Welcome to another installment of “Over/Under” where I highlight a player, determine some projections based on past tendencies, then state whether I think they will go “over or under” those projections. The criteria will be different for each player based on position and situation.
This week’s debate will focus on Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins. We will put his line at 3,700 passing yards and 20 touchdowns.
The 2012 rookie quarterback draft class of Tannehill, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson has been touted by some as better than the legendary 1983 quarterback class which produced Hall of Famers Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly. It’s way too early for statements like that, but this group has a chance.
Lost in the shuffle of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson’s incredible rookie campaigns was Ryan Tannehill. He didn’t take the league by storm or provide SportsCenter Top 10 plays week in and week out. Really, if it weren’t for his smoking hot wife, Lauren, you might not have heard Tannehill being mentioned by the talking heads of the sports world at all. By the way, his wife IS gorgeous.
Tannehill was the rawest of all the rookie signal callers in 2012. He spent four years at Texas A&M – two and a half as a wide receiver and one and a half as the Aggies’ starting quarterback. As a true freshman, he caught 55 balls for 844 yards and five touchdowns. As a sophomore, he caught 46 passes for 609 yards and four scores. Halfway through his junior year he took over as the starting quarterback and led the Aggies to wins over Texas Tech, #11 Oklahoma, #9 Nebraska, and Texas. He entered his senior season as the unquestioned starter for Coach Mike Sherman, finishing the season with 3,744 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. You can see his career college stats below:
When the Dolphins selected Tannehill eighth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, they reunited him with his college Head Coach, Mike Sherman, who is now the offensive coordinator for the Dolphins. Tannehill was expected to sit a year behind veterans David Garrard and Matt Moore but Garrard underwent knee surgery and Matt Moore face planted in the preseason. It was then Coach Joe Philbin made the decision if the Dolphins were going to stink in 2012, they were going to do it while getting him NFL experience – he started all 16 games as a rookie. Let’s look at the statistics of the rookie quarterback class who started from day one.
As you can see, he couldn’t hold a candle to what the record setting trio of Luck, RG3, and Wilson achieved, but it’s not fair to call Tannehill a failure for not matching their ridiculous numbers. It was often joked that Tannehill was both the Dolphins’ best quarterback and receiver. Honestly, that may have been right. The Dolphins lacked elite playmakers for him. His top receiving options were Brian Hartline, Davonne Bess and Armon Binns at wide receiver, Anthony Fasano at tight end and Reggie Bush at running back. He simply didn’t have an Alfred Morris or Pierre Garcon. There weren’t any play making veterans like Reggie Wayne to pair with rookies like T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, either. He didn’t have the luxury of turning around and handing it to a menacing power back like Trent Richardson or Marshawn Lynch. The cupboard was bare in Miami and Tannehill had to take his lumps.
Regardless, his rookie season showed flashes of what he is capable of doing. In week four against the Arizona Cardinals, Tannehill went 26-for-41 for 431 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He and Brian Hartline were practically unstoppable that day, hooking up 12 times for a mind boggling 253 yards and the one touchdown. The Dolphins lost the game, by the way. It would be only one of three times all year Hartline would eclipse the 100 yard receiving mark in a game. Tannehill continued his up and down rookie campaign for the rest of the season, finishing with the stats you see above.
It didn’t take GM Jeff Ireland long to publicly state his intentions to bring in reinforcements for his young signal caller. As soon as free agency opened up they went hard after the marquee wide receivers, eventually landing former Steeler Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson, formerly of the Rams. They also brought in long time New York Jet Dustin Keller at tight end to replace the plodding Fasano. Now armed with legit pass catching weapons to add to Hartline, Tannehill is poised to take a step forward in year two. Helping his cause is their commitment to the running game. Gone, is Reggie Bush. He is replaced with second year man Lamar Miller and rookie Mike Gillislee, two players with speed and quickness. Coach Joe Philbin was the offensive architect for the Packers offense and you can see his fingerprints all over this one. Look for this team to continue maximizing its strengths. Tannehill has one of the better deep balls in the league and Wallace might be the best deep ball receiver in the NFL. This pairing is perfect as long as Tannehill has time to throw deep.
It’s my opinion we haven’t seen Tannehill’s best football yet. With a year under his belt in Philbin’s system and with a familiar voice coaching him along the way in Mike Sherman, he will continue progressing with his retooled offense. Having said that, I am going to take the slight over on both.
I think Tannehill can put up similar numbers to what we’ve seen from Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco over the last couple years – somewhere in the useable QB2 range. I don’t think he’ll be a 4,000 yard passer this season, but he should end up near the 3,700 yard mark – that’s only another 406 yards with the upgraded cast. The touchdowns are going to be more difficult, but in a passing league it seems like everyone throws 20 touchdowns these days. In fact, no fewer than twenty quarterbacks threw 20 touchdowns in 2012.
He’s a good dynasty investment with a ton of untapped potential. The unfortunate part is according to Ryan McDowell’s latest ADP data from June, Tannehill’s average draft position has climbed all the way up to the QB13, ahead of guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Andy Dalton. So, the cat’s out of the bag. If you want him, you’re going to have to pay a premium price.
How do you think Ryan Tannehill will do in 2013? Do you think he’ll be “Over or Under” 3,700 passing yards and 20 touchdowns? Let me know in the comments below!
Eric is on Twitter @OlingerIDP.