In some ways, this may be an exceptional year for draft prognosticators, because increasingly, they are all admitting they have no idea what is really going to happen when the draft actually starts. That may be the most accurate thing any of them have ever said.
When you mix that degree of uncertainty with an extra two weeks of time to kill before the draft, the number of seemingly outlandish draft scenarios increase at an exponential rate. Even the most established, connected, and thoughtful analysts start explaining why things you never thought of before might actually happen.
Mike Mayock is one of the most well known of the national writers who focus on the draft, and in a recent conference call he expressed the opinion that the Dallas Cowboys need to think about drafting a quarterback. He also thinks the first round is not too early for them to get one, if the right one should fall to them at 16. Speculation is already rampant about one of the names he proposes, but this is the first time I have seen anyone mention Blake Bortles as someone Dallas could get.
Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel are Mayock's top two quarterbacks in this class. But he noted that both have the potential of falling outside of the top 10. If that happened, Mayock said the Cowboys could consider either if they were still on the board at No. 16.
Reports of Jerry Jones' man-crush on Johnny Manziel have been floating around for quite some time. The invitation Manziel got to hang out with Jerry in his suite at AT&T Stadium during the NCAA Final Four makes it pretty obvious this is not just something bored writers dreamed up to generate clicks.
Bortles is something very new. To be frank, I really had not looked at him at all, although I did consider the possibility of one of the top quarterbacks sliding to 16. In a sense, I didn't really look at him because of all the noise and fireworks surrounding Manziel.
Since very late in the 2013 NCAA season, Bortles has been seen as one of the top three quarterback candidates, along with Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. But there is little consensus on how to rank the three, and even less on where they will really go in this year's draft. Many mock drafts predict that all three will be gone in the top 10, but others do show one or more of them sliding, with some outliers predicting that not all of them will be off the board by day two of the draft. Add in the rising stock (at least in some media corners) of players like Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Tom Savage, and the quarterback picture may be the murkiest one in the draft.
If Bortles were to be available for Dallas in the first round, he might actually be a better option than the former Heisman winner. He has a lot of the things Manziel offers, like an ability to escape and make plays with his legs. But he would not come with the built-in circus that surrounds Manziel, and there probably would not be the pressure to get him on the field that would come with Manziel. And he has one thing Manziel will never have, no matter how talented he is and how had he works: Bortles is 6'5" and 232 lbs., just about ideal for a pro quarterback. He also has some of the intangibles that Jason Garrett is looking for. CBS Sports puts it this way in their profile of him:
Strong competitor and exudes toughness, leadership and confidence. Coachable with a high football IQ - game comes natural to him. Hard worker on and off the field and already prepares like a pro. Very alert and observant.
That brings up an interesting question. We all know who is Jerry Jones' favorite quarterback in the draft, but what about Garrett? What if Bortles is his favorite, and has a first-round grade on the Cowboys' board?
To be honest, most of us have probably looked at Bortles the same way we have Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, and Khalil Mack. All are players we would love to see on Dallas' roster, but we all figured they were going to be long gone before the Cowboys went on the clock. But NFL teams do not ignore players like that. They assign grades to them just in case something unexpected happens. I am fairly sure that Clowney, Robinson and Mack would all be grabbed in a heartbeat by Dallas if they were available at 16, and I would not be surprised if Bortles is in the same tier for Dallas.
Once again, the real question is going to be: Who else is available when the Cowboys are on the clock? There are some players I would take before him, and I include Aaron Donald and Anthony Barr in that list. I might have to get out a coin to flip if the choice was Bortles or Zack Martin. But should the draft fall out a certain way, it is possible that Bortles would be the best player left. Would the Cowboys pull the trigger and take him to be the quarterback of the future?
I think I would. How about you?