Teddy Bridgewater could be the NFL's next big thing. (MCT via Getty Images)
The Houston Texans hired Bill O'Brien as their next head coach on New Year's Eve. Now, if they want him, the Texans can also have perhaps the best quarterback available in the 2014 draft class. As first reported by ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has decided to declare for the 2014 NFL draft.
The move, which comes with little surprise, puts Bridgewater at the top of the class at his position, and perhaps overall. In 2013, the junior from Miami completed 303 passes in 427 attempts for 3,970 yards, 31 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He will leave school with 72 touchdowns and 24 picks overall, and six rushing touchdowns for good measure.
However, to classify Bridgewater as a garden-variety running quarterback would be a mistake -- he has learned to run to open up throwing lanes and elude pressure as opposed to bailing out when things get difficult. He's excelled at reading progressions, does well against the blitz, and keeps his eyes forward and his body aligned when throwing on the run.
Bridgewater's last collegiate game, a 36-9 win over the Miami Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28, allowed him to show off the skills that make him such an intriguing NFL prospect. He completed 35 of 45 passes for 447 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, using his mobility to make several daredevil throws on the money.
"I'm not setting any type of date or timeframe," Bridgewater said after that game of his NFL decision. "I'm going to sit down, talk with my coaches, my mom, some of my mentors. We'll all have decisions to make, but tonight we wanted to focus on this game."
While most would agree that Bridgewater has every skill necessary to make it at the next level, some will point to his size (6-foot-3, 205 pounds), injury history and relative lack of opponent strength as potential red flags.
The 21-year-old Bridgewater, who graduated in December with a degree in Sports Administration, told ESPN on Dec. 16 that if he did turn pro early, it would be for more than football reasons.
"I can make an impact on my environment, where I grew up in Miami, showing there's no restrictions what you can reach," he said. "That someone from the same neighborhood can make it out."