Extra-big kudos to the Sentinel's Jeremy Fowler for stepping into the usually quiet Thursday-of-game-week void with the storyline to drive today's Tim Tebow news cycle:
Has Tim Tebow's NFL Draft stock tanked?
Fowler quotes plenty of NFL draft experts and scouts who argue that it has. They cite his lack of progress as an "NFL" QB under Scott Loeffler (OnlyGators.com has more on that here); they mention (but discount) his average stats; they point out his decision-making against Mississippi State; there's even a Mel Kiper sighting! (Bearish on Tebow as an NFL QB, as you'd expect.)
Accuracy issues... mechanics issues... all the greatest hits are mentioned. And all of it leads up to a Kiper assessment that Tebow has dropped into the 3rd (or even 4th!) round.
This dovetails with something I noticed this morning: In Sporting News' latest mock draft, Tebow is out of the first round entirely -- this after being a Top 10 pick as recently as last month.
Now, let's begin the caveats -- and there are plenty of 'em:
*It's only mid-November. Remember how Tebow's NFL stock improved when he led Florida to the 4th-quarter comeback over Alabama last December? Plenty of time to show more skills at the college level. And Fowler quotes scouts talking about the opportunity for "defining moments." (You'd think teams would be more clinical in their scouting than to factor in "defining moments," but with Tebow, all bets are off.)
*Ignore the draftniks: How Tebow plays in college games won't have nearly the impact on his draft stock as his private and public workouts with teams -- and the training he will go through to prepare for those workouts, focusing entirely on his NFL skills.
(And not, say, winning games.) One draftnik Fowler talked to points to Tebow's performance during Senior Bowl week. (There's a presumption he will play in it... I wouldn't bank on it just yet. If his agent tells him not to, he might not. Then again, Tebow is such a competitor he just might do it to show he doesn't fear it. Same with the Combine: You don't think Tebow doesn't want to set the new combine record for bench-press reps by a QB?)
*On Draft Day, irrationality will rule. At least as it relates to Tebow. There will be at least a few teams -- maybe the Redskins, maybe the Raiders, maybe the Jaguars -- who will feel compelled to draft Tebow (even a 1st-round reach) for lots of reasons besides what scouts are saying in mid-November. Don't discount the power of "What if he...?" for an NFL owner. Especially when they take into consideration that the smartest coach in the NFL loves him. Segue to...
*The Belichick Factor: I will say it again. Tim Tebow will not -- let me be clear: WILL. NOT. -- slip past the Patriots in the first round.
Before Roger Goodell finishes saying, "The Patriots pick next...," Bill Belichick will snap up Tebow (I will cry a little bit, then suck it up and order my Pats Tebow jersey) and then creatively deploy him in a way that will destroy the rest of the league. Re-imagine Belichick on 4th-and-2 against the Colts on Sunday night with Tebow lined up next to Brady.
In the end -- as much as Pats-haters might dislike the idea -- the most ideal place for Tim Tebow in the NFL is playing for Bill Belichick.
If -- as currently projected -- Tebow slips all the way through the first round because other teams can't see his potential, that will be their loss -- and the Patriots' gain.
But slipping into the 3rd or 4th round? No way. If something crazy happens and the Pats don't take him, there is no way he doesn't go early in the 2nd round -- probably under the theory that a team will be overwhelmed by hysteria for Tebow.
As Urban Meyer will agree: Let's hope that team has a coach who can creatively use him.