On The Cusp: Teddy Bridgewater
The No. 32 overall pick in last year’s draft took every snap at quarterback for the Vikings from Week 6 on — and took over 80 percent of the team’s snaps in Weeks 3 and 4 as well. After a series of what-you’d-expect-from-a-rookie games to begin his career, he flourished down the stretch, at least on the real football field.
In terms of fantasy football, Bridgewater was little more than a QB2 option. The hope, of course, is that he makes the jump and becomes a top 10 fantasy quarterback next season. That seems unlikely — which makes it seem odd that I’m about to write hundreds of words about a quarterback that I’m ultimately going to suggest be your top backup target — but the potential is there for Bridgewater to be a fantasy stud next year.
Bridgewater completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,920 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the year. Those numbers won’t blow anybody away, but one of the real reasons to be excited about Bridgewater is what he accomplished in Weeks 13-17.
In that span, Bridgewater tied with Tony Romo for highest completion percentage (72.1 percent) and was second behind Romo with an NFL QB rating of 103. He was also second, behind Russell Wilson, with an 8.79 yards per attempt average in those games.
Bridgewater will need to score more touchdowns if he’s to be a weekly fantasy starter. His 14 passing touchdowns are about half of what you get from top 12 fantasy quarterbacks, but there are rules to that exception: Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and, to a lesser extent, Colin Kaepernick.
What those three quarterbacks can do is run, something we know Bridgewater is capable of doing as well. The rookie tucked and ran 47 times last season, eighth most among all quarterbacks from Weeks 3-17. However, he gained only 209 yards on those rushes. He’ll need to be more efficient when running if he hopes to make up ground (on the ground) in terms of fantasy production.
Even if he’s largely the same runner in 2015 as he was in 2014, there’s plenty of reason to believe that Bridgewater will throw for more touchdowns next season. For starters, 14 isn’t that high of a bar. But there’s a more football-related reason to like his chances: Bridgewater threw at least one touchdown in every game from Weeks 7 on. That’s a fantastic streak for a rookie.
The bad part of that streak? He never threw for more than two touchdowns in a game, and tossed only one touchdown in six of those games. The good? He threw at least two touchdowns in four of his final six games, serving as more evidence that Bridgewater was putting it together toward the end of the season.
Per Pro Football Reference’s database, Bridgewater was just the 11th quarterback in the history of the NFL or AAFC to throw for at least 14 touchdowns, 12 or fewer interceptions, and post a quarterback rating of 85.0 or above in either a rookie season or, in the case of Bulger and Rypien, in a first season taking snaps. It’s not bad company, either:
Of the active players on that list: Griffin’s story is unfinished, but he has shown that he’s capable of elite fantasy production. Wilson was a top three fantasy quarterback in 2014, Matt Ryan has been a solid fantasy option throughout his career, and Ben Roethlisberger has been serviceable (that sounds like a dis, but it’s meant as a compliment). The list also features Hall of Famers Dan Marino, Y.A. Tittle, and Otto Graham.
Just because Bridgewater’s freshman season compared to these 10 doesn’t mean his career will play out the same, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.
If Bridgewater is to take a significant leap in 2015, he’ll likely need more help from his teammates. Whether or not Adrian Peterson suits up for the Vikes next season remains to be seen, but if he does, that’ll be a boon to Bridgewater. An elite running back behind Bridgewater will naturally open up more of the field for the passing game.
Where Bridgewater really needs help is from his receivers. No Vikings wideout caught over 60 passes last season, and none went for over 750 yards. Charles Johnson came on strong, but Cordarrelle Patterson failed to show up in his second year, and Greg Jennings isn’t getting any younger (and his $8.9 million salary makes him a potential cut candidate this summer, per Rotoworld.)
Some early mock draft haves the Vikings taking a wideout in the first round. If they can infuse talent into the receiving corps via the draft — or find a way to revitalize Patterson — that, too, will boost Bridgewater’s stock.
There is a lot to like about Bridgewater’s future, but it’s hard to say with certainly that potential will come to fruition as early as 2015. That speaks more to the depth of skilled quarterbacks playing today than it does about Bridgewater. It’s hard to crack the top 10 with Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson all but guaranteed to take up at least six of the spots; and that’s not counting Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, and others.
What can be said with confidence is this: Teddy Bridgewater should be a favorite target of yours in dynasty leagues, and he should be a top target — if not the top target — among backup fantasy options. At worst, he’ll be one of the best backup fantasy quarterbacks. At best, he’ll become the starter for your team or a valuable trade chip.