With this year being a weak class for quarterbacks, Tyler Bray of Tennessee threw his hat into the ring a year early, hoping to capitalize on weak competition, while also getting out of Knoxville following a coaching change. Bray is an intriguing prospect, but is he a pretender or a contender when it comes to starting in the NFL?
Bray probably has the most talented right arm of any quarterback in the draft this year. He’s a classic gunslinger. With two of the top draft eligible wide receivers on his team this season, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, Bray threw for over 3,600 yards and 34 touchdowns, doing so against SEC defenses week after week, and usually with his team behind. If he had stayed at Tennessee another year, he would have been the top quarterback prospect heading into next year; instead, he’s taking a bit of a risk by coming out a year early, as his current stock doesn’t match his potential and he’s joined a cluster of quarterbacks that could all go between the mid first round and the third round.
Without a doubt, Bray has the arm to make all the throws. He especially excels at the deep ball, which he loves to throw and shows great accuracy while doing so. His 6’6’’ frame is ideal for an NFL pocket passer, and he doesn’t just have the big arm to throw the ball deep, he also throws it with plenty of zip and with a quick release. Despite leaving school early, he does have 24 college starts under his belt, most coming against SEC competition, so he has more experience than you’d expect, and he shouldn’t fear NFL defenses, as he’s played against quality defenses that were usually playing with a lead.
But for all of Bray’s strengths, he has just as many weaknesses. Far too often, Bray is careless with the football. He can be too aggressive and wants to show off his strong arm more than he wants to make a throw that’s smart and safe. He is too reliant on his arm, and so his fundamentals are off. Too often last year, his throws did not go where his receivers were expecting it, forcing them to adjust in the air and causing a lot of dropped passes. Bray also lacks athleticism and mobility, and will likely have to adjust to being under center in the NFL, as he worked out of the shotgun almost exclusively in college.
The biggest questions about Bray may be his leadership and character. Tennessee coaches pressed Bray throughout his career to be more of a vocal leader, but it just didn’t fit the personality of the laid-back kid from California. He’s also had a couple of minor run-ins with the law during his time in college, which would indicate some maturity issues, another thing Bray could have improved upon by returning to school for another year.
So, is Bray a pretender or contender? That’s easy, he’s a pretender. Bray is Brett Favre without the intangibles. He has the arm to make all the throws, so he falls into a delusion in thinking that he can make all the throws all the time, which he can’t. Bray makes a lot of mistakes, which will cost him in the NFL. But unlike Favre, Bray lacks leadership, great football instincts, playmaking ability, and a competitive fire. He has all the talent, but none of the intangibles that you need to be an NFL starting quarterback. He’s nowhere close to being ready to play in the NFL, and too many of what he’s lacking just can’t be taught. He’s a project to begin with, but if he ever becomes a starter, he’ll flame out quickly with mistakes and turnovers, which is a shame because he has incredible amounts of talent.