The NFL Combine officially started this weekend on February 22nd. So far, most of the position groups, with the exceptions of defensive line, linebacker, and defensive backs, have participated in their workouts. There were many surprises this weekend in regards to 40 yard dash time, broad jump, vertical jump, etc. The key position group that most Houston Texans fans were looking at was the quarterback group, specifically Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, and Teddy Bridgewater. On Friday, Manziel garnered the most attention at the Combine with his highly attended interview while Bortles’ interview was less attended and very much in the background to the mania accompanying Johnny Football. Bridgewater, who was expected to interview on Friday, did not interview until Saturday due to his schedule getting pushed back. In his interview, Bridgewater seemed very even keeled, down to earth, and intelligible. In particular, his quote about eating, breathing, and living football resonated well with what Bill O’Brien is looking for in the next quarterback for the Texans. All these quarterbacks also went through physical exams (full results here). Manziel measured in at 5-foot-11 3/4, and weighed 207 pounds and had the largest hands out of the three. Bortles measured in at 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds and Bridgewater at 6-foot-two and 214 pounds. Manziel just barely missed the coveted six foot tall mark for NFL quarterbacks while Bridgewater weighed in nine pounds heavier than expected. On Saturday, quarterbacks ran the 40 yard dash and participated in other events, but the 40 yard dash usually garners the most attention. Manziel officially ran a 4.68 and Bortles a 4.93. Bridgewater did not participate in the event, instead opting to run his 40 at his pro day. The only quarterback that threw at the combine was Bortles, who did exceptionally well. Manziel and Bridgewater will both throw for NFL scouts at their respective pro days. Here are a few observations on Manziel, Bortles, and Bridgewater.
Johnny Manziel had a pretty eventful Combine. His interview on Friday was an absolute media circus. Manziel seemed sincere throughout his interview, was well prepared for all questions, and talked as if he was a changed person. Although it is great that he seemed to be taking this process much more seriously than anything at his tenure at Texas A&M, I find it hard to believe that he has changed so quickly. People do not want to change and when they do it takes a long time and a lot of effort. Until I see Manziel consistently act accordingly and like a grown-up, I will continue to view him in the same way that I did while he was in college. Manziel’s height does concern me, especially because he has not proven to be a consistent passer in the pocket. It really surprised me that Manziel only fumbled the ball five times at A&M even though he often lacked proper ball security and was constantly on the run. This was a very impressive stat that may be due to his hand size but also to a variety of other factors. Manziel’s 40 time was fourth among the quarterbacks who participated and was a pretty impressive time. Although it was not on par with times in previous years from quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, or Robert Griffin III, it was still a pretty decent time. I do not blame Manziel for not throwing at the combine, although I would have preferred to see him throw there and at his pro day. Overall, Manziel had a good showing at the Combine that ought to keep him in the thick of the talk for being drafted number one overall.
Blake Bortles’ Combine was one that most definitely helped strengthen his draft stock. Bortles’ interview went well and he answered all the questions that were thrown at him in an intelligible manner. His interview may not have been attended as well as Manziel’s, but Bortles proved to be confident in his abilities and himself. Sizewise, Bortles compares very well with Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bortles’ 40 time was a little bit underwhelming, especially considering that he looks much faster in game-film. The biggest thing Bortles had going for him was the fact that he actually participated in passing drills and exceeded expectations. Bortles was accurate and showcased his arm strength throughout the drills. The fact that Bortles actually participated in these passing drills demonstrated that he was not afraid to go out on a limb and throw in an uncomfortable environment to receivers he had never played with. Granted, Bortles, in my opinion, needed to throw this weekend because he had the most to gain from doing so. Bortles is seen as the most raw out of the three prospects, so it was important for him to attempt to prove doubters wrong by taking a big risk. Bortles’ Combine showed that he belongs in the conversation for the top pick this season and should not be overlooked.
Lastly, Teddy Bridgewater’s Combine was an overall disappointment. The best part of his Combine was his Saturday interview with the media. Overall, I came away very impressed with Bridgewater’s demeanor, presence, and his passion for the game. Out of all the interviews, Bridgewater’s was the most impressive and captivating. Bridgewater helped somewhat dispel the notion of him being too small by adding nine pounds to his slim frame. This weight addition is essential to Bridgewater’s stock, since many scouts knock him for his skinny body and how he will not hold up in a full NFL season. I was extremely disappointed that Bridgewater did not run the 40 yard dash or throw at the combine. Although I understand why he played it safe, it still bothered me that he did not at least run his 40. Why did he even bother to show up if all he did was get measured and have a big media interview? To me, it would have boded well for his stock had he shown his competitive nature and participated in all the events. He may be the most polished quarterback out of the three, but there also is the possibility that he falls out of the top ten entirely (especially according to former NFL scout John Middlekauff). I guess we will have to wait and see how Bridgewater fares in the 40 and passing drills, but I think it would have benefited him greatly to do them both at the Combine. Although Bridgewater interviewed well, he did not do enough to lose steam in possibly becoming the number one overall pick, but he also did not do anything to necessarily strengthen his case.
Overall, the Combine was a great opportunity for all three prospects to show off their personalities, athletic abilities, and competitiveness. Although this is not the biggest part of draft analyzation, it does play a part in the overall scheme of things. I would declare Bortles the winner among the three with Manziel coming in second and Bridgewater third. Over the next couple of months, all three prospects will hope to convince the Texans that they deserve to be picked first and are worthy to be the next franchise quarterback for the franchise.