NFL draft: Tim Tebow still an unknown commodity at quarterback

ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. would be "shocked" to see the Redskins draft a quarterback with the No. 4 pick after trading for Donovan McNabb.
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck wanted the real story on what the NFL's talent evaluators think of Tim Tebow as a pro prospect. So he called two head coaches he knows well and asked what they'd concluded about the former Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida and when he deserved to be selected in the three-day draft that begins Thursday night.

But if it was the truth about Tebow and the draft that Hasselbeck was seeking, he got two widely varying versions of it.

"The first guy said he's a luxury pick, a perfect guy for late in the first round or early in the second round," Hasselbeck, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, said by telephone. "The other guy said there's no way he'd take him in the first or early second, that he's more like someone you'd take in the fourth round."

There appears to be no clear consensus about Tebow's prospects for NFL success even in the final days before the draft, when the prevailing opinion about most players usually is coming into sharper focus.

The one thing that's clear is that the topic seems to intrigue just about everyone who follows the draft closely. Tebow has been scrutinized as closely as any player available.

"I can't remember anybody getting this kind of attention," said Charley Casserly, the former general manager of the Washington Redskins and the Houston Texans.

When Tebow struggled, by most accounts, in the practices leading up to the Senior Bowl and then decided to modify his throwing mechanics, it became major news for draft followers. When he went to the NFL scouting combine in late February in Indianapolis, reporters crowded around during his media session to hear what he had to say. It even became news when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was caught on video saying he wouldn't draft Tebow because "he'd never get on the field."

Tebow won two national championships and a Heisman at Florida, but some have called his throwing motion too long and slow for him to succeed against faster NFL defenders. In response, Tebow has worked to make his delivery shorter and quicker. Still, the debate continues.

"If you're looking at this guy as a quarterback, I wouldn't take him in the first three rounds," Casserly said. "I think he's a developmental quarterback."

Former NFL coach Dan Reeves had a far different view, however.

"I haven't studied him, but I can't imagine with all the games I've seen him play on television that he's not a franchise player who's gonna make a huge difference for you with all his talent and all his intangibles," Reeves said. "If you can't make a Super Bowl team with him, you ought to get out of coaching.

"Sure, you can get him to carry the ball higher. But Roger Staubach had a long windup, and he had a tremendous career. With all the success he had, he made the people around him better players. He scrambles. But Michael Vick and Vince Young, those guys scramble and they can play. I can't see that much difference in Tebow. I think he's gonna be a great player."

Tebow seems to have taken most of the public quarreling over his draft stock in stride, saying at the combine that he was enjoying the pre-draft evaluation process. "I'm not scared of what people are going to say. . . . That's one of the great parts of sports, overcoming obstacles and barriers along the way," Tebow said.

Tebow's lack of speed will be magnified in the NFL, Hasselbeck said. But Hasselbeck said he thinks other factors will work in Tebow's favor, citing a conversation that he had about Tebow with another Heisman-winning Florida quarterback, Danny Wuerffel.

"Danny knows him well," Hasselbeck said, "and he told me: 'This kid is for real. He's not fake. This guy is solid.' You have to give him a chance. Whatever team he ends up on, he'll be part of an organization that embraces him. He'll be with a team that's willing to have patience with him. There will be guys in the locker room that aren't fans. But I have a feeling he's the kind of guy that won't be bothered by that and, over time, will be able to swing the vote in his favor. . . . Without a doubt, he's an interesting player."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company