I've thought all along that Tim Tebow would need a redshirt year, but two things now tell me I might be wrong.
First, Denver trading the 40th, 70th and 114th picks in a power draft to pick Tebow is a powerful statement. Check out the draft trade chart that every team uses and you'll see how much Denver wanted to make sure it wasn't leapfrogged in the Tebow derby. The 25th pick is worth 720 points on the chart every team in the league uses -- some more religiously than others. The 43rd pick is worth 470, the 70th worth 240, and the 114th worth 66. That totals 776. The Broncos paid 56 more points than were necessary by the chart -- equivalent to the 199th overall pick, a late fourth-rounder -- to get Tebow. Denver, obviously, wanted to make the deal badly enough to ratchet up the compensation.
Second, and most importantly, I remember something Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels said to me over the weekend when we discussed the Tebow pick. We weren't discussing playing time, or his role, or anything at the time other than why he was smitten with the guy more than many of his peers on other NFL teams.
"When I went to Gainesville Monday to work him out,'' McDaniels said, referring to his hush-hush trip to spend the day with Tebow, "we spent about seven hours together. We went over a lot of things. Now, understand that our offense is pretty complicated, and the terminology and the scheme is totally different from what he did at Florida. But about midway through my time there, we're going through plays, and he starts using our terminology. He's so smart about football that he was able to begin to speak my language and talk apples to apples. He'd already translated what he knew of our scheme into my words. That's something that carried a lot of weight with me.''
McDaniels also said: "The football traits he has is the stuff you die for.''
That tells me McDaniels will find something this year for Tebow to do. I don't know what it is. But last year, I don't think we saw everything McDaniels had to offer in terms of offensive play-calling. There's a lot inside him I think he's waiting to script and put in the hands of some offensive talent he mined and developed.
I think Demaryius Thomas isn't the receiver Dez Bryant is, but he's a guy the Broncos will sleep better at night having, and he'll step in for Brandon Marshall. Can he be Marshall? I doubt he'll be the impact player, but he'll have the chance. The third-round pick, Minnesota wideout Eric Decker, is intriguing because of his size (6-foot-2, 214); he's the kind of guy who should be able to catch fades with good matchups on shorter corners.
McDaniels made it clear to me the best quarterback will start. He said Kyle Orton is the incumbent, and the starter, today. In camp, who knows? Maybe Brady Quinn lights it up, or maybe Tebow comes along faster than everybody thinks. But the fact Tebow already has a head-start on knowing the offense, and was peeved he had to leave Denver over the weekend to go back home (NFL rules don't permit rookie to be at their team's facilities, other than for a rookie mini-camp, until their class graduates in the spring) is a sign he might come along quicker in the mental part of the game than many draftees would.
I wouldn't be surprised if McDaniels invented some sort of red zone or goal line package for Tebow. Could it be the kind of draw/jump-pass thing Tebow did with the Gators? Maybe. But something to get Tebow on the field a few snaps a game if he doesn't win the job, just to throw a changeup at the opposition. Now, this would be interesting for team chemistry, because whoever wins the starting job (I assume Orton) will have to swallow hard to be OK with getting yanked a couple of times a game for Tebow. But McDaniels is sure to preach the all-for-one, one-for-all team-think attitude in OTAs this spring and training camp this summer, and if the quarterbacks don't buy in, they'll move on.
McDaniels spoke over the weekend about the passion he feels for his job, and how Tebow's a match for that too.
"I love this game so much,'' McDaniels said. "I would die to have 53 guys here who love it as much as I do. I'm looking to find the right group of guys to accept our one singular goal -- to win. I think Tim fits in with that. There're going to be doubts about him. Great doubts -- and I understand that. Some people don't think he has the natural traits of a great quarterback. Here's what I think: Do Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods swing the club the same way, hit irons the same way? No. But they both win tournaments. There're different ways to throw, different mechanics, and you can still get the job done.''
McDaniels has cast his lot with Tebow. He'll sink or swim, over the next three years with him. But if he sinks, he'll be sinking with a kid he believes in. I hear it in McDaniels' voice: This is his guy. Let the training begin. It's going to be fun to watch.
I was intrigued by Tampa's draft, if only by the pairing of two defensive tackles (Gerald McCoy and Brian Price) and two wide receivers (Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams), all in the top 101 selections. Add the third-round pick, cornerback Myron Lewis, and, as GM Mark Dominik told me, it's entirely possible all five players will be on the field on third down in Week 1. McCoy and Price would be the center of the four-man line, Lewis the nickel corner as Ronde Barber moves inside to cover the slot receiver, and the two rookie wideouts in most three- and four-receiver sets.
Williams, obviously, jumps out as the 101st pick in the draft. He had academic troubles at Syracuse, broke curfew, was suspended by coach Doug Marrone and later quit the team. It's a classic risk-reward draft choice; many teams in the league didn't have Williams on their draft board.
But Dominik said: "He's a starting receiver. I think he's going to start for us at some point this year. He's excited to play football, and we all know it's a risk. Quitting is obviously a big hurdle to get over. That's not good. But he's a good kid and a passionate football player who realizes he made some mistakes. We've done our research and we feel comfortable with the risk. I can tell you he's not going to be quitting football.''
The Bucs refused to enter the restricted free-agent market -- logically, I think, because to give up the third pick in the draft for most of the top RFAs who carried first-round or first- and third-round compensation is silly. But that puts a lot of pressure on the five top picks to come and play pretty big roles right away. It's interesting that the focus will almost be as much on the 101st pick as on the third.
This is the second year of the Dominik-Raheem Morris era in Tampa, and it's an important one. If the team doesn't show progress with a new quarterback the new guys drafted and all these new parts, it could be a short run for them. That's why the Bucs' draft is as important as any other team's draft in the league.
Now onto your e-mail:
• I WOULD BE. From Steve Curfman of Cary, N.C.: "Knowing now that Jimmy Clausen lasted until the 48th pick and would have been there at 37, do you think the Redskins are kicking themselves knowing they could have had an LT (Trent Williams) and QB (Clausen) for the next 10 years as well as their third- or fourth-rounder next year, or are they content with having an LT for the next 10 years and a Pro-Bowl caliber QB in Donovan McNabb for the next 2 or 3 years and without that 3rd/4th rounder next season?''
Very good question. I believe Mike Shanahan liked Clausen, but the only quarterback Shanahan truly liked in this draft was Sam Bradford; if he couldn't get Bradford, he felt why not get the tackle he liked for that scheme, and a quarterback he thought he could win with for the next four years. I think Clausen's going to be a heck of a pro, so I, for one, think they'd have been better off with your scenario.
• INTERESTING POINT ABOUT TEBOW AND VINCE YOUNG. From Tonyof Wilmington, Del.: "Mr. King, do you find it at all interesting that so many question the Tim Tebow pick when Vince Young was considered to be first-round worthy when he was picked? Both had some mechanics issues, and both relied a lot on their athleticism as opposed to being pure passing QB's. But Tim Tebow was a better college QB in almost every respect. Most notably Tebow was more of a winner and appears to have far better intangibles and leadership ability. Why are so many willing to dismiss Tebow, particularly when Tebow appears to be strong in the areas where Young has struggled, i.e. the mental part of the game?''
It's an interesting point. I think the biggest thing they have in common is bad classic NFL quarterback mechanics. Young is still working on that aspect, as well as his accuracy. Tebow has a long way to go with his mechanics, but he'll have a good teacher in Josh McDaniels.
• HE HATES THE NEW DRAFT FORMAT. From Peter of Lincoln Park, N.J.: "The Thursday draft stinks. The justification Roger Goodell is touting is the ratings. But I would assume the ratings are higher for the same reason the Thursday slot stinks -- because people aren't watching the draft together. Our group used to have a draft party every year, but couldn't do it this year. What are your thoughts?''
Interesting. I hadn't thought of that. And you're right -- the Saturday national-holiday type of feel for the draft isn't there anymore. That does stink. But the NFL's not going to put the genie back in the bottle, because the ratings were so strong Thursday and Friday. I wish they'd go back to the Saturday format, but it's not in the cards.
• NOWHERE. From Steve of Milton, Ontario: "Peter, it seems the clock is ticking rapidly on Jamarcus Russell's days as a Raider. If so, where could you see him going? One team stands out to me as a great spot for him to salvage his career: Washington. Donovan McNabb can mentor him, and allows Russell a couple of years to develop; if any coach can make Russell a competent NFL QB, it's Mike Shanahan; with Rex Grossman there, the chance to win the No. 2 spot on the depth chart exists, if not this year, then certainly in 2011; and the Redskins can afford the salary. Your thoughts on the future of the former top pick?''
He made his own bed with his lack of effort and now he'll have to lie in it. Washington is as good a choice as any, though I could see a place like Philadelphia (even after drafting Mike Kafka) because scouting adviser Phil Savage would give him a strong recommendation.