Bridgewater is more Andrew Luck than Robert Griffin III, but while he is a pocket passer primarily, he is an impressive athlete whose ability to make plays outside the pocket make him a good fit for any modern offensive scheme.
Designed runs have been rare for Bridgewater at Louisville, and they should continue to be in the NFL. The area Bridgewater excels in is scrambling to extend plays and throwing on the run.
Bridgewater has the speed to run away from pass-rushers in the backfield and keep a play alive. He does a very good job when rolling outside of the pocket of keeping his eyes downfield and continuing to make reads as a passer. He throws accurately on the run, not only to the near sideline but can also throw back to the middle while continuing to roll away from pressure.
Bridgewater is almost always looking for a pass play when he scrambles, but when the best available option is to tuck and run, he can do that effectively too. He uses his size well to stiff-arm defenders and run through contact, while he also has good shiftiness in the open-field for a quarterback of his size.
At times, Bridgewater’s scrambling can get him into trouble. He rarely gives up on a play, but as a result, he sometimes tries too hard to run away from pressure and takes deep sacks as a result.
While he does need to learn when to cut a play’s losses and throw the ball away to avoid a loss of yardage or turnover, that part of his game can be tolerated given the many big plays he does make by extending the play. Even when pressured, he does a great job of keeping his composure and making a play, such as this ingenuous shovel pass that went for a 14-yard touchdown against Rutgers:
The new NFL trend calls for athletic quarterbacks who can extend plays with their feet while making plays with their arm outside the pocket. Bridgewater fits that trend.
Bridgewater may only be entering his junior season, he is mechanically sound like an NFL veteran, which makes the stigma against non-senior quarterbacks worth throwing out in his case if he enters the 2014 NFL draft.
Bridgewater is experienced both under center and from the shotgun. He has considerable experience with pro-style drops from under center, and has terrific footwork in his drops.
He does a terrific job of keeping his eyes downfield, going through his progressions and standing tall under pressure. His ball rotation is sometimes compromised when pressured, but his quick, compact release enables him to make any throw even when pressured.
Another trait that stands out about Bridgewater is his toughness. In that game against Rutgers last season from which the clips are derived, Bridgewater was playing with both a sprained ankle and a broken wrist on his non-throwing hand. Even when battling injuries last season, he continued to play at a high level as a dual-threat quarterback.
Why Bridgewater, Not Clowney, is the Favorite to Go No. 1 Overall
Clowney has the skill set to be an elite NFL pass-rusher from the beginning of his career, but even with the ever-growing importance of pressuring opposing quarterbacks, there is no player who can have a greater impact on his team’s success than a star quarterback.
If Bridgewater continues to naturally progress the way he did in his sophomore season, there is no reason to believe that Bridgewater will not be a star quarterback in the NFL.
Look no further than recent draft history to gauge how valued quarterbacks are. While the 2013 NFL draft only had one first-round quarterback, the 2013 draft class was an anomaly that lacked any sure first-round talents at the position. Between 2001-2012, a quarterback was the No. 1 overall selection in 10 of 12 years, with the top quarterback being selected No. 3 overall in the other two seasons.
The most comparable example to what is projected for the 2014 NFL draft came in 2010, when the St. Louis Rams passed upon Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the draft, for Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.
While Bradford was the top quarterback in the 2010 draft class, he came into that draft with some questions. He did not a pro-style, under-center offense at Oklahoma, lacked top-tier arm strength and came into the draft with serious injury concerns after missing nearly his entire final season at Oklahoma with injuries to his throwing shoulder.
Suh, on the other hand, was also considered to be a “once-in-a-generation” defensive prospect. An explosive defensive tackle with a rare combination of athleticism and power, Suh’s superstar potential has been somewhat overshadowed by his questionable on-field and off-field antics, but he was viewed as the instant impact player he has been for the Detroit Lions’ defense.
Bridgewater does not have any of those same questions that Bradford has. Even with Clowney on the board, a quarterback-needy team will be hard-pressed to pass upon Bridgewater, just as the Rams decided that even a prospect of Suh’s caliber wasn’t enough to pass upon Bradford.
Of course, who goes No. 1 overall will ultimately depend on who holds the No. 1 overall pick. If the team in the top spot already has a quarterback in place, then it appears very likely Clowney will end up being the top player on their board. More often than not, however, one reason the team drafting at No. 1 overall ends up in that spot is due to their need of a franchise signal-caller, to which the 2014 NFL draft’s best answer will likely be Bridgewater.