Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 4/6/12
Considering the respective decisions of Matt Barkley and Landry Jones to forego the 2012 NFL Draft for their senior seasons (not to mention the fact that quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are projected to be taken with the first two picks), it’s pretty clear that signal-callers are going at a premium this year. As a result, many draft gurus have already raised the player they believe to be the next-best quarterback — namely, Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill — into the late-first round based solely upon many teams’ needs at this position. However, the question remains: does his play actually merit a selection in the first round? 
For starters, most of Tannehill’s time at College Station was spent catching passes rather than throwing them — in other words, he has only played one-and-a-half seasons under center after 19 starts in the NCAA. And because of a broken foot that’s kept him off the field since January, he hasn't been able to practice or demonstrate the sort of improvement that the Tennessee Titans’ Jake Locker managed to show at the Senior Bowl, the 2011 Combine and Pro Day.
At the moment, however, Tannehill is currently the “hot” name going into this Draft due to the fact that he’s the next available quarterback. Despite the question marks surrounding him, it seems as if many teams are considering selecting him with their first-round pick. Significantly, though, the disparity in experience and development between he and the two quarterbacks above him isn’t exactly a small one.
  Ryan Tannehill: The Vitals Height: 6’3”

Weight: 221 lbs.

Position: Quarterback

School: Texas A&M

Class: Senior  
College Production/Stats As a wide receiver in 2009, Tannehill caught 46 passes for almost 609 yards. He first played his current position, though, when the Aggies’ original starter, Jerrod Johnson, was injured during the seventh game of the 2010 season. Tannehill subsequently led Texas A&M to a 5-1 record to finish the season, and he was then rostered as the team’s starting quarterback for 2011.
The next year, he threw for 3,744 passing yards with 15 INTs and 29 TDs. He also demonstrated a great amount of athleticism that season, recording 306 yards on the ground and 4 rushing TDs. Although Tannehill inarguably displayed many instances of potential upside during his time with the Aggies, he also demonstrated an unnerving propensity for inconsistency, with a very modest completion percentage (62 percent) and occasional periods of flaky play. During his 1.5 seasons as a signal caller, Tannehill ended his career with 5,450 passing yards, 42 TDs and 21 interceptions.
  Strengths A converted receiver, one of Tannehill’s most valuable assets is the amount of  athleticism that he’s able to bring to the position — he has swift feet and an elusiveness that very few quarterbacks possess. This will likely assist him greatly in his inevitable transformation to the role of a drop-back quarterback on Sundays.
As a passer, Tannehill can competently and accurately deliver the ball to his receivers when they’re running intermediate, short and crossing routes to the flats. Overall, his passes are catchable and he demonstrates nice placement with his receivers when they’re running in either lateral direction. His arm strength is also good — it’s NFL-worthy, in fact, and it surpasses many expectations, but it’s not at an elite level. And though he hasn’t demonstrated any true command of the deep ball, scouts have noted that Tannehill’s velocity is pretty good, with a nice amount of spin and good trajectory.
Analysts have also observed that Tannehill possesses good pocket presence. He’s a mobile quarterback, but he also stands confidently in the pocket, and he displays good footwork during center and shotgun sets. Additionally, he’s been known to feel defensive pressure bearing down on him and make good moves to step up in the pocket, which better enables him to make run-pass decisions.
On the move, Tannehill is an asset to his team. As we mentioned earlier, he possesses excellent mobility for his size, which may not exactly be news considering his time as a wide receiver. The Aggies regularly used him in play-fake bootlegs running to either side of the formation to take advantage of his athleticism — and while he clearly won't be able to shoot the corner as easily versus NFL-level defenders, Tannehill is swift enough to grab some yardage when the lanes clear out in man coverage. Scouts have also commented that, while he flushes a bit early under pressure, he displays good instincts by looking for downfield targets when he gets into the open field.
  Weaknesses At this point in his quarterbacking career, Tannehill has shown that he can be a questionable decision-maker, having already forced far too many throws into coverage (21 INTs in 1.5 seasons) during his brief tenure as a signal caller. Looking at a 3-game charting run by scouts in 2011, only Landry Jones was observed to throw more check-downs. Critics have also noted that he often fails to look deep, and that he wasn’t asked to make reads at Texas A&M. As a result, many scouts have expressed a great deal of doubt regarding his readiness to take snaps on Sunday, and no small amount of misgivings that he can correctly determine where to put the football.
When he does fling the rock downfield, Tannehill hasn’t yet displayed an incredible amount of deep accuracy. Generally speaking, he didn’t make up-field pushes on the ball often during his collegiate career, and those times that he did, observers have reported the ball was underthrown with bad accuracy that led his targets out to the boundaries. His motion also purportedly contains a delayed hitch that, if rectified, could significantly improve his arm strength in the downfield department. 
Also, Tannehill will need to work with reading NFL defensive formations, as most rookies do. But unlike the other quarterbacks in this draft class, Tannehill has roughly half the amount of experience at the position. Thus, his learning curve will be steep as he tries to improve at reading defenses while simultaneously learning to work through sub-par mechanics, instead of relying so heavily on his athletic abilities. 
To a lesser extent, Tannehill’s height and slight build should arouse some durability concerns. While he’s a tough and athletic player, he also opens himself up to far too many downfield hits during zone-read plays and scrambles; in short, he really needs to learn to take what his blockers give him and slide. Observers say he also needs to place a higher priority on ball security, and learn to decide when to throw the ball away.
  Potential Landing Spots Right now, it seems as if the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles have all ostensibly expressed interest in Tannehill. While he reportedly has attended private workouts with both the Chiefs and Eagles, the Browns and Dolphins really appear to be the more probable landing spots for him.
Of course, the least likely destination for Tannehill seems to be the Philadelphia Eagles — some commentators believe that Michael Vick requires a competitive environment like the one he had with Kevin Kolb to be at the top of his game. And knowing how explosive his play style can be, it’s possible that the Eagles may be seeking a legitimate, extremely athletic backup who can be a more complete player than say… Vince Young, for instance. Analysts have noted that Andy Reid likes to develop young quarterbacks as well. Again, however, this scenario seems ultimately unlikely unless Tannehill somehow slips into the second round.  
By contrast, it seems as though the Miami Dolphins have been frustrated at every turn in their efforts to acquire a new starting quarterback. Assuming that they’re less comfortable with Matt Moore and David Garrard than they have recently claimed to be, Miami may feel obliged to move up in the Draft and grab Tannehill — especially considering former Aggies Head Coach Mike Sherman, and his presence as the team’s new Offensive Coordinator.
If they really want to lock their chances of drafting him, though, the Dolphins may need to leapfrog Cleveland at No. 4, which would mean working out a deal with the Minnesota Vikings for the No. 3 spot. And if the Browns are less satisfied with Colt McCoy than they say, the team will likewise want to trade with Minnesota to keep the Dolphins from moving ahead.

In the end, though, it’s still unclear as to whether either team values Tannehill enough to trade up for him. Very few draft gurus would say that he’s anywhere near the third-best player in the Draft; however, the price for a young quarterback hasn’t ever been at a higher level. In other words, don’t be surprised one (or both) of these teams has already sent feelers to the Vikings about trading up for that No. 3 pick.
  Draft Projection Late First/Early Second Round: In almost every conceivable scenario, Tannehill is guaranteed to be the 3rd QB off the board. The difference in experience between Tannehill and RGII, though, is more like a gaping chasm than a small gap; but even given this, it seems that a team may reach and make him a top-10 (or even top-five) pick.
  NFL Comparison At the most superficial level, Tannehill is likely to draw comparisons to Tim Tebow, because he's a gifted runner who made big plays on the ground in the Aggies' offense. At another level, though, some scouts have said he’s closer to the Buffalo Bills’ Ryan Fitzpatrick — while Tannehill will ultimately rank as being more athletic than Fitzpatrick, the two quarterbacks nonetheless are very similar.
He and Fitzpatrick have both played in offenses constructed around timing and zone routes, and both have flourished under such systems. Neither of them possesses particularly good arm strength, but they both manage to perform by flinging catchable passes and can make plays happen under pressure. And like Fitzpatrick, it’s clear that Tannehill won’t necessarily be an NFL starter right away, and he’ll definitely need to be surrounded by some exceptional wide receivers to realize his full potential under center.

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