With the struggles the Tennessee program had this year coupled with a new head coach and his favorite receiver Justin Hunter gone, it seemed it would be more surprising if Tyler Bray returned to school to play for Butch Jones and the Volunteers.
And, as likely many expected, quarterback Tyler Bray has decided to make the jump, leave school early, and declare for the 2013 NFL Draft (per Bruce Feldman).
While he may be trying to capitalize on a fairly mediocre quarterback class, he doesn't have the footwork, mechanics, progression reads, or accuracy to be a 1st round quarterback, and may be battling with the already crowded 2nd round quarterback crop.
After what a both surprising and very impressive freshman campaign that started in his fifth game as a Volunteer, Bray flashed his big arm, ideal size, and flashes of the downfield passing ability that most future NFLers can't consistently do. It was clear that, even though he struggled with consistency through his freshman year, he had NFL upside.
But a sophomore year injury to Justin Hunter (ACL early in the season) and his own thumb injury that caused him to miss five games (arguably three of the toughest he'd have to face), it wasn't what he or many Tennessee fans expected. Still flashing the big time arm and NFL ceiling, many fans and likely NFL scouts were excited to see his progression as a junior.
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That progression never really came, however. Despite having a solid offensive line, two future Top 50 picks at receiver, and 15+ starts under his belt, Bray never seemed to develop a short passing game with any sort of touch or consistent timing. He force-fed the ball vertically to Justin Hunter far too often, and struggled to diagnose defenses after the snap. As a freshman, he thrived, but never seemed to improve from there.
With myself and our SEC scout Alex in agreement on Bray's struggles and need for long-term development at the next level, we don't feel it was necessarily a wise move to declare early. He may be right in the hunt for the 2nd or 3rd quarterback spot in this draft, but so are 5-6 other much more polished seniors. He'll be our 7th rated quarterback in this draft class.
However, with all that said, he certainly impress many NFL GMs at the NFL Combine. Keep in mind two things on Tyler Bray: One, is that many (not all) GMs begin to play catch-up on NFL Draft evaluations around the Senior Bowl and generally go into full gear by the NFL Combine. Seeing Tyler Bray for the first time could certainly wow some GMs away.
And second, it only takes one. One GM that he impresses with in an interview. One head coach that sees John Elway in him. One quarterback coach that promises he can work with him early on. And while he'll get a mid round grade from us, a 2nd round selection wouldn't be the least bit surprising for Tyler Bray.