This is probably the last installment of our 'Making The Case' series, but I also thought that after I did the Darqueze Dennard piece. I've put off looking at Blake Bortles for a couple of reasons. For one, he's the near-consensus top ranked quarterback, moving ahead of Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. Secondly, because he's the top ranked QB on the board, and at least three teams ahead of Minnesota needing a QB, I thought the chances were about zero he would be around when the Vikings were able to make their first round selection.
But with Teddy Bridgewater stock apparently cratering, it seems to be having a ripple effect on Bortles and Johnny Mondo Ice Cream. Whether that's true or all just pre-draft subterfuge, we really won't know until the actual draft. For the time being, though, it looks like the Vikings, instead of having to trade up to ensure they get a quarterback, might have the luxury of either standing pat at eight, or even trading down to get their guy.
Blake Bortles could be that guy.
Why Blake Bortles? Blake Bortles is the prototypical NFL quarterback, size wise. He's 6'4", 225-230 pounds, depending on what scouting profile you read, and probably has the best pocket awareness of any QB in the draft. When the college football season ended, Bortles rose up the rankings charts largely because of his top end potential and post season workouts, and is now considered the best QB prospect in the 2014 draft.
Why he'd be perfect in Minnesota: Maybe you haven't heard, but the Vikings desperately need a long term answer at quarterback. Bortles didn't really become a household name until the off season player evaluations began, largely because he was overshadowed on the field by guys like Manziel and Bridgewater. With Bortles, though, the word 'potential' keeps cropping up with him. As in he has the 'most potential' of any quarterback in the draft. Sure, he might not be as accurate and his mechanics aren't as good as the other guys...but under the right coach, they'll get better.
And Blake Bortles, when compared to the other quarterbacks that NORV! Turner has developed and coached, seems to be a carbon copy of some of his most productive signal callers. Let's go back to that Rotoworld column we've used with the other QB evals, shall we? Once again, let's look at pass attempts per yards, broken down by percentages:
As you can see, between 6-20+ yards, Bortles threw the ball 50% of the time, which is pretty good, ahead of David Carr, and essentially even with Manziel. Where he tails off is the 20+ yard range, where the only player he's ahead of is Carr. Let's look at accuracy:
Although Bortles has been criticized for not having deep accuracy, it turns out he's the most accurate when throwing the ball deep, at least compared to the other three QB's on the chart. But his accuracy is below average in the 11-20 yard range, where an NFL quarterback really earns his keep. So on the one hand, you have to be encouraged to think that if he can be accurate on the deep throws, he can improve the intermediate ones. Or conversely, you can chalk up his high accuracy on the deep throws to a combination of a small sample size and luck, and decide he's not your guy. But then you look at his solid numbers in the 6-10 yard range, and you talk yourself into thinking that it just might be a mechanics or timing issue in the 11-20 yard range. Is that a bad thing, though?
When you take into account the fact that mechanics and footwork are things that can be corrected with good coaching, there's a lot there to like, numbers aside. His Pro Day went very well, and he showed that he can make all the throws required atthe NFL level. At UCF, in just two full seasons he threw for over 6,500 yards, 50 TD's, and just 16 interceptions. The one game people probably saw him play was the Fiesta Bowl, where he threw for over 300 yards, and was instrumental in UCF upsetting heavily favored Baylor.
He's also a solid runner, who unlike Manziel, tends to wait until the pocket breaks down before running (minus designed running play, naturally), as opposed to running right away. That type of mentality translates better to the NFL, and with a bigger build he could probably handle more hits than Manziel could.
With Bortles though, we go back to that word potential. Read most opinions on him, it's generally this: "Bridgewater and Manziel might be better QB's right now, but Bortles has the potential to be the best of them all." So, assuming that this QB freefall is real (I don't necessarily believe it is and neither does Fearless Leader, but for the sake of argument, let's say yes), the Vikings could go on the clock with a couple of options at QB facing them.
In one corner are the guys that like Bridgewater and Manziel. They have a more refined game, and are more 'pro ready' right now than anyone else, and they've face tougher competition. You know what you have, and you can work with it and they can step right in and take the reins. Potential is cool and all that, but it's results that matter. Bridgewater and Manziel are proven commodities; Bortles is still kind of a mystery.
In the other corner is Bortles and his potential--give him a year, let him get coached up, and he'll be tearing up the NFL for a long time. If you are standing over here, you become even more convinced Bortles is the guy Minnesota wants. He is a prototypical Turner guy, his flaws can be coached up, and the Vikings have the flexibility to be patient, at least for one season, due to the re-signing of Matt Cassel.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you which one of these guys is the best quarterback. All three of them have some eye popping talent, and all three of them have question marks. I will tell you that if one of them is on the board when the Vikings pick, I'd be stunned if the Vikings don't grab one.
And if the guy the Vikings grab is Blake Bortles, I'll be okay with that.