Daily Focus: Teddy Bridgewater was a top-15 QB last season
Why the discussion that Vikings third-year starter can't be a franchise QB looks premature. Plus, can Amari Cooper fix his drops problem?
Daily Focus: Teddy Bridgewater was a top-15 QB last season
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Teddy Bridgewater was a top-15 quarterback last year: Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spieman has come to the defense of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, after reports that some people don’t believe that Bridgewater has the potential to develop into a franchise quarterback. Taking a dive into his PFF grades shows that he might not be there yet, but with the 13th-best grade among quarterbacks in the NFL last year, he’s on his way to getting there if he continues to improve.
Bridgewater has thrown just 28 touchdowns over his first two seasons in the league, but at the same time has thrown just 21 interceptions in that span. Our adjusted completion percentage takes into account drops, batted passes, spikes and passes where the quarterback is hit as he throws the ball. Bridgewater had the best mark in the NFL last year at 79.3 percent, after finishing third as a rookie at 77.3 percent.
Pressure didn’t overly affect that, either, with Bridgewater having the fifth-best adjusted completion rate on throws under pressure at 70.7 percent. He did grade negatively under pressure, however, with six of his nine interceptions coming here. It was a similar story in 2014, too, so this is obviously an area where he needs to take a step forward if he is to develop into a top-tier quarterback in the coming years.
Bridgewater was solid in the Vikings’ playoff loss against the Seattle Seahawks, with just one pass where he received a negative grade, and he did complete a pass that set the Vikings up on the 18-yard line with 1:26 left in the game. Four short plays later, kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal that would have won the game, and if it wasn’t for that, the narrative at the end of the game would likely have been about Bridgewater driving the Vikings downfield for the game-winner against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
The Vikings have made an effort to improve the playmakers around Bridgewater, and while Stefon Diggs, who was the highest-graded rookie wide receiver in the NFL last year at 82.0, was last year’s top target, hopes will be high that 2016 first-round draft pick Laquon Treadwell can have an immediate impact. Heading into the draft, we thought Treadwell was overvalued as a potential top-5 or top-10 draft pick, but as the draft played out, he made a lot of sense for the Vikings at pick 23.
Treadwell showed the ability to get off press coverage and go up and win the ball downfield, like in the clip above, but he also impressed after the catch. Forcing 17 missed tackles on 82 receptions in his final year at Ole Miss, he’s a more complete receiver after the catch than former Vikings first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson, and the Vikings will hope he can give Bridgewater a solid underneath target who can make people miss with the ball in his hands.
With Diggs’ success as a rookie, the addition of Treadwell, and a solid tight end in Kyle Rudolph, the onus is firmly on Bridgewater to take that next step forward. He hasn’t quite hit the heights that he needs to yet, and second-year signal-callers Derek Carr (Oakland) and Blake Bortles (Jacksonville) took bigger steps forward in their second seasons in the league, but Bridgewater has shown enough that he is now in position to make that happen heading into his third season in the league.
Amari Cooper led the NFL in drops as a rookie: One of the best prospects heading into the 2015 NFL draft, at least in our minds, was Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. Drafted by the Oakland Raiders, Cooper looked like the complete wide receiver, good enough to make plays downfield, and similar to Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown with the ball in his hands. That’s lofty praise, but it’s the level of performance we saw from him at Alabama.
In truth, his rookie season was something of a disappointment, with Cooper leading the NFL with 18 dropped passes from the 90 catchable balls thrown his way in 2015. That gave him a drop rate of 20.24, which wasn’t just bad, it was historically bad. Not since Braylon Edwards dropped 19 of the 74 catchable passes thrown his way for the Cleveland Browns in 2008 had we seen a starting wide receiver drop passes as often as Cooper did.
There were many bright moments from Cooper, however, and he forced 14 missed tackles on 72 receptions, helping him to a 1,070-yard, six-touchdown rookie season. The key for Cooper going forward will be eliminating those mental errors from his play, allowing everyone instead to focus on his incredible footwork and ability to make people miss in space. If he can do that, everyone will be quick to forget his rookie struggles with drops.
How Darnell Dockett graded during his career: After not playing in each of the past two seasons, Arizona Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett is calling time on his career. In the eight years of grading we have on Dockett, from 2006 through 2013, he didn’t finish a single season with a positive grade against the run, routinely grading poorly in that regard.
Where he did impress, however, was as a pass-rusher. Grading positively in all but two of those seasons in that regard, he registered 43 sacks, 85 hits and 182 hurries. Perhaps he would have been better-suited to a more one-dimensional role, with limited work against the run, but the NFL has changed significantly since 2006. Back then the role of the sub-package interior pass-rusher wasn’t as frequently used as it is today, and were Dockett in his prime today, he’d likely find his skill set very much in demand.
Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.