The recent surge of hype surrounding Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill gained more momentum Friday afternoon when ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay spoke to media during a conference call.
McShay believes Tannehill is worthy of a top-10 pick and it would be tough for the Browns to pass on him with the fourth overall selection. On Thursday, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he thinks the Browns need to take Tannehill at No. 4.
“He belongs in the top 10 and he has a chance to be an elite quarterback in the NFL,” McShay said. “To me, [Stanford 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 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.”
The 6-foot-4, 221-pound Tannehill went to Texas A&M as a quarterback, but he switched to wide receiver and played almost exclusively in that position for the first 30 games of his career. He had only 19 starts as a collegiate quarterback, so he likely will need time to develop before being thrust into an NFL lineup.
Still, McShay said Tannehill has the talent to reverse the fortunes of a franchise. Tannehill also might attract the Browns because he learned the West Coast offense from former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, a disciple of Browns President Mike Holmgren.
“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.”
McShay wonders whether Tannehill’s rising stock might cause another team to trade with the Minnesota Vikings, move up to No. 3 and take Tannehill. Sherman is now the offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, so they would be logical candidates to trade up from No. 8 in pursuit of Tannehill. General Manager Tom Heckert said this week at the owners meetings that the Browns would not trade up from No. 4 to No. 3.
So if Tannehill is nabbed third overall or if he’s available to the Browns and they just forgo a chance to take him, they could choose between Alabama running back Trent Richardson or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon at No. 4. In his most recent mock draft, McShay predicted the Browns will draft Blackmon, but he believes Richardson would be the better selection.
“I would take Richardson because I would just stick with my board and I know that in my mind Richardson’s a better football player,” McShay said. “But I also know Holmgren has a huge respect for wide receivers and what they can do in terms of changing the game plan and becoming impact players.”
However, standout running backs and wide receivers aren’t nearly as valuable as standout quarterbacks. That’s why McShay believes Tannehill makes sense for the Browns.
“You can have Trent Richardson, and he’s going to be a phenomenal back,” McShay said. “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 [Minnesota Vikings star running back] Adrian Peterson win a Super Bowl. We haven’t seen [Houston Texans star wide receiver] 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.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.