In the 2012 NFL Draft class, there are two quarterbacks who stand above the rest: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. There is a significant drop off after those two in my opinion. Many feel the next best quarterback would be Ryan Tannehill. In fact, experts have Tannehill as a top 10 talent, especially after his pro day. I, however, feel that taking Tannehill with such a high draft pick could be dangerous.
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There is no doubt Tannehill is athletic, continuing the recent trend of mobile quarterbacks being taken high. He has an ideal size for a quarterback in terms of his height and build. He has a strong grasp of playing offense after spending time at receiver for Texas A&M. His time at wide receiver displays a team first attitude after being a highly recruited quarterback coming out of high school. Spending two years at wide receiver though limited his time under center, however, as he only spent one full season as starting quarterback. Tannehill accumulated a total of 15 starts at Texas A&M. This reminds me a lot of Mark Sanchez, who spent one full season as starter in a pro-style offense at USC before entering the NFL Draft. Tannehill will be entering after playing in Mike Sherman’s spread offense. If Sanchez has struggled in the league after being coached by Pete Carroll, how will Tannehill far coming out of this offense? Another concern could be Tannehill’s throwing motion. I’m not a fan of his throwing motion as it’s not always consistent; it changes when from time to time, somewhat like Phillip Rivers does. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. Most concerning to me is Tannehill’s ability, or lack thereof, to lead a team in big games. Sure, Tannehill was largely responsible for A&M’s strong finish in 2010, but the Aggies entered 2011 as a top ten team and ended up disappointing several times. As NFL.com’s Charles Davis points out, Tannehill threw more interceptions than touchdowns against the five best teams A&M faced and the Aggies lost each time.
To quote Davis: “Tannehill only completed 54.7 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions… Tannehill didn’t make enough plays from the pocket to help his team take those competitive battles. Whether it was a critical interception or a poor throw on a pivotal third down, Tannehill appeared to come up short when it mattered most.”
Skills: When you look at the guy, you can see why Tannehill ran a 4.58 40 yard dash at his pro day; he’s built well with plenty of muscle, which most likely stems from his days as a wide receiver. Tannehill showed grit by coming back from a January foot injury to make up for lost time at the NFL Combine and Senior Bowl with his performance at his pro day. He has a strong arm which allows him to make tight accurate throws even while on the run. It’s strong enough to make the deep passes needed from an NFL quarterback. Even when throwing off his back foot, Tannehill’s arm can get the ball where it needs to be. He has a confident gunslinger-type attitude, which many teams want in their quarterback. On top of this, Tannehill is smart, having made the Academic All-Big 12 first team. All of these are pluses for Tannehill which give him a lot of upside. There is no doubt he is talented, the question is simply whether or not he is ready for the NFL. His decision-making can be questionable sometimes, but the argument could be made that this comes from his having to play from behind a lot and forcing throws. He can be rattled sometimes when under pressure, but who wouldn’t be with barely over one full season as a starter?
Final thought: The point is, Tannehill has plenty of potential and could develop into a good starting quarterback. To consider him a top ten player is a bit too much though. This is not like last year in which I thought Ryan Mallett was a highly overrated quarterback who did not deserve to be drafted in the first round. I can see why there is intrigue in Tannehill as a first round quarterback, just not in the top ten. I wish him well and could be proven wrong, but my belief is if he is drafted that high by a team like Cleveland or Miami, he may be set up to fail. I’ll leave with this: In the 2005 NFL Draft, a smart, mobile, six-foot-four-inch quarterback from a similar offense was selected first overall. His name was Alex Smith. Many critics think Smith’s struggles are linked to his “small hands.” Well, Tannehill’s hands measured smaller at the NFL Combine than Smith’s in 2005. You be the judge.