Tim Tebow arrived at the Senior Bowl in Mobile yesterday, making his intentions very clear:
"I'm here to be an NFL quarterback."
*And that is why Tebow is the most intriguing prospect of the 2010 NFL Draft -- or, arguably, any NFL Draft.
*It is why Tebow is the biggest storyline not just of the 2010 Senior Bowl -- but of any Senior Bowl.
*It is why Tebow's commitment to play in this game triggered a sell-out of tickets.
*It is why Tebow will command media scrutiny and scouts' attention like no other player ever.
As it turns out, playing in the Senior Bowl was -- as NFL Network's Mike Mayock put it -- a "brilliant" decision. Not only does it show Tebow's fearlessness in the face of scouts' skepticism, but it forces himself into (and at the top of) the draft conversation right now, rather than at the combine.
I dug into this a bit late last week: If Tebow has anything going for himself in this draft process, it is that scouts and draftniks already did the hard work for him: They lowered the expectations so much that if Tebow can walk without stumbling, it is an improvement on scouts' take on his footwork. If Tebow can make a completion or put any zip on the ball, it is an improvement on scouts' scathing analysis of his mechanics.
Tebow has already won the expectations game: He can only go up from here.
And he will. Because he will out-perform scouts' expectations -- he already has (see last week's early momentum in favor of Tebow). And none of the scouts want to be so outside of the mainstream that they look like fools. And so they will improve his "grade."
I read a quote from Todd McShay this weekend that Tebow will be "overdrafted" (taken too high) and end up in the mid-40s, like Pat White a year ago. I find McShay's idea that his grade or evaluation somehow matters to be cute. How will he reconcile it when Tebow is drafted in the Top 10 -- as expected by all sorts of draft "realists" who see him going to the Jaguars.
(You can already see it with the talking point "All it takes is one team." And that team, at a minimum, is the Jaguars. Everyone already knows it. No matter how much another team may like him, not another team in the Top 10 will be willing to spend a Top 10 draft pick on him like the Jaguars will. And so plenty of other teams might be willing to take him in the back half of the first round -- or any pick of the 2nd. He simply won't last that long, whether that is "over-drafting" or not. Your draft value is not what the scouts say it is, but the position you are actually drafted at. By the way, check out the new site Draft15.com, a populist effort by Jags fans to get their team to take Tebow. I don't think they have to worry. I even like the T-shirt they made for it. Or, at least, the front side. I could do without the trite "If you draft him, they will come" slogan on the back. As if drafting Tebow solves the Jaguars' attendance issues -- it doesn't, at least entirely. They may be drafting him for marketing, but -- Senior Bowl ticket sales data point aside -- I don't think he will solve that problem in the comprehensive way some think he will.)
Anyway, Tebow will be THE center of attention in Mobile this week. Practice starts today, and if you have NFL Network, you can actually watch. Otherwise, there are a ton of reporters there, eager to tell you everything that Tebow is doing -- and what the scouts are saying. Expect a ton of "better than I expected" and "already see improvements" and -- especially -- "extremely coachable" and "intangibles are off the charts." I think that seeing his leadership and attitude and willingness to learn up close will change a lot of opinions.
I think that a big misconception that some scouts are promoting is this idea that Tebow has to look and play like an NFL quarterback already. Few college QBs -- certainly at the stage of the Senior Bowl -- are NFL-ready. Why can't he simply show that he has the raw tools to be an NFL QB? Isn't it the NFL coaches' jobs -- once he's on a team -- to take those tools and turn him into an NFL QB? I just don't buy that he has to be polished TODAY.
And even though I discount the scouts and draftniks, I find it intriguing to follow the way the conventional wisdom about Tebow will shift. You saw the first signs of that late last week, and I anticipate that it will grow even stronger this week as more jump on the bandwagon.
Then, of course, we can wonder about when the "backlash to the backlash" will happen.
The kicker is the advice that Tebow said Urban Meyer gave him: "Just be you, and you'll be fine."
I'm going to assume that by "you," Meyer meant Tebow's infectious enthusiasm, drive, leadership and will to dominate (rather than his elongated throwing motion). And Meyer is right: Tebow moves up the draft with a little bit of technical improvement.
But the reason he will go in the Top 10 to the Jags... the reason he is the biggest star ever at the Senior Bowl... the reason he is the most intriguing draft prospect of all time...
...Is because Tim will be Tim.
UPDATE: Tim will be Tim in at least one way -- he will wear jersey No. 15 in the Senior Bowl. (BTW, I love the intentions behind Draft15.com... um, what happens when he wears No. 5 in the NFL? No confirmation on this, but I presume that because he wore No. 5 in high school, Tebow would have taken No. 5 at Florida as a freshman if Andre Caldwell didn't already have it. Of course, the Jags have both No. 15 and No. 5 open on their roster, so Tebow can have his choice.)