Not impressed with Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M) vs Arkansas
Ryan Tannehill is the next quarterback everyone wants to be better than he actually is. Time for a reality check because he’s not a first round pick.
It’s completely undestandable why he became a really intriguing prospect coming into the season – all he did last year was win games. His only defeat came against powerhouse LSU in the Cotton Bowl – the victories against Landry Jones and Oklahoma, Robert Griffin III and Baylor, plus four more wins against Nebraska, Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas. He had 13 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Overall it was an impressive picture and rightly people wanted to see more from a receiver convert who suddenly looked like he had a full-time future at quarterback.
Against Oklahoma State he had a decent start before a poor second half with three turnovers in a choke job defeat. The game against Arkansas had a similar outcome, but the general performance from Tannehill in my eyes was poor.
He runs a very basic offense for starters. There’s a lot of extreme-spread concepts and his passes are often one read throws into the flats, he has run option a lot of the time and he’s not making more than one read before resorting to the checkdown. He has flashed in the last two weeks 3-4 throws that are very impressive and that’s where the potential lies. On Saturday he made a picture perfect throw on a wheel route, dissecting two defensive backs to fit it into a really tight window for Ryan Swope. You sit up and take notice. The next throw? A lofted pass up for grabs which is easily intercepted having made one read (Jeff Fuller) and basically just thrown it in his general direction. That’s not good enough.
In the second half Texas A&M looked lost on offense. They couldn’t run the ball with ease like they were earlier and yet they never really turned to their quarterback to open it up. They had a chance to win it at the death with a final drive. The result? Two inaccurate check downs to Swope, a QB scramble for eight yards and a failed fourth down run. Game over.
Tannehill’s final stat line was 25-35 passing, 247 yards and no touchdowns with the single pick. That’s now a 6-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio for the season.
Even after the game I noticed several high profile pundits who have promoted Tannehill backing him up. You can only talk about athleticism for so long and seemingly a lack of starts is being used to justify mistakes. I look at it a different way. Unless you’re going to make up for a lack of starts by throwing the guy in too early in the NFL – how is he going to overcome that issue if it’s still on the table by the end of the college season?
For me Tannehill is a far less technically gifted and polished version of Jake Locker. People argued strongly to suggest Locker deserved a grade outside of round one, so why is the opposite happening for Tannehill? They are both athletic guys who are prone to mistakes, don’t go through progressions particularly well and force throws. Every now and again though, you see the pro-level pass. Locker was better out of the pocket while Tannehill is marginally more comfortable dropping back to pass (he also plays behind a better offensive line with better receivers) but overall I think it’s a fair comparison. While Locker had extreme physical potential and was a superior NFL prospect, I think there are similar issues between the two.
I can understand why Locker went in the top ten – I put him that high in every single mock draft I compiled from December onwards. I can’t give Tannehill the same level of support in that instance because overall he has a much lower ceiling. My grade for Locker was round two as it happens – my grade for Tannehill is round 3-4. I’m not so risk averse to avoid potential if it’s in the extreme. The Seahawks need a quarterback and they need to be aggressive finding one for the long haul. Even so, I wouldn’t want to be tied to Ryan Tannehill as ‘the guy’ for my regime. He’s a project, he needs to work on a lot of areas in his game and while there is some athletic potential – right now he’s an absolute mile away from anything but slight promise.
And it has to be said – if Tannehill had replaced Jerrod Johnson last year with a 6-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, losing two deflating games to Oklahoma State and Arkansas… would he be riding the crest of a hype wave right now? He has some potential, but as I said previously he remains too much of a project for me to consider building a front offices reputation on.
All of this just reaffirms my suspicion that this isn’t a unique group of quarterbacks. At this stage I can only give Luck and Barkley first round grades. Tannehill, Landry Jones and Austin Davis are the three players I have in the second tier – I much prefer Davis personally but I think someone will overpay for Jones or Tannehill. The Seahawks would be better served aggressively pursuing the top two rather than settling for anything else at the position.
Two Tigers make an impression
Brandon Thompson and Andre Branch are two Clemson defensive lineman who I regularly get asked about. JMPasq has put together tape on both from the weekend’s impressive victory over Virginia Tech (see videos below).
They are two players that are tough to work out. Thompson, for example, has flashed a few performances like this during the last couple of seasons. He’s got a great bull rush, it’s really come along over the last 12 months and you can see in the video how often he drove back the interior Virginia Tech lineman to create disruption up the middle. His real value comes against the run – he’s quick off the snap and has great upper body power to jolt back lineman and fill running lanes. You almost expect him to be bigger than the listed 6-2 305lbs because he plays with the attitude of a bigger NT.
Mobility is good, he moves around well for his size. He’s got a relentless approach and has a motor that never stops despite the fact he plays the bulk of the rotation at Clemson. However, I keep coming back to the fact he has just three career sacks in four years. Last season he had Da’Quan Bowers soaking up blockers and still only registered a single sack. This year, Branch is providing the edge attention and he’s had two games with 0.5 sacks only.
He’s consistently in the backfield and you want to buy into his play, but why isn’t he getting more production? For starters I think his hand use could be better to disengage, buying maybe that split second to finish a play rather than ‘nearly’ make it every time. You can’t sniff at a player who looks that disruptive though and while he may not reach the dizzy heights of former elite defensive tackles, he looks like a solid R1-2 prospect who could really promote his stock with a blast of production over the rest of the season.
This was the best game I’ve seen Andre Branch have and it’s not close. He’s always left me underwhelmed in the past, a side issue to superior players on the Clemson line. Against Virginia Tech he had three sacks and flashed balance comparable to the much lighter Bruce Irvin – rounding edges with a speed rush at almost an impossible angle to avoid the offensive tackle and get to the QB. That was impressive, because previously he’s looked a bit sluggish off the snap and he’s generally not an explosive pass rusher.
He’s not a one-trick player who relies on speed – which is a big positive. However, I’d like to see a better inside move. The other thing that stood out to me in this game was the way Branch coped against the run, driving blockers and preventing the edge being set. For a guy at 6-4 and 260lbs that was impressive strength and it shows that he has some LEO potential playing in a four man front for Seattle. His disengaging skills are above average in general and he plays with patience and control.
Branch is someone to keep an eye on for the rest of the year and if the Seahawks want some youth at the defensive end/LEO position, he could be a possibility in rounds 2-3.