Underestimate Tebow at your peril

3/16/2010 - NFL

This Wednesday won't be the most important day of Tim Tebow's football career, but it will be in the team photo. You'll find it on the same bleacher row as his two national championships, his Heisman Trophy and the look on his face when he's chosen in next month's NFL draft.

Wednesday is pro day at the University of Florida, where about 15 Gators players will work out for assorted NFL coaches, scouts and personnel staff. Not too much is at stake -- only what round you might be picked in and who might pick you. Think of it as the ultimate job interview.

There will be lots of football pedigree on Florida Field, including cornerback Joe Haden, center Maurkice Pouncey, tight end Aaron Hernandez and inside linebacker Brandon Spikes. The event is such a big deal that UF officials are opening the stadium and the concessions stands to the public.

As usual, Tebow will be the centerpiece. What else is new? Tebow can't swing a wristband around Gainesville without its being above-the-fold, front-page news.

But this time Tebow will feel pressure he has never felt before. Wednesday will be the unveiling of his much-anticipated new throwing motion and footwork mechanics. Scouts at last will be able to separate the hype from reality.

"We always talk about guys who have it," said an NFL personnel director who agreed to discuss Tebow in return for anonymity. "He's got it."

Which is why the personnel director said that Florida's pro day -- and the private team workouts, which are even more important -- will determine Tebow's draft fate. Will Tebow somehow sneak into the first round of the April 22-24 draft, or will he slide to the second, third, fourth or fifth round?

"I think Buffalo or Jacksonville is going to take him," the personnel director said. "If I was betting, I'd say early in the second round, but it wouldn't shock me if Jacksonville or Buffalo moved back in the first [round] and took him. Either that or they try to move up from the second to the first.'"

Right now, the Bills have the No. 9 pick in the first round and Tebow's hometown Jaguars have the No. 10 selection. The personnel guy even mentioned Seattle, which has two first-round choices and three of the first 40, as a possibility. But so much depends on what happens Wednesday and whether Tebow's passing motion is not only new but also improved.

That was the rip on Tebow at the Senior Bowl, that his throwing motion was too long and too low and had too many moving parts. Of course, seniors are analyzed more by scouts than are juniors -- and in Tebow's case, maybe overanalyzed.

Perhaps too much time is being spent on mechanics instead of it.

"The biggest question with Tim has been his release and his accuracy," the personnel guy said. "Based on the information [from the pro day], we'll see how he looks compared to the Senior Bowl and his season.

"Now a team like Buffalo with Chan Gailey as their coach, he's had quarterbacks like [Tebow], and he can adapt an offense to that.'"

Tebow's pro day will be dull at first. He already did all the measurables, weightlifting, running, interviews, etc., at the NFL combine late last month. It won't be until he does his on-field position work that everyone will perk up.

Depending on who's overseeing the position groups (agents? UF officials? NFL scouts and coaches?), Tebow might be limited to Tebow-friendly pass routes in, say, a 15- to 20-minute scripted time period. In an NFL-run position group or in a private workout, the team's scouts and coaches would ask Tebow to execute the same dropbacks and pass routes used in that franchise's playbook.

In fact, it isn't unusual for a team to give a quarterback prospect a modified version of its playbook and then, when the quarterback arrives for the private workout, ask him to recite as much of the offense as possible. It gives teams a sense of a prospect's football IQ. Those same individual workouts can persuade a team to take a player -- or to take a pass.

If Tebow aces Wednesday's workout at Florida, the personnel director said it's likely more teams will request private workouts. According to various reports, Buffalo and Seattle already have scheduled workouts with Tebow.

"Teams that like him are already in his corner," the personnel guy said. "If he throws well, I could see maybe one, two or three more teams get in the mix."

According to the personnel director, the general draft-day rules of thumb are:

• If you have an established quarterback, you wouldn't take Tebow in the first round.
• If you see Tebow being a starting quarterback within two or three years, you'd use a second- or third-round pick on him.
• If you don't see him as a potential starter, Tebow is going to have a long wait.

"I would never discount the fact that this guy could become a starter," the personnel director said. "With good coaching, I think he can overcome some of the issues he has. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if he becomes a successful quarterback."

My general Tebow rule of thumb: Never, ever underestimate him. Some team will make that mistake on draft day. And regret it.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.