The Bills are quickly approaching their limit of pre-draft visitors at One Bills Drive as they hosted four more on Thursday. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, along with Rice TE Vance McDonald and Fresno State S Phillip Thomas were in Orchard Park meeting coaches and touring the facility.
Bray is one of the many signal callers that Buffalo has been tracking in advance of the 2013 NFL draft. Buffalo was in attendance at the Tennessee pro day on March 20th and held a private workout with Bray and a few of his Volunteer teammates last weekend.
A highly recruited prospect out of California, Bray rivals N.C. State’s Mike Glennon when it comes to arm strength in this year’s quarterback class. At 6-6 and now 232 pounds after putting on added muscle during pre-draft training, Bray possesses a good deal of potential. By most accounts however, he’s a work in progress.
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Some argue that Bray would’ve benefited from another year in college, but with the coaching change at Tennessee and a new offensive system coming in, which included the need for a mobile quarterback, Bray thought it best to forgo his senior season.
Strictly a pocket quarterback, Bray can stretch a defense with his arm, but his completion percentage for his career at Tennessee never got above 60 percent (58.6%). Bray’s junior season was his best as he completed 59.4 percent of his passes for just over 3,600 yards with 34 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.
“I feel I’m ready,” said Bray. “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.”
Bray has been questioned by NFL talent evaluators for his maturity after an August 2012 jet ski incident in which he was charged with reckless operation of a personal watercraft. He was also linked to a vandalism incident at his apartment complex last summer.
“I’ve grown up,” said Bray. “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.”
One of Bray’s top receiving targets, Cordarrelle Patterson joined Bray at One Bills Drive Thursday. On a very talented receiving corps, Patterson is considered the cream of the Volunteer crop despite just one year of major college football at Tennessee after he transferred from Hutchinson Community College in 2012.
All Patterson did last season was set a Tennessee record for the most all-purpose yardage in a single season with 1,858. He set a single-season SEC record averaging better than 27 yards (27.6) combined on kickoff and punt returns for the Vols. He also had two returns for touchdowns.
He has the strength to power through arm tackles and box out defenders and is extremely elusive once the ball is in his hands. Patterson finished 2012 with 46 receptions for 778 yards and five scores.
It wasn’t Patterson’s intention to leave school after just one year, but much like Bray, the coaching change was a major factor.
“I didn’t expect it to be a one year and done (at Tennessee) but we had all those coaching changes, and everything was getting a little bit crazy so I just wanted to get out of there,” he said.
With only one year of major college experience Patterson is seen by most NFL scouts as a great physical talent that just needs some polish. Even Patterson knows what he has to work on.
“My route running,” he said. “I know sometimes I get slack on my route running, and learning the coverages. I just have to get better with that.”
“When you get ‘CP’ the ball, he’s going to make guys miss, he’s going to score touchdowns,” said Bray of his former college teammate. “He’s improved his route running, too. That was a big question on his part, and he’s worked hard.”
With a 4.33 40-time at the NFL Combine, Patterson (6’2”, 216) is widely forecast to be the first receiver off the board on April 25th.
Buffalo also hosted Rice TE Vance McDonald. A consensus All-Conference USA performer, McDonald (6’4”, 267) is a natural athlete that was a reliable weapon in the Owls’ passing attack.
He finished his college career with 120 receptions for 1,513 yards and 15 touchdowns. Blessed with big hands and a wide frame, McDonald is an aggressive blocker and put together a solid week at the Senior Bowl.
“It was a great way to get my name out since I don't go to one of the big universities,” said McDonald. “It was a great platform, as is the Combine.”
After running a 4.6 40-time at the Combine, NFL scouts went back to the tape.
Working mainly detached in the slot his junior season, McDonald was in line as a true tight end more as a senior, which he believes helped to show his ability to play the position in a more traditional way.
“That was the thing that people had concern over, was 'can this guy be in an in-line blocker and the move from slot to tight end this year certainly helped my status in a lot of people's book,” said McDonald. “Senior year, it certainly turned around.”
McDonald is projected as a second or third round pick.
Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas was also in the building Thursday. Thomas (6’1” 208) is a free safety prospect, who was a finalist for the Thorpe award with Alabama’s Dee Milliner and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks.
Thomas was a takeaway artist in his time with the Bulldogs posting 20 turnovers in his college career, 13 of which were interceptions. Eight of those INTs came in 2012 when he led the nation in picks. He also had six forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Thomas returned three of his eight interceptions last season for touchdowns. A physical hitter with solid football instincts, the centerfielder is always around the ball.
His game speed is said to be better than his timed speed after he ran a 4.57 40 time at the Combine. Thomas also had a 35-inch vertical and 10’2” broad jump. He additionally had 14 reps on the bench press.
A broken leg and dislocated ankle robbed him of his 2011 season, but to rebound in the fashion he did in 2012 has Thomas projected as a second or third round pick.