Now that Tyler Bray has made it official that he is not returning to the University of Tennessee to play quarterback for the Vols in what would have been his senior season of eligibility, the thought process turns to where the quarterback will be drafted. And with the NFL combine workouts fast approaching, it is likely that his stock will only rise from now until the time of the draft.
Bray has all the qualities scouts look for in a potential professional QB. At 6'5" and 215 pounds, he has the size that fits the mold for an NFL signal-caller. Further, the Kingsburg, Calif. native has a very strong arm that will almost surely impress when he has the opportunity to show it off in those combines.
As has been seen on previous selection days, pro teams tend to be heavily swayed by those physical attributes on draft day. Prime examples of that can be seen from the selections of quarterbacks such as Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell. Both met the criteria of size and arm strength, which persuaded the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, respectively, to use up high draft choices on these players who proved to be failures.
Leaf was taken as the second overall pick in the 1998 draft. However, his impressive physical tools and strong arm only amounted to 21 games for the Chargers. He proved to simply not be ready for the difficulty of the pro league.
Russell was selected first overall in 2007. By most accounts, his pick is regarded as the biggest bust in NFL draft history. The former LSU star held out for three months and was eventually handed a massive contract by the Raiders. Ultimately, he was cut from the team's roster after only three seasons and 25 starts.
As with these high-profile draft choices, Bray's issues are not with his physical capabilities. He can be so impressive that at one point back in the spring of 2012, he was thought of as potentially the best quarterback available this year.
Bray completed 268 of 451 passes in the Vols' losing season of 2012. He amassed a total of 3,612 yards along with 34 touchdowns against only 12 interceptions. All of those numbers place him high up on the all-time list among Tennessee quarterbacks.
Bray's possible drawback comes from a lack of maturity. While playing at Tennessee, there were multiple instances where his leadership and self-discipline were called into question.
Coming into what was to be an important season personally, and for his team, Bray was ticketed for reckless operation of a personal watercraft on July 4, 2012. Eventually, he reached an agreement that allowed him to plead not guilty to the misdemeanor charges.
It would seem that someone with so much on the line would not resort to "playing chicken" on a jet ski.
Just days later, Bray and a friend were seen by a neighbor throwing beer bottles at a parked car. The neighbor's windshield was also broken after she had reported the incident. Again, this would not seem like the actions of someone who was taking his upcoming season and the responsibility of team leadership very seriously.
Both of these incidents came after former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley had praised his quarterback's improved leadership skills and maturity level.
Tyler Bray has the physical tools desired by the NFL and will likely be drafted in the first couple of rounds. But will he demonstrate the professionalism needed to be a successful team leader at the most important position in professional football?