The 2013 draft class will forever be remembered as the “Year of the Anti-Quarterback”. Teams refused to value the top quarterbacks in the class as franchise-level talents despite multiple showing that ability in college.
With just one quarterback going in the 1st round and another in the 2nd, the eight or so quarterback-needy teams delayed the inevitable search for a franchise quarterback in 2013, putting added pressure on the 2014 class.
Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater’s impressive freshman and sophomore year is what has lead him to be the top draft eligible quarterback in the 2014 class (if he chooses to declare). San Jose State’s David Fales has been the recipient of national exposure in recent weeks, but the non-BCS prospect still has ample work to do before he’s a 1st round talent.
Bridgewater Wows with Athleticism/Arm, Surprises with Composure
One of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country out of high school, Bridgewater landed at Louisville with coach Charlie Strong and immediately assumed a starter role for the Cardinals. Bridgewater has an MCL injury (senior year of high school) and wrist injury (late in 2012 season), but other-wise seems built to withstand injuries in his career thanks to his composed running style and well-built (and still developing) frame across his body.
The Big East Rookie of the Year in 2011 and Offensive Player of the Year in 2012, Bridgewater already begun to grow his reputation has not only one of the most explosive quarterbacks in the country, but an SEC-level talented quarterback after his demolition of the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl.
Bridgewater most obvious and exciting talent as a quarterback is his athleticism. A natural mover in the open field, Bridgewater stays in athletic position moving in and out of the pocket, and has the quick feet to make substantial gains in the open field. Along with his natural running ability, Bridgewater is able to generate top velocity on his throws, both when working across the field in the 5-15 yard range, and getting enough depth on his vertical throws.
However, what’s most unique about Bridgewater’s NFL future talent is his composure in and around the pocket. He possesses composed feet as he works in the pocket, sliding laterally as well as moving fluidly up to his anticipated target. While his re-establishment of his base and resetting of his feet as he adjusts his throws horizontally, Bridgewater’s natural movement in the pocket and flashes of ideal footwork should make those concerns dissipate if he takes the next step as a pocket passer.
As a passer, he has a tight, controlled throwing release that allows him to get the ball out quick (albeit a bit low at times) and allows him to set up on time on quicker, timing based routes in the short-area. Downfield, Bridgewater has ample velocity and actually could further improve his deep ball by utilizing his legs more effectively to generate force.
Bridgewater isn’t in the Andrew Luck-class of quarterback prospects, at least not at this point in his career. However, Bridgewater’s fluidity, comfort-ability in big situations and games, and composure as a pocket quarterback is what makes him not only a high upside quarterback, but a potential franchise-level passer.
Fales’s the Trendy Sleeper, But Needs Work Before He’s NFL Ready
Not a highly touted quarterback prospect, Fales started his career as a Nevada backup to Colin Kaepernick after the school offered him his only major college scholarship offer. However, after not feeling he “fit” into their system, he played two years of Junior College at Monterey Peninsula before landing at San Jose State in 2012. Fales then proceeded to have one of the best passing seasons in all of college football last season.
The 6’3, 220 quarterback has ample arm strength horizontally across the field, a quick release, and a consistently tight ball in the short area. He uses his body to sink, remain flexible, and gain velocity in the mid-field at a high level. His arm strength isn’t at an NFL level at this point thanks to his inability to consistently adjust his feet to his target and utilize his hips to generate velocity.
In the pocket, he doesn’t have an ideal feel for the pocket, not stepping up nearly well enough and doesn’t feel and anticipate the blitz at a high level. He’s very willing to throw and finish passes in an unclean pocket and when expecting a hit, but needs to be more decisive, use quicker feet and plays a little stiff in his lower half, three things he’ll drastically need to improve upon along with his pocket IQ.
He also tends to “fastball” too many throws, struggling to play with ideal touch in the short/mid-range routes and struggling on vertical throws with NFL-level ball placement. Adding to his pocket presence could make a major difference in this ability, as maintaining better footwork and better utilizing his quick release could make for more consistent throws downfield.
Bridgewater and Fales NFL Prognosis
Louisville’s Bridgewater, still only a junior, is clearly the top quarterback prospect eligible the 2014 class, and is the lone prospect battling with Jadeveon Clowney for the top spot in the 2014 draft, mostly because of his positional value. However, before Bridgewater can assume his spot as the draft’s best quarterback and potentially in the Andrew Luck/Robert Griffin area of passing talents, he’ll need to make improvements in his footwork, mechanics, and more consistent play as a passer in the middle of the field.
As for Fales, his upside and quick release makes him instantly comparable to a Tony Romo-level quarterback in the future. However, he’s not nearly NFL ready at this point his career, which isn’t unexpected as he’s only play one season of Division I football, and in the WAC conference. With his ample arm strength, quick release, and flashes of brilliance and accuracy across the field, the upside is there for him to be a better version of last year’s 4th round pick Tyler Wilson, and could be in the 1st round mix if he takes the ideal steps towards developing as a quarterback in 2013.