May 3, 2014

NFL Draft countdown: Central Florida’s Blake Bortles sells winning

Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater head the Class of 2014 quarterbacks.

Blake Bortles knows he isn’t Blake Football. Fans of the team that drafts him won’t rush the ticket office with excitement. Instead, the Central Florida quarterback believes his ability to turn around a team’s fortunes is selling point enough.

“I have no clue how I could inspire a fan base,” Bortles said. “I know I’d do everything I could to win, and that should be inspiring enough for a fan base and make them as happy as they can be, and that’s all I would try to do. Fit in, find your role on the team and contribute in whatever way you can to help that team be successful.”

Bortles, 22, didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. After all, he passed for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012. But Bortles didn’t become a household name, alongside Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel, until he passed for 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2013 while beating Penn State and Louisville in the regular season and Baylor in a BCS game.

In the 27-20 victory over the Nittany Lions, Bortles completed 74.1 percent of his passes for 288 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. The Penn State coach was Bill O’Brien, now the coach of the Houston Texans.

The Texans have the No. 1 overall pick, and though they seem now to have designs on drafting South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Bortles looks like a fit for O’Brien’s offense.

“We played against him at Central Florida in the Penn State game,” O’Brien said. “He played well. They beat us, and I thought he threw the ball well that night. Obviously, I have a connection with [UCF coach] George O’Leary, and their coaching staff thinks very highly of him there. He’s a big guy. He’s athletic. He’s a competitive guy.”

The perception exists that among the top three prospects at the position, Bortles needs the longest to develop. His mechanics, scouts contend, will require much work.

“There’s no doubt I need coaching; I need help,” Bortles said. “I think everybody in the game does. There are reasons all these greats out there are continuing to play and continuing to work in the off-season and get coached. I need coaching. I need help, and I’m going to work my butt off to do everything I can to be the best that I can be to help a team be the best that they can be.”


The class lacks an Andrew Luck-type player, but it is deep. It offers something for everyone. At least two quarterbacks will go in the first round, and probably more considering the emphasis teams put on the position. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is the most interesting prospect in the draft and still has a (slim?) shot to be the No. 1 overall pick. Teams had selected quarterbacks No. 1 overall for four years in a row until 2013, when OT Eric Fisher was the top choice of the Chiefs.

Cowboys’ needs

Tony Romo underwent his second back surgery in eight months, missing the win-or-go-home season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys expect their franchise quarterback, whom they guaranteed $55 million before the start of last season, to fully recover from the herniated disk he played through against Washington in Week 16. Dallas still is building its title hopes around Romo, whom they consider younger than his 34 years since he didn’t play his first two seasons. The Cowboys, though, have to consider the future sometime soon. Kyle Orton’s status is in doubt as he has not shown up yet for the off-season program. The Cowboys signed Brandon Weeden, the No. 22 overall pick of the Browns two years ago, but he turns 31 this season. Weeden is 5-15 as a starter, completing 55.9 percent of his passes for 5,116 yards with 23 touchdowns, 26 interceptions and a 71.8 passer rating. The Cowboys could draft a quarterback at some point, but considering their history, don’t bet on it. Quincy Carter, a second-round pick in 2001, and Stephen McGee, a fourth-rounder in 2009, are the only quarterbacks the Cowboys have drafted since the turn of the century.

Top five

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, 6-0, 207, 4.68. He posted a 20-6 record in his two seasons as the Aggies’ starter.

Blake Bortles, Central Florida, 6-5, 232, 4.93. He passed for 7,598 yards with 56 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in three seasons.

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville, 6-2, 214, 4.67. He passed for 9,817 yards with 72 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in three seasons.

Derek Carr, Fresno State, 6-2, 214, 4.69. David Carr’s brother passed for 12,843 yards with 113 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in four seasons.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois, 6-2, 226, 4.97. Garoppolo, who broke many of Tony Romo’s school records, won the Walter Payton Award last season, passing for 5,050 yards with 53 touchdowns and nine interceptions.


Tom Savage, Pittsburgh, 6-4, 228, 4.97. If not for playing at three schools — also Rutgers and Arizona — he might have been the No. 1 overall pick.

Top Texas ties

Garrett Gilbert, SMU, 6-3, 223, 4.83. Gilbert, who played three seasons at UT, could go in the seventh round after passing for 6,460 yards and 36 touchdowns in two seasons with the Mustangs.

Casey Pachall, TCU, 6-4, 216, 4.96. He probably will have to go the free-agent route after playing only 11 games combined his final two seasons.

Source: Heights, weights and 40 times were compiled from CBS Sportsline.

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