April 18, 2014

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NFL draft: Tannehill may be too much of a gamble to take at No. 4

Tom Rossley was the offensive coordinator when the Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005.

Rodgers sat, learned and gained confidence for a couple of years before being handed the starting job. Then the NFL watched him win a Super Bowl and be named MVP of the league.

Tannehill

Rossley believes the same slow approach would be best for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

“I hope he doesn’t have to go in and play right away,” Rossley, who spent the last four years as Tannehill’s quarterbacks coach, recently told The Chronicle-Telegram by phone. “Ryan thinks he could come in and play right away, but I think it would be more of a can’t-miss thing if gets a year. He could learn without having to play.

“Confidence is such a big part of it. Rodgers didn’t have that confidence coming out of Cal. Ryan Tannehill can be the same way.”

Regardless of the ebbs and flows of predraft hype, Tannehill is under consideration by the Browns with the No. 4 pick in the draft, which starts Thursday night. He may not be as likely a pick as Alabama running back Trent Richardson or Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, but he’s in the mix.

The Browns are open to possible upgrades to Colt McCoy at quarterback, and Tannehill is the best option after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are taken with the first two picks. The biggest drawbacks with Tannehill are he started only 19 games at quarterback in college, and the popular theory he won’t be ready to start immediately.

“I don’t buy that. He played 19 games, so it’s not like he’s coming off not playing,” Browns general manager Tom Heckert said last week. “He knows our system … so it probably would be easier for him to play in our system.

“If you draft a kid early, first round, you’re probably going to want to start him.”

The argument can be made quite easily that the Browns can’t afford to take any player who won’t make an instant impact. They were 4-12 last year and had the 30th-ranked scoring offense (13.6 points a game).

That thinking would be short-sighted if Tannehill evolved into Rodgers by 2014, but there’s no guarantee that would happen. Heckert, president Mike Holmgren and coach Pat Shurmur may also be feeling external and internal pressure to make a significant jump in 2012.

Tannehill thinks he can have an immediate impact. He expects to battle for, and win, the starting job wherever he lands.
“I’m excited to go into a team, compete and I want to be a starter,” he said at the scouting combine. “It’s a goal of mine. I don’t just want to go make a team. I want to go play. I want to make an impact and lead a team to a Super Bowl.”

Two years ago the thought of Tannehill as a top-five pick would’ve been ridiculous. He had spent his freshman and sophomore seasons starting at receiver after he didn’t win the quarterback job and the coaches needed his outstanding athleticism on the field.

But he took the quarterback reins in 2010 and set A&M records with 327 completions in 531 attempts (61.6 percent) for 3,744 yards in 2011. He threw 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

He’s 6-foot-3 7/8, 221 pounds with the speed and athleticism to catch 112 passes and 10 touchdowns as a receiver, so he may be just scratching the surface of his potential under center.

“He’s just obviously very new to the position, but he’s a good football player,” Heckert said. “When you’re looking at quarterbacks you watch all of their throws in college and his are a lot less. That’s just the way it is. It’s not his fault. It makes it more difficult.”

Rossley said Tannehill never stopped being a quarterback. Even when he was starting at wideout he attended every quarterback meeting.

“I always used to tell alumni this guy was going to be an NFL quarterback,” Rossley said. “He has great arm strength. He can make every possible throw and he’s accurate.”

Heckert feels Tannehill would have an edge with the Browns because they run the West Coast Offense. Tannehill learned the system under Rossley and former A&M head coach Mike Sherman, who is the offensive coordinator in Miami, which is the favorite to draft Tannehill at No. 8.

“Right now, he could walk in and be able to operate the Browns system, any West Coast system,” Rossley said. “Within two days he would be able to handle their offense.”

Rossley still believes time on the sideline is best for any quarterback.

“The biggest problem is how fast the game is,” he said. “It’s just repetition. Seeing and understanding coverages, feeling the speed.

“He knows it all. Put him on the board and Ryan Tannehill will be the most impressive guy. He’ll have suggestions to coaches and they will take them. It just takes a little while. You have to be around it, have to practice it.”

Tannehill is one of the biggest unknowns in the entire draft. There’s the boom or bust factor and his uncertain landing spot. If the Browns and Dolphins pass on him, Kansas City at No. 11 and Seattle at No. 12 are in play but aren’t automatic. He might even be available when the Browns pick again at No. 22, when it could be a no-brainer.

“He’s a proven guy, can drop and throw on time,” Rossley said. “He can do all the things an NFL quarterback does.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.