Chatter on Ryan Tannehill, why not drafting a quarterback was justified and names to keep an eye on if Tannehill is injured or mediocre this season:
▪ As the Dolphins begin year seven of Tannehill's career hoping/thinking/praying that he’s the answer, leave it to former Dolphins great Mark Duper to articulate the thoughts of many Dolphins fans:
“We always say Ryan Tannehill has a lot of potential but there’s always something wrong with him,” Duper bemoaned this offseason. “I still don’t know how good he is. [This] year is do or die for him. He needs to stay healthy and perform or there’s going to be trouble in paradise. Dan [Marino] likes him.”
I’m a bit more optimistic on Tannehill than others, encouraged by how he played in the two months before his 2016 knee injury and the fact he finished 12th in passer rating that year.
Top Dolphins officials believe he can be elite, though that seems a stretch. Here’s what they know they must answer this year: Can he be an above-average quarterback on a team that wins consistently?
CBS’ Phil Simms, who likes Tannehill, said that question is still difficult to answer.
Remember, Simms that, that “Case Keenum was on a good team with a well designed offense and almost took them to the Super Bowl. Coaching is so important for the quarterback. You have to be aggressive in managing the game. What I’m waiting to see is if Tannehill is pulling the team down or does he lift it? I think they would have beaten the Steelers that day in the [January 2017 playoff game] if he had been healthy. He would have made plays that Matt Moore couldn’t…
“Tannehill’s had some really good moments. He has experience and talent. He has size. I’m really interested to see his movement because that was a really good part of his game in a league where quarterbacks can move now to throw the ball more than I’ve ever seen. Look at how Tom Brady moves.”
▪ It was easy to question why the Dolphins didn’t draft a quarterback in April. But draft history this century at least somewhat justifies that approach.
Among my findings from an analysis of drafts since 2000:
1) Of the 124 quarterbacks drafted between the fourth and seventh rounds from 2000 to 2016, only three became above average starters (future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins) and three became average starters (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, David Garrard). That’s six out of 124, an awful percentage. So not drafting someone like Luke Falk can be justified that way.
2) Even if the Dolphins had drafted a quarterback in the first three rounds, his chance of success wouldn’t be great.
Between 2000 and 2016, 45 quarterbacks were selected in the first round. Fifteen (one-third) became above average starters and nine average starters. That leaves 21 who were busts or close to it. I would be shocked if safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is a bust.
3) Between 2000 and 2016, 19 quarterbacks were selected in the second round. Only three became above average starters (future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, Derek Carr and based on a small sample size, Jimmy Garappolo). Two became average or slightly better (Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick). That means 14 of the 19 never even became multiyear starters.
4) And there’s this: Of the 21 quarterbacks selected in the third round between 2000 and 2016, just three proved to be above average (Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Matt Schaub) and another (Josh McCown) was average. So that’s 17 failures in 21 tries.
Bottom line: Maybe the Dolphins were wise in drafting players more likely to succeed at other positions.
“The way the draft fell and the offseason fell, they were better off doing what they decided to do,” Simms said. “When you talk about a capable backup, drafting one of the top four guys [in the 2018 draft], you are not talking about a backup. You are talking this is going to be our guy. Looking at their team, do you want to go through stages of developing another quarterback? My thought would be no. Now they’ve got to win.”
▪ So what if Tannehill demonstrates this year that he isn’t the longterm answer? Here are four quarterbacks Dolphins fans should be eyeing closely when they watch college football this year:
1) Missouri’s Drew Lock. ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks him as the best QB in this class heading into 2018 and places him 17th in his “way too early” 2019 mock draft. He had 44 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions last season and led the Southeastern Conference with 3964 passing yards.
“Similar to Josh Allen in the 2018 class, Lock checks the boxes with his physical traits, although he remains undeveloped in several key areas of playing the position,” said draft analyst Dane Brugler, who has him fourth in his 2019 mock.
2) Oregon’s Justin Herbert. McShay’s No. 2 quarterback and 26th in his too early mock draft.
In eight games last season, he threw 15 touchdowns and five interceptions, had 1983 passing yards and 183 rushing yards (4.2 per carry) and completed 67.5 percent of his passes. “Ton of potential,” McShay said.
Brugler has him 32nd overall: “Despite missing almost half of last season with a broken collarbone, there is plenty of optimism surrounding Herbert as a pro prospect as he enters his junior season in 2018.”
3) Michigan’s Shea Patterson. Threw for 2239 yards last season, with 17 touchdowns, nine interceptions and completed 63.8 percent of his passes in 2017 at Mississippi before transferring to Michigan, where he’s immediately eligible to play.
He reportedly signed a deal to play in the Texas Rangers' minor-league system, but that won't preclude him from playing at Michigan this year or pursuing an NFL career if he chooses.
“Although he still has plenty to prove, Patterson flashed big-time potential at Ole Miss, and one season under Jim Harbaugh could catapult him into the draft's first round,” said Brugler, who has him 16th in his mock.
4) Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. The Baylor transfer threw for 3158 yards in his first year at Auburn last season, with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions and a 66.5 completion percentage.
Brugler has Stidham 17th: "Stidham performed well in his first season at Auburn last season and NFL scouts are hopeful to see another promising step in 2018.”
Something to keep in mind: The Dolphins already have the most dead money on their books of any team in the league for 2019, and it would grow dramatically if they move on from Tannehill.
According to overthecap.com, Tannehill's dead money would be $13.4 million next season if the Dolphins release him. It would be $5.56 million if they release him after 2019. His cap hit next season is $26.6 million, per overthecap.com.
▪ If you exclude Colin Kaepernick, it’s clear the Dolphins weren’t going to find a much better backup than David Fales in free agency, judging from this USA Today piece that ranks Miami’s backup situation 17th in the league.
And Fales might be better than some of the backup situations that USA Today rated superior to Miami’s, including Atlanta (aging Matt Schaub), Kansas City (Chad Henne) and Minnesota (Trevor Simien). Fales’ command of the offense and excellent work on deep balls in the offseason program has raised some expectations internally about his ability to handle the job.
▪ Former Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry discussed Tannehill for the third time since joining the Cleveland Browns, in an interview with Sirius XM radio.
"I have all the respect for Ryan but we didn't talk that much off the field," Landry said. "We worked together and that's what it was. Nothing is wrong with that but everybody seems to make a big deal out of it and it is not a big deal. Not trying to throw shade at him."
Please click here for my Friday post with part four of my five-part series with the skinny on every UM defensive player, including news on a front-runner named at one position and an injury for a speedy freshman.