The NFL Draft was a week ago today. So we figured it was about time to stop comiendo mierda and break shit down and see just how we did. We asked star commenter/draft expert/beer holster owning/gentleman of leisure Chris Kouffman (ckparrot) to break down each prospect from this year's class and give us either a thumbs up or down on each of them. CK knows his shit. He's been featured on Dave Hyde's column in the Sun-Sentinel and you can get more of his draft expertise over at Bleacher Report as well as his NFL Draft site Universal Draft. But this 2012 Dolphins Draft breakdown is exclusive to FN so all other Dolphins blogs can eat a penis sandwich. It's long reading, but good reading. COMPREHENSIVE! This is part one of two. Part two comes later today. Follow CK on twitter. Enjoy. Tits.
#008. QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M – Thumbs Up
My quarterback of choice was Brandon Weeden and I made no secret of that. I had a pretty clear vision for what both Andrew Luck and Weeden do really well that could make them elite starters at the next level along the lines of Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers and Roethlisberger. Not saying that’s a sure thing, it’s never a sure thing to predict a guy will play Hall of Fame caliber football, but my feeling is both guys will produce at points in their career like that caliber player.
However, it’s important to note that Tannehill is not just some shitty consolation prize. A lot has been said about Tannehill already and I’m not necessarily out to re-hash it all. If you want a thorough breakdown of Ryan I recommend this one that my fellow Universal Draft member Richard Lines wrote for the Sun Sentinel. Here is another by Matt Waldman that I also liked.
Something I am not sure either of them focus much attention on is Tannehill’s efficiency on the goal line. Over 2010 and 2011, he was the most efficient Goal-to-Go quarterback in the Draft, in terms of punching the ball in the end zone without turning it over. Andrew Luck was also very good at this but Tannehill was the best and nearly twice as efficient as the ‘great’ Robert Griffin. It makes sense. Tannehill is tall and big, has 4.5 speed which defenses must always be aware of in tight red areas. He is extremely accurate throwing on the run, very decisive in that west coast offense, and he has the quickest release in the Draft. The Dolphins need a shot of red zone efficiency because they’ve ballsed up a lot of opportunities near the goal line in recent years. His goal line efficiency could open the door for him to come on the field situationally as a rookie.
The bottom line for me on Tannehill is that while I don’t have a clear vision for him producing like a Hall of Fame player, I have absolutely no idea how he ends up a bust. I just can’t see it. He is at worst a player along the lines of a Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler or Josh Freeman.
The “bust” story just doesn’t make sense to me, sort of like how the “great quarterback” story with Mark Sanchez never made sense to me. There are holes in both sets of logic. A lot of people compare the two because of their respective lack of experience, but I see them almost as polar opposites.
As a draft prospect, Mark Sanchez was a basket of pretty average tangibles (size, build, strength, release speed, velocity, accuracy, foot speed, throwing on the run and handling pressure, etc) that went along with supposedly a great set of intangibles (leadership, command, winning, character). Steve Young boldly declared that if all the quarterbacks in the 2009 class were on a bus together, Mark Sanchez would be the bus driver (because he’s a natural leader, not because he’s a high school dropout that needed a job for weed money). That’s his draft story: great intangibles, average tangibles.
Tannehill is supposed to be the opposite. He’s got fantastic tangibles. He’s got the quickest release in the Draft (timed), he’s probably the most accurate throwing the ball on the run, he’s got 4.5 speed and used to be his team’s leading wide receiver, has an extremely strong arm, and he’s got a 6’4” frame with a solid 225-230 lbs on it. Those are great tangibles. It’s the intangibles he’s supposed to lack, because he lost 6 games as a senior. When you look at things closely enough to strip away the bull shit, he really was about 50/50 in those important high pressure situations. Nonetheless, his draft story is one of great tangibles and average intangibles.
Neither ‘story’ really passed the smell test. You couldn’t possibly know if Mark Sanchez had the great intangibles necessary to outweigh his marginal tangibles, by only watching him play 16 games at a dominant program that was almost never put behind the 8-ball. I watched closely the one time (Oregon State) Sanchez wasn’t able to breeze through the game, and his body language was terrible, as was his play in crunch time. Meanwhile I don’t see how Ryan Tannehill can have bad intangibles when he’s ridiculously smart (pre-med, high wonderlic, high GPA), stays out of trouble, works very hard (enough to play wide receiver while still attending all QB meetings and practicing as a QB until walk-thru practices), is not a club rat, was selfless enough to accept a move to receiver, had a ridiculously short learning curve once moved back to quarterback from receiver, and started by rattling off something like five straight wins in 2010. I say16 starts on an awesome football team weren’t enough to boldly declare Sanchez’ intangibles strong enough to outweigh marginal tangibles, but Ryan Tannehill’s 19 starts on a football team with a shitty defense also aren’t nearly enough to boldly declare that his intangibles are so weak they outweigh his fantastic tangibles.
Once you’re in the club of perennial NFL starters at that position, there’s always a percentage chance you end up among the elites. Just look at Eli Manning. People are genuinely starting to talk about him being in the group of elite quarterbacks. It would have been crazy to imagine that conversation even just two years ago. Though he’d been starting since 2008, hardly anyone would have put Aaron Rodgers in the elite category before his 2010 Super Bowl run. A few years from now we may be talking about Phil Rivers among those elites, or even Matt Ryan. A lot of what happens once you have a guy that is worthy of starting for ten years or so, depends on the coaches and talent with which you surround him.
What I would do with Ryan is keep him on the bench so as to not put him in situations in which he’s set to fail. A perfect example of what not to do would be how Cam Cameron handled John Beck in 2007. Everyone was begging for Beck to start, but Cameron waited until John’s first starts would have to come against a stretch of aggressive, talented defenses that included the Eagles, Steelers and Jets. Screw that.
I am no Gators fan, nor did I like Tebow coming out, but I really do admire the way Urban Meyer worked Tim Tebow into his offense in 2006, which was the year the Gators won the National Championship with Chris Leak as the starting quarterback. They brought Tebow on the field for full drives only in games where they were either blowing out the opponent, or the opponent was an easy one (see: Western Carolina). There were also some full drives they gave him when they needed a run-heavy drive at the end of the game for clock killing purposes. Otherwise, they only subbed him into drives for individual plays either near the goal line so that he could score touchdowns, or on downs and distances that were on schedule (1st & 10, 2nd & 5, 3rd & Short). That was a perfect way to work things out. The touchdown runs and passes endeared him to both the fans and his teammates, and he was not put in any bad situations where he would have to press in order to make a play. That is how I would want to handle Tannehill as a rookie, not necessarily by playing him purely on zone-reads or out of the single-wing (though I would do some of that as well), but generally putting him on the field in favorable circumstances and getting him used to game speed in situations designed for success. This is the Bill Walsh way of developing a quarterback.
Let me start by saying I went nuts when I saw that guys like Coby Fleener and Courtney Upshaw were still on the board in the second round. I can’t even say what my reaction would have been to the Dolphins trading up for either one of those guys. Stephen Hill was a guy that I had a feeling would fall out of the first round, but who I liked a whole lot regardless. However, being honest with myself, so was Jonathan Martin. Given the choice, I would have taken Hill, but I am down with the Martin pick.
The first thing that stood out to me about Martin was his compact frame and way of moving, which produces power that connects with targets. Ohio State’s Mike Adams is an example of a guy that looks to me like you spliced together video of one person’s torso and someone else’s lower body and tried to use video magic to make it look like one guy. Gross. Martin doesn’t have that problem. He is a textbook knee bender, and keeps a straight back with great pad level. I loved the way he’d fire out on power blocks and really connect with his frame, producing leverage and driving with his legs. He’s pretty mobile too, regularly getting out to the second level and doing damage. The balance he gets from proper knee bend and posture helps with that. Another mark of good coaching at Stanford was how well Martin shoots his hands. He actually delivers timely punches that land. You don’t see him caught with his hands at his waist, but you also don’t see him with his hands floating dead and useless in front of him. He shoots his hands out and gets punches in on his target.
I definitely see some issues with him. For one thing he has this maddening tendency at times to not really play through the whistle. For another, he has marginal upper body strength. Before he performed at his pro day, I could have guessed he would have shown poorly on the bench press, as his lack of upper body strength was evident during games. He had a real tough time un-tracking Nick Perry, who looked like he was bending his pass rush on a set of rails. Martin often comes off as more of a finesse guy because of the lack of arm strength, and there are times you’d swear he’s a short armed guy even though his arms really are a full 34 inches long. In a pro level strength and conditioning program, you would hope that would improve, but to me it makes him untrustworthy to protect the quarterback’s blind side. I would play him on the right side, where he played at times in Stanford’s unbalanced looks.
Olivier Vernon is a player I’ve strongly considered for Miami for the last two months. If I was hesitant to put him in my mock drafts, it was only because I wasn’t sure what kind of defense Kevin Coyle plans to run. However, as I watch more of Vernon and dig into 2010 games as well as the 2011 games, I come to the conclusion that it almost doesn’t matter what front Coyle wants to run, because Vernon is so versatile.
If you’re trying to watch his 2011 games and see a great edge rusher, don’t bother. That’s not the position he played in 2011. In the Hurricanes’ new defense, Vernon played a position more akin to the one you see Jarret Johnson playing selflessly in Baltimore. It’s an important position, but not one conducive to gaudy sack numbers. He dropped into coverage, brutalized tight ends at the line, spied on the backfield, and reduced to the interior on pass rush downs. He played with his hand off the ground about as much as he played with his hand on the ground. If you dig back into his 2010 games, you see more of a true right defensive end position where he engaged in plenty of outside rush on passing downs.
The first thing that grabs you about him is his abnormal strength. I am not exaggerating when I say that through five or six games in 2010 and 2011, I’m not sure I saw him lose a single strength matchup. That kind of strength just isn’t normal. He pancakes tight ends, pancakes offensive tackles, forklifts blockers, and easily sheds blocks to make tackles on the football. Considering his size, that’s pretty incredible. He measured 6’2” and 261 lbs at the Combine, but I think his playing weight was below that.
Don’t chalk up the lack of production to a lack of effort. That’s a bad assumption. He is an extremely high energy, high effort player that is as energized at the end of games as he was at the beginning. He is scrappy and explosive. If he gets knocked down, he pops up quickly and shows resilience. If he has to get through trash, he leaps and twists, pulling free of blockers however he can. He has good balance and the ability to stay on his feet in challenging situations.
What was interesting to me in 2010 was how he varied his pass rush moves like a pro defensive end. He was not a one-trick pony. This will give him a leg up at the next level, and it also gives evaluators a better idea of how he’ll translate. He engaged a lot of inside moves and got to the quarterback that way. He engaged in some straight bull rushes and was able to push tackles backward. He used the swim move, spin move, as well as speed to power. On his outside rush he would often engage the tackle with his hands like a speed to power move, then rip back to the outside, using his athleticism to get the outside shoulder and dip under the tackle’s pads. He showed an ability to dip under the outside shoulder and come back to the quarterback against both tackles and guards.
There is a trend in the NFL to have smaller players reduce down on pass rush downs and engage in pass rush against slower guards. Pernell McPhee does this at Baltimore even though he was more of a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker prospect coming out of Mississippi State. Karl Klug is a lightweight (275 lbs) defensive tackle pass rusher on passing downs for the Titans. Henry Melton (260 lbs) of Chicago does the same. Wallace Gilberry (Courtney Upshaw’s predecessor at Bama) does this in Kansas City. Most speculate Melvin Ingram will do some of this with the Chargers, just as he did at South Carolina. You see Jason Pierre-Paul and Aldon Smith reduce to the interior for pass rush downs at times. Olivier Vernon already has experience doing this at Miami, and he may do it some at the next level as well. What will allow him to do it is his unnatural strength, which will help prevent guards from combating his speed with superior physicality. He can match strength on strength with guards physically, and from there his superior athleticism should free him to the quarterback.
I don’t think this is another Koa Misi, but you always have to keep that possibility in mind when you’re talking about a 3rd round pick. I liked Misi coming out of Utah, but he was always a blitzer, never a pass rusher. Pass rushers can put their hand on the ground and rush the passer against blockers that know they’re coming. Blitzers are smart, explosive players that play in space and take advantage of soft gaps as they see them, getting creative with their rush and taking advantage of confusion. If Miami had run a true 3-4 scheme then Koa Misi might have been more successful, but instead they ran a sort of hybrid scheme that involved a lot of 30 fronts and 40 fronts. Olivier Vernon is a pass rusher. He can pass rush along side Cameron Wake and get to the quarterback on pass rush downs. He can reduce and play over the guard. He can play selfless strong side positions over the tight end and use his strength to defend the run and destroy tight ends. He is exactly the kind of player a Baltimore Ravens defense would be interested in, if they hadn’t already lucked their way into getting Courtney Upshaw at the top of the 2nd round.
I feel like a zombie fan giving all these thumbs up. Jeff Ireland started this draft with an unprecedented streak of picks that I actually kind of liked. It had to happen eventually.
Let me get the bad out of the way first. Egnew is a Missouri tight end, and the production of all Missouri tight ends should be viewed skeptically because of the system. Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker were supposed to be extremely savvy pass catchers coming out of that system, and they haven’t produced shit at the next level. Mizzou plays their tight ends like receivers and throws a lot of screen passes at them to try and take advantage of size mismatches. Also, Michael Egnew did not block at Missouri, pretty much at all. Even his blocks in space generally sucked. I can’t vouch for his blocking at the Senior Bowl as I wasn’t present for practices. His Combine drills were maddening because I knew he was capable of so much more. He almost willfully disobeyed coaches yelling at him to run his gauntlet faster as he jogged it the whole way. His routes lacked an edge and to be 100 percent honest I thought the much more obscure H-Back from Northwestern, Drake Dunsmore, showed him up in the tight end receiving drills.
All that said, he was still the number three tight end on my board months ago, at a time when everyone was still fawning over Orson Charles to go along with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. As much as I loved Chase Ford of Miami, I did not have Chase above Michael Egnew. You are not drafting Michael because of inflated production. I mentioned Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker, but they were really average athletes with no explosiveness. Michael Egnew tied the Combine position record held by Dustin Keller with a 10’11” broad jump. I love that he decided at his pro day that wasn’t good enough, and re-did the measure turning in an unheard of 11’3” broad jump to go along with a 37.5 inch vertical. The best broad jump I have ever seen at any position was Calvin Johnson’s 11’7” broad jump in 2007. I think some obscure guy might have broken that record this year, but I’m not counting it unless he plays some NFL football.
Egnew ran a 4.62 second “official” 40 yard dash at the Combine, but my re-timing actually came in at a stunning 4.48 seconds. I have explained this before, but I re-measure Combine 40 times because the “official” times suck and very literally no team in t he NFL uses them. Every team requires their own scouts to time the 40 yard dashes themselves and so I do the same, except I use HD video feeds to take my own sucky thumb reaction out of the equation. I measure from the time the player’s back foot leaves the ground to the time he runs across the finish, which means I am very literally measuring the exact time it takes for every player to step across 40 yards of distance. About 90 percent of the time, what I get is within one or two hundredths of a second of the NFL Network’s live unofficial time, which shows me that I’m on the right track.
So think about all that, a 6’5” and 250+ lbs man that broad jumps a little shy of what Calvin Johnson did and runs a 4.48 second 40 yard dash, can leap 37.5 inches vertically. Change Michael Egnew’s name to Thomas Thomasson and make him from Trinity College and he still would be drafted. You could not have said the same about Chase Coffman or Michael Rucker.
Sometimes I feel like people have the wrong idea about what a true “seam threat” is as it relates to the tight end position. Speed alone doesn’t cut it. If that were the case, slide Clyde Gates in to a tight end position and voila, you have a seam threat to be a mismatch on linebackers. Good luck with that. A seam threat has to be tall because he has to be able to go up for footballs that are dropped right in the hole between the safety and linebacker coverage. That is a challenging area for a quarterback to throw into, and the smaller your tight end, the smaller the window the quarterback has to get the ball into an already-challenging area. Michael Egnew is the model of a true seam threat because he’s over 6’5” tall and regularly makes catches in traffic, in addition to his speed, explosiveness and body control. While I am not sure I agree with the Dolphins about his run after catch ability, particularly as it relates to physicality and breaking tackles (Rob Gronkowski being the model), he does have a blessed combination of size and athletic ability that should make him at least average in this regard.
In addition to working the seam, I really like his lower body explosion for more dexterous routes usually reserved for slot receivers, like jerk routes and arrow routes. There is one particular touchdown against Kansas State that you usually find included in highlight reels of Egnew that for me encapsulates his potential. He used that great lower body strength and explosion to get open on an underneath jerk route, then after the catch he plants one foot in the ground and explodes up the field to run into the end zone. If he can do that in Miami, plus make tough catches up the seam and be a threat on fade passes in the end zone as he was at Missouri, he will have a nice career.
-- Chris Kouffman