Blake Bortles was the quarterback of the best Central Florida football team in the program’s history. The redshirt junior operated as a big bodied, dual threat quarterback who primarily operated from the pocket but was able to run the football as well, combining for a total of 31 touchdowns. Along with Storm Johnson, Bortles was able to lead an impressive offense that was able to 12-1 record with one blemish in a close game against South Carolina. Not only did the Knights win the All American Conference in the first year of its existence, they also went to their first and only BCS game where they beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Bortles opted to capitalize on the huge season and declare for the NFL Draft.
Bortles has all of the physical tools to be a good quarterback in the NFL, but needs to continue developing. His arm strength is good but not great, but he shows the ability to be an accurate passer who can be a mobile threat as well. He has footwork issues to correct, but his upside is intriguing and he will likely go earlier than he should, based on his tape. Bortles warrants a top 50 pick but is likely to go in the first round and could end up going in the top 10 based on the needs of teams as well as his outstanding potential. With more refinement and consistency, he has the ability to be a franchise quarterback.
Vitals & Build
Bortles is listed at 6’4” 230lbs and looks the part of the prototype quarterback. He has a big, strong build that has him the same size as many linebackers. Bortles possesses impressive quickness and a great first step as well as good top end speed for the position. He has good body control and balance for the most part. Even if Bortles were to come in under his listed measurables, he is still an impressive physical prospect and there is little reason to think he cannot continue to add strength and get better with time and effort.
Bortles has a good arm in his ability to push the football down the field. He is able to comfortably drive the ball 50 yards down the field while getting a pretty good amount of velocity on the football. Bortles does not have an overwhelming arm, but nothing that suggests he should be limited in terms of scheme.
He is able to get good zip on the ball. Bortles has demonstrated that he can throw a decent fastball and get the ball into relatively small windows. He is also able to throw a solid line drive when he is throwing on the move.
Accuracy & Touch
Bortles has been able to be an accurate quarterback, but so much of it depends on his mechanics. He has been able to throw accurate passes at just about every level of the field, showing an impressive ability on corner throws. There really is no throw he cannot make, but just needs to be consistent.
Because of inconsistent mechanics, he can miss in any direction. He has had passes he has grounded, overthrown and missed to either side of the target, which points to his footwork.
Bortles demonstrates a great touch on the football and has shown a variety of touch throws. He is able to zip the football in to pretty tight windows and has shown the ability to put the ball just over defenders and give his receivers the opportunities to make plays. What makes Bortles impressive in this area is he has a good sense of what throw he needs at a given time, really avoiding any noticeable error in this area.
Mechanics & Footwork
Bortles has inconsistent mechanics and footwork. He does not have one glaring issue so much as he has a number of small ones that present themselves at different times. His throwing motion generally has him taking the ball to his ear and pushing forward, but there are times when he will go with a longer windup; which sometimes will have him put the ball down his hip. Working to eliminate the need to go that far down on an extended throwing motion would allow him to get rid of the ball faster.
Bortles’ footwork is a larger issue. When he is on his game, Bortles has good feet, quickly operating and setting up to throw, stepping into the throw on time. Occasionally, Bortles will bring his feet too close together under him presenting the possibility of a loss of balance.
There are also times where Bortles is heavy footed and looks slow and somewhat lazy with his feet. He will plant his back foot in the ground and more or less just rotate his torso before planting the front foot to throw the ball.
Lastly, Bortles will step out with his throws, opening up his hips and throwing like a shortstop fielding a routine grounder than a quarterback making a big time throw. This can have an impact on his accuracy, causing him to throw off target laterally. Bortles has managed to get pretty good results from this motion, but there are definitely times where he will be off target as a result.
There are times when Bortles does not do a good job shifting his weight into throws. This is most evident when he faces pressure up the middle and either leans back to throw or will throw off of his back foot.
Bortles is actually at his best when he is on the move, taking his feet out of the process. He is impressively accurate when he is throwing with nothing but his upper body and torso, which lends credence to the fact that his footwork can hurt him and needs to be improved.
Bortles does have experience working from under center and displays the ability to perform three, five, and seven step drops. Of those, he is most likely to get heavy footed and go with lazy footwork on his three step drop, executing five and seven step drops effectively.
None of the issues Bortles has shown is an overwhelming problem, but they are all little issues that need to be cleaned up and they add up to give him issues at times. When Bortles rushes, his mechanics suffer and he is more inaccurate. He needs to get more efficient with his long throwing motion and consistently use good footwork, all of which can be improved with hard work and muscle memory.
This is an area where Bortles really excels. He is extremely comfortable in the pocket, is able to work in small spaces and does not panic. Bortles has the ability to plant his foot in the ground and escape in any direction, able to make opponents miss, but what makes him stand out is his willingness to step up in the pocket.
He has shown he is willing to step up and fire the ball, but when it comes to scrambling, Bortles does much of it up the middle and between the tackles. He certainly has the ability to and has escaped to the outside when he deems it necessary, but he trusts the pocket and his protection, which allows him to make a decision down the field more quickly.
If there is one area that can give him a little bit of trouble, it is pressure up the middle. Bortles can handle it and avoid, but he tends to get rushed in that area and looks to get rid of the football, which is fine, but his mechanics can break down in the process. He leans back or throws off of his back foot to avoid it. Bortles does not lose a ton of accuracy in doing so, but it can have an impact as well as on his velocity and the combination can create some issues.
Bortles does not take many sacks, because he generally is decisive with the football and has the ability to escape, but the one area that is of concern and needs to be improved is how often the ball comes loose when he does get hit. He was able to recover a few of them, but he seems to lose his grip on the ball and put it on the carpet too often. Improving his grip should help, but he needs to do a better job of protecting the football.
Decision Making & Anticipation
Bortles ability to make good decisions is solid, but he will get himself into trouble when he assumes throws. Usually in situations where Bortles is going to his primary read, he will misread or underestimate the defense, allowing the ball to be put in danger and the opponent to cause problems. He will occasionally get greedy and go for plays he should not, but generally takes what the defense gives him, taking the profit and avoiding too many risky throws.
For the most part, Bortles does a solid job of seeing what the defense is trying to do to him and take advantage of holes and mistakes. There are some times where he appears to get fooled, but he has been far more likely to beat a defense than he is to get victimized by one.
Bortles does a decent job of anticipating throws. There are situations where he has been able to effectively put the ball where a receiver was going to be before the defense was able to react. For the most part, he is hitting open targets and is not throwing a ton of receivers open at this point in his development.
Bortles’ legs are a weapon and certainly give him options. He has a great first step and accelerates quickly whether he is working laterally or going forward. Bortles has the ability to roll out and move the pocket as well as escape pressure.
He has the ability to pick up yards when he scrambles and can pick up first downs, score in the red zone and has the potential to make big plays. His size helps in terms of absorbing punishment, but no team wants to have their franchise quarterback taking a number of unnecessary hits. Bortles can be shifty and that helps him avoid getting taking an opponent’s best shot, but questions with fumbles make it a risky venture no matter how he is getting hit.
Bortles does a good job of keeping his eyes down the field and is able to throw on the run effectively, often displaying better accuracy than he does when he has time to set up and throw the ball. He has a strong trunk and is flexible, able to get a decent amount of zip on the ball even when rolling to his left. Bortles is able to attack the line of scrimmage, causing opponents to make a decision and open up throwing options down the field.
Bortles has not really shown to be better suited to play in one system over another other than to say he has been playing in a pro-style offense at Central Florida. He is able to make throws down the field as well as timing routes. Bortles may be better in a horizontal based offense purely because he has better zip than he does raw arm strength, but he can play in either one.
The issues with Bortles come down to mechanics and needing more experience. On the one hand, sitting for a year would be beneficial from the standpoint that he needs to clean up his mechanics, especially with his footwork. On the other hand, he needs more experience and just needs to play more games to get more comfortable in what he is doing. The likelihood is that Bortles will be a starter as a rookie, possibly from game one.
In a number of areas, Bortles resembles Jake Locker of the Tennessee Titans. Both have a great deal of physical tools they bring to the position, but neither was a finished product coming out of college. Locker had footwork issues, but they were different and more problematic than Bortles in relation to his accuracy and Bortles has not dealt with injuries in his career. Both have the ability to be franchise quarterbacks but both have questions dealing with consistency.
Blake Bortles has all of the tools to be a good quarterback for a long time. He has enough arm to challenge opponents down the field, the zip to fit passes into windows and his array of throws are impressive, showing a great sense of when and how much touch he needs on passes. Bortles has to fix the mechanical issues to be a consistent passer, but if he can do that, his ceiling is extremely high. He has an element of boom or bust as a result. Bortles warrants a top 50 pick but is likely going to be a first round pick and could go as high as the top 10 with a chance to be the top quarterback overall.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com