Kellen Moore, Drew Brees, Tyler Bray, and the NFL draft

One of the fascinating developments in Tennessee Vols football has been the emergence of Tyler Bray, soon-to-be junior quarterback. As a freshman, he took the starting job away from Matt Simms for the November stretch and the bowl game. As a sophomore, he was the selected starter for the entire season. Only an injured thumb prevented him from his first full season as the number one. Could his only full season be his last?

The tagline that has been commonly applied to Bray is “a surefire first round pick, perhaps top 5.” Or, at least something similar. To make this sentiment even more dramatic, many feel that this will apply to him immediately after his junior year. Right. Bray is good enough to leave early for the pros and good enough to be one of the most coveted picks in the 2013 draft.

Me? I think this is absolutely barking madness. Not to say that he can’t someday develop into an NFL quarterback. But a top-flight draft pick? Based on what? A few 300-plus yards games against some mediocre opposition? Remember this: Bray’s less-than-stellar performances have come against Georgia and Florida, purposively excluding the 2011 Kentucky game in which he was suffering from the flu and a yet-to-heal thumb. His magnificent games featured scores of big plays against the likes of Memphis, Ole Miss, Kentucky (2010), Montana, Buffalo, and Cincinnati.

And let’s not forget some indications that this very talented young man suffers from a lack of a studious nature when it comes to football, as well as reports of a need for some attitude adjustments.

So, how about Kellen Moore as a measuring stick? Moore was the quarterback at Boise State the last four seasons. He holds the all-time record for wins by a starting quarterback in NCAA Division I FBS, finishing his career with a 50–3 record. He also finished fourth in voting for the 2010 Heisman Trophy. In four seasons, he passed for over 14,000 yards, 142 touchdowns, only 28 interceptions in 1,658 attempts, and a career quarterback rating of 169.0.

Sure, the knock on Moore by the cynics has been that he never/rarely played against big-time competition. But there is no question that he was a college football passing machine. And I have never heard anybody say that they saw Bray as the equal of Moore.

Moore is in Mobile, Alabama practicing for this weekend’s Senior Bowl, the top college football all-star game treated as a petri dish by NFL scouts for the upcoming draft. Here is an observer’s report, with comparisons to Drew Brees thrown in for reference.

It’s difficult to term Moore’s performance a disappointment because a lot of people in attendance had reasonable expectations for the undersized, weak-armed passer. However, there is a contingent of fans and evaluators who believe Moore is the next Drew Brees, but only more accurate than Brees at the same stage of their careers. While everyone has a right to their opinions, I think they have a severe case of selective amnesia.

Brees was renowned for his accuracy at Purdue, even his deep accuracy. The average observer is well aware that Brees has improved his arm strength, but the area of improvement was with driving the ball downfield with more velocity. His deep arm always had tremendous touch and anticipation. Brees was always a good athlete with short area quickness, and his ability to escape pressure and gain yardage with his legs was underrated even as a college athlete.

Moore’s passes are frequently inaccurate beyond 20 yards – and sometimes as short as 12 yards. He is not nearly as fleet of foot as Brees at Purdue. Moore was a fine college player with sound fundamentals, but just because much of the scouting world vastly discounted Brees doesn’t mean they should overcompensate with Kellen Moore.

The scouts were wrong about Tom Brady. Is the above assessment about Moore equally short-sighted? If it proves accurate, Bray doesn’t stand a chance as an NFL quarterback. As far as comparisons to Tyler Bray, the Tennessee QB is anything but fleet of foot, although he does have the innate sense to rid himself of the ball before getting sacked. He is not going to beat anybody with his running ability — ever. Bray is also not an accurate passer. He has had the luxury of having receivers who can ‘go get’ the ball, especially against significantly weak defenses. He has height, but his physique still is lacking. He’s a classic late-bloomer.

The bottom line is that he will be at Tennessee for two more seasons. The idea of Bray leaving for the NFL after 2012 is simply not plausible as things currently stand. So let’s hope that the coming maturing process over the next two years can put Tyler in a position for NFL success. If that happens, that will mean good things for the Vols.

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