Tyler Bray's Skill Set Makes QB Enticing Sleeper in 2013 NFL Draft

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2013

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 13:  Quarterback Tyler Bray #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers rolls out to pass against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on October 13, 2012 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Butch Dill/Getty Images

While he may not be talked about as much as top quarterback prospects such as Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib, Tennessee signal-caller Tyler Bray has an exciting skill set that could make him a very valuable player at the NFL level.

This year's quarterback class is generally considered to be quite weak. Only one passer went in the first round as the Buffalo Bills surprisingly reached for Florida State's E.J. Manuel at No. 16. The second round should see a couple more come off the board, but after that there are a slew of mid-range guys who could land anywhere.

Bray seems to reside in that group, although he has a lot more upside than most of his counterparts. If every quarterback in the draft were to be placed in a line without their track record coming into play, it's likely that most scouts would pick Bray. He simply looks like an NFL quarterback thanks to his 6'6" frame and he looks awfully good in workouts as well.

With that said, he has a couple obvious issues that need to be worked out. His accuracy is not where it needs to be as he never completed 60 percent of his passes in a season over three years as a Volunteer. Accuracy is the name of the game for quarterbacks in the NFL, so it's understandable why some teams may be reluctant to take him.

Bray was productive in the difficult SEC, however, as he showed flashes in each of his three seasons at the helm. Bray was particularly good last year as he threw for 3,612 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, which is an acceptable ratio when you consider that he threw the ball 451 times.

There is no question that Bray had some big games against lower-level competition in 2012, but he also looked good against teams such as NC State, Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri. The SEC is a difficult conference to produce in, but Bray managed to put up big numbers in a high-powered offense.

Teams will probably point to his 5-7 record, but that wasn't his fault. Tennessee's defense was an absolute abomination last season and put Bray in impossible situations. The Vols lost games in which they put up totals of 44, 31, 45 and 48 points last season. Had the defense held up its end of the bargain, Tennessee would have been 9-3 and teams might be singing a different tune with regards to Bray.

One comparable quarterback prospect who entered the draft last season is Nick Foles. There wasn't a lot of hype surrounding Foles, but he was extremely productive as a senior at Arizona as he threw for well over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. The Wildcats were awful, though, and it seemed like Foles' draft stock suffered because of that.

He has ideal size like Bray at 6'6", and although he was more accurate than Bray in college, the parallels are obvious. Foles fell to the Philadelphia Eagles at pick No. 88 of the third round. Foles went on to play seven games for the Eagles as a rookie and he was fairly impressive with 1,699 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions.

Foles may not have a future in Philly under head coach Chip Kelly's system, but he definitely appears to have the tools necessary to be a starter down the line. Bray may have that same potential, so there is no question that he is worth a mid-round flier. Bray is likely to fall a bit further than the third round, but he makes a lot of sense as a developmental prospect.

Bray is very raw and he needs some work before he is ready to contribute at the next level, but he possesses attributes that can't be taught. If he is able to improve his accuracy and lands in a situation where he has a great mentor ahead of him, he could turn into a useful player down the line.

Of all the quarterbacks with question marks surrounding them in this draft, Bray may have the most overall talent and the best chance to succeed in the NFL.


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