Friday, April 27, 2012

Dolphins select QB Ryan Tannehill in first round of 2012 NFL Draft

For the first time since yours truly was negative four years old and some guy out of Pittsburgh took his talents ot South Beach, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft.

As many expected since the hiring of ex-Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman as offensive coordinator in late January, the Dolphins selected former Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick on the opening night of the draft Thursday.

Tannehill will become the fourth quarterback on the Dolphins' roster, joining incumbent starter Matt Moore, who led the team to a 6-3 record to close out the 2011 season; veteran free agent addition David Garrard; and 2011 undrafted free agent Pat Devlin, who spent much of his rookie season on the practice squad.


Background

A Big Spring, Tex. native, Tannehill was rated as a three-star dual-threat quarterback by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. A lifetime Texas Tech fan whose father played football for the Red Raiders, Tannehill did not receive a scholarship offer from dad's alma matter. He chose to attend Texas A&M in lieu of offers from Houston, TCU, Tulsa and UTEP.

After redshirting in 2007, Tannehill finished third in a quarterback competition behind Stephen McGee (currently the Cowboys' third-string quarterback) and Jerrod Johnson (currently under contract with the Steelers). He was moved to receiver as a redshirt freshman, where he set freshman record for receiving yards (844) and touchdowns (five).

In 2009, Tannehill played all 13 games for the Aggies at wide receiver and totaled 46 receptions for 609 yards and four touchdowns to earn honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. He appeared in six more games as a receiver in 2010 before moving back to quarterback, throwing for 1,638 yards and 13 touchdowns with six interceptions.

Tannehill was the unquestioned starting quarteback for the Aggies as a redshirt senior in 2011, completing nearly 62 percent of his passes for 3,744 yards and 29 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. Using the athleticism that helped him excel as a receiver, Tannehill also rushed for 306 yards and four scores in his final season.

The first Aggies' quarterback ever selected in the draft's first round, Tannehill is currently the only player in NCAA Division I FBS history to throw for 4,000 yards and gain more than 1,500 receiving yards in his career. He's also the only FBS player to have single games of 400-plus passing yards and 200-plus receiving yards.

Prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, Tannehill posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.62 seconds at his school's pro day. He also scored a 34 on the Wonderlic test—second at his position behind Stanford's Andrew Luck. Tannehill was commonly ranked as the third best quarterback in this year's class behind Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III.


Analysis

There were many routes the Dolphins could have taken with this pick, but in the end they did the most predictable thing. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I've said time and time again this offseason that I wasn't opposed to drafting Tannehill if it was for the right reasons. If you were doing it solely to add a warm body at quarterback and/or to appease the unreasonable fan base (Matt Flynn sets you off, really?) then you're not making a good decision.

If, however, you truly feel like this guy can be your franchise quarterback down the line, then you should absolutely take him. There's no telling at this point what kind of pro Tannehill will become, but recent history has shown that most elite teams have a first-round quarterback at the helm and it was time for the Dolphins to role the dice on one.

Tannehill isn't a perfect prospect and some of the complaints and criticisms surrounding him are legitimate. He's fairly inexperienced for an incoming rookie quarterback, and I understand the worry or perception that he "wasn't good enough" to play quarterback his entire career. I would point out, however, that both the quarterbacks that preceded him did go on to have pro careers of some kind. I would also say that there is often a sort of seniority involved in these situations, so a freshman Tannehill not beating out a senior Stephen McGee doesn't concern me.

While his mechanics, footwork and decision-making all need to be fine-tuned, the raw materials are there for a successful NFL starter. Tannehill has all the smarts and understanding of the game you look for in a signal-caller, and the fact that he'll be reunited with his college head coach in Mike Sherman can only facilitate his adjustment to the pros. His above-average athleticism, arm and accuracy (especially on the move) are all pluses as well.

That is not to say I see Tannehill starting as a rookie, however. I think the Dolphins are obviously in rebuilding mode, and it makes the most sense to start a veteran like Moore or Garrard in 2012 while Tannehill develops and learns on the bench. The team will have a boatload of cap space in 2013 and can build a team around Tannehill then, when he should be ready to take the reins.


Day Two Outlook

General manager Jeff Ireland was quoted Thursday night as saying the team had multiple discussions with other teams about trading back into the first round, but nothing ever materialized. That being the case, the Dolphins' next pick remains No. 42 overall in the second round, and they will also have back-to-back third-rounders at No. 72 and 73 thanks to the Brandon Marshall deal.

As always with the second round of the draft, there are a handful of surprising players that are no longer on the board, and there are also many players that remain available despite first-round projections. There are a handful of players at need positions for the Dolphins still on the board, like offensive tackle (Cordy Glenn, Bobby Massie, Jonathan Martin, Mike Adams), wide receiver (Rueben Randle, Stephen Hill, Alshon JefferyChris Givens) and defensive end (Vinny Curry, Courtney Upshaw, Andre Branch).

If I were to mock from the pick No. 33 to the Dolphins' No. 42 pick, I'd do it like this:
33. St. Louis Rams — OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
34. Indianapolis Colts — OLB Andre Branch, Clemson
35. Baltimore Ravens (from Minnesota) — C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
36. Denver Broncos (from Tampa Bay) — DT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
37. Cleveland Browns — WR Rueben Randle, LSU
38. Jacksonville Jaguars — WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
39. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) — CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama
40. Carolina Panthers — DT Devon Still, Penn State
41. Buffalo Bills — TE Coby Fleener, Stanford

If that happens, the Dolphins will have a number of offensive line prospects to pursue, as well as my mocked second-rounder in Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry. I'd expect them to go with a pass rusher first, but if a top receiver like Hill or Randle is still on the board, or perhaps an offensive tackle like Massie or Glenn, then you'd have to strongly consider going one of those directions.

Needless to say, it's going to be another exciting day for the Dolphins as they will potentially add at least three more rookies to the mix for 2012 and beyond!

As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


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