NFL Draft roundtable: Which QB would you start a franchise with?

Would the Buccaneers draft Teddy Bridgewater seventh overall?. (USATSI)
Two of our three draft experts peg Bridgewater as their starting QB choice. (USATSI)

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Opinions are widely varied on the 2014 QB class, with no consensus top-ranked passer and many questioning if a future frachise quarterback is among this mix.

To narrow the thoughts of NFLDraftScout's top evaluating minds, we posed the following question:
--Which quarterback in this class would you draft if forced to select one for an expansion franchise?

At this stage, and with the disparity between positive and dreadful opinions, there is no wrong answer. Though that is not to say each of our analysts -- or any GM in the history of the NFL -- are always accurate in the area of QB evals. publisher Frank Cooney brings decades of draft study to the discussion.  

He covered Steve Bartkowski in high school, John Elway in college, saw the second coming of Joe Montana in Rick Mirer -- eh, it's not a science -- after covering the Montana-era 49ers and glory day Oakland Raiders. In recent drafts, he championed Cam Newton before the masses considered him a No. 1 pick and was all in on Jay Cutler.

Seattle-based Rob Rang counts Russell Wilson and Cutler as two of his favorite hits, but admits Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert did not live up to first-round grades.

Dane Brugler nailed Aaron Rodgers' 2005 profile and was always high on Matthew Stafford and Ryan Tannehill. He might like parts of his Brady Quinn evaluation back.

Rob Rang, Senior Analyst
--Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

There is no blue-chip passer in this draft -- none with the size, arm and intangibles to be the ideal fit in every offense.

The closest to it is Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.

What Bridgewater might lack in stature at 6-2, 214, he makes up for in accuracy, awareness and poise -- traits most critical to successfully making the leap to the NFL.

He had record-setting success at Louisville in a pro-style offense which required pre- and post-snap reads and NFL-caliber throws to the flats, down the seam, across the middle and deep. Bridgewater doesn't just complete passes; he delivers strikes, hitting his receivers in stride and allowing them to gain yardage after the catch.

He attacks the holes vacated by blitzing defenders rather than panicking. While not an improvisational whirlwind, Bridgewater feels pressure and can avoid it with subtle movement in the pocket, keeping his eyes scanning downfield. His accuracy didn't dip when facing top competition.

Bridgewater won't likely ever develop a howitzer for a throwing arm to excel at driving the ball through adverse weather but neither does Matt Ryan, a two-time Pro Bowler and the 2008 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. A number of quarterbacks with arm strength equal to Bridgewater's have enjoyed success in the NFL and, frankly, only a handful of them showed the poise he did in big games throughout their respective college careers. His slim frame masks great toughness, underrated strength and athleticism.

Top-tier draft class peers Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr possess more exciting traits and therefore I expect each to be selected before Bridgewater. But Bridgewater is the quarterback to start a franchise with. 

Dane Brugler, Senior Analyst

--Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

This draft class has a lot of flavors as the quarterback position, but one player stands apart from the rest, a young man by the name of Theodore Bridgewater, better known as Teddy. He enters the NFL from a conservative, pro-style offense at Louisville and is ready to take the reins of a franchise from day one.

From a physical standpoint, Bridgewater has good, not great, arm strength and is able to drive the ball with extra juice when needed. He has an athletic frame with quick, efficient footwork and mobility to extend the pocket and make plays with his legs. Bridgewater's build is the main reason many question his NFL future, which is understandable. He is lean-muscled with slender shoulders, thin hips and lacks the frame to get much bigger – not the ideal body type to stand in the face of pressure and pop back up after big hits.

But the main reason I would roll the dice with Bridgewater as my quarterback is his ability above the neck. He understands how to read defenses pre- and post-snap with natural feel and anticipation at the position, doing a nice job using his eyes to hold defenders while working through his progressions. Bridgewater has an outstanding thought process to retain and digest information before executing on the field. Some are turned off by his introverted attitude, but he is known as a team leader in the locker room and on the field with the same focused mentality in every situation. Bridgewater is a creature of habit with top-notch work ethic as well, already preparing like a meticulous, detailed professional.

Bridgewater reminds me of a taller, more slender version of Russell Wilson because of his football-focused and driven attitude, along with his mobility and ball placement in the pocket or on the run. I understand the size questions and he needs to improve his downfield accuracy. But with those as primary concerns, I'll gladly take my chances starting a franchise with the Louisville product. Bridgewater is a very natural passer with the mental aptitude and arm talent to be a long-term NFL starter.

Frank Cooney, Publisher,
--Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
With all due respect to my hard-working, acutely-focused colleagues, the one quarterback I would not take from the 2014 draft in this situation is Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater

The key consideration is that our instructions clearly state that we are using the first pick to take a quarterback for an expansion franchise.

On one hand that opens the field to any viable quarterback in terms of style because there is no need to fit an existing system, which makes for an interesting debate in a draft that does not have one, surefire, face-of-the franchise prospect.

On the other hand, because we are mandated to pick a quarterback and cannot first take any of the three or four great offensive tackles available, we know one thing. This new franchise will not do a good job protecting its quarterback in 2014.

Knowing that, it would be irresponsible to take Bridgewater. The combination of his slight frame, at 6-foot-2, 214 pounds, and average escape-ability should scare health insurance underwriters if he is put into a must-play situation with a brand new team. Even if he is the most talented, which is debatable, he just seems susceptible to injury.

From a coach's perspective, the preference might be a taller, tougher, more resilient quarterback or maybe one who has great escape ability.

Fitting that first description is Central Florida's Blake Bortles, who, at 6-5, 232, has the best combination of size strength and movement. Picture Ben Roethlisberger if that helps.

As for a quarterback with great escape ability, that's easy. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel may be only 6-0, 207, but what difference does it make if he can't be caught. And despite his smallish dimensions, he seems to be a tough nut.

The pick here?

A coach might go with Bortles, but we are looking at the bigger picture for a new franchise seeking success on all fronts.

So Manziel is the call. He will breathe life into a fledgling franchise much as Joe Namath did to the New York Jets in 1960s. On the field he will be reminiscent of Fran "The Scram" Tarkenton both in his running and passing style.

Actually it was an easy choice. What other quarterback prospect in the 2014 draft so easily elicits the names of two members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

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