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Allen: Tannehill’s quick rise looking Russell-esque (April 19)

Chris Allen | Thursday, April 19, 2012

It’s time to break out the industrial-sized bucket of hair gel, Mel Kiper, Jr. The 2012 NFL Draft approaches.

A week from tonight, the annual spectacle that is the NFL Draft will commence with much fanfare as the nation’s best college football players will hear their names called at Radio City Music Hall in New York, take pictures with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and then get to work on becoming as successful as last year’s top picks – Pro Bowlers Cam Newton, Von Miller and A.J. Green among others.

Let’s run down what we know is true.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has been viewed as the prototypical NFL quarterback from the time he took the reigns of the Cardinal offense years ago. He has the ideal size, strength, athleticism and mental acuity to be an NFL signal-caller. He would have been the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, and he will be the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. Nothing controversial here.

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III came about as close as anyone possibly could have to unseating Luck as the top prospect in this draft. He dazzled fans en route to winning the Heisman Trophy in a tremendous season in Waco. After posting an impressive workout at the NFL Combine, Griffin solidified his position as the second-best prospect in this draft class. He will likely go under center for the Washington Redskins next season as one of the best athletes to ever play the quarterback position. Nothing controversial here, either.

Even behind Luck and Griffin, there is little doubt about the prospects who make up the next tier of talent. USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, whom you might have last seen owning the line of scrimmage at Notre Dame Stadium last October, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne are generally seen as the players to round out the top five. But they might not be the top five players picked, because of the hype surrounding a third, lesser-known quarterback. Now we have some controversy.

His name is Ryan Tannehill, and you may have last seen him leading Texas A&M to a sub-.500 record in the Big 12. He was a receiver at the beginning of his junior season, but because of superior athleticism and a strong arm, he is shooting up into the top-10 and top-five of some draft boards being composed. Many draft analysts have projected the Miami Dolphins as the team to select Tannehill, whether at their No. 8 draft slot or in a trade up in the draft order.

If you are a Dolphins fan, you should be very concerned. As if the fact that David Garrard was your team’s offseason answer under center wasn’t concerning enough, the Dolphins now seem poised to pull the trigger on a huge potential draft bust. The days of Dan Marino seem a long way off now, don’t they?

The cautionary tale in quarterback draft busts is former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Despite many concerns on tape, Russell jumped high on draft boards because of a big arm and a big body. He made it all the way to the No. 1 pick in 2007’s draft. He is now out of the NFL, and will likely never return. His play during his brief NFL career was laughable, and many wondered what the Raiders and others ever saw in him. Now, in 2012, Tannehill boasts a similar boom-or-bust profile, yet many NFL teams seem to have not learned the lesson taught by Russell’s disastrous career. If a player is a winner, he wins in college, and wins in the pros. He finds a way. Look at Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton if you need proof. If a player was a high school quarterback, but was moved to wide receiver in college, he probably doesn’t have the chops to be a top NFL draft pick. These points seem so intuitive, so basic, that it is amazing so many NFL front offices are disregarding them.

Buyer beware, Dolphins.

Contact Chris Allen at callen10@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.