I’ve talked about this phenomenon in other posts but wanted to give it its own thing here so I could have a solid, defined reference point to link back to when I inevitably bring it up again. The NFL year is nothing if not cyclical.

There are plenty of reasons I’m not a fan of draft season. Today I’d like to discuss one of them. It is a problem caused by the very nature of the beast, the repetitive nature of the draft itself and the compounding problems of the 24/7 news cycle. I call it The Bortles Effect, mostly just because he was the first time I ever really noticed this phenomenon. You could name it a number of things, but Bortles is objectively the funniest name so that’s what we are going with.

Every year, by the end of the college season usually, we have the obvious top QB prospects in the draft class. It is either one clearly standing out above all others or between a couple guys. This year for example, the top QB prospect is basically an argument between Stroud or Young. These top prospects are basically THE GUYS for months on end, and once the combine ends and mock draft scout season truly enters it’s runaway train phase, the hype has been…exhausted.

There’s only so much anyone, even the biggest draft nerd, can write about the same dudes. There are only so many articles and videos the average consumer can stand to read on the same dudes. It’s perfectly understandable that in this era where content must be put out constantly and eyeballs equal dollars that after a certain point, people will crave something new. As a consumer, I want to read about dudes I haven’t heard about yet. As a writer, I imagine these draft guys want to look at other players too. Unfortunately this fatigue and desire for freshness has generated easily predictable trends. After people run out of ways to call the top guys the top guys, people get weird and fall in love with the potential of more flawed prospects.

This usually happens after a dude has a good combine or pro day. That’s why you can be reading articles about the usual prospects and then suddenly a mock draft shows up with a name you barely know in the top 5. Scouts are desperate to find something new to fawn over so they start falling in love with more flawed prospects. This year it was always going to be Anthony Richardson or Will Levis. Turns out it is Richardson. At least for now, even Levis still has time to randomly rise. Even Hendon Hooker has gotten undeserved attention as a first-rounder by some clickbaiters. Richardson is the prototypical dream for these situations: the deeply flawed but physically gifted guy with all the right tools who the messy girl at the bar thinks she can fix. Spoiler alert: she probably can’t. History hasn’t been particularly kind to the physical himbo QB prospect outside one notable exception we will get to.

This effect reaches actual NFL teams. Draft scouts have an influence on GMs and you can almost trace a lot of these overdrafts back to when the scouts started fawning over them because they ran out of things to say about the obvious top guys. Sometimes this even manages to hurt one of the consensus top prospects. Justin Fields spent most of his time being the de-facto #2 guy behind Trevor Lawrence until suddenly, out of nowhere, this dork from BYU was suddenly being discussed as possibly the best QB in the draft. Fields was the 4th QB overall, behind Lawrence, Zach “Milf Hunter” Wilson, and Trey Lance, another physical specimen drafted on potential. We still don’t have definitive answers on Fields or Lance yet, but Wilson was obviously a massive mistake.

Before him, we had Mitchell Trubisky. Patrick Mahomes was not a perfect prospect at the time (A lot of speculation on whether his game could translate before we knew it would) but he was a better prospect than Mitch Trubisky, who also came out of nowhere to suddenly be the best prospect in the draft…for some reason. It didn’t work out. Before him, we had Bort himself. A guy most people only knew for having a hot girlfriend suddenly shot up scouting boards and got taken 3rd overall. Bort had a decent career all things considered but he was never a great QB and 2017, in hindsight, was a miracle fluke year for the Jaguars.

So now let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Josh Allen. You could even name this entire phenomenon “Chasing Josh Allen”. Allen was kind of this guy. He was from a small school, was deeply flawed in college, but he had all the physical traits you’d want in a QB. Did it work out? Yes! Is it maybe more complicated than that? Yes! Allen at #7 overall was not a highly regarded pick and for 2 years didn’t really prove anyone wrong. He wasn’t bad, but he was mostly a talented physical runner who wasn’t great at throwing the ball accurately or making decisions. But the Bills did everything right to actually turn the himbo QB into a genuine elite-level talent. It gave credence to the long-held theory of taking the physically gifted guy you can mold over the Teddy Bridgewater type of smart but limited. But now every draft dork out there wants to be the guy who gets to yell “CALLED IT” on the next Josh Allen, which is why I think so many of them are starting to hype up Richardson. Richardson is an undeniable athletic freak, but I’ve mostly seen Florida fans laughing at the idea of him as a top prospect.

The Bortles Effect is not exclusively a QB phenomenon but it just tends to be the most obvious with QBs. Travon Walker from last year was in many ways Bortled: a raw physical talent that wasn’t ranked too highly for most of the draft season until suddenly he was a big deal flashing POTENTIAL and he went first overall. Luke Joeckel was the far and away best lineman prospect for months in 2013 and then suddenly Eric Fisher Bortled him (and that ended up being the correct move by KC). EJ Manuel Bortled Geno Smith in that same draft. It was a weak year for QBs but Geno was the top guy for months and suddenly discussions over Manuel took over and the Bills took him.

So much goes into whether or not a guy makes it in the NFL and for the most part we really can’t judge them until they actually enter the league, which is part of why all this nonsense every year is so exhausting. It’s nothing but speculation for months, driven by a constant need for new content during a long downtime. I hate this time of year.