Bridgewater drops from top of draft in a hurry

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 7, 2014 - 7:41 AM

Is the Louisville QB a future NFL star or a first-round reach? Draft analysts have varying opinions.

What, if anything, happened to Teddy Bridgewater’s draft stock?

How does a once-touted quarterback plunge from the top of mock drafts?

Did his status as a top-three prospect in this draft even exist?

The conversations about Bridgewater, the star Louisville quarterback, have shifted drastically since he last threw a football in an actual game. At first he was a can’t-miss quarterback prospect hyped as a potential top pick. Then came chatter about a missing glove, wobbly passes and a poor pro day. Now some are saying that just like that — poof — Bridgewater is gone as a first-round prospect.

“I’ve never seen a top-level quarterback in the last 10 years have a bad pro day, until Teddy Bridgewater,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said two weeks ago. “He had no accuracy, the ball came out funny, the arm strength wasn’t there, and it made me question everything I saw on tape because this was live.”

This was the same Mike Mayock who said in February that Bridgewater was the most “NFL-ready” quarterback in this class. But then Mayock attended Bridgewater’s sloppy pro day, went back and watched some college tape and concluded he was no longer worthy of a first-round pick.

“The Bridgewater thing has confused me, and confused teams,” Mayock explained on a conference call this week. “But I’d be surprised at this point if he goes in the first round.”

Bridgewater reportedly completed 57 of his 65 attempts at his pro day, but those eight passes that hit the turf were too many for a scripted throwing session inside with familiar receivers and no defenders.

After watching his pro day, the Vikings invited him to Winter Park for a closer look last month.

The righthander wore a glove on his throwing hand while throwing for 9,817 yards and 72 touchdowns during his three seasons as the starter at Louisville. He had 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a junior before declaring early for the draft. But he did not wear a glove at his pro day.

Bridgewater first took off the glove while training in the heat of his home state of Florida. He later said he regretted the decision to go without the glove, which he started wearing when he arrived at Louisville in the middle of winter and the football felt like a brick in the freezing cold.

“I learned a valuable lesson that day,” he told ESPN. “I had a few balls that got away from me.”

But could those few errant passes really be enough for his draft stock, steadily built over three seasons at Louisville, to significantly drop?

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. still has Bridgewater rated as his top quarterback, but in a recent mock draft, he dropped Bridgewater out of the first round. Why? After “reading the tea leaves” during conversations with scouts and decisionmakers around the league, he believes Bridgewater could go into a free fall if teams in the top 10, including the Vikings, pass on him.

Falling fast

Former NFL coach Jon Gruden, the ESPN analyst who seemingly hasn’t met a quarterback he didn’t like and want to dub a “Gruden Grinder,” went as far to say that his previous teams have taken players off their draft boards if they underwhelmed during individual workouts or at their pro day.

“If the player didn’t work out well for me, I didn’t move him down. I took him off our board. If you’re not having good individual workouts, and you don’t have a good pro day workout, that’s part of the evaluation process,” Gruden said on a conference call. “I’d be concerned if I were any player and I didn’t have good private workouts or a particularly bad pro day.”

Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah said that for many of the high-level decisionmakers on hand, it was their first chance to see Bridgewater throw in person. Those first impressions, good or bad, can be hard to shake.

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