This article is from my blog at www.offensive-line.com.
Shortly after I posted an article breaking down the QB class of 2010 a few weeks back, Florida QB Tim Tebow announced his participation in the Senior Bowl.
To say that Tebow's decision was a surprise is perhaps a stretch. He had previously shown no indication that he would take part, whilst commentators (including myself) were against the idea on the basis that it could highlight his weaknesses, rather than show off the skills that have already been displayed over 40 starts with the Gators.
On the other hand, he has shown a ready desire to improve, and as he mentioned during an NFL Network interview on Tuesday, he just loves the idea of competing. In many ways, it was almost inevitable that as the consensus grew that he would decline to take part, he would go against that grain.
Unfortunately for Tebow, his decision has produced mixed results. While his desire and competitive nature are not in question, his mechanics, footwork, and decision-making will certainly be under even more scrutiny at Florida's pro-day in March after a poor performance under center in Mobile.
Perhaps worst of all, sleeper prospects Tony Pike (Cincinnati), Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan), and Zac Robinson (Oklahoma State) all performed better than Tebow over the course of the week, meaning that he now has far greater competition at the position than was expected. I'll summarise the emergence of those three QB's at the end of this post, but first, more on the man we will spend more time discussing in the next few months than any other.
Tebow's most obvious problem in drills this week was clearly his elongated, low-slung arm position when throwing the ball. There is not a team in the NFL that would consider him anything other than a liability with the football right now, something that he is aware of and that he made a conscious effort to rectify and improve over the week. The strides weren't great, but the willingness to change will have helped his stock slightly.
During the game itself, however, Tebow reverted back to his more comfortable style of throwing, and that has to be another concern about a guy who needs to show that he is a quick learner to succeed at the next level.
A lot of people are incensed that a guy considered to be one of, if not the single greatest college players of all time, is tabbed as a third-rounder by some analysts. The best way of summarising why they are wrong is probably to watch Tebow's performance against the upper echelon of college talent that he faced over this week. The sad fact is that his athleticism is slightly exaggerated to the extent where people consider him to be a "dual threat," but as we can see simply by watching his rushing plays last night, the talent against him when he reaches the next level will not allow him to rush with the success he achieved in college.
Tebow's footwork and overall discomfort in a pro-style offence were big red-flags to me. I particularly don't like his habit of turning his back to the play, and a factor that has rarely been discussed is that as a left hander, his "best" lineman (i.e.: his left offensive tackle) will not be protecting his blind side, meaning that turning his back on defences could be even more of a problem in the NFL. There have been plenty of successful NFL lefties (Steve Young, Michael Vick, Boomer Esaison) but none of these players had the other problems that Tebow is facing as they prepared for the draft.
Saturday night may well have cemented to me that Tebow cannot be considered a first-round pick by anyone who does not have an ulterior motive for seeing him drafted that highly. I add that caveat simply because there are a few franchises in Jacksonville, Buffalo, and Oakland who could well buy into the "cult of Tebow" and select him based on his popularity, rather than his footballing ability. All three are desperate for a "face" of their franchise, and I would think that they would be among the first teams to consider him at some stage of the draft.
The problems during the game were there for everyone to see, and as I mentioned earlier, Pike, LeFevour and Robinson all made big strides (though, of course, not as long as Tebow's...) throughout the week.
Pike is widely considered to be the most likely player to rise in mock drafts in the run up to the draft, so whilst his performance in the game itself was perhaps nothing to write home about, his overall impression over the week was that he can certainly make the transition to a pro-style offence a lot quicker than some other prospects.
LeFevour (ranked joint fifth with Pike on Mike Mayock's draft board) looked good, too, and made big strides by posting solid numbers on Saturday. His arm strength is better than advertised, and with a mistake-free performance he has likely improved his stock more than Zac Robinson, who despite his decent outing during the game, perhaps lacks the arm strength and accuracy needed to genuinely be considered as a mid-round pick.
With all of this in mind, how has this affected how I see the QB class of 2010? Well, it's important to remember that the two juniors who arguably could be first-round picks, Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen, didn't lose anything this week, so I think their status as the top two prospects is relatively assured entering the combine.
So entering February the QB class stands as follows:
1 Sam Bradford (Oklahoma)
2 Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame)
3 Tony Pike (Cincinnati)
4 Tim Tebow (Florida)
5 Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan)
6 Colt McCoy (Texas)
Of note in recent weeks is Bradford's rise, with it now looking fairly likely that a team in the top 10 will take a shot at him.
Clausen's stock in turn must rise on the basis that if Bradford is gone, then other teams looking at QB's will perhaps consider him. Personally I consider him a second round talent, but as I have pointed out numerous times: If you're convinced that a guy can be your franchise QB, there is no such thing as a reach. Similarly though, I maintain that if you are not high on a guy, the worst thing you can do is saddle your franchise with a highly paid young player who will likely prevent you drafting another QB for a number of years. Ironically, I would consider Clausen's former ND team mate Brady Quinn to be an excellent example of a team drafting a player who they were never entirely sold on.
Colt McCoy is higher on Mike Mayock's board than Tim Tebow, which I find intriguing because I generally tend to think along the same lines as him as far as the transition from college to the pros at most positions.
Mayock watches a lot of film, but most importantly, he pays a lot of attention to the pro game, too, which is something that perhaps explains why some other experts are wildly off with their mock drafts.
McCoy for me doesn't possess the intangibles and the accuracy to be a franchise QB in the NFL, and it seems more likely that he will go to a team as a backup and have a Colt Brennan-esque life of never quite being considered for the top gig.
My final thoughts go back to Tim Tebow. Sure, some scouts are still curious about "slash" players, but an NFL QB is built from the head downwards. You can be a great runner, but unless you can throw the ball, manage the game, lead your team, you will not make your way to the very top.
Tim Tebow is not even a great runner. He's a good guy, with an excellent work ethic and the chance to one day play in some capacity in the NFL. This week has reaffirmed my position though, that a team selecting him should have a guy who they trust for the next two years minimum before they can rely on Tebow.
To put the concept of athleticism at the QB position into perspective, I'll give you the five of the best QB's of the 00's: Manning, Brady, Favre, Warner, Brees. If you were building your ideal QB from these hall of fame calibre players, tell me which guy would you take the running skills from?