The Eagles have been checking out Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. I have him rated as the No. 3 quarterback, right after elite prospects Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. The question the Eagles are dealing with now isn't if they are interested, but rather how much they are interested. Tannehill won't be on the board at pick 15.
There is a significant drop-off from the two elite passers to Tannehill, but there is also a significant drop from him to the next couple of quarterbacks, Brandon Weeden and Kirk Cousins. Weeden is almost as talented, but will turn 29 this season. Cousins isn't nearly as physically gifted.
Tannehill is worth a mid-first round pick but, because of the situation, teams are going to have to over-draft him. Cleveland could take him as early as fourth overall. If they pass, he could go to Miami at eighth overall. This is where things get tricky. If Miami desperately wants Tannehill, they could move up to the No. 3 pick to get in front of Cleveland. If you listen to the Browns' front office talk, you'd think they had passive interest and are looking elsewhere with pick four.
Should Tannehill be on the board at pick seven, this is where the Eagles come into play. That pick belongs to the Jaguars. General manager Gene Smith has indicated publicly that he is willing to trade the pick. If the Eagles really want Tannehill, they can move up to the seventh pick and get him. This is where the previous point comes into play -- just how much do the Eagles like Tannehill? Their attitude could be that they have interest if he slides down for some reason. Their attitude could be that he's a franchise quarterback and they'll aggressively move up to get him.
Let's talk about Tannehill. He was a dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school (run and pass). He went to A&M to play quarterback, but unfortunately arrived at a time when they had a young star named Jerrod Johnson. You may recognize that name. Johnson was an Eagle last summer. He had a terrific college career going until late in his junior year when he hurt his shoulder. Johnson was never the same after that.
Johnson started half of his senior season, but simply wasn't playing well and the team was struggling. The coaches turned to Tannehill. Up to that point, Tannehill had been a wide receiver. When Tannehill got to A&M he realized Johnson was entrenched as the quarterback. Tannehill was too talented to just sit and wait so the coaches gave him a shot at wide receiver. Tannehill is a gifted athlete and proved to be good at receiver. He totaled 101 catches and nine touchdowns after just two seasons. His numbers fell off in 2010 because Johnson wasn't playing well at quarterback.
After a 3-3 start to the 2010 season, Tannehill replaced Johnson during the seventh game. A&M won. Tannehill started the rest of the way and led the team to a 5-1 finish. He beat Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, something A&M had never done in one season. Tannehill stayed at quarterback for 2011. The Aggies finished seventh in the nation in yards gained and 11th in points scored, but were only 7-6 due to a bad defense (59th in yards, 70th in points).
Tannehill was a good college quarterback and is a good pro prospect. He has the potential to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. The first thing you notice is size. Tannehill is 6-4 and 222 pounds. That's big enough for him to see downfield easily, but not so big that he's a statue in the pocket. Tannehill is also a good athlete. You know that from his time at receiver and the athleticism shows up with him at quarterback. Tannehill ran for 382 yards and five touchdowns over the last couple of seasons. He is dangerous when he takes off running. He had more than a few big plays for the Aggies.
Tannehill is a very talented passer. He throws well on the move. He's also comfortable sitting in the pocket. He is one of the few quarterbacks I've seen that looks better playing under center than in the shotgun throwing quick screens to wideouts. Tannehill has good feet. He can slide in the pocket to avoid pressure. He will stand tall and take a big hit if he's waiting for a receiver to come open. I love the fact he keeps his eyes downfield and doesn't focus on the pass rush. Tannehill has a good arm. He can make all the throws. He is generally accurate.
There are issues with Tannehill. He only started for one and a half years so he lacks ideal experience (usually 30 starts). Tannehill will force the ball into coverage at times. Having been a receiver, he likes to give his receivers a chance to make plays. That leads to some dangerous throws. Tannehill was picked off 15 times in 2011. That's about double what a prospect with his talent should have. Tannehill doesn't have the quickest release in the world. He's mechanically sound, but could use some tweaks to get better. There are also some times when he will hold the ball longer than he should. We don't really know how good Tannehill is with throwing deep balls since he didn't do that a lot at A&M.
Tannehill is a good prospect. I like him better than Jake Locker or Christian Ponder from last year's draft class. Tannehill would have been an NFL prospect if he stayed at receiver, so understand that we are talking about a high-level athlete. He's got the size and arm strength you want in a quarterback. His coach at A&M was Mike Sherman, former head coach of the Packers. Tannehill played in system that was a mixture of the spread and an NFL offense. Tannehill has a lot of experience playing under center and he is very good with intermediate routes. Pure spread passers throw screens or deep balls, but have no clue on the intermediate game. In the NFL, you live and die with intermediate passes (11-20 yards). Tannehill is a prospect the Eagles should be interested in.
I would have no problem with the Eagles taking Tannehill at 15. He is worth that pick. I can live with the Eagles using a second-round pick to trade up for Tannehill. That isn't my ideal scenario, but it would make some sense. I do not want the Eagles using both second-round picks and making a major move up to pick three or four to get him. With Michael Vick set as the starter and Mike Kafka still developing, I don't think you overpay to move up and get a quarterback. I think you do the deal if it is good value. Let the desperate teams overpay.
Tannehill would be a good addition. He has the mobility and skill set that Andy Reid likes in a quarterback. Tannehill would be an excellent fit for the Eagles. He is raw as a quarterback and could sit behind Vick for a couple of years and learn on the job. Tannehill would be right after Donovan McNabb and Vick in terms of potential. Kevin Kolb, A.J. Feeley, and Kafka aren't close to Tannehill in terms of being a complete package (size, arm strength, positional ability, and athletic ability).
Why take Tannehill when the defense still needs talent? Any time you have a chance to get a franchise quarterback, you have to look into it. Plus, Vick has shown durability issues. I hope Vick is the starter for the next three to five years, but you can't count on that.
If the Browns are smart, they will take Tannehill at pick four and make all of this Eagles/Tannehill talk useless. Cleveland needs a franchise quarterback. If they do pass, you can bet Howie Roseman and Andy Reid will be working the phones to find out what teams are asking for in a trade into the top 10. The draft is less than a month away and there is a ton of intrigue. Should be a lot of fun.