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UCF's Blake Bortles impresses during NFL combine passing drills

INDIANAPOLIS -- Former UCF quarterback Blake Bortles has been praised for his decision to participate in all quarterback drills at the NFL Scouting Combine, but the final assessment hinged on his performance today.

Bortles earned favorable reviews for his performance at the combine, finishing in the middle of the pack as expected in the 40-yard dash. He also drew extensive praise from NFL Network analysts and was sharp during both quarterback-centric passing drills and while throwing the ball to help with wide receiver workouts.

The former Knights passer was accurate and displayed his arm strength on intermediate and deep routes. He especially impressed on the 10-yard out routes and post-corner throws. Bortles hit his wideouts in stride on each throw, even adjusting to a route that was cut short on the post-corner. His final throw of the workout may have been his best. Bortles dropped a perfect pass in on the sideline on the final post-corner route.

Bortles missed just one deep route, overthrowing the receiver slightly on his third throw. 

For those who had yet to see Bortles, his arm strength definitely popped. There was a buzz after his workout among scouts and national journalists who took in the session from a suite in Lucas Oil Stadium. Bortles shined even more considering his biggest competition in the draft process -- Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater -- opted not to throw.

Earlier in the morning, Bortles, who is 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, clocked an unofficial 4.81 seconds on his first run and a time of 4.88 seconds on his second run. He had a vertical jump of 32.5 inches and a broad jump of 9-feet, 7-inches.

Manziel, who will participate in all but the throwing drills, turned in an unofficial time of 4.63 seconds on his first run and 4.56 seconds on his second run. Manziel, who measured in at 5-foot-11 3/4 and 207 pounds, is known for his speed.

Bridgewater opted to skip the 40-yard dash and passing drills, only attending the combine for interviews, medical evaluations, the broad jump and the vertical leap measurements. He told reporters he is a perfectionist and planned to participate in drills during Louisville pro day when he could work with receivers he knew well. 

While Bortles likely would have preferred a slightly better 40-yard dash time, it's in line with what would be expected of a quarterback of his size. To put the numbers in  perspective Ben Roethlisberger ran a 4.75 40-yard dash during his combine appearance, while Tom Brady ran a 5.28 40-yard dash. Bortles will have the option to be timed again running the 40-yard dash during UCF's pro day and during individual workouts.

Bortles finished ahead of former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who was measured at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. McCarron had 40-yard dash times of 4.94 seconds and 4.91 seconds.

Bortles was praised all weekend for his decision to participate in all drills at the combine. He said he wanted to pass the ball and demonstrate how he handles adversity. NFL officials told the Orlando Sentinel they were looking at far more than just completed passes during the drill, weighing that far less than footwork and technique of the quarterback throwing the  ball.

With Bridgewater and Manziel sitting out drills, NFL Network analysts focused on Bortles. Analyst Charles Davis compared him favorably to Roethlisberger and said he has been impressed by Bortles. Analyst Brian Billick said of Bortles, "I don't see any negatives." And analyst Mike Mayock said of Bortles, "I think he's a franchise quarterback."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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FootballBlake BortlesJohnny ManzielAJ McCarronTeddy BridgewaterNFL Scouting Combine
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