Tebow may be out of Patriots' range

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick isn't known for dishing out inside information, but he answered one significant question last week when it came to the New England Patriots' potential interest in lightning-rod University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

Some have speculated that Tebow could thrive as a tight end/H-back type in New England, noting that a creative football mind like Belichick might do wonders with him. But the Patriots' coach uncharacteristically showed his hand last week by indicating that isn't on his radar.

"I've met and talked to Tim on a number of occasions; obviously we didn't talk about pro football when he was still in college, but now that he's eligible for the draft, we talked to him about being a professional quarterback," Belichick said Wednesday at his pre-draft news conference.

The key words, of course, were professional quarterback.

For a coach who often says a lot without truly saying anything at all, it's somewhat surprising that Belichick's remarks -- given the passionate debate that swirls around Tebow -- haven't generated more traction.

If Belichick isn't playing a game of pre-draft poker and the Patriots truly have evaluated Tebow as only a quarterback and not some gadget option on offense, it would add crucial context to the question of whether New England would seriously consider drafting Tebow.

One would have to think the answer is "no" based on several factors.

First and foremost is Tebow's current draft status.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock rates Tebow as the No. 3 quarterback in the draft behind Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen. That projection, coupled with chatter from NFL types like Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll who view Tebow as a first-round pick, make it look as if the Patriots will have just one shot to land Tebow at No. 22 overall.

Considering the Patriots' more pressing needs elsewhere, starting with outside linebacker and defensive end, taking Tebow at No. 22 is a luxury the team seemingly can't afford.

Mayock pointed to the Minnesota Vikings as a possible landing spot for Tebow. The Vikings figure to have quarterback Brett Favre back in 2010, which would make Tebow a solid developmental fit.

"At No. 30, the question they have to ask is, 'Is Tim Tebow a starting quarterback in one or two years?' If you answer that question 'yes,' I think you have to pull the trigger at 30," Mayock said.

Mayock believes that a player with Tebow's intangibles is worth taking a chance on, with a key consideration that he has the physical ability to play quarterback. While comparing his mechanical issues to those of Vince Young when he was coming out of Texas in 2006, Mayock said he'd be willing to bet that Tebow will be a starting quarterback in the NFL in two to three years.

With Tom Brady hoping to play another eight years, it's hard to see where he'd be a fit for the Patriots.

So how has it gotten to this point?

It seems to be one big game of connect-the-dots. Tebow has spoken about how much he's enjoyed his friendship with Belichick. … In turn, Belichick has often praised Tebow. … The Patriots have four selections within the first 53 of the draft, which gives them an opportunity to think outside the box. … Belichick has a creative mind and values a player's versatility. … The Patriots have a solid structure in place that would allow Tebow to thrive.

Put it all together, and that might best explain why Tebow's name has been attached to the Patriots as often as to any other team.

The gasoline on the fire came when the normally secretive Patriots, who had worked out Tebow with other Florida prospects privately, hosted him on a pre-draft visit and took him to the very public North End. One wonders whether Belichick had a good chuckle at the firestorm that caused.

"I think he's got real good ability; I don't think there's any question about that," Belichick said last week. "His record speaks for itself. He's an outstanding football player and an outstanding person."

If nothing else, the fireworks that resulted from the Patriots-Tebow connection have spiced up the weeks and months leading up to the draft.

But at this point, based on Tebow's draft status coming into sharper focus and the Patriots' pressing needs elsewhere, Tebow's landing in New England seems like a long shot.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.