Get used to hearing these statements over the next few weeks:
Ryan Tannehill started his college career as a wide receiver.
Ryan Tannehill has only started 19 college football games as a quarterback.
Ryan Tannehill’s upside is superior to every quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft not named Luck or RG3.
But also prepare yourself to hear this: “With the (enter numbers 5-10th) pick in the NFL Draft the (enter franchise desperate for a QB) select Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Texas A&M.”
Regardless of where Tannehill ranks among the best players in the 2012 NFL Draft class, there is an immeasurable amount of importance placed upon the quarterback position in the NFL, and because of that, names like Gabbert, Ponder and Locker flew off the Draft Board much earlier than expected last year. That trend won’t end this year.
If you told Ryan Tannehill that NFL teams would be comparing him to Ed McCaffery at this point in 2010 he probably would have blushed. Fast forward two years and Tannehill is drawing comparisons to the elite passers in the NFL. His rise isn’t unprecedented but it’s not something a team drafting in the top-10 should be completely comfortable with either.
Joe Flacco entered his senior year at Delaware as a “player to watch” for the 2008 Draft. After leading his team to the 2007 D1-AA National Championship game, Flacco gained momentum toward the end of the season and solidified his status as the second best QB in his class behind USC’s Mark Sanchez. The difference between Flacco and Tannehill is experience.
Flacco realized he wasn’t going to be given an opportunity to compete for the starting spot at Pittsburgh because coach Dave Wannstedt was enamored with incumbent Tyler Palko. He transferred to Delaware and almost instantly became an NFL prospect due to his size, arm strength and ability to make quick reads. The number of defenses Flacco had broken down before reaching the NFL wasn’t an issue when Draft Day rolled around.
Back to Tannehill. His physical attributes are obvious. He has the ideal size GMs are looking for with athletic ability to spare. He can “make every throw” necessary, one of the most overrated statements Draft pundits consistently make this time of year. (Show me an NFL quarterback that can’t make every throw. Imagine an offensive coordinator calling a play, only to have the QB wave his arms up at the booth, screaming “No, no, no!!! I can’t make that throw. Remember?”) He played his college ball in a major conference but not necessarilly against the best defensive competition in the country. The best Big 12 defense in 2011 was arguably Oklahoma, who was nowhere near the top-25 nationally. Nebraska, who consistently paced the conference on the defensive side of the ball over the past five years, moved onto the Big Ten, leaving a physically noticable void within the Big 12. Tannehill’s biggest win last season came against RG3 and Baylor, when he threw 6 TDs against 1 INT. That performance alone probably gave a few GMs enough confidence to select him with their first pick this April but what followed should give them reason for concern.
Losses in four of his last five regular season college games should put doubt in the minds of any team in the mix for a QB in this year’s Draft. His basic lack of experience against non-Swiss cheese defenses, along with relatively poor performances against Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma, should also give any team looking to make Tannehill their franchise QB reason to second guess him.
Generally only one -sometimes two- quarterbacks from a given Draft class prevail at the NFL level. Given the fact that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have been labeled “can’t-miss prospects” why would any NFL general manager basically put their job on the line and draft Ryan Tannehill, a 19-game starting project from a Texas A&M squad that had everything in place to win at least ten games during his final season?
Your guess is as good as mine.