We're continuing our 'Making The Case' series with the 'other' quarterback...who for the longest time was (still is?) 'the' quarterback in this draft, Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater was the most highly touted quarterback in last year's draft, but was ineligible to come out. He kept his high profile and draft status all the way through the 2013 season, and is still going to be one of the top picks in the 2014 class.
Before we go any further, I'll make the same general statement about Teddy B. as I did about Johnny Football: the draft is an odd animal, and anything can happen. Will Bridgewater be available? Most folks don't seem to think so, and as his average Pro Day showing (which we'll talk about) gets farther and farther in the rear view mirror, his stock seems to be rising again. But weird things happen on draft day, and players no one expects to fall start falling. I'm no expert, but Bridgewater seems like a guy that could be one of those draft day surprises.
Why Teddy Bridgewater? The Minnesota Vikings need a quarterback. A good one. And for too long, with the exception of just a few years from 1979 until about three minutes ago, the quarterback position has been a black hole, void of elite talent, but filled with mediocrity and aggravation. Sure, there's been a couple of memorable players and moments, but for the most part, there hasn't been a long term answer at quarterback since Fran Tarkenton retired. Now, in the defense of the team, they haven't drafted a lot of first round quarterbacks (just two in team history), but neither of them turned out to be long term solutions to be the heir of St. Francis of Bloomington.
Why he'd be perfect in Minnesota: Bridgewater is the best pocket passer in the draft, depending on who you believe, and he seems to be the prototypical Norv Turner quarterback--good arm, smart, pocket passer that is able to distribute the ball to a multitude of receivers. As we mentioned in our Manziel piece, the Vikings are trailing the Bears, Packers, and Lions in talent at the quarterback position, and Bridgewater, as a pure passer, would close that gap dramatically.
His passing profile is one that probably fits Turner's offense more than any other. Let's take a look:
The NORV! Turner offense is one that is predicated on the medium and deep passing game, and by looking at the chart above, Bridgewater had the most pass attempts, percentage wise, between 6-20 yards of any of the top four quarterbacks in the draft, 42%. Well, what his completion percentage?
Yeah, pretty solid, wouldn't you say? The bottom line in all of this is that Teddy Bridgewater is the most accurate passer coming out in the draft, and he has the arm strength to make any throw in any NFL offense. Bridgewater is also the most known quantity of the quarterbacks, as he has been dissected as a top draft pick for over a year.
He has made every throw, in game conditions, over and over again...HOWEVAH...he had an average to poor showing at his Pro Day. Is that a big deal? Depending on who you talk to, yes. NFL personnel don't get a lot of opportunities to take a live look at top picks, so when they do said picks have to make a solid impression. For all of Bridgewater's body of work, he didn't do well when the spotlight was shining brightest on him, and that resonated with NFL folks. Although that could be perceived as bad news for Bridgewater, it could be a watershed moment for the Vikings.
In many respects, Bridgewater is the anti-Manziel. Where Manziel has a Hollywood feel about him, both on and off the field, Bridgewater is calm, cool, and collected, regardless of the game situation. If Louisville was up 21 or down 21, you'd never know it by looking at Teddy B's body language. Off the field, you never hear Bridgewater's name, unless it's somehow football related. And that might be just the type of personality that new, no-nonsense coach Mike Zimmer is looking for. It seems, at least at face value, that the new coach would want as few distractions as possible as he heads into his first season with the Vikings, and in that regard, Bridgewater seems the obvious choice over Manziel.
You can make a strong argument that Bridgewater is the one quarterback that will make the easiest transition to the NFL, and of the big four of him, Manziel, Blake Bortles, and Derek Carr, he's probably the odds on favorite to be an opening day starter. Does that mean he will be an opening day starter? Not necessarily, but with a guy like Bridgewater, the future will arrive a lot faster, and his transition to the NFL would probably be the easiest.