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The surprises started early in this year's NFL Draft. Your Audibles crew discusses some of the major winners and losers from the first round.

06 Nov 2014

Film Room: Colin Kaepernick and Teddy Bridgewater

by Cian Fahey

It hasn't been a good season for the young NFL quarterback.

Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, the most decorated of those who are still considered young, have both received criticism for their inconsistency this season. Cam Newton isn't being given much slack for the horrible situation in which his franchise has put him, while Ryan Tannehill's success is largely being overlooked. Geno Smith and EJ Manuel have been benched, while Mike Glennon appears set to be benched for the second time in his career this weekend. The rookies? The rookies have largely looked like your typical set of rookie starters.

One quarterback who hasn't received much attention, be it positive or negative, is San Francisco 49ers starter Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick signed a huge contract extension during the offseason and he plays for arguably the most successful team in the NFL over the past four years. One would assume that he would be a hot topic amongst media members because of those permutations alone. Instead, Kaepernick's share of the attention has been washed away amongst the controversies, injuries, and suspensions that have engulfed the franchise in San Francisco.

At this stage of his career, Kaepernick is supposed to be rounding out his development to turn into the player who he is going to be for the rest of his career.

He has been in the NFL for four seasons, starting 31 regular season games and six playoff games over the past three years. Just this week he turned 27 years of age, an age that should reflect the beginning of his prime and the abandonment of his youth. Any development in Kaepernick's play moving forward should be considered unexpected. At this stage of his career, he has already proven that he is one of the 25 best quarterbacks in the NFL, so he should be considered a quality starter. However, that term is very vague and doesn't give you a good idea of what Kaepernick is.

Kaepernick is a quarterback who has extreme strengths and extreme flaws. There isn't another quarterback throughout the whole NFL who can stretch his skill set so far in both directions. It's easy to see the former Nevada prospect's positives, as he has arguably the strongest arm in the NFL, with precision accuracy and the ability to run away from more than 90 percent of the defenders in the NFL if given space. Kaepernick has the ability to manipulate the trajectory of his passes and the body control to make accurate throws without proper technique or balance.

Yet, in spite of all his positives, the negatives are still prominent. The negatives are still the same as they were when he initially took over the starting spot from Alex Smith.

The former second-round draft pick lacks subtlety with his movement in the pocket and he fails to consistently find open receivers down the field because of that. In the past, behind the 49ers' outstanding offensive line, the offense was capable of dictating the play and forcing the defense to be so reactive that Kaepernick's flaws were essentially irrelevant. Now that the offense around him is crumbling somewhat, he is being tasked with masking his teammates' flaws, and to do that he must be a more well-rounded player.

Ever since Week 1, this has been evident in Kaepernick's play, but it was highlighted for everyone to see last week against the St. Louis Rams. Prior to the start of this season, the Rams were expected to have a dominant defensive line that would potentially set a new sack record. Once the season began, that quickly became a distant memory as the Rams set a record for the wrong reasons with just one sack over the first six games of the season.

Against the 49ers in Week 9, they sacked Kaepernick eight times. Of those eight sacks, Kaepernick should have avoided five, could have avoided one and had no chance on two.

The Rams' first sack came on a play that the quarterback should have negated with a quick throw. The Rams have two rushers who penetrate the pocket, but Kaepernick had time to get to the top of his drop and set his feet. Instead of setting his feet at the top of his drop, he immediately looked to run because he saw the free defender coming towards him. Without even needing an exceptionally quick release, Kaepernick could have easily checked the ball down to one of his two open receivers underneath. No receiver was open down the field, but this play came on first-and-10. Checking the ball down in this situation would have been a smart play.

On this play, the defense blitzes Kaepernick with five defenders. Just before the snap, both Rams linebackers jump forward and the safeties rotate to hint their intentions for the quarterback to see. Although this was a third-and-10 play, Kaepernick needed to quickly throw the ball into the flat where his receiver had space to run with a teammate in position to block for him. When Kaepernick holds the ball, he turns his eyes back to the other side of the field where he has a receiver running a slant route. That receiver is open, even if it's unlikely to go for a first down. A pass would give the play a chance and avoid the inevitable sack that comes with the quarterback's hesitation.

For his next sack, a blown assignment on the right side of the line gave Kaepernick no way of avoiding the arriving defender.

To this point, Kaepernick has simply held the ball too long and failed to make good, quick decisions. His lack of subtlety in the pocket would soon show up though, and it cost him a potential touchdown score. On third-and-3, the Rams sent another exotic blitz at the quarterback, but it was initially picked up by his offensive line. Kaepernick cleanly got to the top of his drop before setting his feet and surveying the field. He didn't drop his eyes immediately, instead locating the deep receiver running a post route into wide open space.

With any kind of accurate anticipation throw, this play would give the receiver a chance at running to the end zone untouched.

Instead of subtly shifting his feet and moving up into the pocket when Robert Quinn comes around the edge, Kaepernick panics and completely abandons his technique, scrambling through the pocket of space in front of him. Instead of setting up a relatively simple throw for a quarterback of his talent, Kaepernick follows his instinct as a runner to scramble outside of the pocket where he is dragged down for a loss.

Kaepernick's rushing ability has created many big plays for him throughout his career, but his instinct to run instead of adjusting in the pocket has also cost him key conversions and big-play opportunities down the field on a regular basis.

For his next sack, the Rams blitzed Kaepernick again without masking their intentions before the snap. Kaepernick had two options to negate this blitz in his line of vision at the snap. His first option was his slot receiver, who was uncovered directly behind the blitz and running a slant route that would have converted the second-and-1 situation. The second was the outside receiver to that side of the field who was running into space because the outside defender expected Kaepernick to make the obvious throw inside to the slot receiver. That defensive back put himself in no man's land as he couldn't cover either receiver, but Kaepernick attempted to scramble instead of throwing the ball early.

This inability to manage the pocket subtly against pressure caused another sack and cost Kaepernick another potential big play down the field. On this play, he had four options late in the game. Two were very good options in this situation, while two more were simpler options to avoid a negative play. Kaepernick had plenty of time to reset after the edge pressure was pushed past him.

Kaepernick had a chance to avoid the first of his last two sacks, but would not have been expected to. His final sack came close to his own end zone on a two-man route where the protection failed too quickly for him to ever have a chance to get rid of the ball.

Subtlety and the ability to manage a pocket under pressure while reading coverage down the field appears to be something that is more of a natural trait than something that can be coached. Kaepernick simply struggles in those areas and it limits his upside as a quarterback.

That is who Kaepernick has been since he entered the league, whereas this year's rookie class has given us a prime example of a player who is the complete opposite. Teddy Bridgewater of the Minnesota Vikings has had a quietly impressive rookie season to this point. His production has been significantly hampered by the offense around him and by his inability to accurately throw deep passes for relatively easy big plays, but his performance from the pocket has been consistently outstanding.

Bridgewater may be playing behind the worst pass-blocking offensive line in the NFL. Former top-10 draft pick Matt Kalil's career has seemingly fallen off a cliff this season, while fellow offensive tackle Phil Loadholt isn't living up to his reputation. Without Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph, and with the underperforming Greg Jennings and the completely ineffective Cordarrelle Patterson, Bridgewater has been asked to carry his supporting cast from the very start of his career.

Unlike Kaepernick, Bridgewater isn't a phenomenal athlete. He is an above average athlete for an NFL quarterback, but he excels because of his technical ability, intelligence, and awareness rather than his fast feet or strong arm.

From his very first snap in relief for Matt Cassel against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Bridgewater has shown an ability to give every passing play a chance to succeed as designed with his work in the pocket. He has missed throws because of accuracy too often, but very rarely has he been the biggest reason for a sack, or missed an open receiver down the field because he was too slow breaking down the coverage from the pocket. Bridgewater is making his offensive line look better and taking care of the football better than most rookies would in this situation.

As they often do, the Vikings used play action at the beginning of this play to slow down the rush against the Washington defense. Bridgewater has nifty, quick feet that allow him to execute these fakes with haste before turning back to break down the coverage. On this occasion, the fake to Jerrick McKinnon appears to slow down the pass rush on the left side of the offensive line, where the team's left guard and left tackle have been put in one-on-one situations.

When Bridgewater gets to the top of his drop, Washington has two defenders beating their blocks. Kalil has allowed the edge rusher to get around him, ready to close on Bridgewater if the quarterback stays in his current position. The Vikings right guard is in a worse situation as he has been blown away by a defensive lineman forcing his way past the blocker's outside shoulder. Bridgewater never drops his eyes from the coverage downfield, but he is able to feel his way forward and to the left, putting himself in the perfect spot to negate each rusher.

The edge rusher is forced to stop and change his angle, putting Kalil in between the defender and the quarterback. The right guard is now directly in line between the defensive lineman and his quarterback, giving him a chance to set his feet and establish a wall with his body that would at the very least require the defensive lineman to reverse his momentum before overpowering/running around him.

From this pocket of space, Bridgewater is able to comfortably deliver an accurate pass down the field because he doesn't hesitate. Two pass rushers were closing from his left and in front of him, but they were never close enough to disrupt his throwing motion. It's the kind of subtle movement that needs to be pointed out to someone who isn't specifically looking for it, but it's also the kind of subtle movement that allows players such as Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers to continually make their offensive lines look spectacular despite those respective quarterback's lack of athleticism.

Being an effective pocket passer in the NFL requires a balance between aggression and patience. Understanding when to get rid of the ball quickly and when to hold onto it is so complex that it should really be considered an art. Not only does a quarterback need to manage the pressure closing in on him, but he also needs to know which receiver is open and where that receiver is, or if that receiver has a chance of gaining worthwhile yardage relative to the other potential outcomes of the play.

If the quarterback isn't aware of what the defense is trying to do, he is more likely to fall into coverage traps for turnovers or hesitate himself into submission for sacks. It's very difficult to find a quarterback who has mastered this area of the game, and Bridgewater hasn't yet, but he is showing signs of ability that you simply don't expect from rookie quarterbacks or even young quarterbacks with experience in the league.

With Kaepernick, we see a quarterback whose instinct is to move his feet and set himself up to run away when he sees impending pressure. Kaepernick essentially predetermines what he is going to do to react to pressure. The best quarterbacks in the league don't do that. The best quarterbacks in the league will scramble if they understand they don't have an option downfield before the pressure closes on them. The best quarterbacks in the league won't move their feet if they see an impending hit arriving, they will keep their feet planted and hold the ball for the requisite time to find their receiver downfield.

Sometimes that leads to taking big hits, but it is also the most efficient way of pursuing big plays. Bridgewater has shown this willingness to remain calm under pressure and the toughness to take big hits to keep the offense on track.

While his ability to handle pressure and be effective behind an underperforming offensive line has been incredibly impressive, the other side of being an NFL quarterback is something that needs to be explored with Bridgewater. When he isn't under pressure, his accuracy has remained problematic throwing the ball downfield, but he has shown an advanced ability to make smart decisions throwing the ball and move through his progressions with speed. Most rookie quarterbacks don't move through progressions at all, so Bridgewater doing it intelligently at speed is something extraordinary.

On this play, Bridgewater actually releases the ball while under pressure, but that is because he held the ball in a clean pocket for so long. Bridgewater held the ball because his first three options weren't available to him. His first two options came on the same read, as he had two receivers running straight down the field wide to the right. Those receivers had no chance of getting the ball as both were covered by three defensive backs. His second read was a receiver running a shallow crossing route. That receiver was covered by not one, but two defenders. Because those two defenders were chasing one receiver, Bridgewater knew that he had space behind them.

Running back Matt Asiata leaked out into the flat late in the play and Bridgewater found him in space for a first down. It was an unspectacular throw, but a spectacular play from the quarterback. He knew he had time to hold the ball, and he knew he didn't have an option down the field to throw the ball past the first-down line. Instead, he found an option who was underneath, but had the space to run for a first down.

At this stage of their respective careers, Colin Kaepernick and Teddy Bridgewater contrast each other almost perfectly. Bridgewater can't make every single throw he needs to make right now, but there's no reason to think he won't eventually, while Kaepernick can't mimic Bridgewater's work from the pocket.

This isn't to say that Kaepernick isn't a quality overall player for the San Francisco 49ers, but he definitely needs to be used in more specific ways than a quarterback like Bridgewater who should eventually be the kind of player who will excel in any situation.

Posted by: Cian Fahey on 06 Nov 2014

26 comments, Last at 19 Nov 2014, 3:17pm by minja

Comments

1
by Will Allen :: Thu, 11/06/2014 - 2:32pm

If the Vikings get Peterson back for the last two months of the season, I predict sudden improvement in all phases for the offensive line (I have no idea what has happened to Kalil), Patterson will suddenly become a productive player again, and Bridgewater's job will get a lot easier. It'll be a real test case for the theory that no running back can be as valuable as a good starting qb.

2
by bingo762 :: Thu, 11/06/2014 - 3:50pm

What do you realistically think the Vikings are going to get out of Peterson if he comes back considering he hasn't practiced in 2 months and by his own admission has been sitting around smoking weed?

4
by Will Allen :: Thu, 11/06/2014 - 4:10pm

Adrian Peterson needs about three days practice to add a lot of value to any offense. There's reason why he hasn't played in a preseason game in a couple of years. If you think he hasn't been working out, in contrast to how he has spent the rest of his life since he was about 14, well, we will agree to disagree.

6
by bingo762 :: Thu, 11/06/2014 - 4:33pm

There's working out and then there's using the team's state of the art training facility with others around to motivate you. I could be wrong, but look at what happens when players hold out. Yeah, they work out but it's not the same and they almost always suffer a decline in playing ability or an injury.

7
by Will Allen :: Thu, 11/06/2014 - 4:45pm

Somehow, I think Peterson may have access to state of the art training resources without availing himself of the NFL's assistance. You are talking about a guy who rushed for 2000 yards, nine months removed from major surgery on his knee, facing 8 and 9 guys in the box, with Christian Effin' Ponder to relieve the load on him.

I'd say he is an outlier.

12
by Duff Soviet Union :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 5:11am

I find the constant assertions that Adrian Peterson putting up huge yardage numbers with a bad QB as a superhuman effort to be quite humorous and ignorant of history.

Look at the top rushing yardage seasons in NFL history:

1984 Dickerson
2012 Peterson
2003 Jamal Lewis
1997 Barry Sanders
1998 Terrell Davis
2009 Chris Johnson
1973 OJ Simpson
1980 Earl Campbell
2003 Ahman Green
1994 Barry Sanders

Notice anything about that list? Well here's another one.

Jeff Kemp
Christian Ponder
Kyle Boller
Scott Mitchell
John Elway (exception 1)
Vince Young
Joe Ferguson
Totally washed up Ken Stabler
Brett Favre (exception 2)
Scott Mitchell

Playing with a crap QB is not a hinderance for a running back, it's a benefit (assuming you care more about yards than winning games). The best way to gain yards is to run the ball a lot, and the best way to run the ball a lot is to play with a QB who makes running the ball look like an attractive option.

13
by Will Allen :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 6:34am

What if you care about winning games?

Scott Mitchell was 17th in passing DYAR in 1997. The Lions were about average at passing, and had the 10th best defense by DVOA. All I have is passer rating for 1984, through the number 10 spot, but it would appear that the Rams were about average at passing, and they were about average at defense. Vince Young wasn't a classic passer, but he could make enough plays to rank 4th in QBR that year, and 18th in DYAR, while making the Pro Bowl. Baltimore couldn't throw a lick in 2004, and they did go 11-5, but of course they had a great defense, ranked 2 by DVOA. The Vikings went 10-6 with the 23rd ranked defense, and 21st ranked passer.

I find it extremely ignorant and humorous that someone would simply look at names, and if they didn't see a HOFer at qb, conclude that such a team was similar to one that had one ball handling player on offense, the running back, who was not below average, a crappy defense, and won 10 games, and thus conclude that rushing for 2000 yards while winning games with a crappy defense and no other ball handlers who were not below average, is not impressive.

15
by Duff Soviet Union :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 9:52am

It was impressive, it just wasn't superhuman and I think the above list shows that running backs don't deserve extra credit for running for lots of yards while playing with a bad QB as opposed to a good one. In fact it probably helps because it makes their team more likely to call running plays than they otherwise would. Or, to put another way, Maurice Jones Drew once led the league in rushing yards with rookie Blaine Gabbert, who made Christian Ponder look like Peyton Manning, at QB.

Also, while the Vikings did have a bad defense, they had excellent special teams, so the overall non offense part of the team was about average. As was the offense itself. They were basically an 8-8 team that got lucky. It seemed like common wisdom at the time was to credit Peterson for that, rather than just attributing it to luck, which was probably the more likely factor.

17
by Will Allen :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 10:33am

Well, it's a good thing, then, that I called Peterson an "outlier", not "superhuman". The next time you wish to argue about something that wasn't written, while tossing about insulting rhetoric, just leave me out of it, O.K.?

No, excellent special teams do not cancel bad defense. Not even close. All but a
tiny, tiny, number of teams have randomness play a significant role in their number of wins.

19
by tuluse :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 11:40am

A list of HoF running backs having the season of their respective careers with 4 exceptions (two of which have HoF QBs handing them the ball), and you think that's not a list of superhuman efforts?

21
by Will Allen :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 11:46am

And Terrell Davis likely gets to the HOF without the knee injuries.

3
by jmaron :: Thu, 11/06/2014 - 3:57pm

I like Bridgewater mostly for the things that were mentioned in the article. He does seem to miss deep all the time, but his mid range accuracy has been great.

What really excited me about him is he is so young. He was 21 years and 10 months old to start the year. Not a lot of QBs start so young. He is about a year younger than Bortles and almost 2 years younger than Carr. That's a big deal.

Also of note, his net yards for attempt is considerably better than Cassel and miles better than Ponder. The eye test tells me he was better than Cassel from the first snap. Being better than Cassel, who is somewhere between a bad starter and good backup, is saying much, but I think it is for a 22 year old rookie.

5
by Will Allen :: Thu, 11/06/2014 - 4:19pm

Yep, his ability and willingness to look downfield for a target immediately set him apart from the maddening experience of watching The Ponderous One.

If he is willing to put the work in to maximize his throwing skill, meaning throwing the thousands and thousands of passes needed in the off season, for the next few years, the issues with the deep ball will become substantially less prominent, even if he never becomes above average in that regard, and combined with the skills that he has already displayed, and are not as easy to work on via endless repetition, he could be a very good NFL starting qb for a long time.

8
by Kal :: Thu, 11/06/2014 - 6:09pm

Nifty feet should be used as a description way more often.

9
by Dan :: Thu, 11/06/2014 - 8:25pm

Luck is lighting it up this season. He's having the best year of his career, and is being talked about as an MVP candidate.

22
by Joshua Northey :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 11:49am

Luck has been great, no idea what he was thinking writing that.

A really good article but I wish they wouldn't try so hard to make them cutesy. There is no need to build this stupid (and false) narrative at the start. Just do the (excellent) analysis.

24
by Cian Fahey :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 5:32pm

Luck's consistency hasn't been where it should be. Overall he's been great, but people are criticising him for his play from Greg Bedard (http://mmqb.si.com/2014/10/27/andrew-luck-struggles-to-be-great/) to Pro Football Focus.

10
by themothership :: Thu, 11/06/2014 - 8:42pm

I'll start off by saying I almost always love Cian's work, always well thought, always tons of work behind it. I think the Colin Kaepernick work is spot on, even though I'm higher on Kaepernick than him, and I can totally see Cian's reasoning behind it even if I don't agree with it. And I hate being the guy who questions how fair a writer is being in their evaluation of a player because the idea that 99.9% of writers have an agenda is preposterous(and Cian doesnt), but this is something I've seen alot of that I thought I'd note.

Twitters infatuation and obsession with the idea that Teddy has gotten badly snubbed by the NFL(a sentiment not shared by those who watch tape for a living and talk with tons of people in the NFL like Jaws and Mayock and if you have a problem with them Greg Cosell shared those thoughts as well) made me really curious about Teddy's play this year so I decided every week since he started to go back later in the week and watch his games for my own sake.

This evaluation honestly sounds like was done by Teddy's dad. Here we saw thoughts about him prefaced with "he arguably has the worst pass blocking offensive line in the NFL"(which i definitely disagree with) " and also Cian on twitter talking about how he doesn't have a refined downfield threat and the flaws of Cordarelle Patterson. I get we're trying to be fair and provide context, but I just can't see how Teddy's situation is any worse than other rookies in previous years(maybe I just don't think his pass protection isn't as bad as Cian does, certainly medicore far from the leagues worst imo). Anyway, after his game vs that god awful Falcons defense(which he played decently not great, Greg Bedard had a good piece about it I thought was very fair) he had tweets around the like of its utterly amazing how wrong ever team was to pass on him(except for two which didnt) and more bold statements. Almost as if it was a foregone conclusion that Teddy went way too late(and it was far from only him saying this on twitter). Teddy plays relatively poorly(and he was downright bad vs the Lions even for a rookie) for several games not a single mention other than talking about his supporting cast. I get why he's doing that for a rookie evaluation, but now after one decent game whole post is dedicated to Teddy's improvement. Seems like a bit much, especially from what I watched of him.

While this isn't how it'll come across, the point isn't to single Cian out for this at all. TONS of people on twitter shared this sentiment and burst of weird excitement over a decent performance against a bad defense. And I went back and watched this game. And that's what it was; decent. Teddy still missed a number of throws. And they weren't all deep. I think Andrew Garda on twitter counted 10-12, I had something closer to 6-8 but the point is still the same. And it's not just a physical issue. Go back to the Lions game; Teddy clearly missed plays on the field and clearly misread things. These were Geno Smith type rookie mistakes, not the stuff of a guy well beyond his years. I'm no expert and never claim to be but it really doesn't take much expertise to see these blatant mistakes which is kind of my pint. In fact, to keep up with the Geno Smith example a little more, Geno is another guy who showed alot his rookie year in terms of his willing to play in the pocket beyond his years. He wasn't as advanced in his progressions as Teddy might be, but he had a better arm and his ability to play in the pocket was well beyond his years. There was legitimate reason for promise. Look at what happened now; not only is he making awful mistakes, he also is playing far more chaotically and not from the pocket. The point of this is that extracting plays from a small sample size and saying he's showing key traits well beyond his years isn't to me the most accurate assertion. There are more examples beyond Geno Smith. Like I said, this isn't how he played vs the Lions and while with a rookie your looking more for flashes than true consistency, I think people have to be very careful with disclaimers like he's playing well beyond his years "or there's no reason to think "he shouldn't eventually be the kind of player who will excel in any situation". There's A TON of work Teddy still needs to do, and this assumption much of the twitter community well beyond Cian has that Teddy is on his way to being a franchise QB fascinates me but also seems a bit disengaged from reality. We still have no idea.

11
by Duff Soviet Union :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 4:57am

I've hardly watched the Vikings at all this year, so I'm not going to agree or argue with much of that. However, I do think you're right that people's perceptions of Bridgewater pre draft are colouring the view of his performance.

Compare Bridgewater to Derek Carr and Blake Bortles. The numbers are all pretty much the same and you'd have trouble convincing me that Bridgewater has worse teammates than those guys.

Yet Carr and Bortles apparently just suck because that's what they were supposed to do, while Bridgewater gets all sorts of excuses made for him.

14
by jmaron :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 8:26am

I think you are correct that the three have similar stats. I have no idea who has a better surrounding cast of teammates.

The things I like about Bridgewater's stats compared with the others is he is a year younger than Bortles and two years younger than Carr. I also like that Bridgewater has been significantly better than Cassel and Ponder.

I don't trust my own observation abilities when it comes to assessing QBs. My guess is there are very few people in the world that really have any real skill in assessing the difference between guys like Bridgewater, Carr and Bortles. So I try to stick to the stats and right now I think those stats show a mixed bag, but if I had to bet money on which of the three in question has the best career I would definitely put my money on Bridgewater.

16
by Duff Soviet Union :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 9:59am

"So I try to stick to the stats and right now I think those stats show a mixed bag, but if I had to bet money on which of the three in question has the best career I would definitely put my money on Bridgewater."

I wouldn't really disagree with that. The point is that they are similar right now, but the way they're talked about is very different and I think preconceptions have a lot to do with that.

I also wonder how much Carr's brother effects the perception of him. I remember thinking that Eli Manning would have been the third QB off the board in 2004 if his surname was Smith (and given the success of the other two, I'll stand by that), and I think the opposite might be true for Carr. It's also funny, because right now, the one thing Carr the younger is good at is not taking sacks which his bro was notorious for.

18
by jmaron :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 11:22am

we all tend to get our ego wrapped up in this kind of thing. We want to prove we knew something or figured out something no one else did. So I definitely get your point on Bridgewater.

Regarding Carr I wouldn't doubt his brother's bust status clouded the opinion of him with many even though as you point out he's nothing like his brother.

When I reviewed the stats of the 14 QB class I hoped the Vikings ended up with Bridgewater. I was a little intrigued by Manziel - but preferred Bridgewater. I didn't like Carr or Bortles, but I honestly can't remember why now.

20
by Will Allen :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 11:44am

I didn't like any of the qb prospects as good choices in the top half of the first round, but I'm like you, in that I don't have any confidence in my ability to evaluate qb prospects, and about the only guy in the last decade that I did feel strongly was going to be worthy of such a pick was Andrew Luck. I really believe that a lot depends on who they get selected by, in terms of how so many of these guys turn out. For instance, if the Rodgers had been selected by the Raiders, I think there's a really good chance that he would be seen as no better than a pretty middling NFL qb, especially if he had not escaped The Black Hole with his 2nd contract.

23
by Otis Taylor89 :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 3:54pm

Of the three, Carr has had to play the most difficult schedule against the toughest defenses, followed by Bortles. Bridgewater has played against two really tough defenses (DET and BUF) and a couple of other strong teams, but his schedule probably pales in comparison to the other two.
I've seen enough of all 3 to think that they will be above average QBs. Poor Carr, I can't believe that there has been a rookie QB who has/will face such a brutal schedule.

25
by FootballGuy05 :: Fri, 11/07/2014 - 5:39pm

Themothership: I understand that Bridgewater has not done enough to solidify himself as a successful NFL quarterback, but a reasonable mind has to admit the returns are encouraging. You shouldn't discount him looking good in areas of the game like pocket presence, timing, and going through progression because analysts praised him in those same areas after evaluating his college tape. Some of those who weren't high on him coming out of college pointed to his level of competition for making him look good, but he has shown the same strengths he showed in college against NFL defenses (no matter how bad the Falcons defense is).

Remember this is a guy who had an extremely low BDR in college and I think that you can see that when watching him play. Now he has 5 interceptions, but those interceptions game in just two of the six games he has played, meaning he has four games (a little over 14 quarters since he replaced an injured Cassell and missed the last 10 minutes of the Atlanta game)without an interception. The quarterback you compared him to, Geno Smith, only had four games out of all of the 16 he started as a rookie in which he did not throw an interception. Furthermore, Smith threw an interception in seven of his first eight games and had an interception percentage of 4.7 for his rookie season, while Bridgewater's interception percentage currently sits at 2.5. That puts Bridgewater in the middle of the league among quarterbacks with over 180 pass attempts, ahead of players like Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan. Bridgewater also commanded and showed his strengths in a pro style offense in college, unlike Smith, making him more equipped to handle the NFL game as a rookie - another reason I don't get the ever so often comparisons of the two. A rookie having success in a pro style offense is important. RG3, another guy who ran a non-NFL offense in college, put up 10-year veteran numbers as a rookie, but did so with a non-traditional style of play that turned out not to be sustainable. Like guys like Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Andrew Luck before him, Bridgewater is doing well while learning the NFL game from the pocket and making NFL reads. Also, critiquing (not excuse making), two of Bridgewater's interceptions went off receivers' hands and one was batted at the line of scrimmage, so I only think two could be called bad "rookie" decisions. I have also seen two other of his passes that could have been intercepted and weren't, but the takeaway is he is not reckless with the ball like Smith and Blake Bortles is.

As a rookie he is basically who his scouting report coming out of college said he was, except he has a stronger arm than many assumed. He has put some nice zip on intermediate to deep passes, completing some impressive balls in the 20-yard range, while overthrowing most of his misses from deep as opposed to underthrowing them. His struggles with the deep ball will put a cap on his potential if they are not corrected, but that doesn't mean he can't be successful or even great. In Tom Brady's 2011 season he threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns, while completing 65 percent of his passes. He did this while completing only 26 percent of his passes longer than 20 yards and only connecting on one of 15 passes thrown 31 yards or more. Remember the 2011 Patriots' top pass catchers were tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and slot receiver Wes Welker. While I'm not saying the rookie-led Vikings' offense will remind anyone of the 2011 Patriots anytime soon, the chemistry Bridgewater has shown with fill-in tight end Chase Ford bodes well for the team's underneath passing game when Kyle Rudolph returns from injury.

Brady is also a high-end blueprint for Bridgewater to follow. They both were knocked in college for their small frames and arm strength. Brady had relatively modest touchdown percentages and yards per attempt averages in his first three years starting in the NFL before turning it on to be an all-time great. It remains to be seen will Bridgewater take his game to an elite level, but the young Brady was good enough to help his team win two Super Bowls in those first three years. With an improving team around him, especially the defense, and given the Brady-like flare he has shown in pressure situations thus far, I don't think it's far-fetched for Bridgewater to play like a young Brady. I agree with those who say that Derek Carr is off to a similarly promising start on a worse team, but based off their performances in their rookie seasons to this point and what was known about both players coming out of college, I am more inclined to believe that Bridgewater has a better chance of being the better pro.

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by minja :: Wed, 11/19/2014 - 3:17pm

Amazing piece. Thanks for putting this together.