Blake Bortles ranked fourth on list of first-round quarterbacks taken since 2013 NFL draft

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Blake Bortles
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Blake Bortles /

Much-maligned quarterback Blake Bortles checks into the top five in one analyst’s ranking of recent first-round signal callers.

No player on the Jacksonville Jaguars is dissected and scrutinized more than Blake Bortles, and that may be true for the entire league. The quarterback has accumulated a bevy of doubters through his first four seasons, and that will most likely still occur next season with Bortles continuing to be the starter.

But despite having to face the heat of local and national pundits along with on-field opponents, Bortles was a key hand in getting the Jaguars all the way to the AFC title game last season. Yes, Jacksonville was led by arguably the best defense in the league in 2017. But the team doesn’t reach the conference championship without plays being made by their QB.

More from Jacksonville Jaguars News writer and analyst Gil Brandt ranked the 12 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL draft since 2013, and slotted Bortles in at the four spot: only behind Carson Wentz, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota, and ahead of guys like Jared Goff and Deshaun Watson (in fairness, Watson missed most of his rookie season in 2017 with an ACL injury).

Brandt points out that Bortles is the only QB taken within the time frame to have won multiple playoff games, and suggests Bortles will continue to grow under the direction of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett:

"Bortles has been the target of plenty of criticism over the years, but don’t forget that he is the only player on this list with multiple playoff wins — and he nearly reached Super Bowl LII. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is a wonderful coach, and I think Bortles will continue to make strides under his tutelage."

Again, the playoff wins shouldn’t go underappreciated, and it’s hard to argue against the job Hackett is doing in putting Bortles in the best position to be efficient.

Brandt closes it out by stating that he sees something in the QB, and despite losing Allen Robinson, says Bortles will take another step in the right direction in 2018 while silencing more doubters:

"I just see something in Bortles, a smart guy who had to really learn the position after spending his college years on a run-centric UCF team. Losing receiver Allen Robinson to the Bears via free agency is tough. Still, he should take another step forward in 2018 and put doubts about his quarterbacking ability to rest."

Losing Robinson is a big loss, but the current group of wideouts on the roster are better than they are currently given credit for, and the team will almost assuredly add another in the upcoming draft. The front office also brought in the top guard in free agency in Andrew Norwell, so pocket protection will also be improved in 2018.

Blake Bortles will have weapons, and time to throw next season. Pairing that with a top defense again, and Bortles is equipped to succeed. In the end, it’s ultimately up to Bortles himself to produce and lead to team back to postseason wins in a prove-it season for the QB.