"Who the F is Blake Bortles?"
That is the question several football fans considered earlier yesterday upon reading Todd McShay's latest Big Board (or his "Top 32," if you want to be a stickler about it). Bortles was nowhere to be found on the Scouts Inc. ranking one week ago; he's currently No. 14 on the list, thanks to Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota's decision to return to school next season.
Here's my question: just what in the name of Blaine Gabbert is going on here?
Gabbert, as many of you know, was the main beneficiary of Andrew Luck's decision to return to Stanford in January 2011. Suddenly, the Missouri quarterback went from a fringe-second-round grade to a top 10 guy in the eyes of McShay and Scouts Inc. His ascendancy to the top of that year's QB class was, in hindsight, a total miscalculation on the part of scouts and draftniks everywhere. Gabbert wasn't a first-round quarterback, and neither was Florida State's Christian Ponder, who went just two picks after Gabbert. Their respective draft stories, however, occur more often than most people realize. Heck, Miami's golden boy quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, was a fringe second/third rounder when the 2011 college football season began. And even though he played well enough for Texas A&M that season to get himself into the first-round conversation, the reality is that he managed to land in the top 10 because USC's Matt Barkley chose to return to school (go ahead and laugh about that for a second--the thought of Barkley going over Tannehill today is pure comedy).
The point in comparing quarterbacks who were drafted higher because some their respective positional competition returned to school? Some (Gabbert) aren't worthy of the high pick, while others (Tannehill) grow into the responsibility and take on the expectations that come with getting selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
So which faction does Bortles fit into? That's a tough call, but I see him ultimately falling into Tannehill's camp. Case in point: Bortles has been the ringleader of a potential BCS crasher Central Florida squad this season. And when he was presented with an opportunity to down undefeated Louisville earlier this season, he took it and ran with it (not literally--there was plenty of throwing involved).
Check out Bortles' game-winning drive in the video above and let us know what you think of the guy who might be a top 20 pick come next May.