There seems to be a yearly trend of high expectations for the Miami Dolphins. Bold claims with outrageous statistical predictions aren’t uncommon when speaking about the Dolphins. Take beat writer James Walker, who projected Jay Ajayi to have 1,900 total yards in 2017 after breaking out for 1,423 total yards last season. While Fantasy owners tend to fall victim to the hype, the NFL odds for next season don’t show Miami winning more than 7.5 games. This is mainly due to the inconsistencies of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill has shown over his career.
Tannehill started his career on HBO’s Hard Knocks. It was a start that HBO did well to hype. That preseason started with Matt Moore starting with the first team while Tannehill worked out his contract. Tannehill got to walk in mid-episode like a savior. That was the run up to the 2012 season. Now entering his sixth season, Tannehill has many doubters. Sure, he has had his issues, but Ryan Tannehill truly is not as bad as you likely think.
Ryan Tannehill started off as a rookie with a rookie head coach. Joe Philbin was a highly regarded offensive coordinator. Philbin had a terrible go of things. First, his son passed away tragically during his final playoff run with the Packers. Then he was plagued by the hazing issue that destroyed the Dolphins offensive line in 2015. Joe Philbin had never been a head coach at any level. He was once offered the head coaching job at Washington and Jefferson University, but he turned it down. He was a very successful offensive coordinator at small Allegheny College, then the University of Iowa and eventually the Green Bay Packers.
Having this set up gave Tannehill an offensive minded head coach, but an inexperienced head coach. Still, his yardage and yards per attempt climbed every season under Philbin. Additionally, from 2012 to 2014, Tannehill saw his touchdown numbers climb every year and his completion percentage as well. In his fourth season (where his head coach was fired midseason) Tannehill 363 of his 586 passes for 4,208 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
The other key statistic for Tannehill was sacks. Ryan Tannehill is known as a mobile quarterback. Not the speedster that people create in Madden, but fast and athletic nonetheless. Still, he took his fair share of hits. Tannehill was sacked just “only” 35 times in his rookie campaign. Then, he was sacked at least 45 times in each of the next three seasons (58 in 2013, 46 in 2014 and 45 in 2015). Those are not numbers that increase confidence (the sort that ruined David Carr).
After a partial season with Dan Campbell, Tannehill got another first-time head coach.
2016 seemed like a down year. It was year one of the Adam Gase regimes. On simple numbers, it might seem true. On a yards per game basis, Tannehill lost yardage (263.0 yards down to 230.4). He also had an uninspiring 19 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. Less than spectacular even considering he missed the last three games with injury.
There were many things to commend Tannehill. He had the highest completion percentage of his career (67.1%). On top of this, Tannehill actually had one of the highest fantasy points per drop back in his career. In 2016, Tannehill had a general average of 4.5 points per drop back (0466 in Yahoo and 0.438 in ESPN, among others). This was actually top 15 among NFL QBs. This puts him right in the neighborhood of Cam Newton (4.6), Derek Carr (0.45) and Ben Roethlisberger (0.47).
All this in just the first season with his new head coach. Gase was the quarterback’s coach or offensive coordinator during what ended up being three of the four greatest seasons of Peyton Manning’s career. He was also the worked with Jay Cutler in the only season where he had over 20 touchdowns and under 14 interceptions.
Ryan Tannehill’s Biggest Concern
Even though the fantasy points per drop back went up, Tannehill had fewer drop backs. The single biggest problem for Tannehill’s fantasy value has been the reduction in passing attempts. The increased running attempts brought on by the rise of Jay Ajayi. Still, Gase wants to throw and the drop backs should increase moving into the second year. Once the drop backs increase, Tannehill has top ten potential.
Another thing to consider is Tannehill will be playing a schedule that is front end loaded with poor pass defenses. Through the Dolphins’ first ten games they will face one team who finished last season in the top half of the league in passing defense (though the fantasy playoffs are a much harder task). As a regular season quarterback, Tannehill will be a low-end QB1 or high-end QB2.