Editor’s note: Over the next several weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, Fox Sports Ohio will take a look at some of the draft prospects that could end up with the Browns. FSO’s Fred Greetham was at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and will report on many of these top prospects.
Most of the experts feel that Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles has the highest ceiling among the top quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft.
However, does that translate him to being the future quarterback of the Browns?
Bortles was asked at the recent NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis if he was the best quarterback in this year’s draft.
"I don’t think that’s up for me to decide," Bortles said. "But I’m going to come (to the combine) and do everything I can to make sure that when I leave there’s other people saying that besides me.
"That’s the goal, the goal is to be the top quarterback prospect," he said. "That’s why I left college early, that’s why I came out, was to be the top quarterback prospect, and I believe I can do that."
Many national mock drafts have Bortles going in the top 10, including many being the overall No. 1 pick in the draft to the Houston Texans. Bortles defeated Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien last season while O’Brien was still at Penn State, 34-31, with a 20-of-27, 288-yard performance with three touchdowns and one interception.
Over the last two years at Central Florida, Bortles threw for over 6,600 yards, with 50 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Last season, he was 259-of-382 for 3,581 yards with 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Browns GM Ray Farmer was asked at the combine what he is looking for in a quarterback.
"First and foremost I’m looking for a winner, a guy that can win football games if he can help translate what we’re trying to do offensively to the field," Farmer said. "I think that smarts is an interesting part of it. I think that we all talk about guys being smart but I think that it’s the ability and the quickness at which your guys can process that information. All of us have an understanding of math and how to do certain things, but the question is how quickly can you process that information and then regurgitate it as being productive one the field.
"There’s a lot of intangibles, a little (bit) of nuances that we look for in a guy’s performance and people will talk about arm strength, they’ll talk about different athletic aspects, can he move in the pocket, etc. But I truly believe that a guy being able to accurately throw the football, make quick decisions and process and throw from what I’m going to call "a crowded pocket" guys that can play in those instances are critical factors in my mind of what the quarterback needs to demonstrate and can do."
Bortles (6-5, 232, 9 3/8 hands) has the prototypical size and physical assets that NFL scouts like to see in college quarterbacks.
"I think being able to do things in the pocket (separates me from the other quarterbacks)," he said. "Being 6-5, 230, being able to throw off platform, extend plays with my feet, stuff of that sort.
"Able to handle a lot of offense, able to make throws, being trustworthy, I think are all things that are key in being the top quarterback prospect."
Bortles feels he has the skills to be successful at the NFL level.
"I think kind of the skill set I possess is being able to extend plays, being able to handle a lot of offense," Bortles said. "Having played at UCF, dealing with a lot of things as far as handling offense, making all the throws, being trustworthy."
He also stressed that he is a player that the team won’t have to worry about his off-the-field activities.
"I think making the right decisions on and off the field, not embarrassing the franchise or your last name I think is huge, especially when you’re playing quarterback in the National Football League," he said.
"I think those things, the competitiveness, I think are all traits that are great to have as a quarterback, and hopefully there’s other teams that believe that."
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said prior to the combine that he felt Bortles was the least ready to play at the NFL level among the trio of Teddy Bridgewater, Manziel and Bortles, but he has the physical characteristics to play in the AFC North.
"You talk about being in that division is, and I live in the Philadelphia area so I get to see a lot of Baltimore Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and I know that you have to be able to throw the ball in the wind and the cold," he said. "You have to have big hands.
"There’s a lot of stuff about quarterback in those conditions," he continued. " I think all of those top three quarterbacks could play for the Cleveland Browns.Blake Bortles is kind of a bigger, stronger guy, and people think he’s got the biggest arm. I’m not sure if he does or not. I want to see him live. "
Bortles played his college football in Florida, but said he’s played in the cold weather and isn’t daunted if he ends up with the Browns.
"I think it’d be fine," he said. "We had the opportunity to play SMU in Dallas this year and it was like 12, 13 degrees and we had no problems with it.
"That’s the coldest game I ever played in," he said. "Like you said, we do play in Florida and a lot around the Southeast, but we had some opportunities to play in some cold games and I handled it well. So that’s definitely a good thing to be able to experience."
Bortles was 24-of-35 for 242 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in Central Florida’s 17-13 win.
Texas A & M’s Johnny Manziel has received much of the attention for not only his play on the college football field,but for his flamboyant personality off the field, as well.
Bortles was asked if he thought his arrival would excite a fan base, such as the Browns.
"I have no clue how I could inspire a fan base," Bortles said. "I know I’d do everything I could to win and that should be inspiring enough for a fan base and make them as happy as they can be, and that’s all I would try to do. Fit in, find your role on the team and contribute in whatever way you can to help that team be successful."
Bortles said he feels he can develop into a top NFL quarterback, if given time. He tries to emulate several of the top former and current quarterbacks.
"I grew up, Brett Favre was my hero," Bortles said. "(I) just idolized the toughness and passion he played the game with. But I mean, guys playing now, I think physically Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, I think are both great athletic guys that extend plays and throw off platform and do that.
"I think mentally, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, by no means am I those guys," he said. "They’re the best at what they do, as far as running the no huddle, controlling the defense, controlling tempo and things of that such. But 100 percent believe that eventually I can do what those guys do, and that’s the goal.
"That’s the goal, to be a blend of the best of the best."