According to ProFootballTalk.com, along with a number of other sources, University of Tennessee Quarterback Tyler Bray has forgone his final year of eligibility and entered his name into the 2013 NFL Draft.
Bray checks in at a hearty 6'6'' and has an arm capable of making every conceivable throw. But even though he's the quintessential prospect on paper, his time at Tennessee has been marred by bouts of inconsistency and poor decision-making. Even so, he still finished his junior year with 3,612 passing yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In the SEC, those numbers are certainly nothing to scoff at.
The ProFootballTalk article likens him to former Arkansas quarterback, and current New England Patriots backup, Ryan Mallett. And that comparison seems fair.
Like Bray, Mallett was inconsistent in college but possesses all the physical tools to be great. And like Mallett, Bray was once considered a first-round prospect—even being touted by some as the top pick in the draft—but is now seen as more of a mid-round guy.
Bray could potentially improve that stock with a good senior year in Knoxville. But making the leap to the NFL is actually the right move for a number of reasons.
First and foremost is the coaching change at Tennessee. After firing Derek Dooley this season, the Vols hired former Central Michigan and Cincinnati boss Butch Jones to take the reins in Knoxville.
Even though Jones seems like a good guy and a great coach, the implementation of a new system puts a ceiling on Bray's potential impact as a senior. Bray already seems to have maxed out on his college success; playing for a new coach, there's more he could do to hurt his draft stock than he could to help it.
The second, and perhaps most important, factor driving Bray's decision is the nature of the 2013 NFL Draft. I can't remember a time when this many teams were searching for a franchise quarterback. Off the top of my head, Kansas City, Arizona, Jacksonville and the New York Jets come to mind. And that list doesn't even include "maybes" like Oakland, Buffalo, Philadelphia and San Diego.
There's never been a better time for someone like Bray to make himself available—especially in a draft class that's deep but not necessarily top-heavy at the quarterback position.
Tyler Bray's measurables make him a threat to ascend up draft boards in the following months. But even as a third-round pick, he could be given a shot to succeed in 2013. If you don't believe me, look no further than Russell Wilson and Nick Foles—two third-round picks in the 2012 draft who have been handed the reins to NFL teams this season.
Bray didn't accomplish all he wanted to in Knoxville, sure. But that doesn't make his premature exit any less wise.