Breaking Down Areas Where Ryan Tannehill Has Surpassed Rookie Expectations

Scott AltmanCorrespondent IOctober 17, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 14:  Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins throws the ball against the St. Louis Rams at Sun Life Stadium on October 14, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

This summer, pundits debated ad nauseum whether Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III would enjoy a more fruitful NFL career. 

Lingering in the background was Miami Dolphins first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill, whom analysts (myself included) deemed unworthy of a top 10 selection. Hence, he didn't even earn entry into the conversation. With only 19 starts and two years of quarterback play under his belt, Tannehill was an unprecedented gamble and his resume paled in comparison to those of Luck and Griffin. 

Yet, six weeks into the regular season, Tannehill has indeed played his way into this conversation. 

Although his numbers aren't on par with Griffin's—but, then again, neither are those of most NFL QBs—and he doesn't have a "signature drive" like the one Luck constructed against the Green Bay Packers in Week 5, Tannehill is equal with his counterparts in the most important category: wins. 

Despite playing with the weakest supporting cast of the three, Tannehill has led the Dolphins to three wins, which puts him on par with Griffin and ahead of Luck. 

As each week passes, Tannehill asserts himself as a more deserving part of the ever-raging 2012 NFL Draft Class quarterback debate, and it's because he has managed to surpass the expectations analysts set for him prior to the season. 


1. Composure Under Pressure

What the scouts said: 

Does force too many throws, typically when protection fails and scrambling room runs out...Does not have a natural feel in the pocket as this point though. Needs to show more poise and vacates the pocket too quickly.

--Scouts Inc., ESPN

Can be rattled by the blitz — eyes drop to pressure. Seldom steps up in the pocket. Ball placement is inconsistent.

--Pro Football Weekly

Ryan Tannehill isn't just staying composed under pressure, he's the NFL's most efficient quarterback under pressure. According to Pro Football Focus, Tannehill has a league-best 86.0 accuracy percentage under pressure and a second-best 62.3 completion percentage under pressure. 

As this Week 5 completion to Charles Clay displays, Tannehill is not afraid to take a hit and he can sling the ball into the tightest of windows with defensive linemen in his face. 


2. Pro Readiness

What the scouts said: 

"I have him rated as the 19th best player in the draft, which tells you I don't think he's ready to be a heavy contributor this year."

--Mike Mayock

Tannehill has only displayed for one year that he has the arm and decision-making at quarterback to start in the NFL. He did a lot to dispel concerns in his senior year, but he will need to continue to develop and likely won't be a starting option as a rookie.

This was easily the biggest knock on Tannehill entering the draft.

Only two starting quarterbacks—Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez—started fewer collegiate games than Tannehill. Such inexperience made him a long shot to earn a starting job. And remember, he arrived late to training camp and came in as Miami's No. 3 quarterback. 


Thanks to his mastery of Mike Sherman's system, on-field poise and an untimely injury to David Garrard, Tannehill was able to win the starting role and has since played well beyond his years. Despite his inexperience, he picked up a road win in Week 5 and wasn't rattled by Arizona's hostile crowd in Week 4. 


3. Clutch & Consistency

What the scouts said: 

 Streaky performer — flustered by onset of adversity and too often did not come through  in the clutch.

--Pro Football Weekly

In 2011, the Texas A&M Aggies blew four double-digit leads in the second half, so this criticism was most definitely warranted. 

But you can't pin all of those collapses on Tannehill—especially considering Mike Sherman was his head coach. Some of Sherman's fourth quarter play-calling this season has been very suspect—though it has improved as of late—so maybe he should be the one under the microscope for those collapses. 

Although Tannehill hasn't been particularly impressive in the fourth quarter thus far, he hasn't been particularly bad either. And, for what it's worth, the Dolphins fended off late fourth quarter surges from the Bengals and Rams in consecutive weeks.