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Teddy Bridgewater, left, and Blake Bortles “are safe picks,’’ according to David Gibbs, who faced both. “You’re not going to get a Ryan Leaf.’’

Michael Conroy • Associated Press,

Craig: A case for Bortles or Bridgewater to the Vikings

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • April 20, 2014 - 9:15 AM

With the eighth pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings select …

Teddy Bridgewater. Unless they select Blake Bortles. Unless, of course, they select Johnny Manziel.

Folks, we’re lost in a choppy sea of predraft chatter with no life preserver and an extra two weeks of dog paddling until Houston mercifully makes the first pick on May 8. The fact that no one has any idea what will happen has not stopped everyone from saying they do.

The original draftnik himself, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., has taken four swings at it (and counting?). He has Bortles going to the Vikings twice followed by Bridgewater (once) and Manziel (once). That’s a 4-for-4 guesstimate that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is thinking quarterback all the way.

Meanwhile, Spielman sat in his office this week saying, “We don’t need to reach for a quarterback at No. 8. We signed Matt Cassel.” And that makes sense, although beware. This is the time of year when Spielman is capable of stealing your eyeballs and convincing you that you look better without them.

This might be the most unpredictable draft in recent memory because of the uncertainty surrounding these three quarterbacks. To help us cut through the cra …, er, chatter, we’ve turned to David Gibbs, the University of Houston’s defensive coordinator.

Gibbs joined Glen Mason’s Gophers coaching staff as the youngest defensive coordinator in Division I-A football (29) in 1997. By 1999, he had turned the Big Ten’s worst defense in 1996 into the nation’s eighth-ranked pass defense.

Gibbs also spent nine years as an NFL defensive backs coach for Denver, Kansas City and Houston. But for the purposes here, we called him because of what he was doing five months ago.

Comparing the two

On consecutive weeks in mid-November, Gibbs and his Cougars defense were on the road against Bortles’ Central Florida team and Bridgewater’s Louisville team. Both teams were ranked No. 19 when they played Houston.

“I think they’re both going to be good NFL quarterbacks,” Gibbs said. “How good? I’m not a quarterback guru. But neither one of them is going to be a bust. They’re safe picks. In my opinion, because of the way they’ve been trained and coached, you’re not going to get a Ryan Leaf. You’re not going to get JaMarcus Russell. You’re not going to get a guy who just can’t play.”

Houston lost to Central Florida 19-14. It was the only game all season that Bortles threw more interceptions (one) than touchdown passes (zero). His 136.0 passer rating was his third-lowest of the season, and he ran six times for minus-10 yards.

The Cougars also lost to Louisville 20-13. Bridgewater managed a grind-it-out game plan, passing for only 203 yards on 19 completions with no touchdowns or interceptions. He ran four times for minus-20 yards.

“I’m not an egomaniac, so I realize we weren’t a big game for either of those two quarterbacks,” Gibbs said. “But I would say based on our games that Bridgewater was a little farther ahead. Teddy threw for 31 touchdowns and four interceptions on the year, but in our game, he knew that as long as he didn’t screw up, they would win the game.”

Fitting in

Gibbs said NFL evaluators benefit from Bridgewater and Bortles playing in pro-style offenses with similar run-pass checks, whereas “trying to project Johnny Manziel into an NFL offense must be a nightmare.”

“Bridgewater and Bortles both did everything that you need them to do,” Gibbs said. “They can throw from the pocket, they could throw on the run whether it was bootlegs or sprint-outs. They made all the throws from the out routes to the go routes.

“Upside-wise, Bortles is the guy who is just now figuring it out. He’d try to force a throw, whereas Teddy wouldn’t do it. It could be third-and-20 and Teddy is going to check the ball down. He’s not going to turn the ball over.”

As for Manziel?

“I do see him as a risk,” Gibbs said. “And I don’t know him personally. I’m just watching him. He’s doing all of this stuff in college. What’s he going to do when he gets to pro football? You know the lifestyle changes. He’s saying all the right things now, and he should. He’s smart. But I don’t know about him.”

Gibbs also questions whether Manziel’s style will transfer to the NFL, where the passing windows shrink and the defenders are harder to outrun.

“The truth is if you’re a coach and you’re on the hot seat, you’re saying, ‘Take Johnny Manziel,’ ” Gibbs said. “You have to do something to keep your job, so you take that risk. But if you’re a guy who has just been hired and you know you got two or three years to figure things out, I don’t think you take that guy. That’s just my opinion. What do I know?”

 

Mark Craig mark.craig@startribune.com

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