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Blake Bortles shows smarts by throwing at NFL Combine

Posted Feb 22, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS – Senior Editor Vic Carucci says that Blake Bortle’s decision to participate in passing drills at the NFL Scouting Combine has a better chance of helping rather than hurting his draft stock.

INDIANAPOLIS – Blake Bortles is doing the smart thing.

Some would call it bold, but I think it says much more about his intelligence than his guts.

Bortles is going to take part in passing drills at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday. One would think that that would be a given for a quarterback prospect, but it isn’t.

That’s because the former Central Florida standout is regarded as one of the top quarterback prospects in May’s draft, and top quarterback prospects traditionally avoid throwing at the Combine for fear it might diminish their draft stock if they happen to struggle. Conventional wisdom suggests that the chances for struggling are increased by the fact they are working with unfamiliar receivers in an unfamiliar environment.

It’s a tradition of cautiousness, in fact, that both of the other two quarterbacks in Bortles’ category, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, are following.

I’m not going to go as far as to say that Manziel and Bridgewater are being unwise, but I believe what Bortles is doing is particularly bright given how closely rated the three are in the eyes of most draft analysts.

By throwing here, Bortles has a chance to create some separation between himself and the other two. He already is getting high marks from league talent-evaluators for his willingness to go against the grain. And should that high level of self-confidence translate into a strong showing, Bortles might very well enhance his case to become the top overall pick, which the Houston Texans own, or at the very least draw serious consideration from a team with a top-five selection.

A team such as the Cleveland Browns, who choose fourth overall.

“I do like the idea of a kid that says, ‘You know what? I don’t care who I’m throwing to. I’m going to go out here and take the bull by the horns, and whether you can round up five guys off the media concourse or whether you want to go down to the field and find the best five athletes that are wide receivers in this draft, I’m going to demonstrate that I can do it and do it at a high level,’” Browns general manager Ray Farmer said. “The reason for the Combine is for these guys to come and perform. If they choose not to, I do understand where they’re coming from, but at the same time, you’d like for all of them to compete on an equal footing.”

And that’s the issue with Manziel and Bridgewater not throwing.

The footing isn’t equal when one of the three, Bortles, elects to throw, and it has the potential to give him a leg up.

“He can definitely help himself,” Farmer said.

Which isn’t to say that Manziel and Bridgewater are hurting themselves by not throwing. However, any questions that NFL scouts and coaches might have about them will linger until they throw at private and/or on-campus pro days where they will feel a greater sense of comfort.

Click image to gallery

Click image to gallery

By all accounts, there are some fairly significant questions with all three quarterbacks. Bortles is the biggest and strongest of the three, but has shown some accuracy issues. Manziel is the shortest of the three, and tends to rely too much on improvisation with his quick feet. Bridgewater is the most polished passer, but he has a smallish frame.

After the Combine, Bortles could have fewer questions than the others.

“Why wait until Pro Day when you have an opportunity to make your first impression here in Indianapolis?” Bortles told reporters here. “I grew up watching (the Combine) as a kid and dreamed of competing in it. Why would I sit anything out and do any of that kind of stuff?

“I want to compete. That’s kind of the way I was brought up and who I am.”

Smart kid.

>>This Road to the Draft segment is driven by Liberty Ford.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.

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