NFL Prospect Focus: Blake Bortles

I’ve been a little outspoken the past few weeks about the talent level of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. In both the NFL and the draftnik community, there is a difference of opinion as to his value. There are some who think he is a “can’t miss” prospect who will be drafted very high, and there are others (myself included) who feel he would have been better served to stay in school another year.

I waited to write him up for the NFP because I didn’t want to take the time to view a lot of tape if he was going to stay in school. With word out over the weekend that he is indeed entering the Draft, I spent Monday looking at tape. I looked at five games on “coach’s tape” (South Carolina, South Florida, Houston, Louisville, and Temple) and also their Bowl game against Baylor using the TV copy.

Bortles is a fourth-year junior and a two-year starter at UCF. Coming out of high school he was a three-star recruit who had offers from schools such as Purdue, Western Kentucky, and Colorado State. He has excellent size at about 6’4 – 230 to go along with good athleticism and play speed. At the Combine, he should run in the 4.7 area. He plays in a multi-offense and plays from both under center and in the spread. The Central Florida scheme is closer to a pro-style offense than many other college offenses. Bortles had good production this year, completing 259 of 382 passes for 3581 yards, 25 TDs, and nine interceptions. His completion percentage was just under 68%, but I don’t put a lot of stock into that stat at the college level. I feel ball placement is a far better indicator of a college quarterback's accuracy because of how wide open many college receivers are.

When playing from under center, Bortles can set up fairly quickly. He has a good feel for pass rushers, but he will often run out of the pocket when he is pressured instead of stepping up into the pocket. He shows he can go through a progression and find the open receiver, but there are also times when he will stare down his primary receiver. While he can go through a progression, you seldom see him look off a receiver and come back to another. He flashes making some really good throws, showing good timing, and getting good zip on the ball. He also has a lot of throws where his timing is off and he doesn’t set his feet. You see a lot of throws where he is not in proper balance. I feel his decision making is inconsistent. He is at his best against weaker opponents and when he isn’t pressured, but in games like South Carolina, when the competition is very good, he can struggle and make poor decisions. His throwing motion and release quickness are adequate. When you watch enough tape, you can see that he will change his throwing motion at times. He doesn’t have a really quick release. There are guys who make a decision, and the ball is out of their hand instantly. That isn’t the case with Bortles, and it allows DBs to get a jump on the ball (see So. Carolina)

Bortles' best throws are on the shorter passes (15 yards and less). The further downfield he throws, the less accurate he becomes. His ability to throw the deep ball is average at best. Many of his longer plays, that I saw, were actually shorter passes with long runs after the catch. He has good arm strength, but he does not have a cannon. While he can throw a tight ball, he also throws a lot of balls that “flutter”. Bortles has good running skills. He is not going to remind anyone of “Johnny Football” with his run skills but they are good enough. While he is not elusive, he is strong and can find an open lane.

I am not going to deny that this player has talent, but I do feel that he would have been better served staying in college and developing his game. He is far from being ready to come into the NFL and play. There is too much inconsistency in his overall game. I question if he can become an eventual starter and win in the NFL. That doesn’t mean he won’t start for whoever drafts him, but as we all have seen the last five to six years, there have been MANY quarterbacks drafted with high hopes who haven’t lived up to expectations. Right now, I would take Bridgewater, Manziel, McCarron, Derek Carr, David Fales and Brett Smith before I would take Bortles. I feel all of them are better passers and better prepared to play in the NFL

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