Thousands of articles, hundreds of television hours, and about six trillion Tweets will be devoted to draft speculation in the next few weeks, creating a free-for-all of hype, confusion, and misinformation. In the run-up to the draft, smart people will say dumb things, dumb people will say smart things, and rumors will take on lives of their own. In his regular Draft Chatter feature, Mike Tanier tries to find nuggets of meaning and truth in a roaring river of draft nonsense.
ESPN's Todd McShay said in a Friday conference call that the Browns should select Texas A&M quarterback-turned-receiver-turned quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the fourth pick in the draft. With those words, Tannehill hype morphed into a giant, razor-toothed monster and began tearing up the draft universe like it was a cardboard Tokyo.
Tannehill-to-the-Browns has been a subject of debate in Cleveland since the Redskins shut the Browns out of Robert Griffin III contention by signing a 30-year variable-rate mortgage to obtain him. Since then, a funny thing has happened: just as Griffin went from an excellent prospect to Guaranteed Elway Junior, Tannehill went from a great athlete at the start of a long development cycle to Guaranteed Next Griffin.
Terry Pluto states the case for Tannehill skeptics and sounds the alarm for prospect inflation in The Plain Dealer. If Tannehill is really just a hair below RG3, and RG3 was worth three first round picks and a second rounder, wouldn't Tannehill theoretically be worth about two first rounders and two second roundera? If your answer is yes, and your name is Jeff Ireland, operators in Minnesota and Cleveland are standing by.
Pluto advocates trading down, presumably with the Rams, who are high on Justin Blackmon (if they could identify a standout wide receiver, we wouldn't be in year three of the Brandon Gibson Project) and larded with Redskins draft pick booty. At six, the Browns could select from whatever is left among Ryan Kalil (possibly on the board if the Dolphins or Jaguars move mountains to Minneapolis for Tannehill), Blackmon, Trent Richardson, cornerback Morris Claiborne, or possibly RT4 himself. Then, another body with the 22nd pick, two (one from the Rams) in the second round, and life is good.
Tannehill has wonderful tools, as all of us knew when the season ended. He is also far too raw to start as a rookie, and those of you who nod knowingly and say that the same was said about Cam Newton last year are doomed to keep nodding and citing Newton for the next decade, after a dozen unprepared quarterbacks have crashed on the shores of wishful thinking. Tannehill could thrive in an ideal situation. The Browns, with Colt McCoy still trying to assert himself, a long history of quarterback indecision and impatience, and guys like Chris Ogbonnaya in featured roles, are something less than an ideal situation. Paul Holmgren and Pat Shurmer could work quarterback magic with Tannehill, but by the same reasoning they should be able to do it with McCoy: coaching magic only goes so far when good passes bounce off Greg Little's chest.
The Rams are happily kicking Blackmon's tires and buying enough energy drink to last through Draft Day 2014 right now because they made peace with their incumbent prospect, Sam Bradford, despite an off year. McCoy lacks Bradford's upside, but there are more ridiculous plans being implemented around the NFL than building around a third-year passer who had absolutely no weapons last year. And not just the Jets or Dolphins, whose quarterback quagmires don't count as "plans."
What we have here is a case of Men in Shorts Mania, or scouting semantics run amok. "Franchise quarterback trumps all," Mike Mayock said on Path to the Draft last week and many other times over the last five years. Mayock is probably the best in the business, but what exactly does "trumps all" mean?
Should a team have offered Peyton Manning $300 million, or perhaps the chance to choose his own coaching staff, to lure him onto their roster? Is a potential franchise quarterback worth three first round picks? Seven? Should a team draft four quarterbacks per year, hedging its bets on Tannehill types while mining for Tom Brady in later rounds?
The answer to most of the questions above is clearly no, at least for the non-Dan Snyders of the world. Chasing potential does have limits, patience is a virtue with youngsters like McCoy and Bradford, and that word "potential" is loaded. Mayock applied the same franchise trump card to discussions of Blaine Gabbert last year — Omar Kelly of the Orlando Sun-Sentinel called it a "question-statement-THREAT" -- and the Jaguars are one of the teams looking to switch suits this year after their potential franchise quarterback turned into a jittery kid who couldn't throw downfield or read a defense. Most "franchise quarterbacks" (a loaded term in itself) are half born and half made. Spend too much to pursue the potential, and you may have nothing left to help achieve the potential.
So Tannehill Mania has swelled out of control, but heaven help us if Brock Osweiler Fever grips the nation. Right now, it is contained within the mind of Gil Brandt, who sees a first round pick where most of us see a lumbering trebuchet with a helmet. But what if it goes viral? Will experts advocate that teams trade up for Osweiller? Would it be prudent for a team to put all other needs on hold in pursuit of a 6-foot-7 target for James Harrison's shoulder?
Perhaps the Browns should draft Tannehill fourth and Osweiler 22nd, just to be safe. Then, when neither evolves in the nutrient-poor Ogbonnaya broth of Cleveland, we can blame the coaches and the quarterbacks, then send the Browns to the well for the next solution.
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