In 2008 and 2009, Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill lost two quarterback competitions to Stephen McGee and Jerrod Johnson, respectively. He played his first two seasons in the Big 12 at wide receiver, catching 101 passes for 1,453 yards and nine touchdowns in that time frame. In 2010, however, Tannehill got to go back to his natural quarterback position, and after two productive seasons under Mike Sherman - now the offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins - the 6'4", 222-pound Tannehill is suddenly a coveted 2012 NFL Draft commodity.
The 23-year-old's story is unusual, but his on-field play has caused many respected talent evaluators to take notice. The latest to talk about Tannehill publicly: Mike Mayock, who appeared on Pro Football Talk Live just yesterday to address whether or not Tannehill was the real deal.
"There's something pretty interesting about this Tannehill kid," Mayock told Mike Florio.
"You know the background," Mayock continued. "He was their leading wide receiver in '08 and '09, and then gets converted to quarterback half-way through the 2010 season. He's only got 19 starts at the quarterback position, which is not enough, in my opinion, for most guys coming out. Does he have some development ahead of him? Absolutely."
Tannehill is a tall, commanding figure in the pocket with a big arm and the athletic ability to extend plays. The small sample size is a concern, and operating out of a college spread offense, Mayock sees one chief flaw in Tannehill's game at the moment: a lack of anticipation.
"What I see though, Mike, is a kid that has a big arm; understands and has a work ethic and a passion for the game; and the thing that he doesn't have that needs to develop... he lacks some anticipation, and he'll throw late into coverage," Mayock said. "In other words, he doesn't have enough trust in himself yet where he can throw a guy open. He's got to see the guy open before he throws it."
In the 2011 NFL Draft, several second-tier quarterback prospects - most notably Jake Locker and Christian Ponder - shot up draft boards quickly despite obvious warts to their game; Locker was taken No. 8 overall by Tennessee, and Ponder went four picks later to Minnesota. Both of those players are excellent athletic talents, and Mayock wasn't shy in equating Tannehill's draft-day potential to those two prospects.
"I really believe, and if you look at Locker and Ponder, this kid's as gifted as either of those," Mayock stated. "Is it a stretch to think he's going to go somewhere in the first half of the first round? No. So keep your eye on him."
We know that the Buffalo Bills need to start developing a quarterback. We know that the Bills have the No. 10 overall pick, which lands them right in the Locker-Ponder wheelhouse from a year ago. We also know that the Bills have more pressing immediate needs, particularly in the pass-rushing department. Our question for you: how willing are you to consider the possibility of the Bills using their third straight Top 10 pick on a raw, talented quarterback that may not play for a year or two?