Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback in the draft, and I'm not backing down from that. He has the best upside in the class, is the most refined quarterback and is elite both in terms of accuracy and field reads.
And yes, I do think that he has the most upside:
Football is not a skills competition. We do not give points for the fastest 40-yard dash or the most reps in the bench press. It's a pedantic point made time and again between the combine and the draft, but it bears repeating if only to contrast with what football is: a complex choreography of movement that requires planning, memorization, adaptability, reactiveness, intuition, strength, speed, aggression, precision, balance, technique and creativity.
That means that football is at least as much a mental game as it is a physical one. In fact, after a certain physical threshold, it's mental acuity that generate additional advantages in the NFL. The best quarterbacks in the game today, and of all-time, are all well-known as extremely intelligent people with improvisational capability, lightning-quick reflexes and the ability to process incredible amounts of information in a short amount of time.
But when we say that a player who is "pro-ready" like Teddy Bridgewater has reached his ceiling, what do we mean? Almost always, we mean that he does not have the physical ability to run like Michael Vick, Cam Newton or Steve Young. He won't generally convert a first down with his legs like Andrew Luck or John Elway, and he won't light up a defense for long gains like Colin Kaepernick did to the Packers. He can't sling the ball as far as Carson Palmer or Rex Grossman, or get rid of the ball as quickly as Tony Romo or Dan Marino.
Blake Bortles, Tom Savage and Logan Thomas will have to prove that they can clean up a number of technical issues and grasp a complex NFL offense, and Mettenberger will have to play much, much quicker. Those issues, of which there are many, will determine if they cash in on their upside.
Which means there is an inhibitor to what they can accomplish: their mental ability. I think there are serious concerns about processing speed for Savage and Mettenberger that limit their potential, so they are not high-ceiling players to me.
The best quarterbacks in the game all have high-level NFL cognition. All of those offenses are run in a manner that requires a high degree of sharpness, even if they do it through different ways.
Those that argue that Teddy's ceiling are limited are sometimes among the same group that celebrate him for being one of the only freshman in college football to completely run an offense, and a pro-style one to boot. Every piece of information we have on Teddy Bridgewater indicates he has high level cognition in a way that befits the quarterback position.
Which means his ceiling is closer to a passer like Peyton Manning than it is a different random unathletic quarterback. Sure, he doesn't have Cam Newton's body, but what great quarterbacks did?
I struggle to see how Bridgewater has "maxed out" as a passer. He could get better at every part of his game, and if he does that, he could be the best quarterback we've seen. Will he? Probably not. But it's more likely than Clowney becoming Reggie White.
Playing quarterback is about playing chess with moving parts.
I have said before that there hasn't been a more accurate college quarterback in years. There may have been better prospects—Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, etc.—but no one who showed the ability to hit targets while running to the right or the left, lead receivers in and out of the pocket, fit tight windows and keeping the ball away from defenders and crafting the trajectory of the ball to miss the crossing and underneath defenders to land into open hands.
He does it with pressure or without pressure and he stares down oncoming blitzers to throw it at the holes in coverage they leave behind.
He was the only freshman in the country given full control to run any play, call any route or shift protections when he learned the Callahan West Coast in Louisville, and continued that mastery into his sophomore and junior years. Not only does he run a pro-style offense, he's the only quarterback that runs a pro-style offense as if he was a pro quarterback.
Teddy adjusts throws to the situation and has some mechanical issues to resolve later in progressions, but generally has sound mechanics. Sometimes, when the play develops late, the weight transfer is not ideal but the ball zips out quickly anyway at intermediate distances at the near and far hashes. 90% of the time he'll have proper mechanics both in the upper and lower half of his body and his release is quick and compact.
Bridgewater has some of the best pocket presence in the draft, and has a supernatural ability to sense pressure and respond to it. He hits his checkdowns appropriately, but rarely relies on them and can adjust his stature or pocket positioning as necessary. He responds to pressure in a variety of ways, sometimes rolling back, sometimes stepping up, sometimes sideslipping and sometimes escaping the pocket and much more often than not makes the correct decision while rarely turning his back to the defense.
The Louisville signal-caller learned the complex Watson offense with crazy speed, as MMQB points out. I've written about this ability before, but the thing that stands out:
For a 17-year-old to instantly call up an entirely new system-effectively the same kind of process that allows humans to learn new languages-with near photographic accuracy and detail after a few weeks of learning is incredible.
The fact that he can do it during a game is what sets him apart, however. Knowing is great, but applying is key. He can use this knowledge to make small or large adjustments in order to create new advantages for his team. Bridgewater not only instantly recognizes coverages, but what route packages they're weak to and how often they should be used in a game before they start to get stale.
Bridgewater can call simple slides or complex protections, kill plays or call audibles or even draw up new plays at the line. He's a quick decisionmaker and he's usually right.
His offensive coordinator was reduced to tears of joy, on camera, when asked about him. Actual tears.
I recapped a lot of my scouting report on him earlier, but you can take a look here.
Norv Turner demands a rhythm offense with timing and decisiveness. Bridgewater fits that to a T.
And at Pick 32? I'm dreaming.