Not even the most biased of Minnesota Vikings fans would consider Teddy Bridgewater a "top tier" quarterback at this point in his career. Bridgewater showed plenty of promise his rookie season, but also plenty of room to improve in several areas.
So where does Bridgewater rank in the NFL quarterback hierarchy heading into his second year in the league? Glad you asked. Mike Sando of ESPN recently released one of the better preseason reads around: his annual quarterback tiers column. Unfortunately, you can only read it with an ESPN Insider subscription. Fortunately, I can summarize how it went for you.
Sando doesn't give his own personal opinion about quarterbacks--anybody can arbitrarily rank QBs. What sets this ranking apart is how Sando arrives at his results. He polled 35 NFL coaches and evaluators to rank each of the 32 projected starters in one of five tiers. They spoke to Sando in anonymity so their opinions were unfiltered. Here is Sando's explanation of how the tiers are organized:
- Tier 1 quarterbacks can carry their teams week after week and contend for championships without as much help.
- Tier 2 QBs are less consistent and need more help, but good enough to figure prominently into a championship equation.
- Tier 3 are quarterbacks who are good enough to start but need lots of support, making it tougher to contend at the highest level.
- Tier 4 is typically reserved for unproven starters or those who might not be expected to last in the lineup all season. Voters used the fifth tier sparingly.
Pretty straightforward. Tier 1 makes you one of the best, Tier 2 means you can still carry a team, Tier 3 means you need help around you to win, and Tier 4 means you're either unproven or might not be holding onto your job for long. None of the 32 quarterbacks ended up in Tier 5, which must be reserved for the Ryan Leafs and JaMarcus Russells of the world.
After reading the descriptions, I think it's fair to say that Bridgewater is probably at the Tier 3 level with a strong chance to break into Tier 2 with his play this year. The experts agreed that Teddy is in the third tier. However, where he ended up in that tier might surprise you.
Bridgewater was tied for 23rd in the tier rankings with new Eagles starter Sam Bradford. They were the last two quarterbacks listed in the third tier, listed just ahead of rookies Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Bridgewater was ranked last in the NFC North. (Aaron Rodgers was tied for first, Matthew Stafford was tied for 12th, and Jay Cutler was tied for 20th.) Fellow sophomore starter Derek Carr was actually listed three spots ahead of Bridgewater. If that wasn't disheartening enough, it seems that some experts think his ceiling is fairly low:
"I think he is a 3 right now," a personnel director said. "He has a lot of confidence, some mobility, some little traits that you like. I just do not think he has a lot of a lot of those traits. He will flash 2, never be a 1 and settle in at being a 3, needing good people around him. He is one of those guys who is a jack of all trades, master of none."
A GM was quoted in the story challenging "anyone to find an area where Bridgewater projected as above average". Another director compared him to Andy Dalton, and it wasn't a compliment.
Of course, this isn't anything new for Teddy Bridgewater. Since inexplicably falling to the end of the first round in the draft, doubters and naysayers seem to follow the Vikings quarterback wherever he goes. All these font office folks downplaying Bridgewater's abilities smacks of teams trying to save face for passing on him in the first place. If he can build on the progress he made his rookie year with a new and improved supporting cast, Bridgewater could be bringing tears to the eyes of the people that slotted him so low in this tier.