Extra Points: Bray could be the answer for QB-starved teams
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - West Virginia's Geno Smith is probably going to be the first quarterback to come off the board in April's draft with Southern Cal's Matt Barkley and Mike Glennon of North Carolina State also regarded as possible first-round selections.
That said, few NFL observers expect any of the quarterbacks in this year's draft class to have the kind of sudden impact the 2012 group had.
While the sample size is still small, Washington's Robert Griffin III, the reigning NFL Rookie of the Year; the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 draft, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck; and the surprising Russell Wilson of Seattle might prove to be that once-in-a-generation group which won't be matched for another 10 or 15 years.
"I'm a big believer in value," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said earlier this week when discussing the quarterbacks available in the 2013 draft. "If you have a top-10 pick, you want an All-Pro at some point. If you look at Geno Smith, he could be a top-10 pick in some people's eyes. Now for me, he and Matt Barkley to me are more like 20 to 32. That's where I feel more comfortable."
Translation -- there are no can't-miss prospects this time around for the horde of quarterback-starved teams assembled in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine this week.
One interesting option could be Tennessee's Tyler Bray, the only junior among this year's top-rated quarterbacks.
The lanky Bray had an up-and-down career with the Volunteers, but has the strongest arm among this year's group and measured in at the combine at 6- foot-6 and a seemingly solid 232 pounds, up over 20 pounds from his college playing weight.
His new frame had more than one scout salivating.
"I'm a lot bigger," Bray said at a media briefing on Thursday. "That was always the main issue: my weight, seeing if I could take a hit. I put on 24 pounds, so I think I'm ready to go."
Actually that was only one of the issues. Maturity or lack thereof, academic problems and some troubling off-the-field whispers hampered the California native after he arrived in Knoxville.
"There are a lot of questions about maturity and off-the-field decision- making. I just want to move past that and get to the on-the-field stuff," Bray said.
"I've grown up."
Asked if he resented having to answer questions about his personal travails, Bray took the right tact.
"No, I did it to myself," he said. "If I had never been a part of it, I wouldn't have to answer for it. It's time to move forward. I'm here to win ball games."
Having played in pro-style attacks under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley at Tennessee, Bray completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 7,444 yards and 69 touchdowns during his truncated college career.
"I feel I'm ready," Bray said. "I've done a lot in college, didn't win a lot of ball games, but I put up some pretty good numbers for the SEC, and the SEC is a little bit under the NFL."
Some have compared Bray's physical gifts to the strong-armed Jay Cutler, another enigmatic former SEC signal-caller who is currently the leading man in Chicago.
"I mean everyone's got a great arm," Bray said. "I'm not going to sit up here and try to say I have the best arm because it's debatable, but I feel like I can compete. Jay Cutler is a good quarterback. I don't think I compare to anybody. We're all different quarterbacks."
On the downside, Bray has been called a bit of a head case and was noticeably uncomfortable at the podium in Indy on Thursday, playing into the fears that he's not a natural leader.
"I was always just trying to be a leader and set us up on the field," he said. "In my junior season I worked on it and got in a few guys' faces if I needed to, which I had never done before, so I'm trying to improve on that."
On the field, Bray is a traditional dropback passer and lacks the mobility currently en vogue around the NFL. His accuracy also has been questioned at times and he can get enamored with his own arm strength, often forcing the ball into tight windows, something he could get away with on the college level but tends to show up against NFL defenders.
"You're never going to be perfect with your throws, so there's always room for improvement, but I feel like I can make every throw," Bray said.
Most regard Bray as a possible second- or third-round selection, but it's not hard to imagine a team operating a traditional pro style offense falling for him far earlier.
"The quarterback who is the most physically talented in terms of his accuracy and arm strength is Bray," NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang said. "He can't move very well. But he can flat throw the football. He makes throws Geno Smith and Matt Barkley can't make."
02/22 11:32:01 ET