After winning the Fiesta Bowl over Baylor on Jan. 1, UCF quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson have decided to move on. The pair announced on Monday that they will enter the 2014 NFL Draft, capping off impressive careers that included the best season in Knights history.
"It was a really grueling process," Bortles said. "It was a tough decision. It's a great decision, two great options. I sat down with my family and came to the decision that I'd like to pursue my dream."
Both Johnson and Bortles shined in Central Florida's 52-42 Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor. The junior running back ran for 124 yards and three touchdowns, and Bortles threw for 301 yards, rushed for 93 and had a hand in five touchdowns. The duo both must have received good news from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Neither made his intentions clear during the week of the Fiesta Bowl or immediately thereafter, but with Bortles reportedly receiving a first-round grade and Johnson pegged for the third round, the time was right for them to leave on a high note.
''This was a tough journey for me, and I'm just super proud to have the support of coach (George) O'Leary and the coaching staff,'' Johnson said. ''It was a hard decision, but I had to make the best decision for me.''
Bortles threw for 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns, with nine interceptions, and his size and strength will impress pro scouts who tend to get excited over such physical characteristics. Johnson's ability to take a beating and pick up tough yards should put him right in line with runners like Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Washington's Bishop Sankey. Johnson is considered a lower draft prospect than fellow running backs Carlos Hyde of Ohio State and Lache Seastrunk of Baylor. It's hard to tell exactly where Bortles will go in the first round. Drafting quarterbacks in the NFL is like drafting defenses in fantasy football. People tend to wait until one or two have been taken before there's a run on them. The Texans are obviously in play, although Teddy Bridgewater makes more sense for them. The Jaguars might be keen on Bortles, a Florida native. The Browns' quarterback problems are well-publicized too. If Bortles slips past Cleveland, there's always the Raiders. Chances are he won't slip past the Vikings at No. 8. It really all depends on how people value Bortles relative to other quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr. With UCLA's Brett Hundley opting to return to the Bruins, Bortles' stock goes up a tick.