After adding weapons such as Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller and Brandon Gibson, the Miami Dolphins have been rewarded by their sophomore quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, who has been nothing short of electrifying in the offseason. After throwing only 12 touchdown passes in 2012, ESPN set Tannehill's over/under for scoring passes in 2013 at 23.5.
Growth is also expected from the other members of the 2012 NFL quarterback class, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Brandon Weeden. Including Tannehill, all five quarterbacks threw for more than 3,100 yards in their rookie campaign, and three led their teams to the playoffs.
How do the projected starters in this celebrated class stack up heading into their second NFL season?
*All stats courtesy of NFL.com unless noted otherwise.
Last year, Brandon Weeden threw the ball more than any other rookie quarterback not named Andrew Luck. In 15 NFL games, Weeden completed 57.4 percent of his 517 passes for 3,385 yards and 14 touchdowns.
As Weeden was already a 28-year-old in training camp, the Cleveland Browns had no choice but to throw him into the fire. The fact that Colt McCoy was his main competition also helped. Weeden showed good mechanics and consistency, but in the end, he threw 17 interceptions and finished with a quarterback rating of 72.6.
Weeden had subpar support from the 5-11 Browns.
Trent Richardson was supposed to open up the passing game, but injuries kept him to 950 yards, averaging a weak 3.6 yards per carry. Weeden's top two receivers, Josh Gordon and Greg Little, combined for a paltry 1,452 yards. Gordon did flash big-play potential, racking up 312 yards after catch while only making 50 receptions.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com believes Weeden will be the most improved quarterback for 2013.
The bottom line is that Weeden has less promise than Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck because of his age (29) and lesser athletic ability.
While Russell Wilson may have been underrated before the 2012 NFL season, he is clearly overrated before the 2013 season.
Last year, the Seattle Seahawks had a monster in the backfield named Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 1,590 yards, averaging five yards per carry. The Seattle defense allowed the least points in the league and ranked fourth in total yards allowed. The elite Seahawks defense also created 31 turnovers, many leading to easy scores for Wilson.
While Wilson proved to be efficient, the truth is that all but a handful of NFL starters would have found success in Seattle last year.
Wilson was not asked to pass very often, making only 393 pass attempts in 16 regular-season games and passing for less than 200 yards in nine of those games. His height (5'11") is the main reason he was drafted in the third round, and it is a valid reason to devalue a quarterback.
Wilson was expected to have difficulties in the pocket and be forced to scramble, which he did to the tune of 484 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterbacks find long-term NFL success living in the pocket as career-shortening injuries are more likely outside of it.
It is still not known if Wilson can find success as a pocket passer because of his height. Wilson is among the shortest starters in the NFL, if he isn't the shortest.
Despite the hype he is receiving, it is unlikely any general manager would prefer to have Russell Wilson over Ryan Tannehill, Andrew Luck, or Robert Griffin III.
Robert Griffin is a gifted quarterback who passed for 3,200 yards and ran for 815 in his rookie campaign. Griffin's passing was efficient, but like Russell Wilson, he wasn't required to win games with his arm. Griffin attempted 393 passes in 15 games, or 86 less passes than Ryan Tannehill in the same amount of games, if we discount Tannehill's short visit to New York.
Griffin's speed and athleticism separate him from any quarterback who has ever played in the NFL. Griffin is arguably the fastest quarterback ever and exploited that fact to win games with his legs.
The knock on Griffin has always been durability, as he has a slight build. As feared, Griffin's rookie campaign had a concussion and a serious knee injury.
In Week 5, Griffin suffered a concussion playing against the Atlanta Falcons. In Week 13, Griffin suffered a knee sprain against the Baltimore Ravens. It is believed that Griffin tore the ACL in his right knee and other lateral collateral ligaments against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs.
Making matters worse is that Griffin had torn his ACL in 2009, while at Baylor, and his most recent injury was a complete tear of the patella graft that was used to repair the 2009 injury.
Can Griffin continue to rebound from injuries? After all, it is his legs that make him special. If forced to be a pocket passer, to prevent injury, Griffin might find success, but his ceiling will be much lower.
Again, Griffin is special because of his speed and mobility and if he were immune to injury, would be the best quarterback in this class. The truth is that he is damaged goods and another injury is just around the corner.
The Miami Dolphins did not have to start Ryan Tannehill in 2012. They had a capable quarterback in Matt Moore and could have given the rookie signal-caller time to develop.
Tannehill proved to be capable of leading the Dolphins and outplayed the veteran Moore.
Tannehill had a decent 2012 campaign, passing for 3,276 yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games, not including a game against the New York Jets in which he was injured immediately. Like Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden, Tannehill did most of his work in the pocket, gaining valuable experience.
While Weeden had no choice, Tannehill and Luck have the physical ability but chose not to feature the running facet of their game. Tannehill, who has 4.59 speed, per Pro Football Weekly, ran for only 211 yards on 49 carries during his rookie campaign. In contrast, Russell Wilson ran the ball 94 times while Robert Griffin III ran the ball 120 times.
Last year, the Dolphins did not provide Tannehill with too many receiving weapons, as his top options were Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano.
Miami also had issues with their offensive line, as Jake Long's play was subpar before missing the final four games of the season and Jonathan Martin was a rookie.
Mostly due to the offensive tackles, Tannehill was sacked 35 times, which tied him for eighth in the league. Of the five featured quarterbacks, only Luck (41) was sacked more. While Tannehill may have held the ball too long on occasion, no one can deny that Long and Martin had rocky seasons.
Despite everything, Tannehill showed poise and promise, leading what was expected to be the worst team in the NFL to seven victories. With the additions of Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller and Tyson Clabo, among others, Tannehill will shine in 2013.
Andrew Luck is who we thought he was. As a rookie, Luck passed for 4,374 yards, 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
Ironically, those numbers are not much different than Peyton Manning's rookie numbers: 3,739 yards, 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. Both were passing machines for bad Indianapolis squads and finished with quarterback ratings in the 70s. Luck took a team that was 2-14 in 2011 and, unlike rookie Manning, made the playoffs.
Luck's athleticism is underrated but made an appearance during his winning touchdown run against the Detroit Lions in Week 13. Luck is the complete package but, more than anything, is an accomplished pocket passer. This is what separates him from players like Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Without his legs, Luck is still special.
Andrew Luck is the no-doubt superstar in the 2012 quarterback class, but the class has other potential stars such as Ryan Tannehill.