Jaguars stick with Blake Bortles as week 1 starter

Blake Bortles looks like an epic draft bust, and he’s been a mess this preseason. But when your backup is Chad Henne, you know you’ll be stinking up the joint at that position regardless of which way you go.

With that backdrop, Doug Marrone decided to give their overpaid youngster the shot to start the season. Expect a heavy dose of the running game with the idea of making things as easy as possible for Bortles.

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Quarterbacks get scrutiny

After all the Twitter hype around quarterback hand sizes, the real business of evaluating the college quarterbacks has started at the NFL combine. This position dominates draft discussions, as the concept of “best player available” really doesn’t apply to the quarterbacks versus other positions. Teams that need a quarterback have a much different approach in the first round versus teams already set at the position.

This year there are three guys everyone sees at the top of the QB class, but further scrutiny is starting to affect how each of them are perceived. Here’s Pat Kirwin, one of the best commentators in the business, on what he is seeing so far.

We all arrived in Indianapolis believing there were three quarterbacks set for the top five picks. However, one GM said, “I’m glad I don’t need a franchise QB this year. … too many questions [are] starting to surface on this group.”

An example: Teddy Bridgewater told me Saturday he was going to run but never did. The same GM said of Bridgewater: “He beefed up to 214 to appear bigger, but he better not think he can drop the weight to run at his pro day. We don’t fall for that one.”

Johnny Manziel is 5-foot-11 3/4, not 6-foot as he had been listed. One coach told me “[Manziel] keeps trying to portray the image of the next Russell Wilson and I’m not buying it.”

I liked Bortles the best of the three, but time will tell if the teams at the top of the draft think so. I left Indianapolis with the impression that the real QB work was about which guy to take in the second or third round.

He makes the point that many teams are taking a hard look at the offensive tackles and that these players are moving up draft boards. That position seems to offer much less risk at the top of the draft, and guys like Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan and Zach Martin have been impressive at the combine. Robinson in particular stunned with his 40 time.

It’s still early, but this year predicting the order of the top ten seems particularly difficult, and so it will be hard to predict the QB decisions that will affect teams for next year. So if you like betting NFL futures when you use your Bet365 offer code, keep in mind that the odds can change dramatically once these QB decisions play out.

Houston in particular is a tough one to predict. A pro-ready quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater could make them a playoff team again overnight. Opinions on Johnny Manziel vary dramatically, but if he thrives in the NFL he could turn around a team like Houston very quickly. Meanwhile, Bortles might be the best pick in terms of long-term potential, but he’s a real project. Unless Houston gets a good veteran to play in front of him, they would likely struggle with Bortles starting right away as he has so much to learn.

On the other hand, they could draft Jadeveon Clowney as a bookend to JJ WAtt on that defense, and all of a sudden they could be dominant on that side of the ball again. Give them a veteran QB and you suddenly have a real team again.

So good luck making picks at this stage of the game.

Combine mania

Have you ever seen so much discussion over hand sizes? We have months to go until the NFL Draft, which mercilessly won’t be held until May this year, and now with the NFL combine the endless talk about the draft is only intensifying. Be prepared for endless scrutiny, and the sizes of body parts will be a big (pun intended) part of it. Good grief.

Here are some of the stats that has everyone talking.

Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M (9 7/8 inches)
Blake Bortles – Central Florida (9 3/8)
Teddy Bridgewater – Louisville (9 1/4)
Tajh Boyd – Clemson (9 5/8)
Derek Carr – Fresno State (9 1/8)
AJ McCarron – Alabama (10)
Jimmy Garoppolo – Eastern Illinois (9 1/4)

Teddy Bridgewater seems perfectly pro ready, but now fans can obsess as to whether his hands are too small. Blake Bortles is a huge guy, but he doesn’t have really big hands. Johnny Manziel seems to have the hands, along with big feet and plenty of confidence, so there’s something for his fans to hang their hats on.

With today’s interviews, now there’s even more to obsess about as reporters, fans and Twitter addicts obsess over every word.

What will the draft order be for the top three quarterback contenders (Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater) – who knows? If you’re a betting man trying to guess you might have better luck over at gamevillage.com (You can like gamevillage.com on Facebook). Perhaps the combine and then the individual workouts will help clarify the situation, but I doubt it.

Nobody really knows what teams like the Texans, Jaguars and Browns will do. Two of them have new coaches. The Browns have a new everybody, though Ray Farmer was there with the last regime, even if he wasn’t making the decisions.

We also have three guys with completely different style and levels of development. Teddy Bridgewater is the most pro ready. Johnny Manziel is the great college star who can improvise with the best of them, but who runs too much and is at greater risk to get injured in the NFL. Then you have Blake Bortles. The ky is the ceiling with him, maybe, given his size and athleticism. But he ran a read option scheme in college. He ran way too much, and the pro game seems like a huge leap for him.

So this process with be interesting and yet tedious all at the same time. I wish it were over tomorrow.

UCF stuns Baylor

This should not have been a shock. Baylor has had an incredible season, but the hype surrounding this team’s offense and Art Briles has become ridiculous. There were even people suggesting Briles should be considered as an NFL coach, which is just absurd. Presumably even Texas is taking a hard look, which is more appropriate, but Texas doesn’t need a gimmick offense to be a power. I susect they’re much better off with a different coach.

Plenty of people watched the game last night more interested in watching UFC’s Blake Bortles as an NFL quarterback prospect for the NFL draft. His performance was up and down, but he seems to have all the tools that will make NFL scouts drool.

But back to the game, Baylor certainly had its moments on offense as they have very dynamic players, but good defense can really disrupt this offense, whcih makes all of their gaudy stats meaningless. I would have loved to see Baylor play a team like Michigan State as I think they would be overpowered based on this performance.

UFC was a huge underdog but they outplayed Baylor for most of the evening. It was a fun game if you don’t care about defense. Both teams have no idea how to tackle, particulary in the secondary. But at least UCF managed a pass rush, and that really affected Baylor.

In the end, both programs are on the rise, so we’ll be seeing plenty more of them in the years to come.

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