The consensus top-ranked quarterback in most observers' minds didn't exactly wow evaluators with his accuracy, ball placement and arm strength during the workout. Bridgewater didn't rifle balls to every area of the field with exceptional zip or velocity. It appeared that his balls lost a little steam at the end of the throw. Additionally, his balls fluttered and floated more than normal based on tape study. Now, it's important to note that Bridgewater threw the ball around today without a glove, so it's possible that his feel and grip was affected by unexplained change.
From a mechanical standpoint, Bridgewater's footwork was solid. He quickly retreated from under center with solid balance and body control. Bridgewater stood up tall at the top of his drops; he delivered the ball quickly after setting up. Although some of his throws were slightly off target, the timing and rhythm of his passes were exactly what's expected from an elite quarterback.
On the move, Bridgewater flashed above-average athleticism making throws on the run. He capably throws the ball to his right or left without issue. Bridgewater's ability to toss the ball on sprint-outs matched what I witnessed on tape during the fall. Of course, I would've liked to see a little better ball placement on some of his throws, but I didn't come away concerned with his ability to function within an offense built around movement-based passes.
Overall, I don't think Bridgewater greatly affected the opinions about his game with his workout. His supporters will continue to tout his high football IQ, leadership skills and big-game performance as reasons why he should remain the top quarterback prospect in the class. Meanwhile, the Bridgewater critics will point to potential arm strength and accuracy concerns as a reason for looking elsewhere at the position. They will cite his slight weight loss (Bridgewater weighed in at 208 pounds after tipping the scales at 214 at the NFL Scouting Combine) as another cause for concern.
There are two key questions for Bridgewater coming out of his workout. Here is a look at each of them:
How much will the workout impact Bridgewater's draft status?
Whenever a top prospect doesn't perform to expectations, it opens the door for a contender to supplant him at the top of the board. This remains a legitimate possibility with Blake Bortles set to conduct his pro day on Wednesday and Johnny Manziel's pro day coming up on March 27. If Bortles or Manziel catches fire during the workout and exhibits better-than-anticipated arm talent, accuracy and touch, the conversation will definitely turn to which quarterback is a better option for the immediate future and long-term success. While I remain steadfast in my belief that Bridgewater is the best quarterback prospect in the 2014 class, I think the workout confirms the fact that he merits a first-round grade albeit a mid-to-late first-round value based on his talent and skills. To provide some context, that is the same grade that I issued to Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith (7.05 on the Carolina Panthers' grading scale, which means "future starter with the potential to be a key contributor by the end of his first pro season"). While most of us focus on when and where a prospect is drafted, the final grade should correlate with how a prospect is expected to perform as a pro during his career. That's something to remember while we're moving forward in this process.
What can Bridgewater do to bounce back from the disappointing showing?
Bridgewater will have an opportunity to make amends for his performance during private workouts with teams. He will certainly work out for several teams over the next month or so, which will give him a chance to erase some concerns that might have come up during his pro day workout. In those workouts, the team will control the script and dictate what throws he'll be expected to make. This will test the strengths and weaknesses of Bridgewater's game, while giving teams an opportunity to see how he handles an uncomfortable environment. In addition, Bridgewater will have an opportunity to dazzle scouts with his football IQ and mental acumen. He excels in those areas based on my conversations with scouts and coaches about him. Thus, Bridgewater can still win over the hearts of evaluators despite potentially bombing at his pro day. With the game won primarily between the ears, Bridgewater's interviews and personal workouts could be the difference in being a top-five pick or falling to the bottom of the first round.