Someone asked me Wednesday to identify who has the most to gain on the first day of the draft. At this point, that seems to be former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, since he pretty much has nothing to lose at this point.
Regarded not long ago as a serious candidate to be the first overall pick in the draft, there’s now an increasing sense from some draft experts that Bridgewater may not even be selected in the first round. Recently, Mike Mayock joined Mel Kiper as two of the premier draft experts who have raised real questions about whether Bridgewater ends up spending all of next Thursday night in the green room.
“First and foremost, you want to say the tape is most important,” Mayock said Wednesday on NFL Network, via NFL.com. “We talk about that all the time, but at the quarterback position, you have to see the guy throw live. We all know that [Bridgewater's] Pro Day was below average for a top-level quarterback. I talked to a lot of teams, and I’m hearing a heck of a lot more second-round grades than first-round grades.
“What I’m hearing is two things. Number one, when we saw him throw live we didn’t see arm strength and didn’t see accuracy. Number two, when you draft a quarterback in the first round you expect him to be the face of your franchise, you expect him to embrace the moment. I think people had some concerns about whether or not this young man is ready to step up and be the face of a franchise.”
It’s possible that teams have reached the latter conclusion about Bridgewater after meeting with him via the pre-draft process. Still, it’s hard to believe that a guy who emerged from his college career widely regarded as being at the top of the draft class has fallen so far.
In his annual, epic, pre-Combine conference call in February, Mayock said Bridgewater was the most game-ready quarterback of the incoming class.
“The reason I think he’s the quote most ready to play in an NFL style offense, he was in shotgun, his offense, they threw the ball short, intermediate and deep,” Mayock said, via the transcript of his conference call. “He understands three-step, five-step [drop] and he reads more than just half a field. You can put the tape in and watch him do things and say, yeah, that translates to the next level. He’s not as much a wildcard as [Johnny] Manziel, and I think he’s more developed in his reads and throws than [Blake] Bortles. So that’s why I say, I think he’s the most ready to play. Whether or not he’s going to be there [for the Browns at No. 4], that depends what Houston and Jacksonville do.”
So what has happened in little more than two months?
It could be that, while the draft experts collectively agreed on Bridgewater as his college career ended, the teams had a different assessment all along, and now the media is catching up. The dynamic unfolds every year, with a guy supposedly rising or falling late in the process when in reality it’s the media who’s finally figuring out what teams think of him.
But if a slide is coming, at least Bridgewater can brace himself for it. Last year, the media (which had Geno Smith at the top of the draft) never fully caught up with Smith’s stock sliding all the way out of round one.