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.