By Kevin McGuire
CBS Local Sports presents 32 Players in 32 Days, a daily feature focusing on one impact player from each NFL team.
Blake Bortles – QB – #5
Height: 6’ 5”
Weight: 232 lb
Hometown: Oviedo, Florida
When an NFL franchise has a chance to draft what could be a franchise quarterback, it has to make that pick. For the Jacksonville Jaguars, all of the eggs have been placed in the basket of Blake Bortles, whose stock may have been as high as it could have ever been out of college. Bortles helped lead UCF to the most successful season in school history, complete with an American Athletic Conference championship and a victory over Big 12 champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. It was quite a 2013 campaign for Bortles in his final college football season, and now the Jaguars hope he can play a similar role at the next level.
There will be a few things to keep in mind as Bortles works to prove the Jaguars were wise to select him with the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. First, he is not Johnny Manziel. In fact, he is quite the opposite of Manziel. While the Cleveland Browns may be getting a star that knows how to live in and attract a spotlight, but the Jaguars have a player in Bortles who is much more comfortable thriving where nobody is looking. He is calm, yet confident in his abilities. His arm is strong and accurate enough to make for a much more than serviceable quarterback in the NFL. He may remind some of Ben Roethlisberger with his size, arm and unsuspecting athleticism and ability to run when needed.
Bortles has a knack for making plays happen. His patience is a tremendous asset to the offense, and if something breaks down in front of him he will have the ability to take off and pick up some yardage with his legs. He will not be mistaken with Manziel or Mike Vick in his prime with his speed, but it is a skill that will come in handy from time to time. Last fall, Bortles rushed for 272 yards and six touchdowns and was only recorded for negative rushing yardage in two games. Granted, the level of competition was much easier to battle than Bortles will face in Jacksonville.
Another thing to keep in mind is just how soon the Jaguars will hand the offense over to Bortles. As the third overall pick in the draft it would be expected he begins starting at some point his season, but he will have a tested veteran in Chad Henne to learn from early on. The future actually looks bright for Bortles as a franchise quarterback in Jacksonville because the franchise has also placed some pieces to grow around him. Receivers Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Kenny Shaw were added through the draft and the Jaguars added Bortles’ UCF teammate Storm Johnson at running back through the draft. The offensive line also has some good, young talent to protect the franchise quarterback of the future as well.
It may be ugly at times in 2014, but Bortles will be unnerved and will benefit by going through any growing pains this fall as the Jaguars have much work to do before competing in the AFC South.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.