Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have already enjoyed excellent Pro Days, but there was enough great game tape of both quarterbacks for their private workouts to merely confirm what everybody already knew -- the Stanford and Baylor quarterbacks were going 1-2 in the 2012 NFL draft. On Thursday, Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M -- now the consensus third-best quarterback prospect in this year's draft class -- had what will be the most important Pro Day of the year.
Prevented from throwing at the scouting combine because of a foot injury, and with only one full season as a college starting quarterback on tape, Tannehill had to impress to meet his draft projections. Most analysts already had him as a top-10 pick because of the desperate need most NFL teams have for franchise quarterbacks, but Tannehill started to live up to that billing with an outstanding workout at A&M's indoor complex in College Station.
First, Tannehill showed that the right foot wasn't a problem -- from the start, he was rolling left and right, displaying excellent pocket mobility, and proving that there's nothing lost regarding his impressive athleticism. He rolled off 65 completions in 68 scripted throws under the watchful eyes of 22 NFL teams and performance coach Chris Weinke, who has recently tutored Cam Newton, Christian Ponder and Kirk Cousins. Only one could be termed an overthrow -- a 40-yarder to receiver Jeff Fuller. In similar fashion to Luck and Griffin, Tannehill proved that he could make every throw an NFL team could desire.
"I couldn't be more happy with his performance today," Weinke said after the workout. "He processes at a fast pace, very good understanding of offense and had the luxury playing for a former NFL guy in college [Mike Sherman, his coach at A&M]. There is no question in my mind that he's a franchise quarterback."
"Athletically, he passes all the tests," Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said of Tannehill. "More importantly, they moved to the throwing portion. Nine spot throws, then 50 throws in the field, and nine red-zone throws. My take was, it was a high-level workout. It was a franchise-type workout. Three-step drop, five, five with a hitch, seven ... every throw an NFL quarterback has to make -- both statutory and on the move. From an accuracy perspective, here's my take after watching every throw this kid made on tape all year. All the out-breaking routes were beautiful -- the kid can make every throw outside ... but they're the easier throws to make. Single-high safety, one-on-one coverage, you can trust it and rip it. Where he struggles on tape are on the in-breaking throws, and let's face it -- there's a lot more traffic on the inside. I never thought he trusted it, and that's where I thought he got in trouble, staring down receivers."
I agree with Mayock's evaluation, and Tannehill's relative ease with rollout throws compared to his inconsistency in the pocket has me comparing him to Washington's Jake Locker, who went to the Tennessee Titans with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
The Miami Dolphins, who recently hired Sherman as their offensive coordinator, have the eighth overall pick this year. They were one of at least three NFL teams with multiple evaluators in attendance. Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin were there. The Cleveland Browns sent offensive coordinator Brad Childress and quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple. The Seattle Seahawks traveled heavy, with GM John Schneider, head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on board.
"He should be very proud of his workout today," Carroll said. "He did a nice job."
At the 2012 scouting combine in February, Schneider was more effusive in his praise of the man who set single-season records for the Aggies in passing yards (3,744), attempts (531) and completions (327).
"The guy was a quarterback in high school, just a football player," Schneider said. "First and foremost, that's what we're looking for. Especially at that position. Guys that have always been in the quarterback schools, the special camps, and all that kind of stuff. They make me a little nervous to a certain extent. This guy is a real football player. He played defense. You could see him last year when he stepped in, he just went out and played. He had like this natural toughness about him that the players really rallied around and went on a winning streak and he did a great job. I felt like this year, he had well over 60 drops. He did a nice job."
If the Seahawks want Tannehill, it's now a certainty that they'll have to trade up from their 12th overall spot in this year's draft. Not only are the Dolphins looking at him as a very likely prospect, the Browns -- who have the fourth overall pick -- are also very interested in Tannehill. Childress echoed Schneider's comments about the intrigue Tannehill brings to the process as a college receiver before he was a quarterback -- he's the only player in FBS history to achieve a 400-yard passing game and 200-yard receiving game, and no other player in FBS history has totaled more than 4,000 passing yards and 1,500 receiving yards in a career.
"It's remarkable that a wide receiver came in as proficient as he did at a big-time program," Childress said. "I have no reservations [about the lack of big-time quarterback experience]. I like kids who haven't been playing the position since Pop Warner."
Before Thursday's Pro Day, the quarterback list had Luck and RGIII at the top, with a group of lesser alternatives lagging behind. With the performance that he had to wait to give, Ryan Tannehill separated himself from the pack -- and the top of the draft order most certainly felt the aftershock.
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