ESPN's Todd McShay recently updated his draft grade on Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. After months of staunchly keeping Tannehill buried in the second round, McShay has changed his tune and upgraded the Aggies quarterback to his top ten.
"He belongs in the top 10 and he has a chance to be an elite quarterback in the NFL," McShay said during a conference call with the media on Friday. "To me, [Stanford Cardinal quarterback] Andrew Luck is No. 1. Then there's a little bit of a drop-off. There's a difference, I think, between [Luck] and [Baylor Bears quarterback] Robert Griffin III. But I don't think the difference between Robert Griffin III and Tannehill is all that big, to be quite honest with you."
This change in attitude comes, as McShay puts it, from an "extensive study" of Tannehill:
"You looked at how quickly he rose [up the draft boards] and you can't really figure it out," he said. "He had 19 career starts, and his production was not elite.
"But then I got seven or eight weeks of games, looked at his bowl game, and in the last four or five days I've finished my grading of the top quarterbacks. You start to go through the checklist of what you're looking for with all the top quarterbacks: how he handles pressure, how he drops back, his handling of third and fourth downs, how he performs in the fourth quarter either trailing or with a one-score lead.
"When I looked at it and took the bias out of it, he had everything you look for. I had to take a step back and realize he belongs in the top 10, and has a chance to be an elite NFL quarterback."
McShay projects Tannehill to fall to the Miami Dolphins at the eighth draft pick in his most recent NFL Mock Draft.
Record: 6-10 | Top needs: QB, DE, WR, ROT, S, TE
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Tannehill is still somewhat raw as a quarterback -- just 19 starts after beginning his career as a wide receiver -- but his athleticism and upside are impressive. He also makes better decisions than some give him credit for and he didn't get much help in his senior year, when he was coached by new Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
McShay's ESPN colleague, Mel Kiper, Jr., does not agree with McShay's assessment of Tanehill:
"To me, he's being overdrafted," Kiper Jr. said. "We saw it last year with Christian Ponder. He should've been a second-round pick. Overdrafting is taking place at quarterback, and it's going to happen again with Ryan Tannehill.
"It's obvious that he's got ability. You can watch him throw the ball on the move. He's a cerebral, smart kid. But how he's handled in the NFL will go a long way in determining what kind of career he has."
Kiper does agree with McShay, however, that Tannehill could end up being picks at the eighth spot by the Dolphins, if he's not selected before that. McShay really believes the Cleveland Browns, with the fourth pick, should look at Tannehill.
"I would have a very difficult time passing on him at that No. 4 pick," McShay said. "I just think that he has everything that you look for in a future franchise quarterback if you develop him properly and if you're willing to be patient. That's where Colt McCoy comes in. Colt may be frustrated [if the Browns draft Tannehill], but I know Colt well enough that he's going to do what's right for the team and he's going to handle the situation properly, at least in the short term, and then maybe they can trade him and move on.
"But if you bring in Tannehill and you sit him for ideally a year or the majority of the year - maybe put him in toward the end of this year to get him some experience - I just think that now you're looking at an organization that has its future franchise quarterback, has a guy that has all the physical tools, the size, the arm strength, the accuracy, which continues to improve, has the right mentality, can handle pressure and has just intangibles through the roof. That turns everything.
"You can have Trent Richardson, and he's going to be a phenomenal back. You can have Justin Blackmon, and he's probably going to be in that second tier of wide receivers in the NFL and that's great. But they don't win Super Bowls. We haven't seen Adrian Peterson win a Super Bowl. We haven't seen Andre Johnson win a Super Bowl. If you have a great quarterback, you win Super Bowls. I think Tannehill has a chance if developed properly and [if the team is] patient with him to become a great quarterback."
However, that development is key, according to McShay.
"You're going to bring him in and sit him for a year, and after that you're looking at a franchise quarterback," he said. "He's got all the tools: arm strength, his accuracy continues to improve, he can handle pressure, and his intangibles are through the roof."