Bortles takes early lead among QB prospects

Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel bypassed throwing at the combine and chose to perform in controlled settings on their campuses.

Bridgewater takes the stage March 17 at Louisville’s Pro Day. Manziel was set to throw March 5 in a Pro Day, but the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that he won’t throw then, but will hold a workout for scouts March 27 in College Station.

NFL scouts prefer to see the quarterbacks take part in combine workouts because NFL teams control them. When on campuses, the workouts will be scripted by someone else.

“It calls for a guy to show flexibility and the ability to adapt,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s a little bit different. It’s just a combine workout. It’s not football. Those controlled workouts are not football.”

Bortles, who guided the Knights to a BCS bowl victory over Baylor last season, had a strong showing. After passing for 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns during the season, he showed off a powerful arm at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

He also had formal interviews with Houston, St. Louis and Jacksonville, owners of the top three picks in the draft, which will be held May 8-10.

The Texans will be under heavy pressure to select Manziel, who’s a Texas native and a legend after becoming the first redshirt freshmen to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012.

“Ownership should never push a draft pick — especially with the first pick in the draft — on a coaching staff,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “It’s great when all of the worlds come together and everybody believes that the same kid (is the top quarterback), and he happens to come from that backyard. … The important thing is to get the pick right.”

Manziel’s game tape is spotty. He’s at his best while improvising. When forced to stay in the pocket, he had trouble making reads and delivering passes.

Mayock liked Manziel’s performance against Alabama last season, but thought his play was extremely shaky against LSU and Missouri.

“The common denominator for me was that I felt like he got frustrated in the pocket,” Mayock said. “LSU and Missouri did a great job of controlling their rush and keeping him in the pocket. The more he was in the pocket, the more frustrated that he got.”

Manziel created a buzz when he measured at one-quarter of inch under 6 feet tall at the combine. Bortles measured 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, and Bridgewater 6-2 1/8 and 214 pounds. Manziel doesn’t believe his size will hinder him in the NFL.

“I play with a lot of heart, play with a lot of passion,” Manziel said. “I feel like I play like I’m 10 feet tall. A measurement to me is just a number.”

Mayock projects that Manziel will be a top-10 pick.

“He’s got the arm strength, the athletic ability and the passion for the game,” Mayock said. “At the end of the day, he’s different than any other quarterback that I’ve done before.”

Bridgewater, who passes with gloves on and has small hands, has worked out with Chris Weinke, a Heisman Trophy winner and IMG Academy’s quarterback coach. He figures that he can wrap up the No. 1 spot with a strong Pro Day.

“The biggest thing, I think, is my accuracy,” said Bridgewater, when asked what separates him from Bortles and Manziel. “This past season, I was able to complete 71 percent of my passes.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.