Before the 2013-14 NFL season began, I argued that the Miami Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill was the second-best quarterback in the 2012 class, chasing only Andrew Luck. While many Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson supporters laughed at my assessment, through roughly a third of the season, my forecast is proving to be accurate.
In his second year, Tannehill is far from a superstar, staring down receivers and sometimes holding the ball too long. In the former Texas A&M standout's defense, he has been sacked an NFL-high 24 times, and according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), his receivers have dropped 17 of his passes (tied for second in the NFL).
While statistics don't always tell the whole story, an analysis of the numbers provides a hint of where Miami's young signal-caller stands among his peers.
Among quarterbacks with at least 120 attempts, Tannehill ranks 13th in the league with a QB rating of 85.5. Miami's field general comes in behind Luck (94.1) and Wilson (91.2) while holding a narrow lead over Griffin (85.5).
Pro Football Focus (PFF) considers many more variables when assessing quarterbacks, such as the number of passes that were thrown away or dropped and the number of hurries, hits and sacks that a quarterback has suffered. PFF's QB rating system also punishes caretakers with limited attempts per game, such as the Seattle Seahawks' Wilson.
In PFF's quarterback rating system, Tannehill ranks eighth, behind Luck (fourth) but ahead of Brandon Weeden (11th), Wilson (18th) and RGIII (23rd). If we isolate the passing component, Tannehill is ranked sixth and is ahead of every quarterback drafted in 2012.
Tannehill is also eighth in the league in passing yards (1,383), averaging 276.6 per game. The truth is that Miami's young passer has picked defenses apart even with an offensive line in shambles.
In most rating systems, Tannehill will lag behind Luck. Luck is more polished and is a natural pocket passer. Surprisingly, Tannehill's rapid growth doesn't have him too far behind.
Robert Griffin III
When healthy, RGIII is a dynamic playmaker who can be among the top quarterbacks in the league. But injuries can't be turned off like in a video game. Griffin has torn his right ACL twice, and another injury is right around the corner if he continues to play as he did during his rookie campaign. NFL means Not For Long for running quarterbacks.
As we have seen this season, an RGIII limited to the pocket is less than desirable. PFF gives him a negative rating (minus-2.3) for his performance thus far. That is not what the Washington Redskins paid a heavy price for.
Because of his health concerns, I argue that most NFL general managers would choose Tannehill over Griffin at this junction.
Wilson is what we thought he was: a short quarterback who can manage a team and who should be drafted in the third round. Seattle's signal-caller has received too much credit for his team's success.
Wilson is 29th in the NFL in passing yards per game (199.4). In terms of passing, PFF ranks Wilson 26th with a negative passer rating (minus-2.9).
Defenses are catching up to the read-option, and Wilson's season is on the decline. Wilson has had consecutive stinkers. In Week 4, against the Houston Texans, he completed 12 of 23 passes (52.2 percent) for 123 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. In Week 5, against the Indianapolis Colts, he completed 15 of 31 passes (48.4 percent) for 210 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Tannehill roasted the Colts, completing 23 of 34 passes (67.6 percent) for 319 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
After five weeks, it is becoming clear that Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill are the top quarterbacks of the 2012 class.
Robert Griffin III is subpar in the pocket, and if he chooses to play to his strength, running the ball, the chance of injury is great.
Russell Wilson is, arguably, the most overrated quarterback in the NFL. A team's success is not always due to quarterback play. The New York Jets made consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances with Mark Sanchez at the helm.
No matter how you dice it, Miami fans have to be ecstatic about Tannehill's progress. The Miami Dolphins' future looks very bright because of the eighth overall selection of the 2012 NFL draft.