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Lynch could be Bortles of 2016 draft

<p>University of Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch projects to go from the top of the first round to the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft. He threw for 28 touchdowns and four interceptions last season.&nbsp;</p>
University of Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch projects to go from the top of the first round to the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft. He threw for 28 touchdowns and four interceptions last season. 

On the final weekend in April, the Memphis quarterback’s name will be called in Chicago at the 2016 NFL Draft, and according to most mock drafts he’s expected to be selected in the first half of the opening round.

However, just because Lynch is a highly coveted prospect doesn’t guarantee that he’ll find immediate success in the NFL.

In last year’s draft, two quarterbacks were selected in the first round and both were instant hits. No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston tossed for more than 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while No. 2 pick Marcus Mariota threw for 19 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in 12 games with the Tennessee Titans.

But two seasons ago it was a very different story for rookie QBs. Three quarterbacks were selected in the first round. Of those three, Blake Bortles was a turnover machine, Johnny Manziel was a nightmare on and off the field, and Teddy Bridgewater had a lukewarm debut in Minnesota with 14 TDs and 12 picks.

It’s always a mixed bag with rookie quarterbacks, so it can be hard to predict how well Lynch will play as he transitions to life as a professional football player, but when attempting to gauge how he stacks up to recent draftees there’s no better comparison than Bortles.

Some in the national media have already begun to compare Lynch and Bortles, including Dane Brugler, a draft analyst for CBSSports.

“Lynch isn't a flawless prospect; he needs to work on his footwork, touch and continue to add weight,” Brugler wrote shortly after Lynch led the Tigers to a 37-24 win over Ole Miss in October. “But with continued development, Lynch could be this year's version of Blake Bortles if he declares — a passing prospect from a non-power-five conference who checks a lot of boxes for NFL evaluators in an average quarterback class.”

With the two quarterbacks, the similarities begin with their physical traits. Both are tall players with Lynch standing 6-foot-7 to Bortles’ 6-foot-5, and both weigh in at 245 pounds. Much like Lynch has shown in his three years at Memphis, Bortles also has the ability to use his legs to pick up yardage, especially in the red zone. Lynch ran for a total of 687 yards and 17 touchdowns in his three years at Memphis, while Bortles took off for 561 yards and 15 scores with the UCF Golden Knights.

Both players also have the advantage of being big enough to avoid injuries while running the football, as opposed to smaller recent draftees such as Manziel.

When it comes to throwing the football, both Lynch and Bortles are highly accurate quarterbacks who don’t make many mistakes. After a rocky freshman campaign, Lynch completed 64.8 percent of his throws while tossing 50 touchdowns to only 13 interceptions in his final two seasons with the Tigers. In Bortles’ final two college seasons he had a 65.3 percent pass completion rate, throwing 50 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

Paxton Lynch

College Stats

Blake Bortles


Completion Percentage



Passing TDs/INTs



Rushing TDs


The numbers for the two quarterbacks are eerily similar, and even more legitimate considering they were both playing against equal competition. Lynch and Bortles both started their collegiate careers at a Conference USA school that later transitioned to the American Athletic Conference.

They even faced off against each other one time during Lynch’s freshman season, as UCF scored two late touchdowns to avoid an upset and take a 24-17 victory over the Tigers. Neither Lynch nor Bortles had much of a positive impact on the game. Neither threw for a touchdown, and both players completed only about 50 percent of their pass attempts.

If Bortles is the closest thing to Lynch in the NFL then good things could be on the way for the Tiger quarterback. Bortles has played in two professional seasons so far with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the results of the two couldn’t be more different.

Bortles endured a disastrous debut in the NFL, throwing 17 interceptions to only 11 touchdowns in his rookie season. However, he’s learned from his mistakes and turned it around to have a fantastic sophomore season, tossing for 35 scores and running for two more. Bortles’ 35 touchdown passes are tied with Cam Newton, Eli Manning and Carson Palmer for the second best mark in the league, trailing only New England’s Tom Brady with 36.

Again, there’s no guarantee that Lynch will follow a similar path. NFL success is determined by a multitude of factors, perhaps none more important than the team that drafts you. Take the Cleveland Browns for example; who have started a record 15 different quarterbacks dating back to the 2008 season, creating a toxic situation that could doom almost any rookie QB. But if Lynch can land in a desirable destination he has as good a shot as any to break out in the NFL.

Former Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch threw 59 touchdown passes in three seasons with Memphis football. 

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