The Minnesota Vikings traded up with the Seattle Seahawks, taking the final pick in the first round, and then got the quarterback they wanted -- which is to say, none of the ones they already had. Seahawks general manager John Schneider had said that he was not averse to trading out of the first round to get more picks, and they picked up the 40th and 108th selections in the deal.
For the Vikings, the addition of Teddy Bridgewater puts an entirely different cast on an offense that has struggled mightily at the position since Brett Favre's retirement. Because, though there's been major talk about Bridgewater's failed pro day, the actual game tape shows a player with special potential in the right system.
Strengths: Of all the quarterbacks in this class, Bridgewater has the best and most comprehensive command of the little things that help signal-callers at the next level. He is a true multi-read quarterback who doesn’t have to rely on his first option. He takes the ball cleanly from center, and his footwork on the drop is clean and variable — that is to say, he can drop straight back or seamlessly head into motion throws. And on the move, Bridgewater runs to throw. He keeps his shoulders squared and his eyes active, allowing him to make some difficult deep and intermediate throws on boot-action left, when he’s throwing across his body on the run. And when under pressure in and out of the pocket, he still looks to get the ball out — he’ll elude and throw his way out of trouble (again, for the most part). In a general sense, Bridgewater is a very resourceful player — he looks to make the most of what he has. Sees the field peripherally — Bridgewater has a good sense of converging coverage, and he understands the timing of the throw. And though his deep ball is nothing to write home about, he does have a nice arc in his deeper timing throws when he needs to.
Mechanically, there’s nothing that really beguiles Bridgewater on a consistent basis — he’s generally decisive, he has a very quick overhand release (used to have a problem with sidearm, but he’s clearly working on it) and he uses his lower body to gain velocity. Even when he’s throwing off-angle from weird spots, he’s trained himself to keep proper mechanics, which is something you can’t yet say about Johnny Manziel.
Weaknesses: Bridgewater’s desire to make plays on the move occasionally results in needless sacks, as he will at times hold onto the ball too long. Occasional mental and mechanical lapses will lead to erratic throws, and though too much has been generally made of this in the media, it’s an issue that his NFL coach will have to clean up. This is especially true on his deep passes, which will sail wildly at times. And though he’s functionally mobile, he’s not a true runner — he’s going to make a difference as a quarterback, not a slash player.
The more I go back and rewatch Bridgewater tape, the less willing I am to drop into the seemingly common perception that he has some abnormally low ceiling, and that he’ll top off pretty quickly in the NFL. Most of his deep ball issues can be fixed by the kinds of coaching and strength training that all kinds of quarterbacks (Drew Brees and Tom Brady come immediately to mind) have benefited from in obvious ways. And yes, he played at about 190 pounds through the final bit of his 2013 season, but showing up weighing 214 pounds at the combine was a definite statement. And yes, he really blew it at his pro day … but let’s be real here: Any NFL executive who will throw multiple scouted games out the window based on a shirt-and-shorts session, whether positive or negative, is probably on his way out the door. Kudos to the Vikings for moving past it.
Is Bridgewater the perfect quarterback? No. There are clearly things he needs to work on, which is true of just about every quarterback prospect. But when it comes to combining innate skills and developmental potential in an NFL view, it’s hard for me to put anyone above Bridgewater at the position. He already has a lot on the ball, and with time and patience, he could be the kind of quarterback that defines a franchise.
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