It has been well documented that the Redskins need a quarterback, Kyle Shanahan has said so himself, while Mike Shanahan has said he's been watching tape of college prospects for a while now. With the news that Shanahan and his Redskins staff will be coaching the South team for the up coming Senior Bowl, it's the ideal chance for Shanahan to get an up close and personal look at some senior college prospects (last year the Bengals got an early look at Andy Dalton, worked out pretty well for them).
Ryan Tannehill is one of the more intriguing of the prospects likely to take part. A 6'4", 220 pound wide receiver-turned-quarterback, Tannehill has obvious mobility that you would expect from a former wide receiver.But what else does he have to go with that mobility. Having spent the weekend watching every Tannehill throw against Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Baylor and Northwestern, I came away fairly impressed (having been pretty skeptical of how good a quarterback could be after only recently switching from wide receiver). Here's what I saw (going to steal Wes Bunting's format for this post).
What I like:
- Good accuracy. Really impressed with his ball placement on a lot of throws. Didn't only hit his receivers in stride, but in places only they could get the ball.
- Solid arm strength. He doesn't have a Matthew Stafford elite arm, but he shouldn't have a problem making all the throws at the next level.
- Quick release. One of the first things that stood out to me. I thought he had a really nice quick release, not many mechanical flaws. (Dan Kadar of Mocking the Draft isn't so sure, but we'll get to that later)
- Throws well on the run. I saw multiple throws of him running to both his left and right. Does a really nice job opening his body when running to his left.
- Very good with timing routes (outs, digs, comebacks etc). Anticipates the receivers cut and has the ball ready for them to catch when they come out of their break. Trusts his receiver to time his route properly and make the catch.
- Has experience under center. No real troubles with dropping back. His footwork is good, but can be refined slightly but nothing serious.
- Definitely a passer first. One of the things you worry about a mobile quarterback is that they will make on read and take off. Tannehill will wait for routes to develop, extend the play if he has to, but will keep his eyes downfield.
- Makes surprisingly good pre-snap reads. Wasn't expecting him to be as advanced as he appears to be, but he certainly wasn't afraid to audible out of a play. Recognizes blitzing defenders.
- Mobility is an obvious plus. As I said he's a passer first. He will step up in the pocket, drop a shoulder, pump fake etc to avoid pressure. But when a play breaks down he has the ability to roll-out of the pocket and scramble for yards if he has to.
- When he has the time to step into a throw, can really put zip behind it. A play against Baylor sticks out in my mind. It was a deep crossing pattern. He had good protection and waited for the route to develop, stepped into his throw and gunned it across the middle and fit it over a linebacker into the receivers hands in stride.
- Sells play-action well. Fully extends the ball to the back on the fake. Head comes round slightly quicker than you would like, but he gets linebackers to bite.
What I don't like:
- Has a slight tendency to lock on to a target. This can give away his intentions to the defense and has got him in interception troubles.
- Also means he can miss other targets who are open. Against Arkansas he locked on to Swope on a play-action bootleg, when he had a tight end on a seven yard crossing pattern open. Threw the ball to Swope and lost a yard on the play.
- Very occasionally forces a throw. Two of his interceptions against Oklahoma State came from him locking on and forcing the throw.
- Can float some throws, particularly deeper ones. He has the arm strength to make the throws flatter, but needs to work on it.
- Needs to work on his touch throws, things like fade routes aren't a strength.
- General mechanics (as with all quarterbacks) can be improved. Needs to make sure his release point is consistent.
- When you look at his record, consistency would appear to fluctuate. However, this is to be expected with a quarterback with as little experience as he has had. I think the more reps he gets, the more consistent he will become.
You've hit about all of the key points on Tannehill. Here are a few red flags for me. His release point is inconsistent. Some throws he really cocks the ball back and fires, which takes a long time. While it's not Tim Tebow-like release, it's elongated at times more than you'd prefer. His release was much better this season than last. But you'll see it mostly on throws outside the numbers. Another thing that strikes me about Tannehill is that he'll float his passes. This can work in college because defenders will routinely take bad angles or don't have the quick instincts to make a play on the ball. That's greatly lessened in the NFL. If he floats passes in the NFL, there is a much greater chance they'll get intercepted. His throws will float when he throws off his back foot.The most critical flaw I see in Tannehill is his blitz pickup after the snap. As you mentioned, he's good pre-snap at finding the blitzers in front of him and calling an audible. But after the snap, he's not as good at picking up disguised blitzes, especially from safeties and corners. His mobility has kept him out of trouble in college, but he won't be able to move around as much laterally in the pocket.
Overall, I don't see any major flaws in Tannehill's game. I don't feel like there's much he can not do at the next level. I was impressed considering the amount of time he's had at quarterback after being moved from wide receiver. I think he'll be at his best at the next level in a system that has a good run game that can build play-action bootlegs from. In the pocket he's best suited to timing routes with the occasional deep throw. I think he'd be a very nice fit in the Shanahan system and could be a very good quarterback in the future if he's given the time to mature. I think he will probably be taken in the top 20-25 (maybe even top 15) picks, but I wouldn't say he's worth sixth overall at this point. So any move for him would require trading back from six, or moving back into the first round after taking someone at six.
@TonyPauline: Multiple sources have told me Ryan Tannehill/QB/Tex A&M suffered a significant foot injury last week during training.