- Pat McManamon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Running down five from the combine who will be much discussed when it comes to the Cleveland Browns first pick, No. 4 overall.
Player: Blake Bortles
Position/college: Quarterback, Central Florida
Combine impression (1 to 10 scale, with 10 highest): Solid eight, pushing nine.
Likelihood he’s there at Browns' No. 4 pick: 50 percent.
Other teams interested: Houston (first), Jacksonville (third).
The skinny: Bortles was the only one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s NFL draft to throw at the combine.
That should mean something.
Bortles chose not to go the easy way at a staged pro day at his college, but to throw to unfamiliar receivers with scouts, coaches, GMs and reps from every NFL team watching closely.
Bortles did not bypass anything.
“I believe that I can compete with any guy here, and that’s why I’m doing everything I’m doing,” Bortles said “That’s why I’m throwing, that’s why I’m running, doing all this stuff. Why wait til pro day when you have an opportunity to make your first impression here in Indianapolis? I grew up watching this as a kid and dreamed of competing in it. Why would I sit anything out and do any of that kind of stuff?”
That was one of several impressive things about Bortles, who presented himself very well at the combine (based, of course, on one 15-minute interview) and threw very well.
“We've watched enough that we're very intrigued by him, the traits he has -- big, tall, timing, accuracy, decision-making,” Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley said. “Those are the things we take a close look at it.”
Bortles is 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds. He looks and talks the part of the quarterback. Last season, he helped put Central Florida on the map by throwing for 3,581 yards with 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions. For folks who want the tall quarterback with a feel in the pocket as opposed to a scrambler, Bortles fits the mold.
Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl and Drew Brees has had great success, but many NFL types favor a guy with Bortles’ size. Bortles is able to move in the pocket, but he’ll never run like Colin Kaepernick or Wilson. Think a much less mature Ben Roethlisberger-style player.
Attitude matters, too, and though Bortles talked confidently he didn’t really talk brashly or with a sense of entitlement. He said he had no idea how he’d inspire a fan base other than through winning.
“That should be inspiring enough for a fan base and make them as happy as can be,” he said.
Asked if he’s the best quarterback at the combine, Bortles said it’s not for him to decide, but he’d do all he could to convince people he is.
The general consensus on Bortles is that it may take a year or two for him to truly be ready. One NFL coach said any team that drafts him has to be patient, which means he needs to be in the right situation.
Waiting has benefited a lot of quarterbacks. Others play right away. And even though in this day and age a top-five pick is almost expected to play right away, Bortles, refreshingly, has no issue if he has to wait.
“There’s no doubt I need coaching, I need help,” he said. “I think everybody in the game does. There’s reasons why all these greats out there are continuing to play and continuing to work in the offseason and get coached. One hundred percent, I need coaching, I need help and I’m going to work my butt off to do everything I can to be the best that I can be to help a team be the best that they can be.”
Bortles also seemed to make an effort to point out he would not bring off-field problems to a team. He said he can be trusted.
“I won’t embarrass an organization off the field by making any bad decisions or anything like that,” he said. “Won’t embarrass my family’s name, and will be a trustworthy guy, a trustworthy player.”
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