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In my weekly column, we take a long look at impact fantasy football rookies.  I compare their performance to date against my original expectations of them.  Let’s continue this 2014 version of the series by looking at one of the most teddybdebated quarterbacks who got dinged by his poor showing on his individual pro day, Teddy Bridgewater.  I will look at some of his college production against his performance versus the Lions to decide his fantasy outlook.

These are my thoughts after watching him in college:  First, the young quarterback doesn’t have the strongest arm in his class which can be seen by passes fluttering after throws of 45+ yards which affects his accuracy on deeper routes. He does have the arm strength and touch to complete the ball 30 yards falling backward though. Bridgewater is more accurate on short to intermediate throws and finds receivers in stride. The quarterback throws the ball where only the receiver can get to it, but doesn’t get a lot of air underneath the ball which makes it harder to catch his longer tosses. These dart throws are effective within 25 yards, but after that range he needs to improve, otherwise the quarterback will be easier to defend.

Bridgewater seems to prefer running bootlegs to both sides of the formation versus a straight drop back. This helps him cut the field in half,  giving him more time to scan the field always looking to complete a pass before he looks to run. The quarterback is better rolling right so he doesn’t have to throw the ball across his body. While bootlegging, Bridgewater does a good job squaring his shoulders and setting his feet before he throws. He senses backside pressure and is wiling to throw the ball away if the play isn’t there. When running, he is a dangerous threat by throwing some stiff-arms, using a spin move or two, and protecting himself and the pigskin.

The young signal caller  has a calmness and patience about him that most don’t yet have with the little things that slow down defenders by using fake handoffs, and pump fakes.  If a shotgun snap misses him, he steps quickly, picks up the ball, sets his feet, and throws with a quick motion.  Panic doesn’t seem to enter his mind. It’s his good footwork and balance that makes him able to extend the play. When blitzers are collapsing the pocket, Bridgewater steps up in the pocket, lets the defense get closer, makes a quick decision and gets rid of the ball. He would rather eat the ball than throw an interception. Bridgewater takes what the defense gives him, instead of pressing his luck.  The quarterback is highly accurate with his passes in the middle of the field by finding the soft spot in a zone quickly. As the season progressed, Bridgewater’s touch on the ball improved. Bridgewater sometimes leaves his receivers out to dry though, exposing them to a lot of contact. It’s his calmness and competitiveness that separates him from the rest. Sure, Teddy’s arm may not be as strong, but his throws will be on the money and he won’t take crazy chances.

Against the Lions, I saw: Bridgewater continued his calmness in the pocket, sometimes to a detriment.  There were times he did not feel the pocket collapsing around him, but he did well backed up in his own end zone, which surprised me.  To his credit, the young quarterback has not seen an attacking front four like the Lions have.  He was most comfortable in the piston formation which gave him some time to see down the field and gave him the flexibility to run or pass.  Bridgewater would look to pass downfield first, then to his check down targets, and finally to run.  When the signal caller did run, he took what the defense gave him and slid down to avoid unnecessary contact.

When his offensive line gave him a bit of time, Bridgewater stepped up in the pocket and delivered.  The times he had the clean pocket were few and far between though.  There was never enough time for him to wait for the deeper passes to develop which made him easier to defend.  The running game was not that effective, which made the entire offense easier to scheme against.  On Bridgewater’s first interception of the day, he did not see the safety trailing on the play and threw an ill-advised pass into the end zone.  His second interception was a ricochet caused by running back Matt Asiata; the third was a batted pass at the line of scrimmage.   The rookie kept his poise throughout the game regardless of what happened around him.  He seems to lack the chemistry with the regular starters, preferring to target second stringers: tight end Chase Ford, running back Jerick McKinnon, and receiver Jarius Wright.  This was his second start and it will take some growing pains, but I believe that Teddy Bridgewater can be a solid QB2 or perhaps a rotational fantasy QB1 by the start of the 2015 season.


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