2014 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Blake Bortles

April 16th, 2014

Blake Bortles has a chance to be one of the first quarterbacks selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. (Photo: wcpo.com)

DraftBrowns.com Editor: Brendan Leister

At 22 years old (birthday is December 16th, 1991), University of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft class.  During his three-year college career, Bortles played in 37 games.  He completed 585 out of 891 passes (65.7%) for 7,598 yards, 56 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions during that time.  In his final college season, he completed 259 of 382 passes (67.8%) for 3,581 yards, 25 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.

Intangibles

By all accounts, Blake Bortles is a good team leader and a hard worker.  He brings an even-keel approach on the field that allows him to rarely get too high or too low regardless of the situation.

Bortles displays the toughness that an NFL quarterback needs to succeed at the NFL level.  He has shown the ability to hang in the pocket, take big hits, and get back up and ready for the next play multiple times throughout his career.

College System

At UCF, Bortles played in a spread offense that included a lot of defined reads and timing throws to the short and intermediate portions of the field.  Most deep throws were thrown down the sidelines rather than up the seams or between the hashes.  Bortles also has experience running read option plays and packaged plays.

Competition Level

Bortles played against a lot of poor defenses in the American Athletic Conference/Big East throughout his career.  Although he threw to a lot of wide open receivers, he showed the ability to anticipate windows from time to time and threw into coverage when needed.

Physical Tools

At 6’5″, 232 lbs., Blake Bortles possesses very good size for the quarterback position with average-sized hands at 9 3/8″.

When he maintains good throwing mechanics, Bortles displays good throwing velocity to the intermediate level of the field.  However, at this point, Bortles’ throwing mechanics (especially his lower body mechanics) are extremely inconsistent and he needs to greatly improve in this area if he is going to maximize his physical talents.

Bortles is a very good athlete for his size and he has a knack for extending plays outside the pocket with his legs.  His ability as a runner will allow him to make defenses pay for undisciplined play.

Footwork/Mechanics

Blake Bortles is a very nimble athlete and he displays good footwork in the pocket for the most part.  On the occasions where Bortles does not display good footwork, he does not always drive off his back foot at the top of his drop.  This often leads to flatfooted throws and a drop in velocity and accuracy.

One of the most impressive aspects of Bortles’ game is how he moves around in the pocket.   He has an impressive feel for the pass rush and he does a good job of evading pressure in the pocket.  Unlike many college quarterbacks, Bortles is comfortable stepping up in the pocket to avoid the rush.  This helps Bortles’ offensive tackles because they are given the luxury of being able to force the rush back behind him.

The area of Bortles’ game that holds him back most is in his throwing mechanics.  His delivery almost never looks the same on a play to play basis and he does not consistently step toward his target.  Bortles has a bad habit of stepping across his body and opening up his hips when he throws the ball.  He also did a poor job of maintaining proper balance through his throws.  These issues lead to inaccuracy and a drop in throwing velocity.  For Bortles to be successful at the NFL level, his mechanics are going to need to greatly improve.

Ball Placement

Blake Bortles’ passes charted vs nine teams during 2013. (Click to enlarge.)

In charting every pass from nine of his games during the 2013 season and 12 games over the past two seasons, I have found that Blake Bortles needs to improve on his accuracy to the short and intermediate levels of the field.  There were too many instances where he did not maintain proper mechanics throughout his delivery and his ball placement and velocity suffered as a result.  This minimized the yards that could be gained after the catch because his receivers were forced to adjust to many of his off-target throws.

While charting Bortles’ deep passes from nine games during the 2013 season, I found him to be a very accurate deep passer.  Although he did not always maintain ideal throwing mechanics, he looked very comfortable throwing down the field.  Bortles regularly displayed impressive touch on his deep passes and he did a good job of placing the ball away from coverage.  Admittedly, 27 deep passes is not a huge sample size and I wish that Bortles had thrown more deep passes in the viewed games.

Decision Making

Overall, Blake Bortles is a pretty good decision maker.  When he is given defined reads and knows where he should go with the football against a given coverage, he typically does a good job of getting the ball out of his hands on time.

Eye Discipline

One of the areas that Blake Bortles needs to improve most is in how he uses his eyes.  He regularly stares down his primary target and does not always seem to be comfortable finding his second and third options in the passing game.  The system that Bortles played in may contribute to this because he seemed to be given a lot of defined reads and was not consistently asked to read the entire field.

Instincts

Overall, Bortles is a very instinctive playmaker with the ball in his hands.  He moves very well for his size and he is very difficult to bring down inside and outside the pocket.  There are a handful of plays on tape where Bortles looks as though he is going to be brought down, wrestles out of the defender’s grasp, and finds an open receiver down the field.

Conclusion

All in all, I view Blake Bortles as one of the most naturally talented quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft class.  Bortles has great size, strength, and instincts.  However, natural ability is not everything.  He still needs quite a bit of development before he can reach his full potential.  I believe that Bortles has a chance to be a good NFL quarterback down the road, but until the consistency of his throwing mechanics and ball placement in the short to intermediate levels of the field greatly improve, he will have trouble finding success.

Although I believe that Blake Bortles has great upside, I would not be comfortable selecting him with a first round pick.  Regardless of the flashes, I feel that Bortles needs quite a bit of development before he will be ready to step in as a starter and enjoy success.  The best situation for Bortles is on a team with a starting quarterback already in place and a strong Quarterbacks Coach.  While I see the appeal that his skill set brings, Bortles is not the type of quarterback that I would bet my career on if I were a General Manager in the NFL.

Games Evaluated:

2013: Baylor, South Carolina, Louisville, Penn State, Rutgers, SMU, UConn, USF, Akron

2012: Ohio State, Missouri, Marshall

Special thanks to the guys over at DraftBreakdown.com for making it easy to find the resources to evaluate draft prospects.

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Prospect Profile, 2014 Quarterback Prospects, Blake Bortles, NFL Draft, UCF

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