Large market exists for Tebow despite questions about mechanics

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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Normally, a 6-foot-3, 236-pound quarterback who started 41 major college games, winning all but five of those games, led his team to a national championship (and was a contributor to another), and won a Heisman Trophy is a rock solid first-round NFL draft pick.

Not to mention along the way, this guy threw for 9,285 yards, 88 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions, which is 28 more touchdowns and 11 fewer interceptions than Jimmy Clausen, who's expected to go higher than him, and the exact number of touchdowns and interceptions as the top-rated quarterback in the draft, Sam Bradford, in his career.

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Of course, I'm talking about Tim Tebow.

As we begin to close in on the 2010 NFL Draft, the debate rages on about Tebow's ability to play in the NFL and where he should be selected. As one prominent NFL head coach told me today of his elongated throwing motion, which seems to be his biggest red flag, "Tim will not make his throwing an issue. He fixed it, and it has changed the evaluation of him." Another head coach: "He is not typical, and the regular evaluation rules don't apply to this guy."

So how much credence goes into comments made by Tebow's former Florida teammate, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, who, in a roundabout way, said last week that Tebow isn't a "real quarterback"? According to one well respected general manager, none at all.

And when Bengals wide receiver Andre Caldwell says Tebow won't be an elite passer, he didn't say he couldn't be an elite quarterback. There are plenty of guys with average throwing skills who can lead a team and win in the NFL (By the way, there are a few teams that believe Tebow can win games -- lots of games in the NFL).

So what is the ideal situation for Tebow that gives him the best chance to be successful when he enters the league?

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In my opinion not being a first-round pick would help his cause and keep early expectations down. Wherever he goes, a media circus will follow. And one GM at the NFL Annual Meeting last week told me he wants no part of it.

All three quarterbacks drafted in the first round last year -- Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman -- were on the field early. Tebow needs time to develop his craft, and being selected in the second or third round by a team with an established quarterback would be ideal. Going to a team with an unstable quarterback situation means fans and media will be calling for Tebow the second the starter begins to fall apart.

A team pressured by the need to sell tickets is not a good place for Tebow, who shouldn't be viewed as a marketing tool but rather a developmental player requiring time for grooming. One front office executive who watched his performance at the Senior Bowl and his pro day said, "Tebow willed his throwing issue fixed." I followed up that statement by asking if he could know for sure that Tebow won't revert back to his old throwing habits when there is a pass rush in his face. The executive's answer: "No one knows for sure, but I would bet on Tebow before a lot of guys with the same problem."

It's clear there is a market for Tebow, whose stock is on the rise. In January, people at the Senior Bowl thought they were looking at a fourth-round pick. At the NFL Scouting Combine, when he had a 38½-inch vertical, ran a 4.72-second 40-yard dash, 4.17 short shuttle, and a 9-7 broad jump, the talk turned to him being a late third rounder. Now Tebow's pro day and personal visits with a few teams have left many thinking second round, and there is even some talk about the first round with three weeks left to go until draft day.

Here are the teams that have Tebow on their radars:

New England

The Patriots may be the ideal spot for Tebow with future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady on the field for the foreseeable future. No pressure on Tebow to play right away and years to learn the pro game from coach Bill Belichick and Brady. Belichick is friends with Florida coach Urban Meyer and will gain more insight into the player than anyone else. The Patriots have three picks in the second round and have the flexibility to pull the trigger on this deal. Tebow has already visited with New England, which really needs another quarterback on its roster with second-year undrafted Brian Hoyer as the backup. Tebow has already expressed a desire to play any position, and the creative mind of Belichick could find plenty for him to do for the next few years.

Washington

The Redskins are probably going to miss out on Bradford with the Rams looking poised to take him at No. 1 overall. Washington will most likely target a left tackle (Russell Okung) with the No. 4 pick and give Tebow strong consideration in the second round if they don't fall in love with Clausen in the next few weeks. Coach Mike Shanahan also has insight into the Florida program, which is a positive for Tebow. Bringing Tebow in for one of the team's allotted 30 visits and having general manager Bruce Allen and Shanahan make a visit to Gainesville for a private workout was not a smoke screen as some would suggest. I had a head coach tell me Shanahan is very intrigued with Tebow.

Buffalo

Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly took Tebow out for dinner when he visited the Bills. I remember when Kelly was coming out of high school and Penn State recruited him to be a linebacker, not a quarterback. I think Kelly has always carried the attitude that he could do anything he set his mind to and sees a lot of his younger self in Tebow. The Bills need a leader and a face of the organization, and Tebow certainly brings that to the table. But here's a situation in which he probably hits the field before he's ready, and that could be a recipe for disaster. If the Bills could select him in the third round (No. 72) it would be okay, but they may have to use No. 41 in the second round, which would add more pressure to the situation. With Buffalo's issues along the offensive line, Tebow's running skills would come in handy while new head coach Chan Gailey works with him.

Jacksonville

The Jaguars are a natural fit for Tebow as the hometown guy. And with David Garrard starting for the time being, Tebow wouldn't get under center right away. Tebow is not ready to beat out the underrated Garrard, but a year from now he might be. The Jags don't have a second-round pick and are probably not sacrificing No. 10 in the first round to get him. I did speak with someone in Jacksonville at the Senior Bowl who said, "I like a lot about Tim and not worried about his struggles throwing the ball this week in Mobile." It sure sounded to me like there was genuine interest at a time when Tebow was being heavily criticized.

Cleveland

The Browns have built the perfect situation to draft Tebow. Mike Holmgren is the team president and well known for developing quarterbacks. He eliminated Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson from the equation and replaced them with an older quarterback in Jake Delhomme, who may have a year or two left in him, and former Seahawks backup Seneca Wallace, who could help in the development of Tebow. Holmgren has the same questions I have about the "new" Tebow mechanics holding up when the pass rush and coverages are part of the performance. Holmgren knows he bought some time to work on it with Tebow, and I go back to Holmgren's days in Green Bay when he developed Mark Brunell, Aaron Brooks, Ty Detmer, and Matt Hasselbeck, as well as the great Brett Favre.

Seattle

New coach Pete Carroll has been public about his respect and excitement for Tebow as a pro. Trading for Charlie Whitehurst may eliminate the Seahawks from the equation, but Whitehurst only signed a two-year deal and there's no guarantee there will even be a franchise tag in the next CBA. I don't believe the Seahawks would use one of their two first-round picks on Tebow, and they moved down far enough in the second round that they should miss out on him as well. But never underestimate the Seahawks making a move in the draft if he's within reach.

And now here are some dark horse candidates that may very well have more interest in Tebow than they've let on to this point. I played golf one day with a former NFL head coach who said, "Parcells loves Tebow.":

Miami

Bill Parcells loves football players, and Tebow fits the bill. The Dolphins are not swayed by things like how the public feels about Pat White. If Parcells is intrigued enough, then they will consider him.

Pittsburgh

Tebow has old school Steeler traits. He loves the game, has high character and toughness. Ben Roethlisberger hasn't exactly been the perfect Steeler, and the truth is there is a backup QB situation in Pittsburgh that Charlie Batch can't answer. Pittsburgh has a long history of taking the time to develop their own players and taking Tebow at No. 52 in the second round is not out of the realm of possibility.

San Francisco

Alex Smith hasn't locked down the quarterback spot for the Niners, although I think he can this year. The Niners have two picks in the first round to address needs in the secondary and at offensive tackle. If they don't get in the mix for Donovan McNabb, then Tebow in the second round comes into play. David Carr, who the 49ers acquired in free agency, is not the answer if Smith doesn't come through this season.

Carolina

The Panthers just don't have the draft picks to address all their needs and think about Tebow. But coach John Fox has had plenty of positive things to say about him, especially at his pro day. This one is a long shot.

Oakland

Tebow is better than JaMarcus Russell right now and is the total opposite and just what this team needs going forward. The Raider Nation deserves some hope, and Tebow could deliver it.

Kansas City

The Chiefs have two second-round picks, and general manager Scott Pioli loves high character guys.

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