all VOL, y'all.

Tyler Bray, Da’Rick Rogers: Draft day busts

tyler bray

When Da’Rick Rogers hauled in a two-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bray with just over six minutes to go in the 2011 Vanderbilt game, the 91,367 faithful on hand knew that the Vols had just come up with the game-tying score. What they didn’t know — what they couldn’t have known — was that they just witnessed the very last scoring strike between the two extraordinarily talented UT sophomores.

After all, how could they have? Bray and Rogers were so young. They had so much left in the tank. So much more to accomplish.

Fast forward 17 months and we’ve now learned something else about the duo that no one could have predicted on that brisk November night. Neither got his name called during the 2013 NFL draft. And I’m one of many left wondering how such promise has resulted in such disappointment.

It’s worth noting that both have already signed free agent contracts, Bray with Kansas City which many feel is a great situation given Andy Ried’s track record with developing quarterbacks, and Rogers with Buffalo, a team in desperate need of wide receivers. But it shouldn’t have come to that for either player. Both were projected to be drafted, a fact that had to have played into their decision to leave their respective schools a year early.

They were gonna get paid, but all they really got was a big-ass piece of humble pie.

Both Bray and Rogers have plenty of issues. We all know that. Still, there are always such players heading into each and every draft. And if they have enough talent, they’re typically selected anyway. And that’s sort of how I thought things would play out with both these guys. Namely, by the fourth or fifth round, someone would eventually take a chance on them. Because by then, there’s very little risk involved. No longer a huge cost (opportunity or literal) in rolling the dice on an immature gunslinger or the volatile beast who so often made him look even better than he was. At some point, the downside creeps to next-to-zero, yet the upside remains — two dudes with enough talent to be extremely serviceable NFL players.

So, why didn’t they get drafted?

Did they not interview well? I mean neither possesses a golden vocal. Particularly Bray who’s plenty articulate, but often sends out the wrong message. Example: when asked how he’d feel if he were relegated to carrying a clipboard in the NFL, he answered (paraphrasing) “That’s fine because it’d mean someone was paying me.”

Poor guy. I actually think he was trying to come across well with that answer. “Hey, that’d be fine with me.” But instead of ending it with “it’d just be a dream to end up on an NFL team,” he went with “straight cash, homey.” And that’s almost worse than the guy who’s intentionally answering like an oaf. The guy who actually thinks he’s answering the question the “right” way, but is unknowingly making a huge statement on who he really is. He tried to come off earnest, but instead came off as he has so often — as completely and totally Tyler-centric.

So maybe they both interviewed poorly. That’s certainly one theory out there.

Another is that Dooley was the agent that poisoned both wells via “character assassination.” Lord knows there were lots of Da’Rick stories floating around that addressed what happened last spring, as well as why, exactly, he and the Vols parted company shortly before the season kicked. And some of those rumors (um, the weight-room incident, anyone?) were damning, indeed. And it’s not like there’s ever been a shortage of Bray fodder, either. Beer bottles. Roofs. Jet skis. Good times.

So if Dooley really wanted to shout such stories from the NFL mountaintops, I’m certain they could have gotten the attention of many a GM. But would they have?

I have my doubts, primarily because I don’t believe Dooley enjoys that kind of influence. He’s not some highly regarded coach. He’s the privileged child of an SEC legend armed with little more than a reasonable knack for snappy soundbites and an overly domineering mother. He’s not the kind of guy people go to when they want the inside skinny. He’s the kind of guy people go to when they want someone to help them organize their office.

A petty micro-manager who spends more time thinking about concepts like year zero, shower etiquette and bench lengths of his opponents than he does trying to figure out how to actually connect with his players. So, me personally? I don’t think Dooley could poison a well with a bucket of anthrax.

But something obviously happened, and I’ll be willing to admit that I could easily be wrong about Dooley. Maybe he has more pull than I give him credit for.

But even if the guy had the reputation of Bill Walsh, could he really derail the NFL dreams of not one, but two of the most talented dudes to wear the orange in the past several years?

I understand Bray more than Da’Rick. After all, quarterback is a heady position. So I could see where teams would be leery of upsetting theirs. Which, when you think about it, kinda makes the relatively low opportunity cost of burning a fifth round pick on a Tyler Bray a bit higher than it might have been had he played another position. Plus, many scouts raised concerns about his footwork and mobility, so I guess I can sorta see why he remained on the board till the bitter end.

But Da’Rick? I’m no professional talent scout or anything, but my goodness was that guy ever a beast. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone wouldn’t have rolled the dice on him during the draft. Because if he can get it all in check, that dude could be one hell of an NFL player for years to come. That dude moves chains. No guarantees, obviously, especially given his noodle, but isn’t that why God created the 5th round?

So try as I may, I can’t solve the riddle of why, exactly, neither of these players got drafted. I just don’t know.

But I do know this: as much the snub says about both of them? It says even more about the state of the program where they both once played. More still, about the coaching staff that failed to do anything with them.

Which brings me back to the Dooley character assassination theory. Maybe he did tell any and everyone all the negative things he could think of about both Tyler Bray and Da’Rick Rogers.

You know. Without realizing what a horrible light he was casting himself in as well.


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facebook comments:

  • Norman Jacob

    I think I’ll actually miss Bray’s antics in Knoxville, if nothing else. With Butch Jones & Co. running a tight ship of a team, who’s going to keep us entertained in the off-season?