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Faceoff: Tebow's Dynasty Prospects

July 22nd

Clayton Gray: One of the most-discussed rookies of 2010 was Tim Tebow. However, with the coaching change in Denver, his future is very much in questions. What are your expectations for Tebow's dynasty prospects? Does he have longterm, elite potential?

Jason Wood: I'm not a believer. Everyone knows of Tebow's collegiate achievements, and that he's as squeaky clean a human being as an NFL owner could hope for. But at what point did those issues supersede talent? And ability to throw the ball? Good mechanics? An ability to read complex NFL defenses? Sure, Tebow racked up some alluring fantasy stats last year in the final three games, but that was basically a glorified version of street ball. He was running all around and trying to make plays without any semblance of a real NFL system in place. I just don't see him transitioning into a full-time NFL starter, particularly for a team that's now being run by one of the NFL's all-time best quarterbacks.

Matt Waldman: I'm far more optimistic about Tebow than I was this time last year. Half of my family live in Denver and are Broncos fans and when they drafted Tebow my brother called me 30 seconds later telling me that he felt like crying. As a diehard Browns fan in my youth it looked like sweet desserts were finally coming for Mile High. But I think Tebow has made some strides that won't allow me to write him off. I want to get a close look at him in the preseason before I give my opinion of him for 2011 because he's such a gymrat that I don't want to overlook the possibilty of significant improvement with his technique.

What this means for drafts taking place right now is that I'm not taking him unless he's a very late pick and I have a terrific quarterback.If I inherited a team that owned Tebow, he's a guy I'd hold onto unless I'm really strong at QB and someone is willing to overpay because he's one of those Tebow Zealots I saw at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama in January of 2010 who could give Elvis fans a run for their money.

Jeff Pasquino: Tim Tebow has this "aura" about him that extends beyond his physical attributes and abilities. He has a true leadership quality about him that works well in a locker room and a huddle - but unless he can step up and deliver results in the form of NFL wins, it will not matter. Fantasy value is there thanks to his ability to run as well as throw, but many have questioned his abilities to be a top end NFL quarterback. Sure he put up three good performances to close out 2011, but most of that value came due to his ability as a rusher and against either weak defenses (Houston) or a team who was completely deflated after being eliminated from the postseason (San Diego). Tebow put up over 25 fantasy points against the Raiders in Week 15 but only completed 8 of 16 passes for 138 yards and one touchdown - which would have been very pedestrian had it not been for his rushing totals (8-78-1, including a 40-yard TD run. Tebow had over 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns in his three starts to close out the year, which accounted for a great deal of his fantasy value.

Forget about that history though - the main question here is his future value, for 2011 and beyond. That's a very tough one since we do not ev even know if he will be the starting quarterback for Denver this season. Both John Fox and John Elway are saying that Tebow is very much in the mix, but but between the lockout and the skill of Kyle Orton it would not be a surprise to see Orton under center in Week 1. Denver will likely try and move Orton for future draft pick value since this is his lat year under contract, so I will assume Tebow is the starting quarterback this year. Now you have to figure his value both in Denver and with John Fox as his new head coach. Josh McDaniels got a ton of fantasy production and offense from limited players last year, but Fox is not a big offense guy nor is he one to give younger players a lot of rope to play with right away. He has a big tendency to run the ball and be conservative, sticking with veterans for much of his starter personnel. So now you have a conservative coach coming in who wants to bolster the ground game (either with DeAngelo Williams or another RB) which will cut into Tebow's run attempts, and an offensive game plan that will try and minimize mistakes by a young quarterback. I do not expect much from Tebow this year at all in that system, although it could be a very good idea for him in the long run to get him more experience and confidence going forward. I just do not believe in his fantasy upside both short term and long term, since most of it relies on big plays and running abilities, neither of which will present themselves often this year and in years to come for Tebow.

Jeff Haseley: What I like about Tim Tebow is his ability to score and that translates to success in a fantasy sense. In the last three games last year, he scored at least one rushing TD and one passing TD. In a limited role he had 6 rushing TDs last year and was heavily involved in the offense inside the 10 yard line. The new coaching regime scares me a little bit, but ultimately, it's Tebow's play making ability and talent that will trump play calling. I like his chances of being someone who can eventually put up 20+ TDs (rush/pass). Combine that with healthy rushing numbers and he has the makings of a Top 12 fantasy QB. He may not hit that mark this year, but I like his chances in 2012 and beyond. He has a lot to prove still and as long as he has that inner fire to exceed expectations, I think we will continue to be surprised by his production.

Bob Magaw: Like Churchill's famous characterization of Russia, Tebow is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Before the 2010 draft process, I was initially in the category of those that thought his mechanical flaws were so heinous and grotesque as to likely prove catastrophic and a death blow to his projection as a viable NFL QB. While at Florida, Tebow would at times wind up like a pitcher, delivering the ball from the hip in a throwing motion that made Byron Leftwich's elongated version look streamlined and economical. Not a lot of precedents spring immediately to mind, in terms of QBs coming out of college with such severe and stark mechanical issues going on to succeed at a high level in the pros. Intuitively, the prospect of a radical transformation of something as fundamental and ingrained through muscle memory as throwing motion appears daunting, and even improbable.

After scrutinizing Tebow more closely post-draft (but still preseason), other factors that I thought could be mitigating began to come to the fore. His arm strength is at least adequate when he gets his feet set, and at his best in college, he flashed the ability to throw with touch and accuracy. Flash forward to the end of the 2010 season, and he exhibited several other critically important attributes that could potentially tip the scales in a favorable direction. While Tebow still had a hair trigger on the run gun in the face of pressure, it can be taken as doubly positive that he SENSES it, and has the wheels to evade it. Other pivotal traits which can point towards success are timing, specifically the ability to anticipate a WR's movements, coupled with the field awareness of defenders, to deliver the ball not just to the right place, but at the right time.

To paraphrase Denver institution and new GM John Elway, Tebow's future with the Broncos will hinge on his ability to morph into a more efficient and effective pocket passer. A glimmering of such an evolutionary unfolding was in evidence as a rookie... the gradual, incremental development of a more compact throwing motion. More important than the development of any single isolatable trait, the fact that he was able to make modest but appreciable strides in a short time in as foundational an area as passing mechanics (notoriously refractory to such a relatively quick development), bodes very well for his overall projection. Especially when viewed in the context of his constellation of other notable positive traits and attributes. While it may sound corny, I believe Tebow is sincere in stating a genuine passion for the game, the desire to be great and a willingness to do whatever requisite work he needs to achieve that goal.

A kind of mirror image to the rare/unprecedented nature of his college throwing mechanics issues, is the similarly rare/unprecedented nature of his freakish athletic juxtaposition of power and explosiveness. Tebow may be the strongest QB in league history. Improbably bolted onto this proposition are his shockingly unstiff-like Combine positional record 3 cone drill (6.66) and record-tying vertical jump (38.5"), respectively. If he surmounts the technical/mechanical flaws, his natural leadership, work ethic, football smarts and athleticism could more closely resemble Steve Young (if not a one-to-one correspondence or mapping of careers) than Vince Young. Like VY, previous and contemporary running QBs such as Randall Cunningham and pre-prison Michael Vick weren't exactly known as students of the game.

Cause for optimism could come in the guise of a Pleistocene-era comp player, Billy Kilmer. A phenomenal athlete (one of the top prep basketball players in the nation, could have played pro baseball) formerly more accomplished as a runner at UCLA and early with the 49ers, he ultimately found success as a passer with the Saints and Redskins, despite throwing one of the ugliest balls ever.

Tebow has not just succeeded, but at the highest levels on each rung of his ascent up the prep-college-pro ladder... and he has succeeded as a runner and passer. He owns multiple career and season prep passing records in the storied state of Florida (one of the most prolific NFL conduits, with California, Texas and Pennsylvania). While at Florida, Tebow became the first QB in collegiate history to throw and rush for 20 TDs each in a season (2011 first overall pick Cam Newton and and high second rounder Colin Kaepernick both joined the exclusive 20/20 club last year). If Tebow can sustain the arc of his current technical refinement, stacked on top of his formidable running prowess, he could project to a top 10-15 QB in a few years for dynasty league purposes. The key actuator to realizing and fulfilling the next stage in his evolution, even more importantly than retraining his body, he must retrain his mind to think pass first, run second when the OL is breached, the play design disrupted and chaos envelopes the pocket.

Mark Wimer: I'm not sold on Tebow as a prospect for elite-level production. As Jason noted, the teams he faced at the end of the season were not up to even the NFL average as far as their performance when Tebow was playing - they were easy targets for him to build his confidence up while playing, which led to some big stats for Tebow.

Basically, our sample size is too small, and the conditions under which he made such a splash last year were highly suspect.

IF - and as Jeff pointed out there is some reason to wonder if Tebow will be the starter this year - Tebow starts, he will go through the normal learning curve for a young NFL QB - which is a brutal process that can derail even the best-looking prospects (David Carr leaps to mind here). Beyond the mercurial Brandon Lloyd (who has exactly one season over 600 yards receiving during his eight years in the NFL - last year's 77/1,448/11 campaign), there isn't a lot of star power on the Broncos' WR roster, and with John Fox in charge it looks like the team will put the bulk of their free agency money into a starting-caliber running back, and transition to a more run-oriented scheme. The team didn't draft a single wide receiver, though they did roll the dice in the mid and late rounds on two tight ends (Julius Thomas, Virgil Green), but both those guys are considered developmental prospects. Demaryius Thomas has a serious Achilles tendon injury that required surgical repair in February 2011, and he may never become a star in the league (he likely won't play until the second half of this year, if at all, and until we see him playing at full speed we'll have no clue how his rehab has really gone). The Broncos' general manager Brian Xanders said on May third, 2011 that Thomas is expected to begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list and to be unavailable until at least midseason.

In short, the surrounding talent on the Broncos doesn't inspire me with confidence that two-to-three years down the line the Broncos will be fielding a powerful passing attack. I wouldn't want Tebow as a starter for 2011, and I am fairly pessimistic about his chances through the middle years of this decade.

He's a guy I haven't pursued in my dynasty leagues.

Cecil Lammey: I believe in Tim Tebow. Just like Matt, I am surprised about how different I feel about him now in comparison to a year ago.

Not only does he have a ton of support at Dove Valley, as both Brian Xanders and John Elway love him, Tebow also has earned some respect from opponents across the league. Subscribers to our free daily email read this last week, but it bears repeating here. I recently talked with a defensive coach on an NFL team about several topics, but the Broncos QB situation came up. He feels the Broncos should start Tebow, even if Orton does not get traded. His quote was, 'Tebow concerns us more than Orton does.' Bottom line, Orton is not clutch and does not handle pressure well. However, Tebow thrives on pressure and will make a way when there's no way.

Denver needs to see what they have in Tebow and he should be given every opportunity to prove himself as the starter. There's going to be rough patches ahead as Tebow learns the ropes in the NFL, but it's all part of the process. Why would you not have interest in him as a dynasty league prospect? His upside is huge because of his ability to pick up yards and touchdowns on the ground.

Let's stop the whole 'his mechanics are ugly' debate. It's tired, and simply doesn't ring true anymore. I was with Matt at the Senior Bowl last year and Tebow's performance was terrible during practice and in the game. I watched him in rookie minicamp and he had trouble hitting stationary targets. Training camp rolled around and I was there every day when something clicked. Tebow sparks something in his teammates, and his work ethic is off the charts. He's learning to be an NFL QB and will not fail due to lack of effort. His throwing motion has improved a lot, and is much quicker than it was at Florida. Unless you get style points in your league Tebow's mechanics shouldn't be an issue.

Everyone acknowledges what he can be as a runner, but few realize that he finished his career as the SEC's most accurate passer in the history of the conference. He's a better passer than most give him credit for, and here's the scary part - he's improving every day.

Okay, so Tebow should get a chance...what about the important stuff - how will he do in fantasy!?! This kid could crush in fantasy leagues, and will make a quality QB2 in every league this year. It will prove to be difficult to shut down both facets of his game on a week to week basis. Tebow's rushing numbers will offset what some may consider as lackluster passing numbers.

Want to hear the best part? John Fox's offense is actually BEST for Tebow. The Broncos are going to build an improved ground game with Fox calling the shots. No more 'Wow, 50 yds rushing from our starting RB!' This team is going back to being a threat on the ground and should grab a big name free agent like DeAngelo Williams. Adding a true number one RB and making Moreno what he is (a backup) will force defenses to stack the line to stop the run. This will lead to one on one coverage for guys like Brandon Lloyd, Eric Decker, and Demaryius Thomas (when healthy). Tebow will play action all day (Fox leads the league in play action passing attempts) and he should thrive through the air.

The part that scares me the most about Tebow is his willingness to sacrifice his body to make a play. Those big hits punish defenders but his body takes a beating too. Durability could prove to be an issue if Tebow doesn't start to hook slide more.

Start 2 QB leagues this kid is an automatic start. Traditional leagues I would have no problem with Tebow as my backup behind someone like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. In fact, his trade value could be very high after one of his 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD games. The Broncos play a last place schedule in 2011 and could be more of a factor on offense than people think.

Can Tebow win a Super Bowl? Possibly. Can Tebow be a relevant fantasy QB with top 15 upside? Certainly. Tebow throughout his life has proved doubters wrong, so why in the world would you want to doubt him now?