Gator Bait

Any general manager of an NFL team who uses a first round pick on Tim Tebow should be immediately fired.

There.  I said it.  And I’m not ashamed of it.

Sports Illustrated‘s Don Banks, author of the “Inside the NFL” column, has Tim Tebow locked in with the Arizona Cardinals at selection 26

“This one is pure projection on my behalf, but hear me out: Tebow’s rough week at the Senior Bowl notwithstanding, it’s only going to take one team to fall in love with him to make him a low first-rounder. Why the Cardinals? If Kurt Warner retires Friday as expected, does anyone think Arizona has 100 percent confidence in Matt Leinart at this point? And we already know Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t mind playing two QBs in the same game, because he did it with Warner and Leinart in 2007. As rough as things were for the Cardinals defense in the playoffs, that side of the ball probably should get first-round attention. But for now, we’re sliding our Tebow chips to Arizona’s square.”

Kurt Warner has retired today as of 2 P.M.  Matt Leinart is most likely not the answer at quarterback for Coach Whisenhunt and staff, according to ESPN’s NFC West blogger Mike Sando.  The Cardinals have had incredible success the past two years with Warner at quarterback.  They will not be selecting high enough in the first round to take either of the two consensus top pro prospects, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma (shoulder injury inspection notwithstanding) or Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame.  With that in mind, why not take a chance on perhaps the best college football player in modern history?

How about these reasons?

“I actually don’t think he’s that hard to evaluate at all,’’ said a high-ranking college scout for an NFC team. “To me, he’s just not a very good quarterback prospect. Now, if you want to rework his mechanics, his release, try to improve his accuracy, then you see a guy with this big frame that can throw. He’s a big-time project, no doubt.’’ (emphasis added)

“‘He can’t play quarterback in the NFL, I’m convinced of it,’’ ESPN director of college scouting Todd McShay said. ‘From his delivery to his footwork to his accuracy, you have to absolutely strip him down and build him back up. And it’s too late.’”

Tim Tebow is everything that people say he is.  He is a good person who leans on his faith. He is a record setting college football player. He is one of the greatest leaders to ever step on to a college football field. He’s a wonderful person, and while the media may have overexposed him to the point of backlash, I still respect and admire him.

But the NFL needs more than intangibles and brute strength.  Tim Tebow doesn’t just need work on his delivery, footwork, and accuracy.  At 22, this is nearly impossible.  It should’ve been done already.  The fact that it hasn’t leaves him in the dust of prospects whose skill sets just translate better at the pro level.

Tebow is a relatively accurate passer, but doesn’t throw a tight spiral and winds up as if he’s throwing a fastball. That gives NFL defenses, who are flat out faster and better at reading plays, far too much time to figure out where the ball is going.  He’s only run an offense consistently from the shotgun, which means he has to work on both the exchange with the center and on his 3-, 5-, and 7-step drop footwork.  And because Urban Meyer’s truly innovative and exciting run-based spread-option only requires the quarterback to read half of the field on designed pass plays, it means that Tebow has to learn entirely how to read a defense on the fly and adjust.  This is next to impossible.

Surprisingly enough, the biggest flaw that Tebow has as a pro prospect in my eyes is something that people rave about.  At 6’2, 245 pounds, he’s a tremendous athlete and a real threat in the running game….at the college level.  Any pro football analyst who is high on Tebow often mentions his running ability and then inevitably references players like Vince Young, Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, and Kordell Stewart.

These are entirely inapt comparisons.  For one, except for McNabb and Cunningham, every single one of those players has had real issues adjusting to the NFL.  But beyond that, each of those runners was incredibly smooth and evasive, relying on their speed and moves in the open field to gain yardage.

I don’t think I have to tell anyone who watches college football that that’s not Tim Tebow’s preferred style of running.  Tebow is a bulldozer who would certainly rather run over than around you.  That works in college at QB because he’s bigger and tougher than everyone else.  But when linebackers in the NFL run 4.5 40s and routinely weigh over 250 pounds, that causes real problems for a player with his unique style.

There is room on a roster in the league somewhere for Tim Tebow, particularly teams that run “Wildcat” sets often.  He can be a terrific short-yardage and goal line back.  He is a threat to throw when he touches the ball.  He could be very good on special teams.  In short, he’s Brad Smith – the Missouri QB-turned-WR for the Jets who runs a few plays per game out of their “TigerCat” set.

Brad Smith was a 4th round selection.

Teams simply cannot afford to spend a first round pick on a player who is essentially a 3- to 5-year project.  Two years into his career, people already call Vernon Gholston a bust (full disclosure: I’m one of them).  First round picks should provide almost immediate contributions to your team – if not the first year then they must show substantial growth in the second.  You can find guys who will contribute to an NFL roster just like Tebow will anywhere after the 3rd round.  Why bother using a 1st on them?


2 Responses to Gator Bait

  1. JDubbs says:

    Can’t say that I agree that he should not be taken in the first round. I have as many questions about his game as the next guy, but there are a few teams that can afford to take a project in the first round. Seattle and San Francisco both have two first round picks and both are potentially in the need for a QB. I don’t think Tebow should go as high as either of their second 1st round picks, but it is possible. I also believe that Minnesota could afford to take Tebow if he fell to #30. Their offense is ridiculous and their defense is pretty darn good as well. DT happens to be one of the deepest positions in the draft, so even if Pat Williams retires and there is a hole at DT, they can find someone at the end of round 2.

    Say the Cardinals do draft him. They can get by with Matty-boy next year and see what they have with him. It is not like the NFL West is a juggernaut. San Fran is the only real competition, as I firmly believe that Seattle and St. Louis will be just as bad next year.

    I also do not believe that it is too late to reteach Tebow. He presents a unique situation when it comes to projects. Many guys come into the league having had success at every prior level and stubbornly refuse to listen to coaches who are trying to help them. Even when they do listen, they may not do it wholeheartedly. I do not think that will be an issue with Tebow. I see him throwing himself into whatever the coaches ask of him. Will he be ready for the start of next season? No. But he could be ready by the 2011 NFL season after having two offseasons under his belt.

  2. These are all fair points, but if I am Arizona, why the heck would I take Tebow? You already have one weak-armed lefty, why take on another who has terrible mechanics to boot? And why would SF take Tebow? They have already tried, and failed miserable, at developing a Meyer protege.

    I just can’t justify giving Tebow first round money when you have no idea how he will turn out.

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