Player Analysis: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

screencap via ABC

Name: Blake Bortles

Class: Redshirt Junior
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 232 lbs.
School: University of Central Florida

Strengths: Bortles is a big-time competitor, a fact reinforced by his willingness to throw and do all the drills at the combine. Appears to have a pretty short memory, allowing him to put a play, a quarter or even a half behind him to keep his team on track. Bortles plays very cool under pressure and was able to pick his team up against both Louisville and Penn State, on the road, for come-from-behind wins. Bortles has shown the ability to throw his receivers open, properly read defenses and deliver a sharply thrown ball. Without a doubt, Bortles has a strong arm, both in terms of making all the throws you want to see from a potential franchise quarterback and delivering the passes with a tight spin and high velocity. When he needs to, though, Bortles does a great job dropping the ball into the bucket. Does a pretty good job of sensing pressure and avoiding the sack, and is a threat to scramble and extend the play or move the chains with his legs as well.

screencap via ABC

Weakness: Bortles’ footwork can be inconsistent, and there are times he doesn’t step into his throws. It’s a testament to how strong an arm he has that he still throws a nice ball even in those cases, but he’s costing himself distance and it certainly factors into his occasionally spotty accuracy. With improvements to technique he could do a lot more with his arm so he still has room to maximize his ability. While he has shown the ability to read defenses, it is still a work in progress, as Bortles will misread a defense or coverage and he will fail to look off defenders. While Bortles is cool in the pocket, under pressure his technique suffers and you’ll see accuracy and patience start fading. Having frequently worked out of the shotgun and in an offense which favored shorter, high percentage passes, Bortles will have to prove he can adapt and deliver the long ball consistently at the pro level. On top of that, many of his throws were on one-read plays and he will have to learn how to make his progressions swiftly and wisely before delivering the ball. Bortles had some fumbling issues this past year as well and he will have to improve that. While he played very well overall, at times he faltered against top-level teams. While he has the physical traits you like in a quarterback, Bortles is very raw and, as he admitted himself at the combine, he has a lot to learn, so a team may have to be very patient.

Intangibles:  Everything you hear about Bortles is positive, from his leadership on the field to his work ethic off it.  He’s clearly a very savvy football player and while some might not want to hear a potential #1 overall pick admit to flaws, it speaks well of him that he can admit he’s not perfect—especially when the other quarterbacks around him are often talking themselves up. Most importantly for a guy like Bortles is that short memory mentioned under “strengths” because a raw player is going to make mistakes. Being able to forget them right after they happen is critical—there is enough time later for examining how you screwed up, while dwelling on a mistake can lead to more mistakes. As mentioned before, teams took note of his willingness to throw in Indianapolis, while other top quarterbacks—Bridgewater, Manziel and Carr—chose to wait for their pro days. That competitive

screencap via ESPN

spirit will raise his stature in the eyes of some in NFL front offices.

Notes: Overall, Bortles is a guy who doesn’t have the upside of Johnny Manziel, but his floor is a lot higher. Less of a boom or bustcandidate, teams may lean towards him over a more volatile player like Manziel or another player with raw abilities, but less upside such as Derek Carr. I came away from his press conference impressed—this is a player who knows he has work to do but is sure he can pull it off. The more I heard him talk, and the more I listened to what Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien had to say, the more it feels like Houston/Bortles is a great fit.

That’s not to say that Bortles is the most talented player in the draft—that remains Jadeveon Clowney—and in fact he’s not even the most talented quarterback (that is Teddy Bridgewater, who at this point is almost underrated).

Merely that O’Brien is looking for a fit and Bortles may be the best one he could find to play under center.

I will admit I went into analysis on Bortles almost begrudgingly—I found his early hype a bit ridiculous. However, four games into the study, I was sold. Blake Bortles has questions and is not a sure-thing under center. But I have seen enough to say that he has a lot of skill and in the right situation, with the right coaching staff, he can be an NFL starter for a long time.

Fit and patience will be critical, but Bortles has the raw tools.

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