DynastyFootball

How Good Has Ryan Tannehill Been as a Quarterback?

tannehill

Photo by June Rivera

I’ve been heavily criticized by my peers for my relative dislike of Ryan Tannehill compared to the consensus opinion. He has been cast as the token quarterback who is expected to take that undefinable “next step” in his development and become a fantasy QB1. His outlandish dynasty ADP of QB13 reflects that, and guarantees that I’ll never own Tannehill. Contrasting the Miami quarterback with Sam Bradford, a player whose upside I think is sky high, reveals why the former Aggie isn’t likely to take that nebulous “next step” most dynasty GMs are expecting him too.

College Performance

Going back to college, Tannehill was an inferior prospect to Bradford. Using Jon Moore’s method of focusing on stats against teams .500 or better, we can understand just how mediocre Tannehill’s final  season was:

Player

Year

CMP%

Y/A

AY/A

TD%

INT%

Sam Bradford

2008

68%

9.18

10.05

9.23%

2.15%

Ryan Tannehill

2011

59.7%

6.57

6.06

5.6%

3.64%

2008 was a truly epic season by Bradford, and propelled him to the 1st overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, despite missing practically all of 2009 with a shoulder injury. Tannehill’s 2011 pales in comparison; he performed worse by a significant margin in every statistical category. Tannehill was less accurate, threw for fewer yards per attempt, and threw interceptions at a higher rate. The only positive was his touchdown rate, which is at a level you expect to see from a future draftable prospect.

Using the rotoViz CFB QB Stat finder, we can go even deeper and see how they performed in obvious passing situations, defined as 2nd or 3rd down with 8 or more yards to go:

Player

YR

ATT

CMP%

YDS

AYA

%YTG

INT

INT RATE

TDS

TDRT

Sam Bradford

2008

75

67

815

12.2

91

0

0

5

7%

Ryan Tannehill

2011

75

47

470

5.27

56

3

4%

3

4%

On the exact same number of attempts versus defenses rated 75 or better, Tannehill performed remarkably worse. His completion percentage is 20% points lower than Bradford’s, and his AY/A is less than half the gaudy 12.2 Bradford posted. Tannehill gained 56% of the yards needed to convert in the obvious passing situations, much lower than Bradford’s 91%. Here’s the NFL quarterback rating they would have earned when using their college data:

Player

NFL QB Rating

Sam Bradford

127.95

Ryan Tannehill

66.32

That sums up just how much better Bradford was in obvious passing situations.

Using the same parameters (obvious passing downs), we can see how they performed in the NFL:

Player

Tm

YR

ATTS

CMP%

YDS

AYA

INT

INTRT

TDS

TDRT

Sam Bradford

STL

2010

494

0.62

3526

7.11

6

0.01

13

0.02

Ryan Tannehill

MIA

2012

173

0.6

1180

6.82

6

0.03

2

0.01

The Miami signal caller closed the massive gap in completion percentage and AY/A from their college days, but his interception rate is triple that of Bradford’s, and his touchdown rate is half of his Ram’s counterpart. Using their pro data, Bradford’s QB rating is 85.4 and Tannehill’s is a flat 70.

Comparable NFL QB Seasons

The rotoViz QB Similarity Scores app can show us a good range of comparable NFL quarterbacks, while also giving us the upside (and downside) of a player.

NAME SEAS GMS ATTS COMPS CMPPCT PYDS PTDS INTS pFPOP
Ryan Tannehill 2012 16 30.31 17.62 0.58 205.31 0.75 0.81 -0.05
NAME SEAS GMS ATTS COMPS CMPPCT PYDS PTDS INTS pFPOP
David Carr 2006 16 27.69 18.88 0.68 172.62 0.69 0.75 -0.08
Jason Campbell 2007 13 32.08 19.23 0.6 207.69 0.92 0.85 -0.07
Joey Harrington 2004 16 30.62 17.12 0.56 188.44 1.19 0.75 -0.03
Joe Flacco 2008 16 26.75 16.06 0.6 185.62 0.88 0.75 -0.01
Kyle Boller 2004 16 29.06 16.12 0.55 159 0.81 0.69 -0.11
Trent Edwards 2008 14 26.64 17.43 0.65 191.29 0.79 0.71 -0.03
Drew Bledsoe 2000 16 33.19 19.5 0.59 205.56 1.06 0.81 -0.07
Josh McCown 2004 14 29.14 16.64 0.57 179.36 0.79 0.71 -0.03
Jay Cutler 2007 16 29.19 18.62 0.64 218.44 1.25 0.88 0.03
Doug Flutie 2001 16 32.56 18.38 0.56 216.5 0.94 1.12 -0.1
David Carr 2004 16 29.06 17.75 0.61 218.69 1 0.88 0.02
Andy Dalton 2011 16 32.25 18.75 0.58 212.38 1.25 0.81 -0.03
Ben Roethlisberger 2008 16 29.44 17.69 0.6 206.44 1.06 0.94 -0.02
Byron Leftwich 2004 14 31.64 19.07 0.6 209.07 1.07 0.71 -0.04
Steve McNair 2006 16 29.25 18.44 0.63 190.19 1 0.75 -0.05
Jake Plummer 2001 16 32.81 19 0.58 228.25 1.12 0.88 -0.02
Matt Cassel 2009 15 33.07 18.2 0.55 194.67 1.07 1.07 -0.1
Brad Johnson 2006 15 29.2 17.93 0.61 182.4 0.67 0.93 -0.11
Marc Bulger 2008 15 29.4 16.8 0.57 181.8 0.73 0.87 -0.05
Mark Brunell 2001 15 31.47 19.2 0.61 219.47 1.27 0.87 0

Steve McNair is by far the most positive comp, although Ben Roethlisberger, Marc Bulger and Mark  Brunell mixed in some QB1 seasons as well. Five of the 20 quarterbacks were 1st round busts (Carr, Campbell, Harrington, Boller, Leftwich), and Flacco has been inconsistent thus far in his career, despite his recent success. At absolute best, the comparable players are lukewarm; at worst, they’re dominated by busts and QB2s. In the next table, you can see how Tannehill compared to his 1st round quarterback comps in college (excluding Steve McNair & Joe Flacco, as game recaps only go back to 2000 and small schools like Delaware aren’t readily available):

Player

Year

CMP%

AY/A

Y/A

TD%

INT%

Ryan Tannehill

2012

59.66%

6.06

6.57

5.6%

3.64%

Player

Year

CMP%

AY/A

Y/A

TD%

INT%

Jason Campbell

2005

75.96%

9.61

9.99

6.73%

3.85%

David Carr

2002

63.49%

9.27

8.24

7.05%

0.83%

Ben Roethlisberger

2004

67.59%

9.22

9

5.53%

1.98%

Byron Leftwich

2003

65.49%

8.3

7.96

6.64%

2.24%

Joey Harrington

2002

57.89%

7.15

6.53

4.61%

0.66%

Kyle Boller

2003

52.45%

6.97

6.59

6.64%

2.1%

AVERAGE

63.81%

8.42

8.05

6.2%

1.94%

Jason Campbell and David Carr are two guys who I think were both casualties of franchises in disarray. Roethlisberger has been a better real life quarterback than a fantasy one. Leftwich, Harrington, and Boller were just never able to grasp the NFL game, although Harrington and Boller were drafted far before the numbers indicate they should have been. Were Tannehill ranked in line with the other quarterbacks on this list, he’d be ranked after Harrington and Boller. Tannehill can hardly compete with Byron Leftwich! He performed bottom 3 on a fairly underwhelming list of quarterbacks, and wildly underperformed compared to the composite average. This does nothing but further erode any confidence I have in Tannehill, and reinforces how overvalued he is. His Season N+1 plot is similarly uninspiring:

tannehillviz

Tannehill’s ceiling is Ben Roethlisberger’s 2009 QB9 season, although given how much better Roethlisberger profiles as an NFL quarterback, I doubt he achieves that. His floor is terrible seasons by career backups like Trent Edwards and David Carr. 60% of Tannehill’s comps had a negative change in fantasy points the year after a season similar to his 2012. Are we even sure Tannehill is going to outperform Brandon Weeden over the next 3 years? If you take out Weeden’s first game against Philadelphia where he threw 4 interceptions, he has a similar plot to Tannehill:

tannehillviz2

55% of Weeden’s comps are negative, and a few similar names show up on both players plots. Looking at the table below, we can see that Weeden has a higher ceiling and a higher floor than Tannehill:

Ryan Tannehill

Brandon Weeden

FPG Proj (4 for PTDs)

FPG Proj (6 for PTDs)

FPG Proj (4 for PTDs)

FPG Proj (6 for PTDs)

Low

8.4

9.7

10.5

12.5

Median

11.6

13.5

12

14.2

High

13.2

15.9

14.4

16.9

Now, some might say that removing Weeden’s 4 interception game is cheating. I’d rather hope that game was an outlier and pick Weeden up off the waiver wire than spend a 11th round pick on Tannehill. Over a 3 year window, both players have similar (limited) upside on young, developing offenses. Tannehill was barely better than Weeden was last year, yet he’s almost being drafted as a QB1 while Weeden goes undrafted in most mocks. Even if you’re skittish about starting Weeden, guys like Andy Dalton (QB15), Ben Roethlisberger (QB16), and even Josh Freeman (QB22) have similar or higher ceiling than Tannehill over the next 3 years.

Conclusion

The ensuing question is “Why didn’t Tannehill perform better?” There’s research that suggests a quarterback’s age plays a significant part in his development as an NFL starter. Tannehill ended his college career at age 23, and didn’t start his first NFL game until he was 24. However, it’s even more significant that he didn’t play quarterback in college until he was 22 years old. By the time Sam Bradford was 23; he’d already dominated for 2 years in college and played his first NFL season. Tannehill spent the first 2 years of his college career running around playing wide receiver before crawling his way onto the depth chart as a the backup to future undrafted free agent Jerrod Johnson. He only ended up starting because Johnson played so ineffectively due to a lingering injury. Think about that for a minute.  At 19 years of age, Bradford put on a quarterback clinic as a freshman. At age 20, he was in the middle of a mythic Heisman campaign that saw him throw for 50 touchdowns and over 4,700 yards. Ryan Tannehill wasn’t even playing quarterback until he was 22. Tannehill’s time playing wide receiver somehow became a positive; he’s more “athletic” and “knows the intricacies of where to place a ball so his receivers don’t take a big hit.” Neither of those skills helped him in college and they haven’t shown up on the stat sheet in the NFL.  If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that older quarterbacks have limited upside.

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By Coleman Kelly | @coleman_ff | Archive

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