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A worthy choice

Chandler Smith: While not top-10 draft talent, quarterback has assets to succeed

Published: Friday, April 27, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

For weeks the debate raged on: is A&M signal-caller Ryan Tannehill truly worthy of a top-10 overall NFL draft pick?

Thursday evening, the cacophony would pause, at least for a moment, as the Miami Dolphins announced their first pick — the 2012 NFL draft’s eighth overall.

The Dolphins’ choice, unlike their motive, shocked no one.

For better or for worse, Miami went with their gut, and the likely influence of current Dolphins offensive coordinator and former A&M head coach Mike Sherman, to draft what many believed a reach and act of desperation.

On the surface, the numbers are far from earthshattering. Tannehill’s win total leaves something to be desired. His experience at the position brings up a myriad of questions marks, including whether the Aggie slinger could legitimately challenge woefully mediocre Miami quarterbacks Matt Moore and David Garrard for a starting spot in 2012.

Yet, there Tannehill stood — all smiles, wearing his brand new Dolphins hat, holding his finely pressed Dolphins jersey, doused in the light of cameras, soaking in the moment aside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Still, the question of the initial debate remains: was Tannehill worthy of his pick and, more importantly, could he blossom into a prolific NFL starter?

Though Tannehill does have the tape to justify at least a late first-round or early second-round selection, he clearly reaped the rewards of the draft’s timing and, truly, generous benefactors — the first being the high value of the quarterback position, and the second having teams in desperate need for offensive pieces, particularly apt signal callers.  

A raw athlete, Tannehill excelled as a receiver for the Aggies, catching over 1,500 yards before his switch to quarterback in 2010. An equally potent gunslinger, he lit up opposing defenses on multiple occasions. His 449 passing yards versus Texas Tech was an A&M single-game passing record. His 3,744 passing yards through the air in 2011 also broke the Aggies single-season passing record.

It seems he will find his share of success at the next level.

But what of the turnovers, the naysayers would say. What of the decision making? What of the average passer rating?

Without question, Tannehill’s greatest need is experience. Forced throws and failures to check-down to other receiving options were not entirely uncommon. Deep-balls lacked consistent touch, a quirk that directly led to an early pick in 2011’s Arkansas game. Fluid movement of the ball down the field was mixed with drives of painfully dry offensive production.  

Sixty-four drops, however, cannot be ignored. An offensive scheme forcing A&M’s supposed best receiver into running all of three routs, most notably

comebacks, cannot be swept under the rug in the slightest. As opposing corners picked up offensive tendencies, they began to sit on routs.

Is Tannehill’s true ability masked by stats? Undoubtebly so. There was, after all, credence to his surprising rise up draft boards.

But will his reunification with his former coach and mentor, in a familiar system, allow him to more easily transition into a starting role?  Can Miami find any offensive talent outside of running back Reggie Bush to support him?

Tannehill left a lasting mark at Texas A&M. He could do the same for Miami.

Chandler Smith is a sophomore communication major and sports editor of The Battalion

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