Why Is Tennessee QB Tyler Bray Going Pro When He Needs Another Year of College?

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterDecember 20, 2012

After wide receiver Justin Hunter declared for the NFL draft early, and all signs began to point to fellow wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson following suit, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray's future became clear.

He should turn pro.

On Thursday, speculation turned into reality when CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman reported that Bray will, in fact, forego his remaining college eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL draft.

QB Tyler Bray is leaving Tennessee to put his name into April's NFL Draft, a source tells CBS.

— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) December 20, 2012

Considering his primary weapons will likely be gone and the Tennessee program is undergoing staff turnover, the choice is obvious. But the obvious choice isn't always the right one, and Tyler Bray could've done himself a lot of good had he chose to stick around Rocky Top for his senior season.

Don't get me wrong, he's got all of the physical talent in the world, and he has all of the measurables to make a scout smile. The 6'6", 215-pounder has a big arm and can be a star at the next level.

That's true now, and that will be true a year from now.

In the meantime, though, he could have proved that he can be the responsible kind of gunslinger that the NFL needs.

As it stands right now, Bray is the anti-AJ McCarron. He's the gunslinger that makes too many bad decisions to be labeled as a game manager. His 34 touchdown passes were impressive, but the 12 interceptions were far too many.

I'm all for players learning the ropes on the NFL's dime. B/R senior NFL draft analyst Matt Miller projects Bray to be a second-round pick in the 2013 draft:

No surprise that Tyler Bray would leave #Tennessee for the NFL, as per @bfeldmancbs. 2nd round stock, could rise. Scary bad mechanics.

— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 20, 2012

Not bad, but would that really change all that much in a year? For the better, absolutely.

New head coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian like to spread the field and get the ball in the hands of playmakers in space. That is reliant on a competent signal-caller. With four-fifths of a stellar offensive line returning and and underrated running game featuring Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane, the 2013 Tennessee starting quarterback will have help.

You can't fault Bray for leaving. Second-round money is second-round money, and certainly not something to scoff at. But he could have maximized his worth in the 2014 NFL draft had he decided to stick around Knoxville.

Man, that Mark Sanchez vs. Tyler Bray battle for the New York Jets' starting quarterback job is going to be a doozy. What's that? The Jets plan on trading Sanchez? Yeah, I plan on winning Powerball.