After the firing of Derek Dooley, it seems as though Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson (read about the latter two here) will head to the NFL early and declare for the 2013 Draft.
For Hunter and Patterson, it’s fairly certain they will be first or second round selections, with Hunter projected anywhere from 10th to 20th and Patterson slightly later than that. Tyler Bray, the junior quarterback, is less highly rated. For two years he has been heralded as a future first overall pick – he started five games as a freshman and played in nine, performing fairly well, leading to much hype about the college career to come. He suffered a thumb injury in his sophomore year against Georgia which led to him missing five games before returning for the losses against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Now he could be a first or second day pick, and is not close to contention for first overall.
Tyler Bray has had an extremely stagnant college career. His stats have barely progressed, and Tennessee have finished below .500 every season he has started. He has been to one bowl game, in his freshman year, which they lost. In his sophomore year, the Vols finished 5-7: this year, the Vols finished 5-7 again.
Whilst it could be said that he lost Justin Hunter very early in the 2011 season, affecting his performance without his number one option, this year he has had Hunter the entire season and has had a similarly impotent season.
His career stats have not at all improved over his three seasons at Tennessee. He has passed for 59% his last two years. If you extend his sophomore numbers over twelve games, they look very similar to his numbers this year – 59% passing, 3600 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Compare these numbers to other SEC quarterbacks such as A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray and Tyler Wilson and he looks very much like a gunslinger: lots of touchdown passes, low completion percentage, and more interceptions than his aforementioned SEC counterparts.
Bray has ideal size at 6’6. He is fairly tough and can certainly take a hit. His athleticism leaves much to be desired, however. He is extremely slow and is absolutely no threat with his legs. His sit-in-the-pocket game is evidently very one-dimensional and this limits his potential going into the NFL.
Whilst his main asset is his deep ball, his mechanics aren’t up to NFL standard just yet. He fizzes the ball in, but he has a tendency to throw side arm, and he isn’t particularly accurate despite the elite receivers he has on his team. His short throw accuracy is pretty dire, and his decision making is very sketchy, often throwing into heavy coverage or trying to throw away under duress rather than take a sack. Against Florida this season, he threw two interceptions, but it could easily have been several more than that, with a number drops by the Florida defensive backs. His deep ball however is very accurate, and is possibly the only real positive sign that Bray could be a successful NFL quarterback.
As if Bray’s draft stock wasn’t already in question, he has faced questions over his character. He faced a court case over an incident involving jet-skis this summer, and before that he was charged with vandalism after throwing beer bottles at cars in the car park of his apartment block. These are childish incidents that will undoubtedly affect his stock in the draft, as most teams are reluctant to take players with a bad disciplinary record in the draft.
The strange reality is that Bray, despite having character issues, problematic mechanics and a lack of athleticism, could still be a first round pick. The nature of the NFL now requires a quarterback who can throw, and so a team with a need under centre could fall in love with the Tennessee Volunteer. In a very weak quarterback class, someone could mistake him for a first or second day pick when in reality he would be a ‘project’ quarterback at best. His arm strength is going to make him very attractive nevertheless, and someone will very likely take him in the first two rounds. He would be best served staying for his senior year and trying to improve his mechanics and decision making, but he could very well declare if he tests the water and is guaranteed to be taken early.
There are six teams that need to take a quarterback: Arizona, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Oakland, Buffalo, and the New York Jets. Someone may fall in love with him, yet I can’t see him being taken ahead of Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson, Matt Barkley or even Landry Jones. He will be a developmental pick, in my opinion, and will not start away. A team such as Buffalo without a desperate need at quarterback may take him to sit and learn. Another potential landing spot would be a team such as Pittsburgh or Dallas with a need for a back-up quarterback (the Steelers are currently playing Charlie Batch) or a desire to develop a replacement for their current starter (Tony Romo turned 32 earlier this year).