When you're evaluating a quarterback prospect with a low college start count, you have to decide what your goal is. Is it to encapsulate his collegiate career, or to project what he will be able to do in the NFL, and what will most likely be coached out of him in a big hurry? With Tannehill, the hype outstrips the actual performance because NFL evaluators are trained to look more at what the player can be than what he is now. In that sense, his raw physical tools -- athleticism, arm strength, toughness, and the ability to run a nebulous offense -- are seen more than the inevitable effects of inexperience.
Had Tannehill played quarterback throughout his time at Texas A & M, many of the things you see on tape would have been ironed out by now -- you'd see a more refined sideline shot and backdoor fade, the play selection wouldn't have been so limited, and there would be a better overall body of work to see and project. In a way, Tannehill's lack of experience is an advantage -- in an NFL more desperate for elite starting quarterbacks than ever before, teams will see Tannehill as high-class raw clay that can be used to mold the ideal signal-caller. All the basic traits are there -- by all accounts, Tannehill is a tough, team-first, real football player with great physical attributes.
Like Locker, who one former (and fortunately deposed) Washington coaching staff wanted to move to safety at one point, Tannehill would be best served biding his time and learning the NFL behind a veteran. If he goes to Cleveland or Miami with the fourth or eighth picks, and the "veterans" in front of him are Colt McCoy or Matt Moore, that prospect becomes much more dicey. If a team meets Tannehill halfway with the playbook as the Carolina Panthers did with Cam Newton and the Denver Broncos did with Tim Tebow, maybe there's a chance for some first-year fireworks.
Make no mistake -- Ryan Tannehill is a top-10 prospect in the NFL because what he could be, not what he has done. Even at a position where you're a batting champion if you're guessing half-right, that's a pretty risky way to go.
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