In the weeks and months between the end of the college season and the NFL combine, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater was considered not just the best quarterback available but one of the draft's two or three best players. A shaky pro day led coaches, scouts and draft experts to revisit their notes and reevaluate Bridgewater's NFL potential.
Seems reasonable given the stakes: a first-round pick, the contract that goes with it, and more importantly, the opportunity cost of hitching your wagon to something less than the franchise quarterback you thought you were getting.
Now, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Bridgewater's individual workouts with interested NFL teams haven't exactly been redeeming. In fact, Mortensen says the workouts "have also gone very shakily." Apparently, there are concerns that Bridgewater's hands are too small, which explains, in part, why he wore gloves in college (but doesn't explain why he didn't wear them during his pro day).
Bridgewater's agent, Kennard McGuire, very politely refuted Mortensen's claim.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for journalists who work in this new age of media,” McGuire told PFT via email. “While I am certain this statement wasn't intended to be misleading, it is my duty to remove and eliminate any doubt. Teddy has visited multiple teams with more workouts and visits coming in the near future. The assessment we received from the one workout was ‘simply amazing and sharp,' and we expect nothing short or less than stellar in the upcoming workouts in the very near future.”
Conflicting reports about a player as the draft approaches isn't new. In the weeks and months leading up to the 2005 NFL Draft, Alex Smith heard similar criticisms about small hands, and they were only exacerbated when he fumbled 11 times in nine games as a rookie with the 49ers. And he still hears about it, though mostly from his family.
"It's still a family joke," Smith said last August, according to the Sacramento Bee. "My little sister still calls me 'small hands.' It won't ever die. If hands come up as a topic, someone's going to make a crack."
But Smith's hand size is 9 3/8 inches, the same as Aaron Rodgers. Bridgewater, meanwhile, has a hand size of 9 1/4 inches, smaller than likely first-rounders Blake Bortles (9 3/8) and Johnny Manziel (9 7/8). And in case you're wondering, 5-10 Russell Wilson, who is three inches shorter than Bridgewater, has enormous mitts -- 10 1/4 inches.
So now it appears Bridgewater is in a pre-draft free fall. How long he'll last is anyone's guess, but maybe he'll be available when the Browns go on the clock with the 26th pick. They're in the market for their next franchise quarterback, and much like the Bengals did in 2011 with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, Cleveland could land an all-everything wide receiver early (they have the No. 4 pick, too, and Sammy Watkins makes a lot of sense) and grab a QB at No. 26.
Speaking of the Bengals, they have the No. 24 pick. Any chance they'd consider Bridgewater there? Dalton's in the last year of his rookie deal, and despite votes of confidence from coach Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, the reality is that Dalton has a knack for disappearing in big games. If the owner Mike Brown doesn't think he's worth, say, $15 million a year, Bridgewater could be an option.
Then again, maybe this is less about Bridgewater and more about the pre-draft obfuscation that's become as much apart of the evaluation process as pro days and private workouts. We'll know one way or the other on May 8.