NFL combine: Time to measure up the top QB prospects

Manziel faces questions about his height and maturity; Bortles must show he’s ready.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel measured in at less than 6 feet at the NFL combine. Well, a quarter-inch under 6 feet at 5-11¾ — if that matters — and 207 pounds.

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater checked in an eighth of an inch more than 6-2 but 18 pounds heavier, at 214, than his college weight.

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles was tallest and heaviest of the bunch at 6-5 and 232.

The top three quarterbacks for the NFL draft of 2014 had their every measurement scrutinized closely on Friday, but the measurements meant little to them or to people such as new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.

“To throw them all in one group: I like guys that win,” Zimmer said. “That helps me.”

Manziel finished with two of the most exciting individual seasons in college football and elevated Texas A&M from a mediocre program in the process. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner led the Aggies to a 20-6 record in two seasons, yet he now must face questions as to whether he’s tall enough to play quarterback in the NFL.

“I play with a lot of heart, play with a lot of passion,” Manziel said. “I feel like I play like I’m 10 feet tall. A measurement to me is just a number.”

Manziel’s right hand measured 9⅞ inches, larger than Bridgewater and Bortles, which means, what? He won’t fumble as much?

In truth, Manziel’s stock might be volatile in the 11 weeks before the May 8 draft. He was almost as famous for his off-the-field exploits and says he’ll attempt to stay out of the limelight for now to persuade the Houston Texans he’s worthy of the top overall pick.

“Johnny Manziel is a guy; I’m from a small town of Kerrville, Texas, 20,000 people,” Manziel said. “I get lost in kind of the people who make me out to be a big Hollywood guy; [I’m] really just still a small-town kid. Sometimes you get caught up in certain things, but at the same time [I’m] continuing to learn and continuing to adapt to everything that’s going on in my life.”

Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland all have holes at quarterback and select before the Vikings, who have the eighth pick. Bortles also has a shot to be the first overall selection, but some have speculated he could slide down to the Vikings’ spot.

Both are mobile quarterbacks, but Bortles has the height of a traditional quarterback. Bortles jumped on the scene last season when UCF finished 12-1 and defeated Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Unlike Manziel, Bortles will throw at the combine, while Manziel will save his arm for his pro day.

“I’m going to do everything that I can here to make sure that when I leave there’s other people saying [I’m the best] besides me,” Bortles said. “That’s the goal. The goal is to be the top quarterback prospect. That’s why I left early. That’s why I came out to be the top quarterback prospect and I believe I can do that.”

Bortles wants to be compared to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. One was a sixth-round pick and the other a first overall selection, but both have been considered among the top quarterbacks of this generation.

Still, Bortles is considered the least NFL-ready quarterback of the trio and might be best served sitting behind a veteran starter during his rookie season.

“I need coaching,” Bortles said. “I need help. I think everybody in the game does. There’s reasons why all these greats out there are continuing to play and continuing to work out in the offseason and get coached.”

Bortles has the size advantage on Manziel and Bridgewater, who are seen to be more NFL-ready. The Vikings will exhaust their resources, to the point of overevaluation, to see which would be the best fit for the franchise, even though there are no guarantees any of the three will be there at No. 8.

They were all winners in college. Will it translate to the NFL? The combine is another major test on the road to the draft.

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