Bridgewater has a long way to go before he'll be in a position to contend for a championship, but he does have another quality Wilson possessed: ample motivation. Bridgewater went from being hyped as a potential top overall pick in this year's draft to nearly falling out of the first round altogether. That's a humbling experience in its own right. It's an indication that he can't afford to think the same habits that led to his tremendous college success will equate to strong performances at the next level.
Bridgewater realizes he has to work harder to overcome the stigma that dogged him throughout his pre-draft evaluation process -- the belief that his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame isn't sturdy enough to endure the weekly pounding that the NFL inflicts. He should also understand how one bad moment can lead to a crippling ripple effect, because that's what his mediocre pro day at Louisville did to his draft stock. On that same note, Bridgewater won't forget that his career already has included some pretty impressive highlights up to this point. Unlike both Bortles and Manziel, he started as a true freshman at Louisville and spent three years under center for that program.
It became easy to forget that because Bridgewater doesn't have a catchy nickname like Johnny Football or the ability to keep talking heads debating for hours about his future in the NFL. Bridgewater also doesn't possess the prototypical quarterback size of the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Bortles, who came out of nowhere to become the third overall pick. It seemed that the more people saw Bridgewater, the more they found reasons to not like him. It's a familiar curse in the NFL, where upside can evaporate if there's too much film on a star.
The people who faced Bridgewater know what he can do at the next level. He didn't throw for 9,370 yards and 69 touchdowns solely because he was in the right system. In Minnesota he'll also find an All-Pro running back named Adrian Peterson, a beast of a ball carrier who should still have enough carries in him to help balance that offense for Bridgewater. Some mentoring from Cassel and a few more sound personnel moves and the Vikings should have a strong setup for their young quarterback in a relatively short time.
You can't say this about Bortles since the Jaguars have been a train wreck for the past six years. Manziel's odds of success with the Browns look even more daunting, as that franchise has enjoyed only two winning seasons since 1999. The Vikings, on the other hand, made the playoffs two years ago with the underwhelming Christian Ponder under center. It says here that they could return to that stage fairly quickly, as long as Bridgewater blossoms into the player he seems more than likely to become.