Teddy Bridgewater and Why NFL Draft Build-Up is a Letdown

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NFL Draft

You know that college football star you loved to cheer every Saturday of his college career? That one who wowed you with breathtaking feats that will live on in your alma mater/favorite team’s lore?

Anonymous sources in the NFL scouting community think that player is slow, unathletic, inept and possibly of low character. Said scouts cannot confirm that he’s responsible for the Arctic Shelf dissipating, but they cannot NOT confirm it, either. Just sayin’.

NFL draft season can be a most depressing time of year for college football fans. The season is still nearly four months away, and the draft is a single morsel resembling football; enough so to fill at least some of the void a long, football-less offseason creates.

For these devotees, simply tuning out is not an option. Alas, so all-encompassing is NFL coverage now, it’s almost impossible to escape draft talk without selling ones computer, tablet and smart phone then moving to Tibet. Add the pure saturation of all-things NFL to this year’s draft falling a full two weeks after its normal date, and the need to fill the time has resulted in some breathtakingly awkward discussions.

NFL draft talk can be fun, but too often devolves into critiques that more closely resemble character assassinations.

No former college star is immune. This year’s vitriol has been cast on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, he of arguably the greatest play in the last decade.

Of course, when Clowney’s work ethic isn’t in question, the narrative shifts to whether or not he’s a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy recipient Johnny Manziel has also been subjected to the written and spoken projectiles of anonymous scouts and GMs. Said criticisms stem primarily from his off-field antics last season and an arrest prior to his Heisman campaign.

All that went the way the moment Manziel held his televised pro day in pads. Pads!

It’s a case-study in extremes.

However, no one has been the he onslaught of criticisms leveled anonymously against former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is especially absurd. And thus far, there really has not been much in the way of over-the-top positive rhetoric off-setting the ridiculous

And it is ridiculous.

The slight is vague enough to be open to interpretation but not necessarily disproved. That is, until you really examine just what it implies, juxtaposed with the reality of Bridgewater’s career.

Bridgewater’s already been the face of a football program, as Mark Ennis of “The 2-Man Game” on ESPN 680 in Louisville described. Ennis covered Bridgewater throughout his tenure at Louisville, and saw the contributions the quarterback made to the program.

He was as stable and consistent a player as you’ll see in college. These are kids, they have good and bad games. Ups and downs. But Teddy was truly dependable. His worst games were good games and his best games were art. He never had a *bad* game in three years. Players gravitated to him. He is the one that broke the recruiting seal in Charlie’s second class and he’s the reason so many other south Florida kids gravitated with him to Louisville. That’s why it is hilarious and maddening to hear people question his ability to be the face of a franchise. That’s what he just was from the moment he arrived here and he handled it with ease and Louisville benefited in every way.

From a pure PR standpoint, it’s tough to find a college kid better suited to being the face of a football team. The below video, published on YouTube Tuesday, shows Bridgewater fulfilling a promise to his mother he made as a third grader.

The gift of a pink Cadillac to his mother followed with the picture Ennis painted:

We’re talking about a kid that graduated in three years, has never made a peep off the field in terms of running afoul of the law, drugs, alcohol, or anything else. He lived, ate, breathed football while he was here. He played through major injuries when his team needed him. He turned down a formal Heisman campaign because he wanted to be a team guy. He came up huge in every big game they ever played in.

Of course, merely following a commendable lifestyle is not enough to warrant an NFL draft selection.

One need not dive too far back into Louisville football history to understand the impact Bridgewater made on the field in his career at Louisville.

He committed there just one year removed from the abortive Steve Kragthorpe era. Charlie Strong just finished his first season of rebuilding the rubble left behind from a quick collapse.

Just three years removed from a 4-8 finish and in his second year in the program, Bridgewater led Louisville to a conference championship and Sugar Bowl defeat of Florida. Bridgewater had his way against a Gators defense that had confounded the SEC much of the season and ranked among the nation’s best.

Hmm…maybe Shariff Floyd’s short arms were to blame?

Regardless, the 2013 Sugar Bowl was one of 23 games Bridgewater won in his last two seasons at Louisville. Twenty-three wins.

And while piling up wins is not necessarily an accurate gauge of college player’s NFL draft worthiness, it should be noted Bridgewater did so while continuously improving his individual production.

Comp./Att. Yards Comp. % YPA TD INT
303/427 3970 71.0 9.30 31 4
287/419 3718 68.5 8.87 27 8
191/296 2129 64.5 7.19 14 12

For those scoring at home, that’s across-the-board improvement in his passing each of his three collegiate seasons. Bridgewater also mastered the pro-set offense, which seems to be used less around college football each year, yet remains a prominent part of the NFL.

Maybe there’s gamesmanship at play. These anonymous sources must have some motivation for leaking information to media outlets, knowing it will help frame the narrative. Criticize a player enough, and his stock might fall enough to make available at a later pick. Likewise, trumpet a project and maybe a rival will take a gamble on him.

Maybe, there’s just too much time between the football season and draft.

Or maybe, Teddy Bridgewater needs to do more about the Arctic Shelf.