Tim Tebow: What Kind of Pro?

Tremendous Upside Potential covers this in a post today, but, besides the poorly spelled headline, I think there are some other things wrong with TUP’s logic.

TUP labels Florida’s Tim Tebow a “unique prospect,” and tabs his new SEC record for single-season rushing touchdowns as evidence that Tebow is “different.” Drawing contrasts with Michael Vick and Vince Young, TUP says there is a comparison to be made with the latter, as Tebow and Young are bigger, sturdier runners more fit for the NFL’s rougher defenders. And that’s true: Young stands 6’5″ and weighs in at 233 pounds, and Tebow’s 6’3″ frame carries 235.

While both qualify as running quarterbacks, neither Young nor Tebow will be asked to run as much in the NFL as they did in college. Young rushed over 130 times in each of his three years as a starter at the University of Texas, but only ran 83 times in his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans, and while Young has 75 carries with three games remaining on his schedule, he has only had double-digit carries in two games this season. Tebow toted the rock an astounding 194 times this year en route to his Heisman Trophy, notching three games of 20 or more carries, two of them 100+-yard efforts; it’s hard to imagine he would be asked to do that in an NFL that seems unlikely to convert to the spread option Urban Meyer employs.

Also, Young ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the 2006 NFL Combine; Tebow’s 40 was about a 4.6 as a high school recruit in 2006, and it seems likely he’ll end up somewhere between a 4.5 and a 4.7 at a future NFL Combine.

So, in size, durability, and speed, Young and Tebow are remarkably similar quarterbacks; there’s really not much unique about Tebow’s athletic ability that Young did not or does not have.

However, the chief concern for any field general in the NFL is arm strength. Though former Titans general manager Floyd Reese has hopes for Young being able to “rewrite the position” of quarterback, it seems more true that he, with his whiplike sidearm motion, is being molded into a pocket passer; after completing a measly 51.5% of his passes in 2006, Young has been more composed in the pocket, and boasts a gaudy 62% completion percentage in 2007. The problem, though, is that his interception totals have soared, from 13 in 15 games in his rookie year to 16 picks in only 12 games in 2007; this speaks to his inability to deliver strikes to receivers in traffic and difficulties finding holes in faster NFL defenses without playmakers on offense.

Tebow has enjoyed great success in Florida’s passing attack thus far, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 29 TDs and only 6 INTs over 12 games in 2007. But his arsenal includes a surefire NFL star, Percy Harvin, and likely first-day picks Andre Caldwell and Cornelius Ingram, who all contribute to defensive stretch marks that turn into touchdowns. And his own rushing prowess helps complicate defensive coverages further.

In the NFL, though, Tebow will likely not be a run-pass option on every play, instead being used as an option on certain plays; his arm will have to spread defenses for occasional runs, not the other way around. And though he has made nearly every throw in the intermediate level from 10 to 20 yards downfield with little difficulty from a variety of angles, his deep ball is wobbly on good days, and his lefty wind-up may result in what would be an open window in the SEC turning into an incompletion or interception against fleet secondaries.

Young’s struggles will make NFL GMs think twice before committing to such a familiar prospect in Tebow. The latter’s arm strength will be heavily scrutinized, and he may fall further on draft day for that as well.

There are two other factors that will affect Tebow’s potential as an NFL player, at least in the prism of NFL war rooms.

The first is the Florida curse. Though many Gators have been in and out of the NFL over many years, their successes have been meager at best. Steve Spurrier and Rex Grossman are the only UF quarterbacks selected in the first round; Grossman is the only Gator quarterback to play in a Super Bowl.

The former helped the Creamsicle-era Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the all-time worst record in league history, an 0-14 mark that may soon be erased; the latter’s up-and-down tenure at the helm of the Chicago Bears is well-documented, and includes a two-interception, one-fumble performance in Super Bowl XLI. The rest of the list is pockmarked with Danny Wuerffel’s woeful times as a New Orleans Saint, Brock Berlin’s nondescript game on Sunday with the St. Louis Rams, and Jesse Palmer’s stunning success in parlaying his backup role with the New York Giants into a stint on “The Bachelor.”

Florida quarterbacks, for whatever reason, have found little to no success in the NFL; rightfully or not, this will color some perceptions of Tebow.

The other important factor in Tebow’s transition to the League is the success of many of his contemporaries. If Tebow forgoes a year of eligibility and enters the 2009 Draft, he may be competing for the top of the quarterback heap with Ohio State’s Todd Boeckman, West Virginia’s Pat White, who could be gone after this season or moved to another position, Texas’ Colt McCoy, who would be an early entrant and backslid with a sophomore slump in 2007, and Matthew Stafford, the Georgia Bulldog whose cannon arm would entice pro scouts if he entered the Draft after his junior season. Of those, Stafford is the only player who would be rated above Tebow.

If he stays for his senior year at UF and waits until the 2010 Draft, which may be more likely, given his obvious passion for the collegiate game and lack of financial need, Tebow would be competing against McCoy and/or Stafford, LSU’s Ryan Perrilloux, and, perhaps, Michigan titan Ryan Mallett, Virginia Tech’s Vick-like Tyrod Taylor, Notre Dame golden boy Jimmy Clausen, and erstwhile Arkansas Razorback Mitch Mustain, now with Southern Cal.

The 2010 class could be stacked with potential; it seems less likely that the 2009 class will be full of quarterbacks.

I personally think Tebow projects better as a tight end or fullback at the professional level, bruising strength used to bull for tough yards on short downs and near the goal line and sometimes deployed as a secondary passing threat in a revolutionary system that keeps defenses on toes; I think Young would flourish in a similar scheme. But, just as it is too soon in Young’s professional career to definitively call him anything more than an enigma, so is it too soon to know anything for certain about Tebow.

But, hey, there’s no harm in speculation.

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10 Comments

Filed under College Football, NFL, Questions

10 responses to “Tim Tebow: What Kind of Pro?

  1. Goldengod

    There are 2 huge errors in this blog..

    Tebow and Vince Young were the same physically. There is a huge difference between a 6’3″ guy who weighs 240 lbs and a 6’6 guy who weighs 235 lbs. Teboe can bench press 460 lbs and squat over 600 lbs. Tebow has the body of a linebacker or a protoypical runningback. Vicne Young has the body of a prototypical wide receiver. This, and the fact that Tebow passes better than VY did at the same age against tougher defenses are huge reasons why Tebow will be more successful than VY. Not to mention the intangibles. Such as Tebow’s heart and VY lack of heart.

    If QBs like Ben Roethlisberger and David Garrard perfom as well as they do Tebow likely to be just as successful. The key is landing on a team that isn’t terrible.

    The other huge error is bringing up the past failures of Florida QBs. The fact is most successful QB’s in college don’t pan out in the pros.

  2. To respond: We don’t know that VY has a lack of heart; certainly, I’d argue he had a passion for playing at Texas that he hasn’t found in Tennessee.

    And, given what I’ve seen this year, Tebow’s arm arguably isn’t even as good as Young’s (Roethlisberger’s is definitely better, though Garrard may be more comparable to Tebow); he’s underthrown Percy Harvin twice this year, once on a bad read/telegraphed pass, and defenders have just tipped the passes to him, something that might not be the case in the NFL. The end of the Ole Miss game is testament to Tebow’s often spotty touch in the passing game. He’s made a handful of jaw-dropping throws that I didn’t see in 2007, but nothing to show that he’s even a top-flight college passer.

    Now, where Tebow does succeed is as one of those “leaders of men” types, in ways that I don’t think any Florida QB save Wuerffel or Spurrier could match. He, like any player playing any position with a positive or negative NFL track record, will have scouts remembering that; though it shouldn’t be important, it is.

    Thanks for commenting and discussing; feel free to continue this.

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  4. david

    a fullback? this guy could be a runningback in the nfl, he ran all over some of the best defenses in college football last year, he would be a great bruising RUNNING back, why would you automatically slot him as a fullback? because he is white? how many fullbacks do you know that are as athletic as tebow? the nfl is full of power backs built like him, brandon jacobs comes to mind

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  6. GoldenGod

    “””And, given what I’ve seen this year, Tebow’s arm arguably isn’t even as good as Young’s (Roethlisberger’s is definitely better,”””

    You just proved you don’t know what you are talking about.. Tebow throws the best long ball in college football right now. He struggles on touch with his short passes.. but if anything it’s because he has TOO Much arm not enough.. but touch can be refined.. Your reaction is what we call a knee jerk reaction. People assume Tebow can’t be as good as he is.. that doesn’t mean you are right.

    People said Tebow couldn’t pass whatsover in his first season.. how’d that turn out?

    In that Ole Miss game Tebow’s line didn’t protect him at all.. so to blame him for not being able to complete passes when his line didn’t protect him is ignorant..

    Tebow also had no running game outside of his own at that point and Meyer wasn’t letting him run to save him for later in the season. When Tebow’s runners finally stepped up you see the difference.. the Gators are totally dominant.

  7. GoldenGod, please note the date on the post: it’s December 2007. I’ve certainly seen some wonderful passes from Tebow this year, but I haven’t gone back and updated this post. Perhaps I will, after the bowl season.

    I’m not willing to say that Tebow’s arm is better than Young’s or Roethlisberger’s on strength, as I still worry every time one of his bombs flutters down into a receiver’s hands, but I will note that his touch is substantially improved. The three throws for touchdowns and the bullet to Aaron Hernandez in the closing minutes of the SEC Championship were all NFL-caliber throws to windows, and Tebow’s mere two interceptions this year, one on a tipped pass, show that his accuracy and judgment are both better than expected.

    But NFL scouts will have problems with his unorthodox wind-up and southpaw style, and they will wonder how his throws of 50 and 60 yards will look; if they’re spirals, I’ll be surprised, but Tebow will be a first-rounder.

    It’s becoming far more likely that Tebow will not resemble any professional quarterback we’ve seen in a while.

  8. Bubba

    All I know is that Tim Tebow is God. Every one else is a mortal.

  9. haden

    Tim Tebow doesn’t run a 4.3, that’s why he will be classified as a fullback. I honestly think he will be a decent nfl quarterback.

  10. He is at least a decent NFL quarterback. He has one of the best work ethics and attitudes around.

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