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Park: Bridgewater is the best QB in this year’s draft

Another year, another NFL Draft and another talented class of college football stars ready to prove themselves at the next level of play. My colleague Joey Beyda tells me that he’ll be devoting his column tomorrow to the legacy some of the Stanford athletes in this year’s draft, so I’ll be taking a bigger-picture view in my predictions tonight.

There’s been a lot of uncertainty in this year’s draft in that the stocks of a lot of people have been rising and falling significantly. Stanford fans will of course be familiar with how Shayne Skov has been dropping down the charts over the last few weeks, but seemingly nobody has dropped from grace to the extent that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has over the last several months.

Once lauded as a consensus first overall pick in this year’s draft and the most well-rounded quarterback in a class loaded with good-but-not-great prospects, Bridgewater has slowly tumbled down the ranks to the low first round, and even the second round, in some cases. Sure, Bridgewater didn’t have a fantastic pro day, and sure, he may have small hands, but the fact remains that all of those elements don’t affect how he will pan out as an NFL quarterback any more than they would have a few months ago when those elements hadn’t been added to the picture.

In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say that Teddy Bridgewater should be the first quarterback off the board. Judging by recent developments, that’s not going to happen, but I don’t think that either Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel offer as much immediate upside for teams wanting at the quarterback position as Bridgewater does.

I’m not saying that Bridgewater should return to his spot atop the draft board, because it will be a travesty if Jadeveon Clowney, the best pure athlete that the NFL Draft has seen in a long time, doesn’t get picked there (barring, of course, a trade of picks between teams). Clowney is truly a freak of nature — when do you see 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive ends running a 4.5 in the 40 — and there aren’t any superstar quarterbacks in this year’s class.

But the idea that Blake Bortles — a quarterback that literally nobody outside of Central Florida knew about before this year’s Fiesta Bowl — meteorically shot up the boards over the last two months and is being realistically looked at as the first quarterback off the board is ridiculous. If he hadn’t had enough of an impact during the regular season to get on everybody’s boards at that point (like Derek Carr of Fresno State did), there’s nothing that’s changed from then to now in his performance and experience that would warrant such an enormous rise up the boards.

It’s literally just because the “experts” and analysts need new storylines and fresh faces to keep viewers and readers interested through the extensive coverage of the NFL Draft that Bortles (and others, like Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo) has broken out to the extent that he has, at the cost of others like Bridgewater.

While I’m firmly sold on Bridgewater as the top quarterback pick, I wouldn’t be as disappointed to see Johnny Manziel go first overall. I think that he has the most room for development of superstar talent out of the quarterbacks in this year’s class, something that might be attractive for teams looking to draft a franchise quarterback who wouldn’t necessarily make as big of an immediate impact on the field. Manziel would immediately bring his dynamism and million-dollar attitude to the field day in and day out, something from which a stagnant franchise like Cleveland could benefit. That said, I think that a lot of that would also be provided by Bridgewater — with more immediate results.

A lot of the dynamic success that Manziel saw was in the face of more lax secondary coverage and pass rushers that didn’t possess NFL speed or strength — leading to more busted coverages that Manziel could take advantage of, and more leeway on scrambles and broken tackles when he was forced to leave the pocket. But at the next level, where everybody was on top of the collegiate game at some point, a lot of the opportunities that Manziel was able to exploit in his trademark dynamic manner won’t be there. And it will take time to adjust.

Meanwhile, whatever team takes Bridgewater at whatever too-low pick he drops to will be very happy indeed at the immediate production that it’ll be getting.

Do-Hyoung Park did just say that SEC defenders weren’t “on top of the collegiate game.” War Damn Winston subscribers, take aim at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet him @dohyoungpark.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16 is the head copy editor and a sports desk editor at The Daily. He has previously served as the Vol. 245 Managing Editor of Sports and primarily writes football, women's soccer and columns that he's pretty sure nobody reads except for him. Do-Hyoung is a junior originally from Seoul, South Korea and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota pursuing a major in chemical engineering. To contact him, please email him at dpark027 'at' stanford.edu.
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