This years’ draft is filled with a lot of high upside players and most of them are potential prospects for Oakland due to their high draft pick at #5. There are no surefire draft picks this year in the mold of Andrew Luck. The NFL Combine will give us a better idea of where prospects sit with the teams at the top of the draft. With that being said I am going to break down a top prospect each week leading up until the draft and whether Oakland should consider drafting this player. For my first breakdown, I will focus on a player who has been linked to the Oakland Raiders a lot recently, Louisville’s QB Teddy Bridgewater.
Arm Accuracy: 17/20
Bridgewater has one of the best arms in the draft and his arm accuracy is one of the biggest reasons. While breaking down his film I saw he has good anticipation on comeback/curl routes and throws the ball before his receivers turn and puts it right on the money. He is also very adept at hitting receivers over the middle in stride, which allows them to pick up yards after the catch. Bridgewater always squares his shoulders and can throw the ball while moving either to the left or the right, this is something you don’t see a lot in young QB prospects. The one area where Bridgewater struggles is his deep ball accuracy. He often overthrows his receivers on deep routes or throws the ball too close to the sideline and doesn’t give his receivers enough room to make a play on the football. All in all Bridgewater has great throwing mechanics, that will translate to the pro game.
Arm Strength: 19/20
Teddy routinely showed off his great arm strength this season whether it be on deep routes or throwing into tight coverage, he flashed plus arm strength. You can see the zip right out of his arm and the tight spiral every time he throws the ball. On the last play against UCF, Bridgewater threw the ball almost 60 yards in the air to give his team a chance at a last second jump ball. Although that pass fell incomplete his arm strength was on display all season long on slant routes and post routes over the middle getting the ball into extremely tight windows. Bridgewater has enough arm strength to make any throw on the field and teams always love QB prospects with big arms.
Bridgewater is a very athletic QB and he can run to pick up first downs, but he is very much a pass first QB. He uses his athleticism to escape pressure in the pocket, get on the move and make a throw downfield. Bridgewater does have good speed but he doesn’t use his legs to run as evidence of him having less than 200 total rushing yards in his college career. Personally the thing that impresses me the most about Bridgewater is his ability to escape pressure, roll out, and find a man downfield for a pass. I think his innate ability to roll out and make plays with his arm will keep him healthier in the NFL than simply taking off and running.
Decision Making: 18/20
Bridgewater makes great decisions at the line by adjusting his protection and play after he reads the defense. He is the best QB at reading a defense in this years draft. Also Bridgewater will go through his reads and find the open receiver, something the other QBs in this draft struggle with at times. What I don’t like about Bridgewater is his overconfidence in his arm and try to fit the ball into tight spaces unnecessarily. While he got away with this in the American Conference, in the NFL this will lead to many turnovers. Teddy will need to dial down some of these risks to keep from turning the ball over the way Geno Smith did this season.
The biggest question I have about Bridgewater is his ability to stay healthy for an entire NFL season. Bridgewater has had multiple injuries throughout his college and even the end of his high school career. Teddy had a MCL injury that caused him to miss some time his senior season in High School. He broke his wrist and sprained his ankle last season. This season he injured his ankle again earlier in the season. While he was still able to mostly play through these injuries the question remains whether he will hold up for a NFL season. He is listed at 6′ 3″ 205 lbs which is small for a NFL QB and could lead to more severe injuries in the future. While nobody questions his toughness, I still question his ability to stay healthy in the NFL.
After breaking down the film on Bridgewater it is clear he is a QB the Oakland Raiders should target in the draft. He is an athletic QB who has great accuracy and arm strength. He has all the tools to become the Raiders franchise QB they have been missing for a decade. If I was Reggie McKenzie I would only hesitate on Bridgewater because of his injury history, the Raiders don’t need to worry about their QB of the future being sidelined for half a season. Despite his shaky injury history if Bridgewater is available the Raiders should pull the trigger and try to build their future team around him.
I predict Bridgewater will be a top five pick this draft and may even slip to the Raiders at no. 5. Wherever he winds up I believe he will win the starting job by Week 4 and will have mixed results. Bridgewater will end up having a similar season to Geno Smith of the New York Jets, and less like the season Russell Wilson had his rookie year. I like Bridgewater as a NFL QB but I envision him struggling his rookie season.