The 2012 NFL draft is desperate for quarterbacks after the decisions by Matt Barkley and Landry Jones to return to college for their senior seasons. Will Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M fill that gap in the first round?
Many are ready to elevate Tannehill to the first round based on this need at the position, but does his play actually warrant a first-round selection?
A former wide receiver, Tannehill brings athleticism to the position that few quarterbacks possess. This can be a positive and a negative, though.
Tannehill does have quick feet, which will aid in him making the transition to a drop-back quarterback once in the NFL, but he's also relying too often on his athleticism instead of his mechanics.
Tannehill will see comparisons to Tim Tebow as he's an able runner who made big plays as a designed runner in the Aggies' offense.
Tannehill is able to accurately deliver the football on intermediate, crossing and short routes to the flats. He throws a very catchable pass that has good placement with the receiver running both left and right. What I didn't see, at all, was deep accuracy.
Tannehill doesn't push the ball upfield often, and when he did the ball was underthrown with poor accuracy leading the receiver to the boundary. This will be an area that is scrutinized when scouts can dictate which throws Tannehill is making.
ARM STRENGTH: 6.5
Tannehill showed good arm strength—better than I expected. He's able to get the ball to the sideline from midfield, but he's also not throwing the ball deep often at all. While we didn't see the deep ball, Tannehill's velocity is good. The ball pops out with good spin and nice trajectory.
Tannehill will need a full work-up at the Senior Bowl to see just how strong his arm is vertically. There is a delayed hitch in his motion (shown below) that if cleaned up could improve his arm strength down field.
DECISION MAKING: 5.5
Overall: Check down. Check down. Check down. Sideline into coverage.
This is commonplace in the A&M offense. Only Landry Jones threw more checkdowns in a three-game charting this season. Tannehill doesn't look deep, he's not asked to make reads and he's not ready to step up to the line in the NFL and decipher where to put the football.
Anyone expecting this player to be a rookie starter needs to take a long look at what he actually does in this offense.
FIELD VISION: 5.5
In three games I saw Tannehill check off the No. 1 read five times. He comes out of center, looks at the free safety, finds his read and throws the ball. The A&M offense may be asking him to make one read (free safety) and deliver the ball from where he's lining up, and if so this is a very remedial offense.
Tannehill will need work—as most young quarterbacks do—at reading the defense. Unlike other quarterbacks in this class, Tannehill has half the time devoted to the position that they do. His learning curve will be high.
You will hear mention many times to the fact that Tannehill formerly played wide receiver. Many people mention this as a positive, but to me it's a current problem. Tannehill has just 1.5 seasons as a quarterback under his belt, and his mechanics show this.
Tannehill has a wasted motion in his throw, which I'll break down here.
See how his elbow is dropped down below his breast-line in this image? That's not where you want an elbow or the angle you want a shoulder at for throwing a football.
Same play, this is the next motion from Tannehill. He's dropping his elbow and then bringing it back up. This causes not only a delay that NFL cornerbacks will jump on, but added stress on the shoulder. This has to be fixed quickly in the NFL.
POCKET PRESENCE: 7.0
When you hear a mobile quarterback you automatically think someone who will tuck and run at the first sign of trouble, but that's not the case with Tannehill. He stands tall in the pocket and moves his feet very well coming out of center and shotgun sets.
He isn't pressured much as A&M moves him around on designed waggles and bootlegs. Through three games I found very little evidence of him handling pressure in his face. This play was encouraging because Tannehill felt the pressure bending around him and made a good move to step up in the pocket and give himself a run-pass opportunity. This is what scouts will need to see.
Tannehill doesn't live up to the hype some are handing him on my report. I see him more as a late second-rounder who could move up with a great showing at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
Tannehill does many things well, but he doesn't do any one thing perfect and is more a product of the system and routes around him than anything else. In three games I didn't see Tannehill break outside the system to make a play. He makes his predetermined reads and executes. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but NFL coaches want players who can think for themselves on the field.
NFL Comparison: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills
Tannehill will utlimately grade out as more athletic than Fitzpatrick, but the two are very similar. Both work in an offense built on timing and zone routes, and they do well in this system. Neither player has great arm strength, but gets by with catchable passes and an ability to execute under pressure.
Like Fitzpatrick, Tannehill will need time to develop into an NFL starter and will need exceptional talent around him at wide receiver. If his receivers cannot get open and sit down in zones, Tannehill is not the type of quarterback to throw his receivers open or push the ball vertically.