Although he never once put his hands on the pigskin during his tour of the Scouting Combine, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow had to have elevated his stock for the 2010 NFL Draft.
When answering questions from the media at the podium Friday, Tebow attracted twice as big a crowd as any player in Indianapolis, detailed his desire to be the best quarterback he can be – both on and off the gridiron – and flashed his trademark smile from start to finish. He spoke of his readiness to help his team in any way possible, his willingness to do everything the coaching staff asks of him and even his acceptance of the fact that it may take a year or two before he's ready to line up under center at the game's highest level. It was impossible to walk away from Podium C unimpressed with Tebow's 15-minute Q&A.
Among the most impressed was NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock.
"In a nutshell," Mayock said to reporters Sunday, "here's my deal on Tim Tebow: Arguably the best quarterback that ever played, arguably the best football player that played college football. I'm going to bet on him because of his intangibles. I believe in the kid."
Criticized for his sloppy mechanics, Tebow is working on a new delivery designed to get the ball out of his left hand quicker, so he elected not to throw during his workout Sunday and will instead wait for his Pro Day back in Gainesville on Mar. 17.
"Trust me," said Mayock. "I've watched every tape. I understand the mechanical issues. I understand the footwork issues. But if you're going to bet on a kid…"
Nobody has ever put together a better resume in college football than Tebow did from 2006-09. He was a role player as a freshman on one national championship team in '06 and an All-American superhero as a junior on another title squad in '08. He was a three-time Heisman Trophy finalist, becoming the first sophomore to win the coveted award in '07. Statistically, he finished his Gators career with a completion percentage of 67.1 and a touchdown-to-interception radio of 88-to-15, not to mention 2,947 rushing yards – that's even more eye-popping since sacks count against rushing totals at the collegiate level – and 57 rushing touchdowns.
Away from the game, Tebow is a devout Christian, abstains from pre-marital sex and cures cancer with his tears – alright, two of those three are true.
"Let's face it," Mayock said. "This whole process, guys take bets on kids at different levels. Kids with drug abuse, kids that have beat women – he's OK in the fourth round, he's OK in the sixth round. Here's a guy that's done everything right for four years. Here's a guy that's a national champion, a Heisman Trophy winner, and I look at this and go, If I could get this kid in the third round and develop him for two years…"
Scout.com NFL Draft analyst Chris Steuber was a Tebow believer when he arrived for the combine, and he's even more of a Tebow believer now based on his Scouting Combine Day 4: Rising and Falling feature following Sunday's workouts:
"Tebow has been a great competitor this offseason and is willing to show scouts he's serious about being a quarterback in the NFL. It's been well documented that Tebow's mechanics and elongated release are a concern as he enters the draft, and those concerns were clear during Senior Bowl week. But prior to the Scouting Combine, Tebow announced he would debut a new release at his Pro Day and that it would be shorter and quicker. Although Tebow didn't throw in Indy on Sunday, he did participate in other drills and did extremely well. He tied Josh McCown (2002) for the best vertical leap (38.5 inches) in combine history for a QB, scored the second-best broad jump (9-7) and recorded the fourth-best 40-yard dash time (4.72 seconds) at his position. Where Tebow lands in the draft will be determined by his Pro Day performance, but he's the kind of guy you never bet against."
Further proof that Tebow is perhaps the best pure athlete in the draft at the game's most important position: He did the three-cone drill in 6.66 seconds, the 20-yard shuffle in 4.17 seconds and the 60-yard shuffle in 11.27 seconds. Not only were all three tops among QBs, but his three-cone beat California running back Jahvid Best (6.75), his short shuffle beat Arizona State receiver Kyle Williams (4.19) and his long shuttle beat Clemson wideout Jacoby Ford (11.58).
Mayock doesn't think Tebow is ready to make an impact as a rookie, but there may not be a more coachable player in the draft.
"He's got a lot of work to do," he said. "I'm not trying to sugarcoat it. This kid's got a lot of work to do before he's an NFL quarterback. But if you're going to take a bet on anybody, why not this kid? He's got what you want with a quarterback. He'll be the first person in the building every morning. He'll watch the tape. He'll do everything necessary."
But like every talent evaluator out there, Mayock is holding back his final grade until he sees the southpaw throw at his Pro Day next month.
"If you ask him to change his mechanics, he will try," he said. "I'm not sure how much you can change that mechanic, but he'll do his best."
With the pressure to win now more crushing than ever, it's harder for teams to justify project-type picks in the early rounds – Mayock would make an exception in this case.
"I'll take my chances," he said. "If I could get him in the third round, give him two years to develop and project him as a starter three years out, I'll take my chances with Tim Tebow."
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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