2014 NFL Draft: Pre-season Breakdown – Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will enter the 2013 season as one of the highest profile players in the country. A sensational sophomore season in which Bridgewater led Louisville to an 11 win season, inclduing a Big East Championship, and a Sugar Bowl victory has Bridgewater among the favorites for the Heisman trophy and the focus of NFL scouts. While the Cardinals lost the starting left tackle and center from last season to graduation, the return all of the other 9 starters on offense. They have a favorable schedule and what appears to be a clear path to the Big East title game and eventual BCS birth.

Vitals & Build
Bridgewater is listed at 6’3, 218 lbs. Not quite proto-typical height, but his height is certainly not a concern. Like most college quarterbacks, Bridgewater will have to add bulk and strength to withstand a 16 game season of NFL punishment.

Arm Strength
Bridgewater has an effortless throwing motion in which the ball seems to explode out of his hand. He is capable of making every NFL throw with relative ease. Bridgewater has an excellent deep ball and has the ability to zip the ball downfield on a rope or put air under it and lead his receiver.

Accuracy & Touch
Accuracy is one of things that separate Bridgewater from most NFL prospects. While he does have terrific arm strength and can stretch the field, it is his accuracy that makes him dangerous. Bridgewater will regularly hit receivers in stride the second the hit a soft spot in a zone. One thing Bridgewater could improve upon with his mechanics is throwing a more consistent deep ball. He had a tendency to be streaky with the long ball and missed some opportunities for some big plays downfield. In most cases this was a footwork issue that was partly due to pressure forcing him to throw off of his backfoot.

Bridgewater has an excellent ability to throw with touch and drop the ball over his receivers shoulder and away from defenders. He utilizes his backs out of the backfield very well and even when under pressure has the ability to float the ball to the right place at the right time for his receivers.

Ball placement is another aspect of Bridgewater’s game that sets him apart. A great example of this came in the Rutgers game. TE Ryan Hubbell got off the line untouched and was streaking down the middle of the field with a safety over the top, Bridgewater immediately made the throw but put the ball on Hubbell’s back hip causing him to turn around and hit the ground in order to make the catch. At first glance, this would appear to be an inaccurate throw, but taking a closer look shows that Rutgers safety and recent New England Patriot 3rd round pick Duron Harmon had a straight kill shot on Hubbell had he caught the ball in stride. This type of awareness and accuracy shows how advanced Bridgewater is and why he is such a special QB prospect.

Mechanics & Footwork
Mechanics are another strong point of Bridgewater’s game. He holds the ball up high, just under his ear. He has a quick, snap like release that he can get off regardless of what is going on with his feet. He steps onto his throws and has a good follow through. His footwork is also very good. He is very light on his feet and maneuvers around the pocket very well. He steps into his throws and when on the run will always keep his feet under him and square his shoulders to make the throw.

Pocket Awareness
This is an area where Bridgewater needs to improve. He will occasionally hold onto the ball too long and take an unnecessary hit. He will also fail to read blitzes or make the proper protection adjustments when he does see the blitz coming. These are not weaknesses or even concerns, just areas of improvement for Bridgewater as well as any young QB.

While in the pocket, Bridgewater displays terrific pocket presence. He is very elusive and almost never gives up a clean hit. His quick feet allow him to shift around the pocket and he has the speed and running ability to make plays with his feet once outside the pocket. Bridgewater is not afraid of pressure and does not get rattled, which is a very key trait when looking towards an NFL future, just ask Jacksonville and Blaine Gabbert.

Decision Making & Anticipation
Teddy Bridgewater is ahead of the curve for quarterback development, it is a rarity for a true sophomore quarterback to display the type of decision making you see from Bridgewater on a weekly basis. His ability to read defenses is paramount in allowing him to find one on one match-ups and execute the offense. One of my favorite things about Bridgewater is his ability to take what the defense gives him. He is not a gunslinger, he will not force the issue, and does what every coach has always preached: live to fight another day. As mentioned earlier, Bridgewater utilizes his backs out of the backfield on check-downs as well as any QB in the country. He can get through his reads quickly and decisively and if everything breaks down he will gladly throw the ball away to avoid a loss.

Bridgewater is a threat when the ball is in his hands, no matter if he is behind or past the line of scrimmage. He is a natural runner who can make defenders miss while making or simply extending plays. Bridgewater is also a cautious runner who will duck out of bounds or get down before contact, he could definitely improve his sliding technique but at least he is avoiding contact. He does offer some read option potential, but given his lack of bulk and far greater throwing ability it is not the best course of action.

System Fit
Teddy Bridgewater has the skill set and style of play to fit any system in the NFL. He has the arm strength and pocket presence to thrive in a vertical passing attack. He has the accuracy, quick release, and decisiveness to run a west coast offense. He even has the athletic ability to run a read option spread offensive attack. Bridgewater’s style of play should not remove him from a single draft board.

2013 Schedule

Sun, Sept. 1vs. Ohio
Sat, Sept. 7vs. Eastern Kentucky
Sat, Sept. 14at Kentucky
Sat, Sept. 21vs. Florida International
Sat, Oct. 5at Temple
Thu, Oct. 10vs. Rutgers
Fri, Oct. 18vs. Central Florida
Sat, Oct. 26at South Florida
Fri, Nov. 8at Connecticut
Sat, Nov. 16vs. Houston
Sat, Nov. 23vs. Memphis
Thu, Dec. 5at Cincinnati

Notable Games
Until their bowl game, Louisville and Teddy Bridgewater will not be facing any elite teams. The Connecticut game will be an interesting one considering they were one of Louisville’s two losses from the 2012 season. As the schedule is laid out right now, Louisville could make a serious run at a perfect record heading into the post season.

NFL Comparison
Bridgewater is very similar to Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. They are surgical in the passing game. Both players are capable of beating defenses with their ball placement as much as their arm strength. They both display toughness, the ability to play through pain, and stand in the pocket and execute the offense under pressure. Neither is a running QB, but both are capable runners who can hurt a defense if not accounted for.

Draft Projection
Early first round. There are few, if any, weaknesses in Bridgewater’s game. If he can improve upon a very strong sophomore season and stellar Sugar Bowl performance against a nasty Florida Gators defense, the sky is the limit. Andrew Luck is the only other sophomore quarterback in recent memory who played at as high a level as Bridgewater did this past year. If Bridgewater can continue his development and put together another strong year ending in a BCS bowl trip he may ultimately challenge Jadeveon Clowney for the top spot in the 2014 NFL Draft.