2014 NFL Draft

A Look at the Jag Draft Class: Scouting Report/ Thoughts on the Selection of Blake Bortles.

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(Image by USA Today)

By: James Johnson 

The Jacksonville Jaguars sent shock-waves through the city and league as they drafted Blake Bortles with the #3 overall pick Thursday night in the 2014 NFL Draft.  The selection came as a surprise to most (including myself) as it was believed that the Jags were leaning towards taking Sammy Watkins,  Khalil Mack, or even another QB in former Heisman trophy recipient Johnny Manziel. But Dave Caldwell, being the wizard he is, thought otherwise and decided to pull the trigger on the nearby Oviedo Florida native. 

Tapes of choice to evaluate: Thanks to the good people at Draftbreakdown.com I’ve broken down roughly over 8 of Bortles’ games, but the tapes I choose to rewatch for the sake of this scouting report were the Louisville, Baylor, Penn State, and South Carolina tapes. They all can be found through the links below.

Louisville: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTNvSHLhf9M

Baylor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4iDpPeoaKI

Penn State: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6JLz-M9E8E

South Carolina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYd29xlmc04

 

What He Does Well/Pros

  • I want to start by saying an underrated part of his game is his abilities as a scrambler. He’s more than capable at it ,and I’d go as far as saying he’s a little better than Andrew Luck in terms of athleticism. Also worth noting is that he was a former LB in his early days of high school.
  • He has prototypical NFL size at 6-5, 232 lbs.
  • He steps up and moves well in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. It appears he really has a good sense of what is going on around him.
  • He’s hard to bring down, and is much like Ben Roethlisberger when trying to sack.
  • He’s resilient in crunch time.  I can recall him bringing back UCF in a game winning drive vs Louisville in the first ever game I evaluated him in last year. He’s also brought his team back in many occasions from behind.
  • At times he’s shown the ability to throw in windows, but will be asked to do it more often in the league.
  • I like his ability to take advantage of unaware defenders. I’ve seen him throw some solid back shoulder throws and some jump balls over DB’s who have their backs turned.
  • He understands when to resort to a checkdown.
  • He’s an intelligent player with a high football I.Q. His father was (and may still be) a football coach so it’s fitting that Blake knows the game well and how to make a good impression with football personnel.
  • I think another aspect of his game that has gone unnoticed is that at times he’s shown the ability to operate his offense as a field general. I’ve often seen him communicate with his lineman and RB’s before snapping the ball.
  • He’s a leader and a competitor, which are two traits Gus Bradley was high on about him.
  • He’s proven to be coachable.
  • He has a high ceiling.

What can He Work On/Cons

  • His biggest flaw to me is that he stares defenders down at times. There’ve been multiple times when I’ve seen a defender follow Blake’s eyes on his target and, as a result, pick him off.
  • Some question his velocity/arm strength (which I think is fine, just not elite); most also feel that due to his velocity he’ll have to make quicker decisions in the league.
  • I believe his lower body mechanics are a big reason his velocity is questioned at times. I think that if he practiced consistently stepping into his throws that would improve the velocity on some of them. As Matthew Fairburn of SB Nation mentioned, Bortles seems to have recognized this problem seeing as he showed the ability to drive behind his throws at his pro day.
  • Another flaw that I goes back to his lower body mechanics is the fact that he takes false steps at times while dropping back.
  • He’s a bit careless with the ball in terms of fumbles.
  • Didn’t play against an elite level of competition for the most part.
  • His deep ball accuracy could use some work.
  • He often throws off his back foot while under pressure.
  • His throws have a bit of a wobble to them. He’ll need to work on tightening his spiral.
  • He needs to work on consistent ball placement as he doesn’t always hit his WR’s in stride.

 

So why Bortles? 

Well aside from the obvious answer of the Jags needing a franchise QB, there were a variety of reasons that the Jags drafted Bortles. I believe one of the biggest variables in their decision was the combine/interview process, which I had read that Bortles exceeded in. I remember reading Ryan O’Halloran saying that Bortles “Took over the room” when the Jags met him in Indianapolis for the combine. Gus also mentioned after Bortles was drafted that he liked Blake’s willingness to compete as he did everything at the combine, something very uncharacteristic in today’s QB’s when entering the combine. So for anyone that believes that throwing at the combine isn’t a big deal, well…. it can be. Looking at where Bortles was drafted over Manziel, and Bridgewater, I think it’s safe to say in this case it made a HUGE difference. The interview process for Bortles also pretty much solidified everything that Caldwell and Bradley needed to know in terms of whether they found the right man to potentially lead this franchise to the promise land.

Below is a video segment  I saw on NFL Network of Bortles being interviewed by Steve Mariucci during the combine process. He instantly struck me as a young man with sharp communication skills (which isn’t surprising because he’s a Communication major), and a high football IQ. Obviously, he was just as sharp while speaking to the Jags during the process, who got a lot more time with him than Mariucci.

Comparison

So I’d guess the next question is on who could this young man exactly become? Well, nothing is guaranteed of course, but I’d agree with those who have compared Bortles to a young version of Ben Roethlisberger. As I mentioned above, I also see shades of a slightly better version of Andrew Luck in terms of athleticism (NOT as a passer to be clear). Being that he has a ways to go in terms of mechanics, yet showcases solid arm strength when using proper mechanics, I’d say that he’s about on the same level Colin Kaepernick was coming out of Nevada in terms of a passer. Kaepernick, however, possessed a noticeably stronger arm.

Blake_Bortles_vs_Baylor_2014_F_650d3be2712490a75cd026126f2fcd61
(Like Big Ben as you can see it’s very hard to bring Bortles down. Yet, despite the pressure his eyes stay down field as he escapes multiple arm tackles to find his RB for a check down )

 

HD_Ben_Roethlisberger_Ultra_ey_3d07fca6a45cedfa613a1e27c1a2a6ac
(Big Ben to this day is known for his ability to shrug off tackles and make plays down field afterwards, much like we see in the play above)

 

NFL Outlook.

I think the x-factors in the equation to develop Bortles of course lie in his coaches, most notably Jags offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, as well as Jags QB coach Frank Scelfo, both of whom who have succeeded in recent times with coaching young talent. Fisch, recently worked as Miami University’s offensive coordinator before coming to Jacksonville, and aided Stephen Morris and company to become one of the better offenses that Miami has had in a long time, while Scelfo recently did his due diligence in developing Nick Foles back in the 2010-2011 season as Arizona University’s QB coach. Both also showcased their abilities to work with and develop young talent in their short time in Mobile Alabama for the Senior Bowl, as both Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo showed great strides throughout their week of practice under the Jags coordinators. So, needless to say, this is nothing new for either coach.

All that into consideration, it’s hard to say whether Bortles will start year one over six year veteran Chad Henne, as the Jags declared him the starter back when he resigned in free agency this season. Even after drafting Bortles, the team has been on record for basically saying they would ideally like Bortles to sit under Henne, but only time will tell if that will happen or not. I personally believe that Fisch and Scelfo have shown enough in developing young talent to make me believe that it’s quite possible they could have Bortles ready to start week one, but again, only time will tell. One thing is for certain, however, and that is the fact that the QB battle between Henne and Bortles will certainly be the most watched competition this summer at Jags training camp, as well as one of the most watched in the league.

And the Verdict on This Pick…

Even my initial reaction at the time the pick was was to give it a B +. Why? Because at the time, I felt that the Jags “reached” for Bortles here and quite possibly could have traded down for Bortles. I also personally had one QB in Teddy Bridgewater graded higher than Bortles. However, reports surfaced that Dave Caldwell felt that the Jaguars couldn’t have been the only other team with Bortles as their #1 rated QB, and that after round 1 he asked a couple other organizations in the top 10 if they had him graded the same. Well….low and behold, some did. That said, a trade back could’ve had dire repercussions….. and that was the possibility of Caldwell losing the QB/prospect he had as the #1 overall prospect on his board for months.  Jacksonville’s own Pete Prisco of CBS Sports even confirmed these reports himself.

All that into consideration, I bumped my initial grade up to an A – for the selection of Bortles. I must give Dave Caldwell credit here for believing in his board and not passing up the opportunity to get a potential franchise QB that he felt strongly about. Now it’s all just a matter of developing him with the staff that both he and Gus Bradley put in place  to work with young players like Bortles. And if Bortles himself does what he’s done throughout his collegiate career  (and that’s develop over time), Dave Caldwell and company just might’ve struck gold with this pick.

So what do you guys think? Feel free to share your draft thoughts and questions with me on Twitter under the handle of @IES_Don, and as always we appreciate your views. 

Also, stay tuned as my next article will be an in-depth scouting report on the Jags first second round pick Marqise Lee. 

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Top 10 WR’s Rankings of the 2014 NFL Draft.

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By: James Johnson

(Image by Nike)

It’s been a while since I wrote my last true article, but I’ve been fairly busy. Have no fear though because with the draft coming next week I’m going to really put in some work to get as much draft content out as possible on my end by May, 8. You all have already seen my QB rankings, now as I pick up where I left off, we’ll continue on the offensive end with my WR rankings. Hope you all enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

Ravens Offseason Recap.

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By: Charles Booth

(Image by USATSI)
(Image by USATSI)

Last month I did a post or two on some possible offseason moves the Jaguars could make in free agency, which has now come and gone. One of the teams that had to make some crucial offseason moves of their own was the Baltimore Ravens, and lucky for our viewers we have the right person to talk about it in our latest contributor Charles. Here he breaks down the top additions of the Ravens offseason, and the top in-house moves the organization made as well. I must say I enjoyed this one myself as it was very insightful, and in all likelihood you all will too….unless your a bitter AFC North rival.  

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EXCLUSIVE: IES Gridiron Season Podcast with Draft Guru Tony Pauline.

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By: James Johnson and Nick Trist

It was an IES and Draftinsider.net collaboration of epic proportions yesterday as draft guru Tony Pauline dropped in with Nick and I to talk some 2014 Draft prospects. Topics included the Houston Texans and who they could pick first overall, the Jacksonville Jaguars and who they could pick third overall, as well as discussions on a few specific prospects like  Jadeveon Clowney, Blake Bortles, Sammy Watkins, and Tajh Boyd to name a few.

In part two of the show Nick and I elaborated on some of the latest risers and fallers of this class, then finished the show off with an interesting discussion on a couple payer-to-team pairings we’d like to see come May 8th. To hear it simply click on the Soundcloud link below (if it doesn’t start on it’s own that is).

Also, feel free to check out Tony on Twitter under his handle of @TonyPauline and most importantly on Draftinsider.net for the latest in draft buzz! And of course Nick and I can both be followed under the handles of @IES_Don and @NickTristIES

Browns Position-By-Position Review: RB’s.

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By: Shane Mink

As promised, Shane sent me yet another contribution as he continues with his position-by-position breakdown of the Cleveland Browns. This week, he drops a bit of knowledge on the Browns RB situation which Cleveland put a lot of effort into addressing this offseason. Hope you all enjoy! 

The Browns running game was atrocious last year…. There’s no getting around that. At the start of the season, former first round pick Trent Richardson was the starter at RB and Chris Ogbonnaya, a converted RB, started at FB. This lineup lasted a whole two (yes, TWO) weeks. After Richardson’s horrible first two games in Cleveland, former Browns general manager Michael Lombardi, traded him to the Colts for their first round pick of this year draft (which is now the 26th overall). At the time many Browns fans were outraged and thought the season was doomed, but after seeing Richardson’s horrible season in Indianapolis, most have changed their minds as they now feel the trade looks to be very smart on the Browns part.

As for Chris Ogbonnaya, I personally feel he should have never been declared the teams starting fullback. Throughout the course of the season he displayed great abilities as a pass-catcher and consistently gained good chunks of yardage, but blocking, however, is not his strength. The teams second string rookie FB/TE/Wildcat QB MarQueis Gray, filled Ogbonnaya’s job admirably in his absence due to injuries . I fully expect to see him playing an H-back role next year, as well as occasionally playing in the backfield.

After Richardson was traded, the Browns signed former Broncos RB Willis McGahee. Ultimately, he was slowed by age and finished the season with 138 carries for 377 yards and 2 TDs. That’s a 2.7 yards per carry ratio. The only two players with a worse average were Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce of the Baltimore Ravens. In the end, McGahee finished the season with an average of 31.4 yards per game.

The Browns signed several RBs and released several over the season such as Bobby Rainey, who later had success in Tampa Bay, and Dennis Johnson who joined the Houston Texans. None of them had as big of an impact as Edwin Baker however, who was signed off of the Broncos’ practice squad. Even though he never eclipsed more than 100 yards rushing in a game, he provided a spark that made a noticeable impact in the last three games of the season.

Fourteen Browns players attempted various runs last season that totaled 1,383 yards in all. Of that fourteen, eight of them played at positions other than RB. Jason Campbell, Josh Gordon, Travis Benjamin, Brandon Weeden, MarQueis Gray, Josh Aubrey, Brian Hoyer, and Armanti Edwards all attempted at least one run in 2013. Of those players, Travis Benjamin ended the season with the longest Browns run, which was 45 yards.

As a team, the Browns ended the season with a total of 348 attempts of those 1,383 yards. That equals 4 yards per carry which was greatly skewed by Travis Benjamin’s run, as well as Josh Aubrey’s (34 yard run) just to name a few. The Browns had 9 runs of over 20 yards and only 4 touchdowns. Those 4 touchdowns were all scored by two players. Two from Willis McGahee and two from Edwin Baker. As a whole, the Browns finished the season with a 86.4 yard per game average.

This offseason the Browns signed two players that will almost certainly impact the running game in former Texans RB Ben Tate and former Bengals FB Chris Pressley. Tate, rushed for 771 yards and 181 carries while playing in all but 2 games for Houston. What’s amazing about those numbers is he did it while playing with broken ribs for the most part. Considering his toughness, and the fact that he ran for more than half the total yards that the Cleveland Browns did as a whole is very encouraging for a run game in need of a jolt. As for the other big signing in FB Chris Pressley, he has a reputation for making big hits and paving some nice running lanes. When looking at his measurables (5-11, 260 lbs) it’s easy to see why he’d have such a reputation.

The Browns will most likely target a RB at some point in this upcoming draft. Good players can be found at all levels. Players like Bishop Sankey and Carlos Hyde would both be good early round options, while players like Charles Sims and Terrance West would be interesting mid round options. Lastly, players like Jerome Smith and David Fluellen strike me as potential late round pickups. When looking for potential RBs for this team, there are certain traits Cleveland will look for in their new scheme. Those traits are good vision and the ability to hit the whole with authority, much like Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins (I highly recommend that Browns fans look up some tape on him to see what I mean). He embodies the ideal RB that Kyle Shanahan will to move forward with in this offense.

For more statistics on the Browns and their run game, go to websites like Clevelandbrown.com or ESPN.go.com.

Want to learn more about the Browns? Follow @afc2nfc, @mikekrupka, @joshfin, and @brendanleister . I’ve learned a lot from them and I’m sure you can too!

And lastly for those having trouble finding game film on draft prospects? Draftbreakdown.com and their crew do a wonderful job providing us with videos of all the top prospects and some you’ve probably never heard of!

As usual, we appreciate each and every one of our viewers. Also special thanks to Shane. Please feel free to follow him under the Twitter handle of @ShaneMink to give your his thoughts on this post and to interact with him for any sports related matters. Shane will have more Browns and Vikings posts to share with us in the coming days for our viewers so be on the lookout for more. 

IES 2014 OLB Prospect Rankings By Zach Hochrein.

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By: Zach Hochrein

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It’s been a while since our last grades due to our busy schedules, but Zach is back at it as he is continuing where he left off with his latest prospect projections. As opposed to the spreadsheet format he used before, he did things a little differently with a traditional ranking list. This week, we kick it off with the OLB rankings, enjoy! 

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Gridiron Season Podcast: Free Agency Edition.

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By: James Johnson

As you all know in the off season we’ve been taking it easy in terms of podcasting. After a little bit over a month, we decided to get back at it as I joined by Phil and Zach to talk some Jags free agency and some 2014 QB prospects. The crew gave their respective grades on each of the Jags free agency signings from Red Bryant to Toby Gerhart and more, then furthermore went on to discuss the release of Uche N’waneri and trade of Blaine Gabbert in the process.

Lastly in an idea Phil ran by me, the 3 of us gave out our respective rankings of this years QB prospect class and gave our opinions on each signal caller a top the draft.

That said, if you missed it live we got you covered via the link below.

http://mixlr.com/inside-edge-sports/showreel/inside-edge-sportss-mixlr-14/