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Blake Bortles now No. 2 QB behind Johnny Manziel, Brandt says

Of the top three quarterback prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft, only Blake Bortles of UCF elected to head to New York City to meet the media ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII. If the goal was to raise his profile, Bortles has done just that, impressing NFL Media analyst Gil Brandt.

Brandt said in a phone interview with College Football 24/7 that Bortles is now his No. 2 quarterback prospect, behind Johnny Manziel but now ahead of Teddy Bridgewater. (When Brandt released his top 50 prospects list two weeks ago, he ranked Manziel No. 1, Bridgewater No. 5 and Bortles No. 6.) Brandt said Bortles' superior physical prowess could ultimately give him the edge over Bridgewater.

"I just think that when I see him personally and see what a strong guy he is, he looks just like Ben Roethlisberger did when he came out of college 10 years ago," Brandt said. "And I think that strength part of the QB position is really important in the NFL, because guys that are built strong aren't as likely to get hurt as guys who are thinner like Teddy Bridgewater."


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Bortles told "Super Bowl Live" he checks in at just over 6-foot-5 and currently weighs 235 pounds, attributes that were on display in a 34-31 win over Penn State in 2013. Bortles threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in what ended up as an inadvertant audition to be the No. 1 overall pick, as new Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien was on the other sideline leading the Nittany Lions.

Bortles and his camp haven't sent a copy of that tape to O'Brien -- "He probably wouldn't be very happy receiving that," Bortles joked -- but will do everything possible to spend as little time as possible in the green room on May 8.

"No doubt. That is the goal, to be the No. 1 pick in the draft," Bortles said. "Wherever I end up going, I will do everything I can to make that organization as successful as possible."

If the Texans do take a quarterback with the first pick, there are some intriguing factors that indicate Bortles could be the choice. UCF head coach George O'Leary is one of O'Brien's mentors, having hired him as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech in 1995. Bortles has size comparable to Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, the star recruit from O'Brien's college tenure, while Brandt was impressed with Bortles' football IQ.

"He really impressed me," Brandt said. "When I asked him some football questions -- basic questions like how they call their formations and things like that -- he didn't hesitate at all. He had all the answers, and I was impressed at how quickly and how well he responded."

It has been an improbable rise for Bortles, who wasn't even regarded as the top quarterback prospect in the state of Florida coming into the season. (That distinction would have gone to Jacory Harris of Miami (Fla.) or Jeff Driskel of Florida, who grew up with Bortles in Oviedo, Fla.)

"It's been really surreal," said Bortles, who had just four scholarship offers coming out of high school.

"And two were to play tight end," noted Bortles.

Said Brandt: "This is a big story. A month ago, not that many people even knew who Blake Bortles was. Now he's got a chance to be maybe the second quarterback picked in the draft. I'm excited about him."

It is a classic New York rags-to-riches story, one that will culminate in a few months in the Big Apple.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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