Re-Writing Ryan Tannehill's Scouting Report Halfway Through Rookie Season
Being wrong isn't easy. It happens, and quite often in the NFL draft world, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow—especially thanks to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube commenters reminding you of just how wrong you were.
It happens, and the key as a college football and NFL player evaluator is to learn from it. What went wrong, what did I see wrong and what can I learn from this player? Such is the case with Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Before the 2012 NFL draft, Tannehill was ranked as the No. 4 quarterback on my board. That wasn't a prediction of how high he would be drafted, but a projection of which quarterbacks would be the most talented from this class over the long haul. Through 11 weeks, it's clear that Tannehill should have been at No. 3.
What can we learn from Ryan Tannehill's pre-draft scouting report and a look at how he's playing today? Quite a bit.
Pre-draft: 8.5 | Post-draft: 8.5
With just five runs on the year, Tannehill's agility hasn't been fully utilized by the Miami Dolphins, but that doesn't mean he's suddenly lost his ability to tuck and run. Once Tannehill becomes more confident as a passer, then the Dolphins can start asking him to run more when pressured. As for now, it's a comfort thing.
Tannehill's quick feet and excellent balance are still showing up when he moves in the pocket. There's a reason he's one of the most accurate passers in the NFL when on the move.
Pre-draft: 6.0 | Post-draft: 7.0
Now that Tannehill is in the NFL, it's easier to evaluate his pro-level accuracy. Thanks to advanced metrics provided by Pro Football Focus, we can see exactly where Tannehill's shortcomings are at—and in turn, Tannehill and his coaches can see this and work on progressing his accuracy to the troubled areas.
Overall, Tannehill's accuracy hasn't been good. Even when adjusting for the 22 drops of his wide receivers, the Dolphins quarterback is still hitting on just 72.8 percent of non-dropped passes. That's good for No. 18 overall in the NFL this season.
The area where Tannehill misses most often is still in that 10 to 19-yard range, but he's also not performing well in the zero to nine-yard range either. A quick fix for this will come with time. Once Tannehill and his receivers are better in sync with each other, the timing of crossing and seam routes will become more crisp, and his accuracy numbers will go up on their own.
Tannehill's accuracy hasn't been all bad. Like the throw above, there are times when the rookie shows good awareness, touch and ball placement. Tannehill's ability to move and throw on the run—especially when pressured—is well ahead of where he was expected to be at this point.
Pre-draft: 6.5 | Post-draft: 6.5
Not much has changed here.
The knock on Tannehill coming out of Texas A&M wasn't his arm strength. That's still an accurate assessment, but it has been tough to get a read on Tannehill's downfield passing in the Dolphins' short passing game.
From the few deep passing attempts charted for Tannehill, one stands out the most.
In the above video we get a glimpse of the all-around talent Tannehill possesses. He's under pressure with little room to step up in the pocket, but he still has the vision and athletic ability to find his man and deliver a down-field strike to an open receiver. Brilliant.
Tannehill has the talent; we see that in the clip. Now, he must learn to consistently tap in to that ability and deliver smart, accurate, strong throws.
Pre-draft: 5.5 | Post-draft: 6.5
As good as Tannehill has been, there are still times when you are harshly reminded that he's a rookie. A three-interception performance in Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans is a good example of this.
The first image shows a route that Tannehill wants to throw—a comeback route where the wide receiver has clearly beat the cornerback and has plenty of room to work a catch. Simple pitch and catch, right?
Wrong. Tannehill hesitates, and that hesitation allows the left defensive end to read his eyes and make a play on the ball. The tipped pass results in a linebacker intercepting the ball and returning it for a touchdown.
Simple things—like hesitating or double-pumping the ball—can result in the split-second difference needed for a defender to make a play. This is the biggest area of concern for Tannehill and the biggest area where he needs to make improvements in a hurry.
Pre-draft: 6.5 | Post-draft: 7.5
The hitch in Tannehill's delivery that I was so down on pre-draft? It's gone. Thanks to intense pre-Combine training and the great coaching of Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman, Tannehill's delivery is damn near ideal.
Notice the balance in his feet. He's perfectly in line to throw the football, and due to his position behind the offensive line and his neutral positioning, the defense can't read from this position where the ball is going. This is how a quarterback should look in the pocket.
When he decides to throw, Tannehill no longer drops the ball and wastes his motion. Now his delivery is quick and smooth, with the elbow staying in line. Also, note the follow-through from his hips down to his feet. A drastic improvement over where Tannehill was pre-draft.
Pre-draft: 7.0 | Post-draft: 6.5
It seemed like a foregone conclusion that a former wide receiver would have no trouble eluding pass rushers in the NFL, and Tannehill has done a good job evading the rush. But pocket presence is also about how well a quarterback steps up and away from pressure to make plays.
Tannehill's ability to handle pressure has been impressive, but so has the play of his offensive line in most games.
The chart above shows Tannehill's 67 pass attempts under pressure. He's completing nearly 60 percent of throws and thrown just two interceptions—both solid numbers. Take away his wide receivers' dropped passes, and Tannehill is completing an NFL-best 84.6 percent of throws under pressure.
The concern for me are the 16 sacks. Some of those are definitely unavoidable, but many were. Tannehill's development must focus on learning when to run—note that he ran just once under pressure—and when to throw the ball away. For a player who hasn't been pressured on a high number of snaps, Tannehill's sacks taken are too high.
Pre-draft: 6.5 | Post-draft: 7.0
Ryan Tannehill's pre-draft scouting report was based on a quarterback who started 19 games in college after moving from wide receiver. In the Texas A&M system, he wasn't challenged to make plays, instead sticking to the blueprint of what Mike Sherman wanted a quarterback to be. Lucky for Tannehill, he followed Sherman to the NFL—something not known pre-draft in his report.
Tannehill has definitely proven some things wrong. He's developing on the job, something that I didn't see him being able to do at the NFL level. He has also been able to quickly correct his mechanics, and that's something most rookie quarterbacks continue to struggle with for years.
If Tannehill can continue to develop as he has in his first year, there's no doubt that he'll be a long-term starter and top player for the Miami Dolphins.
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