It's smokescreen season in the NFL, and we all know there will be some draft rumors over the next few months that we will be able to cast aside relatively quickly.
Bortles' ascension has been rapid, and I think some people are taken aback that he is being discussed as a legitimate option for the Houston Texans at No. 1. He seemed to come out of nowhere in 2013, unlike the other highly publicized top candidates to go first overall -- Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel -- but Bortles had been playing well throughout his career at UCF before breaking out in his junior season, and being overlooked is nothing new to him (college teams once thought he would be a better tight end than a quarterback).
Bortles has some determination in him, and enough arm talent to warrant top-pick consideration this year, when there's no clear-cut top quarterback. He's a surprisingly good runner and can move to extend plays. He loves the game. He's well-built to withstand a hit. He's steady and plays under control, as Texans coach Bill O'Brien saw firsthand when Bortles led UCF to a road win over O'Brien's Penn State team in September. He works hard at his craft and continues to develop -- he has the attributes teams are looking for in a quarterback.
He deserves to be in this conversation, and the combine offers him a huge opportunity.
It's his chance to be on the same platform with Manziel and Bridgewater -- can Bortles own the day when he's given that chance? I know this -- he can help himself a great deal if he decides to participate in throwing drills at the combine. His father said earlier this week that Bortles will make "a game-time decision" about throwing. In my opinion, he should throw every chance he gets. He can let everyone know the kind of player and competitor he is by not missing an opportunity to show his ability. Given the circumstances in this year's draft, it would be a mistake for him not to do whatever he can to gain an edge.
This is a year where if a quarterback is selected No. 1 overall, we'll be able to say, "I'm not convinced that is the best quarterback in this draft." It's that close between Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel.
Of course, it's possible that Houston will try to work out a deal to trade down and the whole dynamic of the early part of the draft could change. For now, the Texans have a whole lot of soul searching to do. They'll have to do their homework and hope they get it right -- and that homework will appropriately include plenty of serious studying of Bortles.