We can talk the semantics of perceptions all we want, but there’s a palpable sense that the rookie quarterback class of 2012 has a viable chance to become the best in recent memory. While there are a myriad of things that can happen to alter the promising career paths of Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, and Ryan Tannehill, the 2013 class of prospects is a letdown by comparison. That doesn’t mean it lacks the talent to exceed the lower expectations.
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is a great example. Compared to Wilson, Luck, Griffin, and Tannehill’s games -– which included a level of technical discipline and decision-making maturity uncommon for most rookie quarterbacks –- Bray is a more typical rookie prospect. His flaws are more apparent to the untrained eye.
More so than any quarterback in this 2013 class, Bray fits the gunslinger mold. The Clint Eastwood movie The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is the appropriate summation of what I see from the Volunteers prospect. Physically, he’s a franchise-caliber talent with the confidence to make big-time NFL throws. He still needs to develop the decision-making maturity and technical discipline that the headliners of the 2012 class displayed in relative abundance. The question is whether he’ll cross the divide between talent and production that all rookies must face.
Bray’s performance against Georgia: 24-of-45, with 281 yards, two touchdowns, and three picks, was a great display of everything good, bad, and ugly about his quarterbacking. Georgia has an aggressive, 3-4 defense with NFL-caliber athletes like Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Sean Williams, and Bacarri Rambo. These defenders have the strength, speed, sideline-to-sideline range, and football smarts to project Bray’s current game at the pro level.
I’m probably belaboring the point, but projecting a player’s performance at the NFL level is one of the most important facets of player evaluation. An accurate throw, a wide-open receiver, or a large running lane at the college level is vastly different in the NFL. This is one of the reasons why some have often been too optimistic about running back prospects from Wisconsin in the past 15 years. At the same time, some are all-too-quick to write off poor box score data from a player like Matt Forte, a player who I once watched average less than two yards per carry against a loaded LSU defense, but still delivered one of the most impressive performances I saw from a runner that year.
In my view, the more on-field adversity I can see that tests a player’s physical skill, emotional maturity, and football smarts, the better. Bray gets his share of adversity here. Physically, he’s capable. Conceptually, he’s not prepared. This is where his game falls apart most often. Read the rest at Football Outsiders