Written by: Ray Hagan @rayhagan19
With the 2012 NFL Draft fast approaching, quarterback needy NFL teams are beginning to look at the upside of Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill. Yes, that Ryan Tannehill; he of the 19 college starts, he of the 12-7 collegiate record as a starter.
Certainly we've all heard how his time as a college receiver has given him a unique perspective on the quarterback position. I've heard how Tannehill will have a rapport with his receivers that other quarterbacks can't because of his time running routes. Did Antwaan Randle El make a better wideout because he understood quarterback play having played the position in college? I'd love to ask Daniel Snyder but he's still trying to forget that contract.
There's an inherent danger in drafting a quarterback high in the draft. We've seen moderate success for Flacco and Ryan. Cam Newton set the NFL on fire in his rookie season. Finally healthy, Matt Stafford took a step towards elite status last year.
Sam Bradford had a rookie season that most thought was a sign of good things to come...but the wheels fell off in year two. As of right now the best thing Sam has done is sign a huge contract that locked the Rams in with him and forced their hand into dealing the #2 selection for a king's ransom.
Mark Sanchez has made more headlines for his looks than his play, but after their Peyton Manning flirtation New York was kind enough to extend his contract for far more than he's worth.
Everyone knows that first round quarterbacks are a crapshoot. We've seen many first round flameouts.
Let's look back to the fast risers since 2008:
Joe Flacco (2008, 18th overall):
While it may be hard to believe now, the Flacco selection was considered a bit of a gamble at the time. Flacco shot up draft boards with an excellent combine, and Senior Bowl. He was not even pegged as a starter when drafted, he was more a grooming project. Injury to Kyle Boller and Troy Smith falling ill forced him into a starting role he's never relinquished. Flacco and Matt Ryan set the bar high for future high-drafted QBs to contribute immediately.
Mark Sanchez (2009, 5th overall):
Even Pete Carroll, who coached Sanchez at USC thought the quarterback could have used another year of grooming. Sanchez didn't take his advice and with two straight surprise AFC Championship appearances, it looked like Sanchez was proving Carroll wrong. Year 3 didn't bring the leap that many expected for him. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer put the offense on Sanchez. The end result? 18 interceptions, a rift with top target Santonio Holmes, a season without a playoff appearance and the dismissal of the offensive coordinator who put the onus on Sanchez to make the leap. It's hard to label Sanchez a bust, but it's easy to say he hasn't provided the value one would like from the 5th overall choice. As a matter of fact the Jets just brought in a new backup. You might have heard of him...
Tim Tebow (2010, 25th overall):
Whether you love Tebow or hate him, EVERYONE has an opinion on him. Coming out of Florida, despite a standout career, opinions of Tebow's draft value were as varied as opinions of him are today. The only consensus was that due to flawed mechanics and a subpar arm he was NOT a first round selection. Someone forgot to tell Josh McDaniels that. Josh traded back into the first round to get Tebow to pair with fellow first round choice Demaryius Thomas. Tebow now has a playoff appearance and a slew of exciting comeback wins on his resume. But as of today, both he and McDaniels find themselves out of Denver.
Blaine Gabbert (2011, 10th overall):
72.9% completions, 4335 yards passing, 39 touchdowns, 18 interceptions in his final season at Missouri. You can see why Blaine Gabbert was drafted in the top ten. Unfortunately those are the senior statistics of Chase Daniel, his undrafted predecessor at Mizzou. 63.4% completions, 3186 yards passing, 16 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, are Gabbert's numbers from his final season at Missouri. The difference between he and Daniel? 5 inches. Those 5 inches were enough to convince NFL scouts that while Daniel put up great numbers in the same offense, and Gabbert...well, didn't, that Gabbert was worth a top ten pick. With Jacksonville fans clamoring for their team to get Tebow instead of the Jets you can safely assume how year one of the Gabbert experiment went. What a wasted selection.
Christian Ponder (2011, 12th overall):
Taken almost by process of elimination, Christian Ponder rode three things to being the 12th overall pick. He wasn't Joe Webb, the Vikings thought he could learn behind Donovan McNabb for a year, and he had a great Senior Bowl. That's right, one game, a post season All-Star game caused NFL people to throw out the fact that in three years as a starter he averaged 62% completions, never once threw for more than 2,800 yards or 20 touchdowns, and had a TD/INT ratio of 49/30 for his college career.
By now the picture is probably becoming clearer. Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement instituting a new system for draft picks doing away with the mega bonuses of yesteryear, teams are now more willing than ever to throw away a top pick on a quarterback blessed with the ever tantalizing label of "potential".
Gabbert is a bust, that's obvious to anyone who saw his deer-in-the-headlights performances last year. We don't need 3 years to figure that out. There's still hope for Ponder, but not much, trapped on a bad Minnesota team. But hope springs eternal in the NFL, as the teams no longer in the running for a little bit of Luck or RG III have started that dance that has shot Tannehill from round two prospect to potential top ten pick. The dance that says if he pans out we've got a stud. Being the second or third best quarterback in a draft covers more blemishes than any makeup ever could.
The only things more powerful than talent and need in the NFL draft are potential and desperation. Miami and Cleveland are desperate enough to reach for Tannehill at 8 or 4 respectively. New reports are circulating recently that based on his potential, The Philadelphia Eagles are interested in trading up to secure his rights. As an Eagles fan, I hope more than anything that desperation trumps potential and he lands in Cleveland or Miami. I don't want to see him holding a clipboard in Eagles' green.
My real hope is that someday talent trumps potential...but until then, buyer beware.
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