INDIANAPOLIS – When you project draft classes more than a year in advance, it becomes boring to repeat the same facts.
Teddy Bridgewater was the quarterback jewel of the 2014 draft class for so long, it wasn't interesting enough to continuously discuss his superiority. We moved on to something else. Johnny Manziel is obviously interesting and soared up mock drafts. Blake Bortles went from relative anonymity to everyone projecting him as a possibility for the top pick in the blink of an eye.
When Bridgewater met with the media at the combine, at the same podium Manziel stood at a day earlier, the group of reporters listening to him was about half the size of the crew that hung on Johnny Football's every word, and maybe smaller.
Bridgewater said he doesn't really pay any attention to the amount of attention he's getting. No matter who the media is focusing on, the forgotten man of the class feels he is the top prospect at his position.
"I feel that I’m the best quarterback in this draft," Bridgewater said. "I’m not just going to sit up here and say it. There’s obviously actions that have to back up these words, and I’m just confident in myself and my capability to be able to play this position."
He's probably right.
The same reasons he was so highly thought of last offseason, when he was projected as the clear top quarterback prospect, still exist. He's adept at working from the pocket, athletic enough to move around and buy time when needed. He can make all the throws. He was extremely productive in college, although not against the best competition.
Manziel is a wild card because of his size and questions about his pocket ability. Bortles is big and skilled but raw. When the Texans think about the risk and reward of investing the No. 1 overall pick into a player, they'll probably figure out that Bridgewater has the same upside as the other quarterbacks with far fewer question marks.
"This past season, I was able to complete 71 percent of my passes," Bridgewater said when asked about his strengths. "My third-down passing completion percentage was pretty much off the charts, my pocket presence, I’m a competitor. Each day I go out there and I’m eager to learn, remain a student of the game, and I think that right there just separates me."
Bridgewater also talked about how much responsibility he had in Louisville's offense, having to slide protection and identify fronts and make checks, things he'll be asked to do in a pro offense. That's another edge.
One question that had been growing about him was his size. He weighed just 205 pounds last season at Louisville, but he explained that. His sophomore year, he had a procedure done in which his jaw was broken to fix an overbite. He was 222 pounds, then lost almost 20 pounds because he couldn't eat solid food for two months. He had trouble putting that weight back on, but he has gained nine pounds already this offseason and is up to 214.
"I just feel that to play this position you have to have durability, and I just want to prove that I can put on that weight and I am one of those guys who can last a full NFL season," Bridgewater said.
If Houston passes on Bridgewater he won't last long. Oakland and Jacksonville have met with him at the combine, he said. It would be a massive surprise if the Jaguars passed on Bridgewater with the third pick.
Whoever selects Bridgewater, that team will be getting a potential franchise quarterback.
"Each day, I’m trying to get better," Bridgewater said. "I’m trying to outwork my opponent, outsmart my opponent and just try to be the best quarterback that I can be."
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