Last year, there were six (6) QBs taken in the first 36 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft — Cam Newton (1st), Jake Locker (8th), Blaine Gabbert (10th), Christian Ponder (12th), Andy Dalton (35th), and Colin Kaepernick (36th). This year, one would be hard pressed to find six (6) QBs worthy of being taken in the first 36 picks of the 2012 Draft. The first two picks in this year’s Draft may actually be better prospects than all the QBs in the 2011 Draft. But, I believe there is a big drop off after these first two picks — this includes Ryan Tannehill. In fact, the first six QBs taken in the 2011 Draft may be all better NFL prospects than Tannehill.
Let’s go inside the numbers to take a look at what I mean. If you followed PhinPhanatic last year before the draft, you might be familiar with tables I put together comparing prospects at a given position. Below is one of those tables for the 2011 QB prospects — you can double click on this table to enlarge. I have placed the first six QBs taken in the 2011 Draft along with Pat Devlin, who was taken by the Dolphins as an Undrafted Free Agent Rookie. The stats shown for these QBs are performance in their final year of college (2010). For the comparison, I included the stats for Ryan Tannehill’s performance in his final year of college (2011).
The first thing that stands out in comparing the performance of Tannehill versus the other QBs is Tannehill threw one heck of a lot of passes during 2011. He had more attempts, completions and yardage than any of the other QBs in the table. However, his completion percentage (61.6%) was comparatively low, as was his yards per attempt and yards per completion — by the way, I find it hard to understand why media pundits keep saying Tannehill is an accurate passer given these stats. Additionally, his TDs per attempt (5.46%) was also comparatively low and his INTs per attempt (2.82%) was the highest. These three key percentages combined are not good if a team (like the Dolphins) plans to run a west coast style of offense which depends on accuracy and avoidance of mistakes. The good news is that Tannehill had the lowest number of sacks per attempt.
It is important to note that Tannehill has only one full year as a starter and only 9 career victories. I believe this inexperience along with college performance makes Tannehill a lesser prospect than the first six QBs taken in the 2011 Draft. I believe both Dalton and Kaepernick are better pro prospects than Tannehill.
So, I think it is a real stretch that Tannehill is worth taking in the top half of the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. But, teams are really desperate, these days, to find a franchise QB — including the Dolphins, if you listen to the media. However, I will not be surprised if the Dolphins pass on picking a QB in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. There are too many other pressing needs to include DE/OLB, WR, and OG/OT. And, the quality of college QBs is just not there — they should have drafted Dalton last year at the 15th pick overall. If the Dolphins did take Tannehill, they would likely have to sit him for a couple of years before ever knowing whether he could become an NFL caliber starting QB. It is a real gamble to draft a player at the 8th pick only to sit him for a couple of years — a gamble only worth taking if one had inside information.
Referring back to the table, I find it particularly interesting that Pat Devlin is actually a better fit than Ryan Tannehill for a team planning to run west coast style of offense. In college, he was a very accurate passer (68% completion percentage) and made few mistakes passing the football (an unbelievable 0.78% INTs per passes attempted). Some “draft experts” actually projected Devlin as a fourth round pick in 2011. He really did not get a chance in the strike shortened year of 2011 — there were no OTAs and not much opportunities in training camp to shine given the competition between Henne and Moore. I think Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman will take a very close look at Devlin during this year’s OTAs and training camp. The best thing for the Dolphins might be to compete Devlin against a QB taken on the second day of the 2012 NFL Draft for the third QB spot on the Dolphins’ roster and the opportunity to take over the reigns in 2013.
What do you think? Is Tannehill worth the risk?
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