It’s almost certain Ryan Tannehill will be a top 10 pick in this year’s NFL Draft. I am one of those firmly opposed to this and have stated publicly on multiple occasions that I believe Ryan Tannehill is as overinflated this year as Mark Sanchez was in 2009. Here’s my argument as to why.
1. Tannehill is not a franchise quarterback
When you take a player this high in the draft, your first question must be whether or not their talent transcends them to “franchise” status. With Tannehill, not only is the talent not there but not even his upside projects him as a true franchise quarterback. There’s nothing about this kid that is elite by any quarterback standard nor does he have the much maligned “intangibles” that are sought after. I’ll be elaborating on this as we continue but I wanted it clear just exactly what is needed for this pick to be worth it.
2. Tannehill will never pay back the value of a top 10 pick
Let’s be clear – a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft is more valuable now than it has ever been thanks to the new CBA which drastically reduces what players drafted high will be paid. Look at the Redskins at number 2 for example – the quarterback they take is expected to cost only $4 million or so against the cap in the first year.
Many of Tannehill’s supporters will use this as a way to support their argument that Tannehill should be drafted high because he’s more affordable. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that because of the reduced rookie salaries, draft picks have so much more value now. Teams looking to trade up can do so knowing that the player they trade up for will not cost quite so much and as such the draft day value of the pick itself will easily outweigh the value of Tannehill.
Any team looking at Ryan Tannehill in the top 10 must consider this – wouldn’t they be better off taking the value of the pick either by choosing a player worthy of that pick or trading down and getting a quarterback elsewhere?
3. Ryan Tannehill wasn’t projected as a top 10 pick until recently
It wasn’t so long ago that scouts and commentators alike were projecting Tannehill to be in the late first round to early second round mix alongside players like Brandon Weeden. There is only one reason Tannehill is now projected to go in the top 10 – because the value of quarterbacks in the NFL has been grossly inflated by the explosion of the passing game in recent years.
There’s something that puzzles me about this part of the argument for Tannehill being in the top 10 – he deserves to be there because a bunch of other players in the NFL have excelled so he should too? This is the most ridiculous part of this particular debate. Unfortunately, it’s also the most relevant. At the end of the day, NFL teams are desperate to bring their teams up to par because when you get left behind in this game it can take a long time to get back. Truth be told – a lot of Tannehill’s current draft value is based on bad logic such as this.
4. Tannehill is not a closer
This is one of the biggest detriments to Ryan Tannehill’s game – his inability in college to get his team up and lead them to victory. There are multiple examples from his time with Texas A&M – chief among these being the losses against Arkansas and Oklahoma State – where the Aggies had a decent lead and they blew it. In the NFL, protecting a lead is one of the most important functions of a quarterback and there are many quarterbacks who have never reached that elite status simply because they are perceived to lack “heart”.
The best of these quarterbacks arguably is Tony Romo — a pretty darn good quarterback but one that no-one would call elite simply because he can’t close. In this respect, getting a Tony Romo would be viewed as pretty good by some but we are only looking at one aspect of Tannehill’s play here and that we are comparing him to Romo only based on Romo’s biggest weakness.
There is another quarterback who lacked that clutch instinct who was drafted higher than Tannehill will be but got there through rising rapidly up draft boards — JaMarcus Russell. How’s that for downside.
5. Athletic ability will only get you so far in the NFL
Ryan Tannehill is a very good athlete – no denying that. On a good day he could probably run a 4.5 40 – although we don’t know that for certain as he missed the combine with a foot injury – and to begin his time with Texas A&M he was a top receiving threat in their offensive system which is an obvious indication that he has the athletic ability. We also saw this multiple times with his quarterback play. The problem is that this alone won’t push him to elite status.
6. Tannehill will not be a starter straight away
Is this a massive problem? The answer should be no given that not all top talent is when first arriving in the NFL. Again, this comes down to where the player is picked and the expectation of what that pick could produce.
If a player isn’t going to be ready for the NFL straight away, you must be prepared to correct him. Jake Locker was picked high despite needing time to improve his accuracy and mental stamina. The difference with Locker was that he was picked to play backup for a year or two behind Matt Hasselbeck and that nearly extended to three or four when the Titans chose to pursue Peyton Manning.
By contrast, you look at Blaine Gabbert. One thing was obvious when Gabbert came out – he’s an incredibly talented quarterback but has rough edges that need a little time. Unfortunately he wasn’t properly protected and the Jaguars chose to throw him to the wolves in year one. You saw the result – incredibly ugly play and now the Jags are in a position where they may be in possession of the next David Carr.
Tannehill isn’t going to be ready straight away – that’s blatantly obvious. He needs to do a lot of work on his inside passing game, his clutch decision making and so on. He may have looked good when it came to making all the throws and drops at his pro day but this is just a show to display potential – it is not what will make him a good NFL quarterback.
Whichever team takes Tannehill must be prepared that he may need 2-3 years to develop and there’s no guarantee that after this time they will have a quarterback that will pay back the value of their pick.
7. Should a top 10 pick overall quarterback have only 20 starts in college?
Tannehill’s experience level in college was too small a sample for many. The most important thing about playing quarterback at college level is not learning the fundamentals of throwing mechanics – although this is very important – but rather it gives a quarterback time to learn about and get used to the mental pressures of the position. Quarterback is one of the most cerebral positions on a football field and ranks right up there with inside linebacker in terms of the requirement to have football intelligence.
No, this is not a wonderlic argument – although I’d be interested to know what Tannehill’s score was – but rather an indictment of the fact that Tannehill doesn’t have the college experience to have developed the mental toughness required to play quarterback in the NFL. Could he turn out to be perfectly fine mentally? Sure. My question is – how can we be comfortably sure of that when he’s only had 20 starts in college?
8. Tannehill failed to perform against top college talent in his senior year
In 2011, Tannehill faced five of the best teams in college football – Kansas State, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Wanna take a guess at what his record was in those games? Unfortunately for Agiie fans, the record against these top teams was 0-5.
Ok, so he lost to good teams. He still played well right? Well I’ll let you be the judge – how does 132/241, 1369 yards, 9 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 111.4 passer rating sound? That’s right – Tannehill stunk in these games overall.
A quick note for those unaware of how college stats can differ from the NFL – a 111.4 passer rating may sound good in the NFL but in college ranks it won’t make the top 100 although to counter this Tannehill’s overall college rating was 133.2 which while better still ranked him outside the top 50 overall. Anyway, I digress.
9. Tannehill’s mediocre college numbers are even worse than they look
First of all, here are those numbers — 327/531, 3,744 yards, 29 TDs, 15 INTs, 61.6%, 7.05YPA, 133.2 QBR
In terms of overall college numbers, these are kinda pathetic. Yes, I know that a quarterback’s numbers can be a result of the system he plays in. However, this is a top 10 overall pick we are discussing here and as such the numbers must be brought into it no matter what the context.
What makes these numbers worse is when you break down the games that Tannehill played. For example, on only six occasions did Tannehill break 300 in 2011. Of these, only half were 330+ and only one – the blowout against Baylor – was over 400. Speaking of the Baylor game, this was where he contributed 6 of his 2011 TDs and at no other point did he score more than 3 in a game.
We have heard about how Tannehill had some terrific college performances and he did. However, the biggest performances have beefed up his stats and hide from us the honest truth – that overall Tannehill was nowhere near being a top performer in college.
10. Am I the only one seeing all these red flags?
To finish, I’d like to go back to the JaMarcus Russell comparison for a moment. In 2007, Russell shot up draft boards based on how athletic he looked but those who were talking him up were ignoring the fact that he was a poor decision maker, a bit of a headcase and wasn’t exactly in the best of shape.
Ryan Tannehill is not JaMarcus Russell – not by any means. However, there are obvious red flags here that everyone appears to be ignoring. Let’s look over what has been discussed here – he lacks experience at college level, his ability to complete passes over the middle is highly questionable and he has displayed an inability in college game situations to hold a lead or make that “clutch” play that is so necessary in today’s NFL.
There’s just too many reasons to question Tannehill’s value as a top 10 pick. Whoever takes him will be taking a massive risk and I hope for their sake that somehow it pays off. Mark me down as one of those who thinks that drafting Ryan Tannehill early is a massive mistake.
Do you agree or disagree? Be sure to vote in our poll and as usual you can contact me on Twitter @chrissmithsz or make a comment below.