The 2010 NFL Draft is behind us, and it is time to look ahead to the next stage of Tim Tebow's career.
As of this morning, I presented at least one scenario that carries forward last week's "Tebow exceptionalism" analysis:
I think there is a strong argument to be made that Tebow can be -- even will be -- the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010.
Before critics scoff, consider that award voters will be inclined to magnify everything Tebow does. That Josh McDaniels has a vested interest in Tebow's success -- even early success, when he is not yet a full-time starting QB.
And, most importantly, that McDaniels looks likely to implement the next evolution of the Wildcat, tailored specifically for Tebow. If Ronnie Brown was used by the Dophins 3-5 times per game, what is stopping McDaniels from using Tebow 8-10 times per game?
Remember: The single-wing is most effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations -- that means plenty of opportunities for Tebow to impact games, even if he is only getting a half-dozen snaps per game: Critical first downs... touchdowns.
That is precisely how Tebow was used in his freshman year at Florida -- as a result, he was arguably not just national freshman of the year, but I would argue he was Offensive MVP of Florida during their national championship run.
And it's not like the ROY barrier is overwhelmingly high: Percy Harvin -- another doubted player -- won the award last season on the back of a mere 6 offensive TDs and 2 return TDs.
I think that if McDaniels is confident about using Tebow at the goal-line, Tebow could account for even more TDs than Harvin.
(For the record, Tebow as a freshman had 5 TDs passing and 8 TDs rushing in a 14-game college season, but I'm willing to discount 2 of each from the Western Carolina laugher. That's still 9 TDs in a 14-game season, in which Urban Meyer probably used Tebow -- even in a part-time role -- way more conservatively than he would have wanted to ideally. Don't think Meyer won't impress that on his friend McDaniels.)
As with everything Tebow, to use past precedent as the guide is the ultimate error. It is like saying in the summer of 2008: "Ronnie Brown will NEVER take direct snaps en route to the Dolphins humiliating the Patriots." A year later, the Wildcat formation was a sensation.
Again, McDaniels has a couple of vested interests:
*In proving Tebow has value -- even immediate value.
*In proving how smart McDaniels is to have drafted him.
*In getting his most versatile (even valuable) offensive player on the field at critical times.
In the successful arbitrage that comes from unorthodox strategy -- like taking out your "starting" QB in short-yardage or goal-line situations in favor of a "specialist" QB who gives you a better chance of converting the play.
Some of the things McDaniels has said in the last 96 hours already foreshadows a willingness to (a) be innovative when it comes to Tebow, and (b) use Tebow early and often.
Let's go back to that great pre-draft meme, #timtebowcant. Are doubters really going to insist that "Tim Tebow can't be NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year?" Because when critics say that, they just make it that much more obvious that it can (and will) happen.
Let's throw a few more in there for good measure:
*"Tim Tebow can't lead the NFL in jersey sales as a rookie." Unsurprisingly, Tebow is already leading all NFL rookies in jersey sales after the first post-draft weekend. I have been saying for weeks that Tebow will lead ALL players' jersey sales by the time the season is over.
*"Tim Tebow can't solve the Jaguars' ticket problems." Not only are ticket sales for the Jags' season opener against the Broncos selling like crazy, but it is Tebow's presence that is driving them. The Jaguars will sell out that season-opener.
*"Tim Tebow can't start at QB as a rookie." I'm not sure he will, but then again, per the above argument, I'm not sure he has to. If Tebow takes 6-10 meaningful snaps per game, he will have every bit as much of an impact on winning games as any rookie QB out there.
*"Tim Tebow can't make the Pro Bowl as a rookie." If you think that he can be Offensive Rookie of the Year, then he absolutely could be a Pro Bowler in 2010. And if McDaniels' super-charged Wildcat is as potent as I think it will be, why couldn't Tebow make the Pro Bowl as a "Wildcat QB specialist," specifically for a Wildcat play or two during the game? And, oh by the way, the league has a vested interest in having one of its most popular players participate in its all-star game, which is as much a marketing event as a reward for a superlative season.
*"Tim Tebow can't be a fantasy football star as a rookie." Fantasy football GMs are an unsentimental bunch. If you score TDs, they love you; if you don't, you are useless. It doesn't matter who you are. So if Tebow does turn into some TD-creation sensation (say, 6-10 on the season), he will be beloved by a community that drives a ton of football coverage: Fantasy football owners.
The critical step will be that fantasy football providers like Yahoo, CBS Sports and ESPN list Tebow as eligible at both QB and RB, even if McDaniels insists that Tebow will only play QB. Tebow won't get enough snaps to justify starting him at QB, but if he is getting goal-line snaps, he would be very attractive at the "flex" position, which is usually limited to RBs or WRs.
Just watch that season opener at Jacksonville, where McDaniels will have every reason to let Tebow put on a show. After that, the bandwagon will be in full force. Want a barometer of Tebow's popularity, as filtered through fantasy football? Watch how many fantasy football GMs have Tebow on their roster after Week 1. Let's peg it two ways: Absolutely (40-50 percent of GMs) or relatively (higher than the percent of ownership for the next-most-owned rookie QB.)
I will add more to this list as needed.