|Michael Conroy/Associated Press|
|Quarterback Tyler Bray threw 34 touchdown passes (to 12 interceptions) during his final season at Tennessee.|
INDIANAPOLIS -- Tyler Bray might be the most gifted passer in the 2013 NFL Draft, but teams haven't viewed him as a legitimate franchise-caliber quarterback due to his prickly personality and adolescent ways. However, coaches and scouts are reconsidering their respective opinions on Bray after seeing the Tennessee star light up passing drills over the past few days at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Bray has been one of the most impressive throwers in Indy, showing outstanding arm strength, velocity and touch on a variety of throws to wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. From high-arcing tosses to vertical throws to lasers on intermediate routes, Bray has the capacity to hit receivers in strides at every distance. Furthermore, he showed the ability to change speeds and trajectories on his throws depending on the circumstance.
When I looked at Bray's film from the fall, I believed he was a gifted passer with A-plus arm talent. He showed the capacity to make all of the throws from the pocket with zip and velocity. Although his ball placement and accuracy fluctuates due to his sloppy footwork and fundamentals, Bray's ability to make tight-window throws separates him from others at the position. Additionally, Bray is one of the few quarterbacks in the draft with experience playing in a pro-style offense that featured traditional drops from under center, quick throws from the shotgun and pistol, and play-action passes from two-back formations. Given the importance NFL coaches place on playing the game effectively from the pocket, Bray's game is ideally suited for Sundays.
Now, that certainly doesn't mean Bray is a finished product in the minds of evaluators. He plays with a gunslinger's mentality, which leads him to abandon sound mechanics at times. Consequently, Bray fails to make accurate throws or play with consistency in key moments of big games.
From a leadership standpoint, Bray shows capable qualities on the field, but his numerous off-field transgressions suggest he isn't quite ready to handle the responsibility of leading a franchise. Although his offenses are minor in nature -- Bray was accused of tossing beer bottles and golf balls at parked cars, was charged with reckless operation of a jet ski and also skipped a postgame press conference after a game against Alabama -- the face of a franchise is expected to display poise and maturity at all times. Additionally, the quarterback must command the respect of the locker room, which includes several veterans with years of experience in the game. Given Bray's adolescent acts in the past, he must show coaches and scouts that he has matured over the past year. How well he fares in those interactions and interviews will ultimately determine where he lands on draft day.
Bray has more work to do at his pro day and private workouts, but here are three potential team fits for the naturally gifted quarterback:
Bruce Arians' preference for the long ball makes Bray a viable option in Arizona. The Tennessee star possesses the physical tools to thrive in an offense that features the vertical game; he can execute as a dropback passer from under center or in the shotgun. Additionally, the spread formations favored by Arians will open up the field for Bray, allowing him to play the game in a Ben Roethlisberger-like fashion. Although Bray certainly doesn't showcase the athleticism or improvisational skills of the two-time Super Bowl champ, he does share the gunslinger mentality that produces big numbers in the Arians system.
Doug Marrone coordinated a high-powered offense with the New Orleans Saints before rejuvenating the Syracuse program with an up-tempo offensive scheme that requires the quarterback to function as a playmaker from the pocket. Bray is capable of thriving in a system that utilizes a variety of spread and open formations to create big-play opportunities in the aerial attack. He torched opponents in the SEC with pinpoint throws from the pocket, appearing at his best when whipping the ball around the field on quick-rhythm throws from the shotgun. Additionally, Bray's strong arm won't be affected by the inclement weather of the northeast, which is an overlooked aspect of the evaluation. With the return of the K-Gun poised to make the Bills relevant again, Bray could be Marrone's signal-caller of the future.
The Raiders have a number of holes on both sides of the ball, but the addition of a franchise-caliber quarterback could stabilize the team's future. Bray is a better pocket passer than Terrelle Pryor and provides the team with a viable replacement for the declining Carson Palmer. While his immaturity definitely will lead general manager Reggie McKenzie to pause -- especially based on the Raiders' recent history with incompetent young signal callers (see: Russell, JaMarcus) -- the opportunity to nab a gifted passer with immense talent and potential could be enough to entice the Silver and Black to take a flier on Bray at the right round value.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.