He landed at Central Florida and helped lead the program to new heights with a BCS bowl berth.
In 2012, Bortles broke into the starting lineup and completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,059 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Entering his junior year, Bortles wasn’t a top quarterback prospect, but he changed that with his performance.
In 2013, Bortles completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,581 yards with 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He had some big games, including leading Central Florida to a win at Penn State and a comeback win over Louisville. Bortles also had some ugly performances against teams he should have dominated like Houston and SMU. The senior finished his career by leading a romp over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.
Bortles has the skill set to be a good starter in the NFL. While he doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, he has an above-average arm and can make all the throws. Bortles is accurate and intelligent as well. He also has good mobility to escape sacks and can pick up yards on the ground with his feet. Bortles is a good athlete for a big quarterback.
WalterFootball.com reached out to some scouts about Bortles. Here is their response: “Has a good skill set and he’s a smart kid … level of competition is a concern … his arm is decent, but his ball flutters some … throws passes late, needs to improve anticipation … didn’t throw every route … limited offensive scheme entering the NFL.”
As Bortles continues to develop his field vision and anticipation, he could turn into a good starter in the NFL. Thus, Bortles would be better off sitting behind a veteran to start out his rookie year.
Scouts said Bortles would be a late first-rounder in a good quarterback class, but because the 2014 NFL Draft has a weak group of signal-callers, Bortles will get pushed into the top 10. Multiple teams in the top 10 have told WalterFootball.com that they have Bortles as their top-ranked quarterback prospect over Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr. Bortles looks likely to be a top-five pick.
Player Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger. This is lofty praise for Bortles. In terms of style of play and skill set, his game is most similar to Roethlisberger with a combination of size and athleticism. That being said, Bortles is more intelligent and has better work habits. Roethlisberger (6-5, 241) has a stronger arm and a better skill set than Bortles.
Roethlisberger was the 11th-overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Bortles could go higher because he is the best of a weak quarterback class. It isn’t fair to say that Bortles will be as good as the two-time Super Bowl champion Roethlisberger, but saying Bortles could be a poor man’s version may be more accurate.
NFL Matches: Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Minnesota
There are a few landing spots for Bortles in the top 10. The Houston Texans lead off the draft with the No. 1 overall-pick. If the Texans take a quarterback with that pick it will be Bortles. Houston needs a franchise quarterback, but taking Bortles with the first selection instead of Jadeveon Clowney would be a massive reach, and the organization wouldn’t be taking the top player on its draft board. The Texans could pass on Bortles and target a quarterback in the second round.
The Jaguars and Browns are desperate for a franchise quarterback. Bortles could be the solution in Jacksonville or Cleveland, but like Houston, either team would be passing on higher-rated position players to take Bortles.
Oakland traded for Matt Schaub, but the Raiders are still in the market for a long-term signal-caller. Bortles is a good fit for Oakland’s offense and would mesh well with offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
Even though the Buccaneers signed Josh McCown, Tampa Bay needs a long-term starter at quarterback. The Bucs had a large presence at Bortles’ pro day, and he would make sense as the team’s franchise quarterback for the Lovie Smith era.
The Vikings are potentially the lowest that Bortles could fall in the top 10. Minnesota needs a franchise quarterback, and it seems unlikely the Vikings would pass on Bortles.
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