Central Florida's Blake Bortles is a "later rising" underclassman quarterback who's picked up a lot of media hype lately, but as with most draft media hype it's just catching up to the scouting community. The reason Bortles is seen as a flavor-of-the-month type of prospect is because most did not expect him to declare as an underclassman, so there wasn't much talk of him with the assumption.
Bortles took over as the starting quarterback for the Knights full time in 2012 after some spot appearances in the 2011 season. In his first season, Bortles completed 62.9 percent of his passes for just over 3,000 yards, 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. This past season at UCF, Bortles improved his completion percentage to 67.8 and his yards to 3,581 but his interceptions increased by two.
Physically, Bortles is the prototype for an NFL quarterback listed at 6'4" and 230 pounds. He has above average arm strength and the athleticism to hurt a defense with his legs if necessary to take off and run.
Where Blake Bortles Wins
One of Bortles biggest strengths is his ability to operate in a muddled pocket. He appears to have the ability to adjust to pressure and slide/step up when necessary to avoid the rush while still keeping his eyes down the field. If he's flushed from the pocket he has the functional running ability to pick up first downs and chunks of yardage.
Bortles also does a good job spraying the ball all over the field, especially in the intermediate range over the middle. He does not throw an over abundance of short passes/screens but he also does not seem to throw down field very often, though when he does he gives his receiver ample chance to make a play on the ball, especially on sideline deeper throws.
Where Blake Bortles Needs To Improve
One of the biggest areas Bortles needs to improve is his footwork when throwing the football. He tends to have a tendency to lift his back foot off the ground rather than driving through his throw, which can cause his pass to lose velocity out of the gate. Bortles at times will also fade away and/or fall back in some of his throws which hurts his accuracy down the field.
Another concern I have with Bortles when watching him play is that it appears he will often throw to an open wide receiver rather than throwing open a receiver. What this means is, he's not often throwing with anticipation but rather waiting for the receiver to gain separation/come open instead of throw to a spot and letting the receiver come to the ball. It's not a killer flaw, but it will limit him somewhat at the next level if he can't improve in that area. Anticipation throws, especially over the middle where Bortles likes to work, are critical.
The final big area I feel like Bortles needs to work on is manipulating defenders with his eyes. Bortles can get caught staring down his primary receiver more often than you'd like, rather than coming off and moving a linebacker or safety, then coming back to the receiver.
Blake Bortles is an interesting quarterback prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft, as he possess almost all of the physical tools you look for in the modern NFL quarterback. He's big with some bulk, he has functional scrambling ability when a play breaks down and does a solid job throwing on the run. He has some hangups however that would make me be hesitant to take him early, as in the Top 5, that are correctable issues but issues that will hurt him much more at the NFL level than it did in college at UCF if they are not fixed. For me he looks like a high second round pick, where you'd expect a mid-majorish quarterback with a lot of physical ability and upside.
Grade: 7.25 - Day two pick