Leger Douzable is a defensive lineman for the New York Jets and the former Central Florida standout is set to enter his seventh season in the NFL in 2014. Off the field, he provides analysis and insight for SportsNet New York.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was taken No. 18 overall in the 2008 NFL draft and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger taken No. 11 overall in 2004. Both have won a Super Bowl and would have been top five picks if not for the schools they attended. Roethlisberger attended Miami of Ohio in the Mid-American Conference and Flacco attended FCS powerhouse Delaware.
These schools aren't really "small" schools, but when it comes to football they aren't considered with the elite programs. In this year’s draft there is one quarterback who has the same type of measurables as Roethlisberger and Flacco, but he also didn't play for a football program that is considered elite.
Put Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles on a BCS powerhouse program like Alabama, Texas, Florida – you name it – and he would be the top pick in the draft.
Bortles stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 232 pounds, which is prototypical size for a franchise quarterback. What’s better is that he stands tall and delivers the ball in the face of heavy pressure. He keeps his eyes downfield while climbing in the pocket; he’s elusive and can avoid the first wave of defenders and make plays with his feet – he is deceptively quick and plays faster than his 40-yard dash time. There is impressive efficiency in throwing on the run and he excels on bootlegs and play-action passing plays. He can fit the ball into tight windows and has good anticipation to throw where receivers are going to be.
Scouts will notice he doesn't take many unnecessary sacks and he can extend plays when the pocket folds. He exhibits a sense of calm in critical situations, shown when he commanded comeback wins last season at Louisville and at Penn State. He also boasts an impressive Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor. He was named MVP in that game as he threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for 93 yards and one touchdown.
Bortles has proven he should be the top pick. That he went to UCF is hurting him right now, like Roethlisberger and Flacco’s schools hurt them in the draft.
There isn't one top quarterback prospect in this year’s draft who mirrors Bortles stature, and he is just tapping into his potential. With all this being said, you would think a team like the Houston Texans who need a franchise quarterback would automatically pick him. It baffles me that Bortles hasn't been getting the publicity he deserves. Not many quarterbacks come along every year with the size and the myriad of talents Bortles has, so one wonders why he isn't getting the buzz he should.
The only answer I can come up with is that he went to UCF.
UCF is the largest school in Florida with a student enrollment of 50,000-plus students, however they aren't considered a big football school. Bortles' competition may not have been as good as some of the other quarterback prospects, but when he faced some of these teams he flourished.
You might say I'm a little biased being a graduate and former player of UCF but I'm just stating facts. I wonder how many teams would have taken Roethlisberger or Flacco higher in the draft if given the chance to go back and do it again.
In this year’s draft it should be a no brainer that Bortles should go first overall. His stats say it, his experience in a pro-style offense says it and his prototype size says it. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is an amazing talent but without a franchise quarterback it's really hard to win in this league – and this is coming from a defensive lineman.
The Houston Texans have a chance to get their franchise quarterback at No. 1 – but they will have to see Bortles for the talent that he is. And that is the best player in the draft.
Leger Douzable can be followed on Twitter @LegerDouzable