Before this season, no one outside of Orlando had heard of University of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles.
He was an under-the-radar signal caller that hadn’t turned any heads despite a solid sophomore campaign in which he led the Knights to a 10-win season and a bowl game victory.
Why would you have heard of him when there are the Teddy Bridgewaters, Johnny Manziels, and Marcus Mariotas of the world hogging all the air time?
In a matter of a few months, Bortles has gone from unknown to potential top-5 NFL Draft pick.
Bortles officially announced his decision to forgo his senior season at UCF and declare for the 2014 NFL draft on Monday, which was first reported by the Orlando Sentinel.
Now that it is official, it just a matter of what NFL club will draft the quarterback, who is fresh off a fantastic performance in the Fiesta Bowl, where he led his Knights to a 52-42 upset victory over Baylor while putting up 301 yards and three touchdowns through the air and 93 yards and another score on the ground.
The NFL buzz started after Bortles guided UCF to a come-from-behind win over then-No. 8 Louisville in October that saw the junior overcome a three-touchdown deficit to lead the Knights to a win on the road over the heavily-favored Cardinals.
Bortles would proceed to orchestrate five fourth-quarter comeback wins and help lead the Knights to a 7-1 record in games decided by seven points or less.
That will get any NFL GM buzzing.
At least four teams that currently own top-10 picks in the upcoming draft are starved for franchise QB’s and should and will consider selecting Bortles.
While Bortles stock has soared in recent weeks, garnering top-5 predictions from both Todd McShay and Mel Kiper in mock drafts, there are still people that think Bortles is a one-hit wonder.
For people who haven’t watched UCF’s sensational QB, he is certainly the real deal.
Bortles has intrigued NFL scouts with his mix of size, athleticism, and toughness. He has poise in defining moments, has proven to be extremely clutch and has a team-first attitude. His 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame should have teams salivating over him.
He has the stats to back it up as well.
Bortles threw for 3,581 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes, to go along with 25 touchdowns this year, while also rushing for another six TD’s. His efficiency rating and passing yards per attempt ranked top-10 in the nation, and Bortles had more passing yards than Alabama’s AJ McCarron and a higher completion percentage than Heisman winner Jameis Winston.
The Knights knocked off two top-1o teams (Louisville and Baylor), and Bortles outdueled two more well-known QB’s in Bridgewater and Bryce Petty. UCF also took down Penn State in Happy Valley and their lone loss came against then-No. 12 South Carolina by a mere three points.
Overall, Bortles guided UCF to a program-best 12-1 record, the American Athletic Conference title, and a Fiesta Bowl win for easily the team’s finest year in school history.
The kid can flat out play.
As for the draft, it seems Bridgewater will be the first QB taken, with the Houston Texans projected to take him with the top overall pick.
That leaves the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, and Oakland Raiders all as likely candidates to take Bortles with a high pick. With the amount of coverage he has been getting recently, along with his eye-opening performance in the Fiesta Bowl, it seems very likely that the Jaguars or Browns will snatch him as the second QB with either the third or fourth overall pick.
And whichever team is fortunate enough to have him will benefit hugely in the long run. Bortles may need a year or so to develop, but make no question about it, he will be a game-changing quarterback. Whoever drafts him has landed a franchise QB.
So, if you are wondering why Bortles has dominated the headlines as of late, it’s because he warrants that type of hype and exposure. He might have just emerged from the college football shadows, but UCF’s star QB can play and he will be a stud in the NFL very soon.