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Twitter re-drafts the NFL, Round 1: Falcons select QB Ryan Tannehill

Following in the footsteps of ESPN’s NFL re-draft, we’re taking part in a more robust re-draft of our own. Teams have 6 rounds to build the best team possible, with players selected by Twitter’s finest. Atlanta went with QB Ryan Tannehill at pick 16 in the first round.

NFL: JAN 19 AFC Championship - Titans at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re in the depths of the offseason with an uncertain training camp future ahead of us. So, naturally, we’re all looking for interesting things to do to fill the void. You might recall ESPN’s NFL re-draft, in which beat reporters for every team restarted every franchise from scratch with 4 rounds of drafting. Myself—and apparently many others—found that exercise a little lacking, so we’re starting up our own re-draft of the NFL.

Dan Kadar, formerly of SB Nation’s Mocking the Draft, is leading the effort, along with fans and analysts of each team. We’re aiming for 6 rounds, but if possible I’m angling to go further. The goal: build the best team possible with your selections. The salary cap obviously isn’t in play because we’re only planning for 6 rounds, and there are no other rules about who may be drafted. The draft order is based on the 2020 NFL Draft, and will be a fantasy-style “Snake” draft.

That means the Falcons are picking 16th overall—which could get a little dicey depending on the players taken in front of Atlanta. I’ll be recapping each round as it finishes, including a detailed breakdown of the player I’ve chosen for the Falcons and why that player makes sense.

Without further adieu, here’s Round 1 and my choice for Atlanta at 16.

Round 1, Pick 16: QB Ryan Tannehill

My #1 goal was to make the Falcons competitive, both in 2020 and beyond, and the best way to ensure that was to secure a good QB. I knew with the Falcons sitting at 16 I probably wouldn’t have a chance at any of the top options, but I was hopeful someone would fall to me. After 15 straight QB selections ahead of my pick, I was relieved to see a high-end option still available to me: Titans’ QB Ryan Tannehill.

This wasn’t necessarily an easy choice, as I was deciding between a few players at this spot: Tannehill, the 49ersJimmy Garoppolo, the ColtsPhilip Rivers, and the SteelersBen Roethlisberger. Tannehill just edged out Garoppolo for me, and I’ll explain the reasons why he was my selection at 16.

When looking for a QB to build a franchise around, there are several things to consider: past production, athleticism, age, and temperament. Ryan Tannehill checks all these boxes for me, particularly considering that he’s the 16th QB taken and that none of the options in this range are perfect prospects.

In terms of past production, Tannehill made it work on sub-par rosters with sub-par coaching, sub-par weapons, and sub-par OL talent. As a rookie in 2012, Tannehill passed for nearly 3300 yards and 12 TDs—along with 13 INTs and a 58.3% completion percentage. He steadily improved over the next 3 seasons: 3913 yards, 24 TDs to 17 INTs, and a 60.4% completion percentage in 2013; 4045 yards, 27 TDs to 12 INTs, and a 66.4% completion percentage in 2014; 4208 yards, 24 TDs to 12 INTs, and a 61.9% completion percentage in 2015.

Tannehill was having the best season of his young career in 2016, taking the Dolphins to an 8-5 record before suffering an awful season-ending injury. He still put up 2995 yards, 19 TDs to 12 INTs, and a 67.1% completion percentage in just 13 games—a pace that would’ve had him finish with 3686 yards and 24 TDs to 15 INTs. He missed the 2017 season due to injury, and managed only 11 (actually pretty good) games in 2018. The Dolphins traded him to Tennessee during the 2019 offseason, where he was slated to be the backup to former second-overall pick Marcus Mariota.

We all know what happened next: Mariota struggled and eventually lost his job to Tannehill, who had the best (admittedly partial) season of his career in 2019. He took control of a strong Titans roster that was floundering with Mariota at the helm, going 7-3 and rallying the team to a 9-7 overall record. Tannehill then won the first two playoff starts of his career, defeating the Patriots and #1 seed Baltimore Ravens in back-to-back weeks before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs in the AFC Championship.

Although Tannehill started only 10 games, he put together an incredibly efficient and accurate season: 2742 yards, 22 TDs to just 6 INTs, a 70.3% completion percentage, and an incredible 9.6 YPA—the highest of his career by nearly 2 YPA. Translated to a 16-game season, Tannehill was on pace for 3656 yards and 29 TDs to just 8 INTs.

Compared to my second choice at QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tannehill has far more experience (as well as 16-game seasons) and has managed to produce in a variety of situations—not just with Bill Belichick and Kyle Shanahan as his coaches.

In terms of athleticism, Tannehill is very good. As a former receiver, he moves extremely well for a QB and has some impressive speed: he reportedly ran a 4.62 at his Pro Day. For context, Andrew Luck’s 4.67 40-yard dash was in the 83rd percentile for QBs—and Tannehill was even faster. While he’s not a threat on the level of Lamar Jackson with the ball in his hands, he’s got plenty of juice to be a threat on rollouts and options plays—which could open up a more dynamic and multifaceted playbook.

In terms of age, Tannehill will be just 32 years old when the 2020 season starts. That’s not as young as Garoppolo (who will be 29 in 2020), but it’s much younger than Roethlisberger and Rivers. Tannehill is still in his prime years as a QB, and assuming his health holds up—he missed just 3 games from 2012-2016—should have at least another 5-6 years in him.

In terms of temperament, I don’t think I could find a more resilient player at QB in the NFL right now. Many had counted Tannehill out entirely after three injury-plagued years from 2016-2018, but Tannehill kept working and eventually got a chance with the Titans. He had the best season of his career in 2019 after facing tremendous adversity, and it’s clear he’s a hard worker and a strong leader after rallying Tennessee to a 9-7 record after a 2-4 start. He’s also been an efficient player under pressure and made good decisions in the pocket despite being in the top-10 in sacks taken from 2012-2015.

Ryan Tannehill won’t be the best QB in the NFL, but he’s clearly good enough to win—even in the postseason—if the team around him is strong. He’s a high-upside player at QB based on 2019, but his floor is much higher than most probably realize based on his numerous seasons of average to above-average production on below-average teams. As much as I would’ve loved to see Matt Ryan fall to 16—he went two picks earlier, at 14, to the BuccaneersRyan Tannehill is a worthy QB who could significantly outperform several of the QBs taken ahead of him in 2020. Would anyone be shocked if Tannehill finishes ahead of Baker Mayfield (QB10), Tua Tagovailoa (QB11), and Joe Burrow (QB12) next season?

Round 1 Results

Pick 1 - Cincinnati Bengals (@CoachMinich): QB Patrick Mahomes (QB1)

Pick 2 - Washington (@bmealy17): QB Lamar Jackson (QB2)

Pick 3 - Detroit Lions (@adam_benmoche): QB Russell Wilson (QB3)

Pick 4 - New York Giants (@geoffschwartz): QB Deshaun Watson (QB4)

Pick 5 - Miami Dolphins (@houtz): QB Kyler Murray (QB5)

Pick 6 - Los Angeles Chargers (@rjroepke): QB Dak Prescott (QB6)

Pick 7 - Carolina Panthers (@DakeZekee214): QB Carson Wentz (QB7)

Pick 8 - Arizona Cardinals (@blakemurphy7): QB Aaron Rodgers (QB8)

Pick 9 - Jacksonville Jaguars (@ZachCohenFB): QB Drew Brees (QB9)

Pick 10 - Cleveland Browns (@davy_d): QB Baker Mayfield (QB10)

Pick 11 - New York Jets (@justRVB): QB Tua Tagovailoa (QB11)

Pick 12 - Las Vegas Raiders (@cincinasty_): QB Joe Burrow (QB12)

Pick 13 - Indianapolis Colts (@ZachHicks2): QB Matthew Stafford (QB13)

Pick 14 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Andy_J_Nichols): QB Matt Ryan (QB14)

Pick 15 - Denver Broncos (@DraftGowan13): QB Tom Brady (QB15)

Pick 16 - Atlanta Falcons (@FalcoholicKevin): QB Ryan Tannehill (QB16)

Pick 17 - Dallas Cowboys (@NBarlotta_DSN): DT Aaron Donald (DT1)

Pick 18 - Pittsburgh Steelers (@ChrisTrapasso): QB Josh Allen (QB17)

Pick 19 - Chicago Bears (@wiltfongjr): QB Kirk Cousins (QB18)

Pick 20 - Los Angeles Rams (@3k_): OT David Bahktiari (OT1)

Pick 21 - Philadelphia Eagles (@ByADiBona): EDGE Nick Bosa (EDGE1)

Pick 22 - Buffalo Bills (@GbridgfordNFL): EDGE Myles Garrett (EDGE2)

Pick 23 - New England Patriots (@Henry_Primack): OT Ronnie Stanley (OT2)

Pick 24 - New Orleans Saints (@DynastyPigskin5): EDGE Joey Bosa (EDGE3)

Pick 25 - Minnesota Vikings (@AndyHort1): OG Quenton Nelson (OG1)

Pick 26 - Houston Texans (@BrettKollmann): QB Drew Lock (QB19)

Pick 27 - Seattle Seahawks (@BennettPrag): OT Ryan Ramczyk (OT3)

Pick 28 - Baltimore Ravens (@NateNFL): WR DeAndre Hopkins (WR1)

Pick 29 - Tennessee Titans (@_JL56): EDGE Khalil Mack (EDGE4)

Pick 30 - Green Bay Packers (@RossUglem): CB Stephon Gilmore (CB1)

Pick 31 - San Francisco 49ers (@beardedCameron): TE George Kittle (TE1)

Pick 32 - Kansas City Chiefs (@Bambam8109): WR Tyreek Hill (WR2)

The first half of the first round was almost entirely predictable, with 16 straight QBs taken to open things up. Aaron Donald was the first non-QB, taken at 17 right after the Falcons. Drafters began favoring non-QBs much more in the second half of the first round, with just 3 QBs taken from 17-32 in Josh Allen, Kirk Cousins, and Drew Lock. There seems to be a clear preference for youth over the aging Philip Rivers and the injured Ben Roethlisberger, but I’m really not sure why players like Allen and Lock were taken ahead of Jimmy Garoppolo—who remains undrafted heading into the second round.

In terms of players taken, EDGE was the second-most popular position with 4 selections (Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa, and Khalil Mack). Behind EDGE was OT, with 3 selections (David Bahktiari, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Ramczyk), and then WR with 2 selections (DeAndre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill). DT, OG, CB, and TE all clocked in with 1 selection each.

It’ll be interesting to see how waiting on a QB pays off for teams who chose to pass in the first round. The value was definitely better on other positions, particularly in the 20s, but even a small run on QBs would eliminate the remaining solid starters and aging veterans. How good can a team really be with a lackluster QB at the helm, especially in a theoretical exercise like this?

What are your thoughts on the first round of Twitter’s re-draft of the entire NFL? Are you happy with the Falcons pick at 16? Who would you like to see Atlanta target in Round 2, and how would you build your team in a scenario like this?