This year’s quarterback class has been more difficult to project than many in recent years. Some analysts thought Teddy Bridgewater was the best of the bunch. Others thought Johnny Manziel had the biggest upside. At the end of the day, the Jacksonville Jaguars valued former University of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles more than any other passer in the draft.
First off, and let’s get this out of the way now, the Jaguars reached for Bortles, and that’s just fine. Had the Jags been able to trade down a few picks, it’s entirely possible, if not likely, that they would have still been able to snag Bortles. But then again, why risk moving down and missing out on a guy you think could be the face of the franchise for years to come?
Standing at 6’5” and weighing in at 232 pounds, Bortles is very similar in build to Ben Roethlisberger. He brings some of the same skills to Jacksonville as Roethlisberger brings to the Steelers as well. He moves well in the pocket, buying time to get the ball downfield. He’s tough to bring down too. On the downside, Bortles’ arm strength has been widely criticized, but that’s something that could improve in his early years in the NFL.
The Jaguars may be criticized for leaving players like Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack on the board, but they needed a quarterback, and although Chad Henne may be the short-term answer for the Jags, they needed a franchise passer, and now they have one.
The next question for Jacksonville is now, who’s the starter? Henne may have the edge early in training camp, but he was beat out by Blaine Gabbert two years in a row too. As a top-five selection, the Jaguars probably won’t be shy about plugging Bortles into the starting lineup if they think he has the edge over Henne by the end of the preseason.
Regardless of whether Bortles becomes the immediate starting quarterback in Jacksonville, Henne will be able to serve as a mentor to the young quarterback, and that point may be as important as any. Unlike many top quarterbacks, the presence of a mentor should aide Bortles’ development. The fact that he was in a pro-style offense at UCF should also speed up his development.
The Jaguars are still, realistically, a year out from competing with the Colts at the top of the AFC South, and that’s if all goes well. That being said, the Jags are moving in the right direction. They’ve been aggressive in fortifying their defense in free agency, and now it’s time to work on their offense. Bortles is the centerpiece of the team moving forward, and although he may have been taken a bit early, it doesn’t matter if he turns out to be the right guy. If that’s the case, this turns into one of the better picks of the draft.