CBS Sports college football writer Bruce Feldman reports Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is entering the 2013 NFL Draft.
QB Tyler Bray is leaving Tennessee to put his name into April’s NFL Draft, a source tells CBS.
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) December 20, 2012
Bray, a 6-foot-6 junior, is coming off a 3612-yard, 34-touchdown season for the 5-7 Vols. He suffered a knee injury midway through 2011 that derailed his, and Tennessee’s campaign. Three straight losing seasons forced out Derek Dooley, who UT athletic brass replaced with former Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones. Jones was known for running a spread offense with dual threat quarterbacks at both UC and Central Michigan; Bray is about as far from a two-way snap-taker as there is, which may have helped determine the Kingsburg, Calif. native’s decision. Bray would also be without talented target Justin Hunter, who declared his draft eligibility.
Bray is joining a quarterback class that lacks a certain wow factor, which may be enough to persuade other underclassmen to make the professional leap.
To label the 2013 quarterback class weak or shallow wouldn’t be fair. It is shrouded in mystery, though. USC senior Matt Barkley was widely regarded a possible second selection behind Andrew Luck had he entered the 2012 draft. His decision to return for a senior year made Barkley a shoo-in No. 1 pick a year ago at this time — an example why it’s best to refrain from placing a label prematurely.
Consensus No. 1 pick last year, Barkley struggled through a senior season that didn’t meet expectations. His 15 interceptions, thrown in 11 games, were the most he’s given away in four years as USC’s starting quarterback.
Though he should still be taken with a first or second round selection, Barkley’s passed the label of presumptive first-quarterback-taken to West Virginia’s Geno Smith. Smith registered impressive numbers, but played in a pass-happy, spread offense under Dana Holgorsen. Though there has been more flexibility for spread system quarterbacks in recent years, a certain stigma against them persists. Others like Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Arizona’s Matt Scott will try to shake this stigma when they perform at February’s Draft Combine.
Conversely, quarterbacks from Pro Set offenses are still at a premium. NC State’s Mike Glennon could benefit from such a background at the college level. Glennon is steadily climbing up draft projections despite a lackluster senior campaign.
Glennon threw for an impressive 3648 yards and 30 touchdowns, but completed less than 58 percent of his attempts and was intercepted 14 times. Bray out-performed Glennon in their Week 1 showdown at the Georgia Dome.
Others expected to get lower-to-mid-round consideration include Miami (OH) product Zac Dysert, and Southern Utah’s Brad Sorensen. Each has NFL measurables, but captained middling teams against lower level competition.
That his class is so unimpressive on paper might lure more underclassmen away from the college game. Clemson junior Tajh Boyd submitted evaluation paperwork last month, coming off a season of 34 touchdowns, 3550 yards and a 66.6 percent completion rate. Boyd can return to Clemson for another season, where he’d be throwing to Sammy Watkins and potentially De’Andre Hopkins for a shot to up his stock.
Georgia’s Aaron Murray is another key name to follow. The Bulldogs’ three-year starter is projected as a second round choice on CBS Sports. He’s been non-committal on his status. CBS ranks Murray No. 1 among 2014 prospects.
Whether that’s enough to keep Murray in the SEC for another season, we’ll see in the coming weeks. Barkley is a case study in hurting stock by returning. However, the decision for this year’s underclassmen isn’t so simple.
Quarterbacks are not projected to come at the high price they had in the 2011 draft, when the position accounted for four of the first 12 players selected. Last season, 11 quarterbacks were drafted. Four were taken in the first round, and another four in rounds 2-4.
The 2013 crop of quarterbacks come on the heels of what is, thus far, one of the great classes all-time. Luck and 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III are both jockeying for Rookie of the Year honors, but Wisconsin-via-NC State product Russell Wilson has flourished in Seattle. Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill has steadily progressed, former Arizona starter Nick Foles has emerged as Philadelphia’s starter, and even Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins wowed with his debut spelling Griffin.
So much productivity from the preceding class raises the stakes on the quarterbacks taken in the immediate future — particularly those on whom franchises expend first and second picks to acquire.
Furthermore, teams drafting highly are expected to target help on both sides of the line. Players like Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper and Utah’s Star Lutolelei are generating top 1-through-5 buzz.
Franchises’ need for quarterback is perpetual. Even those organizations that don’t have an immediate need for a starting quarterback will typically cash in a second, third or fourth round pick on one barring aberrations like 2010. Deciding if a flyer on rounds 2-4 for another college season and shot at round 1 could dictate whether talented underclassmen like Boyd and Murray return.