There are so many questions that surround Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill that no one really knows if the team has their true franchise quarterback. The 2015 season was supposed to be a breakout year for Tannehill; instead, he was the third most sacked quarterback in the league, the team refused to run the ball to try to relieve the pressure from the fourth-year passer, and he was not allowed to audible. Heading into the 2016 season, with a new coaching staff, led by a coach who is seen as a "guru" for quarterbacks, the Dolphins are expected to learn exactly what they have in Tannehill during his fifth season.
Monday, ESPN Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., held a conference call with the ESPN NFL Nation reporters, discussing his latest NFL Mock Draft. When James Walker, who covers he Dolphins for ESPN, asked about Kiper's pick of offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley for the Dolphins with the eighth overall pick, a selection that defies the current conventional wisdom that has Miami looking at either the cornerback or linebacker positions, Kiper pointed to the questions about Tannehill:
"This is the judgment year for Tannehill," Kiper explained. "So either get it done or no more excuses. He's had coaches come through, coordinators, everything. He has to start getting it done on a consistent basis. So you figure, ‘OK, let's help out the offensive line and find some hole-fillers down the road in other spots.'"
The Dolphins could use Stanley, moving incumbent right tackle Ja'Wuan James inside to guard, which would seem to solidify four of the five offensive line positions, teaming with Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert and Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey. That would leave one guard position to be filled either by Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner, Jamil Douglas, or a free agent/draft pick. It is not a bad pick, and it does make some sense, but it might not excite the fans, who want to see a disappointing defense upgraded this offseason.
"Some people think Stanley is the best left tackle in this draft, even ahead of [Laremy] Tunsil," Kiper continued to explain to Walker. "If you poll 10 different people, seven would say Tunsil, three would say Stanley. So Stanley is going to get some votes. So if you get arguably the best left tackle at No. 8, that's a pretty good pick."
Miami could also be looking to the future with the pick, and not just at answering the questions about Tannehill. Albert will turn 32 during the 2016 season, which means he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Miami could draft Stanley with the intention of him gaining experience at right tackle before moving him to left tackle when Albert retires. That would allow the team to move James back to tackle, opening a guard position as a need a few years down the road.
Whatever the case, Kiper is right about at least one thing in his discussion about the Dolphins. This is the year the Dolphins need to once-and-for-all find out what Tannehill will be for the franchise. He has the talent, the weapons appear to be there, and the team should be better in 2016 than they were in 2015, as long as Tannehill returns to the 2012 to 2014 growth rather than the 2015 plateau. Miami has to address the offensive line, and they may choose to do it in free agency or later in the draft than with their first-round pick, but they do need to find a way to better protect Tannehill if they want answers to all of the questions surrounding their quarterback.