Two-Step Drop: When QBs Return To School, Are They Ruining Their NFL Chances?

Paul PeszkoSenior Writer IAugust 5, 2009

MIAMI - JANUARY 08:  Tim Tebow #15 (R) and Carl Johnson #57 of the Florida Gators celebrate after Tebow threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy #9 in the second quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners during the FedEx BCS National Championship game at Dolphin Stadium on January 8, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

There is a narrow window of opportunity for a college quarterback to hit the jackpot and become an NFL top five draft pick. Few college quarterbacks get to even look at that window.

Mark Sanchez came, saw, and jumped right through it without ever looking back. Good for him.

But what other top collegiate quarterbacks may have missed that window...not only for this year, but forever?

Was Tim Tebow wrong to return to the Florida Gators for his final year of eligibility? Although he is ideal for Urban Meyer’s spread offense, Urban Meyer doesn’t coach in the NFL, where there are no spread offenses.

Yes, it’s true that the Miami Dolphins had some success last year with their Wildcat offense, but that was then. Give those NFL defenses a year to adjust, and the Wildcat could just become as outdated as the single wing.

So, in Tebow’s case, there have been very few pro scouts that like him as an NFL quarterback. Most think that his best chance to succeed at the professional level is as an H-back or perhaps a tight end.

But does that mean it was a good decision for him to return to the Gators this year? Not necessarily.

Since the pickings were very slim at quarterback in this year’s draft, he probably would have had a chance to get picked up in the first round.

After all, Josh Freeman, who has just as many flaws if not more than Tebow, was the 17th overall pick, is it that hard to believe that Tebow would have been right behind Freeman if not ahead of him.

Tebow does have the versatility and size to play other positions, which Freeman doesn’t have.

But Tebow listened to his head coach, Urban Meyer, and chose to return for his senior season. Mark Sanchez, on the other hand, did not listen to his head coach, Pete Carroll, and hit the jackpot.

What does Tebow have to gain by staying at Florida for one more year? Possibly another BCS Championship, but certainly not a higher draft spot than he would have had this year.

He gives NFL coaches and scouts another year to review his flaws at quarterback and make them look bigger than ever. It certainly won’t help Tebow to have Heisman winner Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and possibly Mississippi junior Jevan Snead in the same draft class.

As for Bradford and McCoy, is it possible that one of them or maybe both have also made a mistake by not declaring for this past NFL Draft? Both of them will have to face the same critical eyes as Tebow.

While college head coaches preach the importance of further grooming to their junior quarterbacks, they ignore the fact that NFL scouts can simply pick apart a quarterback’s technique given that additional year to scrutinize them.

Matt Leinart is a perfect example. Leinart’s final year at USC was hardly a disaster. He led the Trojans to a spot in the BCS Championship Game and only lost a National Championship three-peat by three points to Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns. He also set new records for USC quarterbacks.

Yet, the scouts had that extra year to shine the spotlight on him and closely examine all of his flaws. Result: a Heisman Trophy winner in his junior season and a sure No. 1 draft pick, Leinart fell all the way to No. 10 the following year.

The same thing happened to Brady Quinn. A sure top ten if not a top five pick a year earlier, Quinn nearly dropped out of the first round before Cleveland snatched him at No. 22. Tim Tebow would be fortunate to get picked up at No. 22 next year.

Unlike Leinart and Quinn, Vince Young wasted no time in opting for the NFL Draft after his BCS Championship win over USC in the Rose Bowl. Like Sanchez, Vince Young got his payday early. Tennessee grabbed him at No. 3 while his BCS rival, Leinart fell seven spots and millions of dollars behind him.

Even though Tebow may have made a mistake in not coming out for the 2009 NFL Draft, it could just be that Bradford or McCoy have made an even bigger mistake.

More than the eyes of college football fans will be on them this fall, a lot more. And those eyes don’t miss a thing.