Now or Never?
The 2015 season is shaping up to be a make-or-break season for Ryan Tannehill. His organization has shown nothing but commitment to him in form of coaching moves, player personnel decisions, and financial decisions. Prior to last season, Miami hired former Philadelphia Eagles Quarterbacks Coach Bill Lazor as their Offensive Coordinator. Lazor coached in Washington as a Quarterbacks Coach under Joe Gibbs during Gibbs’ second head coaching stint in Washington. He also held the same position for Chip Kelly’s first season in Philadelphia.
Lazor brought much of Kelly’s playbook to Miami in 2014, where his scheme yielded career highs for Tannehill in pass attempts, completions, completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing attempts, and rushing yards. All while Tannehill had his career low in interceptions.
The team has also committed to Tannehill in the form of acquiring offensive weapons to aid his progress. Last season, they spent a second round pick on Jarvis Landry. This year, they acquired Kenny Stills via trade, Jordan Cameron and Greg Jennings via free agency, and DeVante Parker via the first round of the NFL Draft.
While none of those players are likely to approach the league lead in yards or touchdowns, they provide Tannehill with a variety of very talented and/or experienced options, which will prevent opposing defenses from being able to key on just one weapon. When a team has so many viable options, it’s hard to determine where all of the production will go, but it’s a good indicator that the quarterback will reap the benefits of the situation. Parker had foot surgery on June 5 to correct some lingering issues from a 2014 foot fracture. The team is hopeful he will return for Week 1, but missing all of Training Camp seems likely. This is far from optimal for Parker's outlook in his rookie season, but it shouldn't impact Tannehill's ceiling too much and should have no impact on his fantasy floor with all of the other receiving options at his disposal.
To help in the ground game, Miami drafted Jay Ajayi in the fifth round. Ajayi will join Lamar Miller – who ran for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns and pitched in 38 receptions for 275 yards and one receiving touchdown in 2014. As beat writer Omar Kelly tweeted in late May, Tannehill has a plethora of weapons.
Ryan Tannehill has 5 NFL receivers who have starter talent, 2 solid TEs, 3 good tailbacks. PLEASE....let us not make excuses in 2015.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) May 27, 2015
Miami has also made their commitment to Tannehill known in another very public fashion. This offseason, he signed a six-year, $96 million contract extension that includes $45 million in guaranteed money. It’s a contract that both emphasizes the organization’s belief in Tannehill but also displays caution in case he regresses and shows he isn’t the player who can lead Miami to a championship. It’s front-loaded in the first two to three years with no guaranteed money in the final two years, meaning the team could cut him in later years of the deal without any financial penalty.
- In terms of fantasy production, Tannehill has risen from QB24 in his rookie season to QB14 in 2013 to QB9 last season. This kind of progress suggests a probable top-12 finish in 2015.
- Miami has pushed the proverbial chips to the middle of the table with Tannehill in supplying the offense with plenty of solid weapons via free agency and the draft.
- Tannehill's athleticism provides the "hidden points" via rushing stats. Many quarterbacks with average-or-below arm talent and/or limited playmakers around them in their offenses have been top-12 fantasy performers due to their rushing ability.
- Tannehill still struggles with the deep ball, which limits his ability to accumulate fantasy points quickly and create more possessions in any given game.
- Miami’s offensive line has yielded 104 sacks in the past two seasons, potentially pushing the limits of Tannehill’s durability.
- Tannehill’s 66.4% completion percentage in 2014 was his career high, but his first two seasons were 58.3% and 60.4%, respectively. To say that Tannehill has solved his inaccuracy problems at this point could be a stretch.
At the time of this publication, Tannehill is being drafted as the 13th quarterback and 107th overall player. He’s behind Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, and Eli Manning and just ahead of Philip Rivers. Arguments could be made for Tannehill suggesting he should be selected ahead of all of those players. However, the counter to that position holds weight as well.
Tannehill’s ceiling, however, is higher than anyone in that group. Romo and Stafford lead teams that figure to be run-based, while Manning and Rivers lack proven balanced offenses and weapons (outside of Odell Beckham, Jr. in New York). They’re also statuesque players who won’t accumulate any rushing stats to buoy their fantasy production.
When fantasy owners are selecting a quarterback in the eighth or ninth round, it’s generally because they are the types who prefer to wait on quarterback and play Quarterback-by-Committee or “stream” players at that position. Tannehill has the skills and offensive weapons around him to provide the high ceiling that these types of owners can parlay into a top-five quarterback finisher and someone they can be confident in starting nearly every week of the season, except in cases where his matchup is truly terrible.
As of this publication, 74% of Experts at FantasyPros.com suggest that Tannehill will meet or exceed his current ADP of QB13.
Twitter is always a source that provides varying viewpoints, and a few tweeters had some interesting Tannehill facts and stances. First, @TheMattyI, founder of "The Phinsider" had a great stat about Tannehill:
Over the final 2 months of '14, Ryan Tannehill was the 6th highest rated QB in the NFL. Was also 2nd in comp %, 6th in TDs, 5th in pass yds.— Matty I (@TheMattyI) May 28, 2015
I also did a little "crowd-sourcing" and asked where people thought Tannehill would finish at the quarterback position this season. Most had him as a back-end QB1 in 12-team leagues:
@RyanHester13 12-15— andrew minucci (@nuchsolo) May 27, 2015
@RyanHester13 #10— sean marlowe (@UCFins01) May 27, 2015
@RyanHester13 qb11— Jules (@julesdynasty) May 27, 2015
One response, though, had Tannehill taking another leap into a higher tier of QB1s.
@RyanHester13 top 6-7— Stanto (@Stanto68) May 27, 2015
Questions, comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this piece are always welcome via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org