It’s the middle of January, so you know what that means: mock draft time! Get ready to make meaningless guesses about where a bunch of 20-year-olds will live next year.
As always, the most scrutinized position will be quarterback. A great quarterback in the draft is hard to come by, but the right one can change a team’s fortunes and cement its future for a generation (see: Manning, Peyton; Luck, Andrew; RGII?). Bad quarterbacks are plentiful, and teams waste draft picks on solid-to-good college quarterbacks way more often than they’d care to admit (see: Gabbert, Blaine; Quinn, Brady; Josh Freeman?).
Tim Tebow, who works for ESPN as a college football analyst just four years after getting picked in the first round by the Denver Broncos, is considered a bust by most standards. But Tebow wasn’t just a bust — he was a media circus, personified. He was, for a brief stretch, one of the most polarizing figures in the history of the sport. It takes a special kind of man to do what Tebow did to the Broncos, Jets, Patriots and the league at large, not to mention the way he makes certain ESPN talking heads quiver with righteous indignation.
Let’s measure the Tebow Potential of the quarterbacks projected to go in the first round of this year’s draft. “Tebow Potential” isn’t just “bust potential.” It’s a measure of how much controversy his bust would cause. Does that mean we think someone with great Tebow potential will fail? Of course not. It means if they do flame out, it will be spectacularly.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Up until recently, Bridgewater was seen as the no-brainer top quarterback prospect in this draft, and likely worthy of the number one overall pick. Things have changed, for some reason — not because Bridgewater has done anything wrong, but his peers (namely Johnny Manziel — see below) are doing things right. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has Bridgewater going to the Raiders at number five.
Teams may be digging possibility of the long ball (Manziel) over the sure single that is Bridgewater. Teddy is the best passer out of all the first-round QBs. For as much hype as Manziel gets, Bridgewater can seriously chuck the pigskin. He’s a good size, with pocket poise and accuracy. As quarterbacks go, you really can’t go wrong here (at least we don’t think so).
What’s he like off the field?: Seems like a good kid. He was honored for his “off the field service” at Louisville. He had braces for awhile. He did de-commit from Miami and might have gone to LSU over Louisville if he thought he could have gotten the starting job faster, but what QB doesn’t want to play?
Possibility of replacing whoever the current starter?: Very strong. Bridgewater will be expected to start right away next year, whether he goes to the Raiders or Browns or Jaguars.
Who would get mad and petition the team if he doesn’t play?: Louisville fans, I guess?
Projected Tebow Potential: Medium, call it a 5 out of 10. While the cult of personality around Bridgewater is low, the expectations that he’ll be a good NFL quarterback are high.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow are like two sides of the same coin. On the football field, they’re very alike — “unorthodox” style which includes running around in the backfield a whole lot; playmakers; Heisman winners. Off the field, one of them is a part-time missionary and preacher, the other one gets hammered and leaves the club with beautiful women. It’s like Manziel is bizarro-world Tebow.
Though he never won a national championship, Manziel did make history as a freshman Heisman Trophy winner and his abilities just can’t be denied. He’s shot up draft boards in recent weeks, landing at number one on Mel Kiper Jr.’s board and Jeremiah has him at number four. Though no one can be sure how Manziel will adapt his wild style of play to the NFL, no one did it better, or more successfully, than Manziel did at his position over the last two years. Unlike Tebow, he can actually throw the ball as well.
Possibility of replacing whoever the current starter?: Strong. Depending on the situation Manziel gets into, he could either start right away (Cleveland) or sit briefly behind a veteran before taking over the job midseason (possibly Houston or Oakland).
Who would get mad and petition the team if he doesn’t play?: The insane marketing team led by Maverick Carter will have people clamoring for Johnny Football right away. Manziel’s got powerful friends, and you can bet you’ll hear them whine on his behalf if he doesn’t get starts. Also, racist people who only like white quarterbacks will probably get pissed.
Projected Tebow Potential: High, call it 8 out of 10. Johnny Football is his nickname, but a more appropriate moniker could be Johnny Polarizing. People love or hate this kid, but at least he’s got the football mojo to back up his outsized persona. Expect an epic flame out if his pro career doesn’t turn out.
Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Blake Bortles is like the dollar store version of Johnny Football. He’s not necessarily worse, just cheaper and not as flashy. Unless you’re talking about his girlfriend, who is pretty much the embodiment of sex. She’s flashy.
Bortles has gone from “Blake Football” also-ran to legitimate top five pick since the start of the season. The word people like to use with him is “upside,” because he’s big (6’4”, 230 pounds) and has shown he can move around the backfield and still make throws. He’s also a “playmaker,” if that’s a word that you’ll allow me to continue to use without explaining what it means exactly. Jeremiah has him going to the Vikings with the eighth pick.
Possibility of replacing whoever the current starter?: Only slightly strong. All the teams that could potentially draft him in the first round need a quarterback, but does playing in the AAC get you ready for the NFL?
Who would get mad and petition the team if he doesn’t play?: Orlando residents.
Projected Tebow Potential: High-medium, let’s say 6.5 out of 10. I see people getting caught up in the words “raw” and “upside” and “potential” here and forgetting that throwing a “raw” player onto a team like the Browns, for example, is an accident waiting to happen. Hopefully he’ll fall to Denver and get tutored by Peyton Manning for a couple of years. I also expect his hot girlfriend to make the tabloids often.
Derek Carr, Fresno State
This guy comes from a good football pedigree, sorta kinda. His brother David was “good” in the objective sense, but after David went first overall to the Texans and failed to live up to the hype, he became a career backup. Derek threw a ton of touchdowns at Fresno State — 113 TDs in just three years, along with 12,843 yards. So we know he can toss the ball around. But he lost a good bit of momentum at the end of the year by throwing just two touchdowns and 217 yards against USC at the Las Vegas Bowl.
He’s also, like our friend Tebow, quite religious: “My No. 1 goal is to go there and show people who I am, show them that No. 1 is my faith, No. 2 is my family and my friends, and No. 3 is football and I take my job very serious.”
Well, points off for not using adverbs correctly. Regardless, he’s fallen out of the first round in most mock drafts, but CBS still has him projected for the first round.
Possibility of replacing whoever the current starter?: Eh. I think he needs to sit first.
Who would get mad and petition the team if he doesn’t play?: Ultra-religious types who think his faith is getting in the way of him playing, which is ridiculous. If he doesn’t play, it’s because the Carr family looks good at Fresno State but not at the next level.
Projected Tebow Potential: Low, 3 out of 10. He can ball, but if he doesn’t work out, few people will be surprised.
Remember: Tebow Potential doesn’t mean this guy is doomed to suck, or doomed to join ESPN in a few years. It just means we’re going to start building bunkers for when ESPN’s collective head explodes after this guy is cut for being a douche/not good at football. Good luck to the 2014 draft class!
Photos via Getty