Ryan Tannehill Lacks Seasoning but Stays High on Draft Boards

While the Indianapolis Colts have said that they will take Luck with the No. 1 overall pick, Tannehill remains a curiosity because he started only 19 games at quarterback at Texas AM. But that has not prevented his apparent ascent on some draft boards, or stopped the possibility that he could be among the first 10 players picked Thursday night.

“If it bothers you, and you don’t want to draft me because of it, then that’s your choice,” Tannehill said Wednesday. “But I am confident in my abilities; I am confident I’m going to get better. I think I’m just scratching the surface of my potential.”

Tannehill, 23, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and has said he has a career goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon, seems to be mainly a product of executives’ willingness to gamble to acquire talent at such an important position, even if it is relatively unproven. That type of draft strategy is a reflection on the aerial game the N.F.L. has become.

“That shows you the difference between then and now,” said Gil Brandt, the former vice president for player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys. “Now we’re going to have three quarterbacks, maybe, in the top 10. There’s just more emphasis on passing.”

The 6-foot-4 Tannehill has good size and impressive arm strength, which he showed in his ability to both thread deep passes and to make quick first-down throws off short drops. He threw 29 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions and completed 61.6 percent of his passes as a senior, when he started 13 games.

But Tannehill did not become a starter until midway through his junior year, and he began his college career as a receiver. Compared with other top quarterback prospects like Luck, who started 38 games at Stanford, and Robert Griffin III, who started 40 at Baylor, Tannehill has relatively little seasoning at the position. He might be better suited in a situation where he could be groomed, a suggestion he dismissed. But he started more college games than Mark Sanchez, who started 16.

“Whether I’m a starter Day 1, Year 1 or Year 3, I want to go in and compete,” Tannehill said. “I want to make it tough on the organization to not play me. At the end of the day, I want to play. I think I have a lot of learning to do, but that’s what the game is for.”

Tannehill has attracted several teams, having visited with the , the and the Kansas City Chiefs. Tannehill has also worked out in front of representatives from the Miami Dolphins, who have the eighth overall pick.

If he was to be picked by Miami, Tannehill would be reunited with his former college coach, Mike Sherman, who is now offensive coordinator for the Dolphins. Miami runs the same pro-style West Coast offense as Texas AM did with Tannehill, and it has been seeking a quarterback since missing out on signing Peyton Manning this off-season.

However, for a quarterback with relatively little college experience, entering a situation in which he is expected to assume a starting role and to perform well right away would not be easy.

“I’d caution people that young guys without experience need time,” said Bill Polian, the former president of the Colts. “All the hype that surrounds the draft leads fans and some media to believe that these players are as good as they are hyped up to be.”

In 1998, in his first move as the Colts’ general manager, Polian selected Manning with the first overall pick, but that decision was made easier because Manning started each of his four years at Tennessee.

Polian said it was obviously ideal to draft a quarterback who had plenty of experience while in college.

“That said, you have to recognize that the quarterback position is the most important position,” said Polian, now an ESPN analyst, “and if you have a conviction on a player who has less experience than you might like, but has all the other factors that lead you to believe he’d be a successful quarterback, you have to temper your desire for experience with the fact that you absolutely have to have a quality quarterback to win big.”

There is empirical evidence to support that. Entering last season, 19 of the 32 N.F.L. quarterbacks listed as the starters were first-round picks, and 8 of the 12 playoff teams were led into the postseason by quarterbacks selected in the first round.

It seems likely that Tannehill will be drafted in the first round, but for his part, he has tried to simply enjoy his second trip to Manhattan. He had his suit tailored when he arrived Tuesday night, and has attended draft-related functions since then, including a flag football skills event for youths at Chelsea Piers on Wednesday.

When Tannehill will be selected is one of the draft’s most interesting questions. But this much seems clear: Tannehill will become the unwitting subject in the latest case study on how quarterbacks should be drafted.

Richard Sandomir contributed reporting.

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Peyton’s Broncos to Open 2012 NFL Season Against Steelers

The September 9 game, announced by the NFL on Tuesday along with the full 2012 schedule, will be the first in 20 months for the four-time Most Valuable Player, who was cut by the Indianapolis Colts in March after missing the 2011 campaign recovering from neck surgery.

“The opening game in Denver obviously will be an interesting way to start the season,” Steelers’ President Art Rooney said in a statement.

“There will be a lot of attention paid to Peyton Manning’s first game with the Denver Broncos, so it’ll be exciting to start out that way.”

Plenty of attention on the first Sunday of the season will also be paid to the New Orleans Saints when the scandal-ravaged team hosts the Washington Redskins, who are expected to draft Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III next week.

Saints coach Sean Payton is suspended the entire season for his part in a scheme that paid bonuses to players for knocking opponents out of games, several players could still be banned and quarterback Drew Brees is dealing with a contract dispute.

Tim Tebow, who was released by the Broncos to make way for Manning, could make his Big Apple debut when the New York Jets host the Buffalo Bills in Week One.

Opening week will also feature a Monday Night double-header with the Cincinnati Bengals visiting the Baltimore Ravens and the Oakland Raiders hosting the San Diego Chargers.

“From our team’s standpoint and our fans’ standpoint, I don’t know that you could put together a more exciting schedule when you look at the number of great teams we play and when we play them,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said in a statement.

“We start our offseason program on Monday and I think it really gives our guys something to look forward to. It should give our guys great motivation.”

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will add another chapter to their long-standing rivalry when they open Week Two with a Thursday meeting at Lambeau Field, while defensive end Mario Williams, who left the Houston Texans to join the Buffalo Bills in the biggest off-season signing after Manning, makes his home debut against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Williams, the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player, will face his former team when the Bills visit the Texans on November 1 for a Week Nine game.

The U.S. Thanksgiving Day lineup will see familiar names suiting up November 22 as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots visit the rival New York Jets, Houston heads to the Motor City to face the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys host Washington.

Two games will be played outside the United States as the St. Louis Rams and Patriots play at London’s Wembley Stadium on October 28 while the Buffalo Bills make their annual visit to Toronto for a December 16 game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The NFL had already announced that the regular season will kick off September 5 with the champion New York Giants hosting the division rival Dallas Cowboys.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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On Day 1, Bills Seek Williams and the Dolphins Trade Marshall

Linebacker and defensive end Mario Williams, a former first-round pick of the Houston Texans who is considered the best defensive player available among the 532 free agents, arrived in Buffalo less than two hours after free agency began at 4 p.m. Eastern, with the Bills expected to try to keep him from leaving without agreeing to a contract.

Moments after free agency began, the Chicago Bears made a surprising move, acquiring the Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall in a trade with Miami. The gave up two second-round draft picks to acquire Marshall from Denver two years ago, but received two third-rounders from the Bears.

The move leaves the Dolphins and their new coach, Joe Philbin, with no No. 1 receiver. The Dolphins are in the market for a new starting quarterback — they have met with Manning — but it also removes the headache of Marshall’s complaints about quarterbacks while Philbin incorporates a new system.

The trade reunites Marshall with Jay Cutler. Marshall and Cutler worked well together in Denver from 2006 to 2008, and they are joined in Chicago by Jeremy Bates, who worked in Denver and is now the Bears’ quarterbacks coach.

The Washington Redskins, who moved into the second overall draft spot to take Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, were trying to sign almost everyone else in what has become their annual — and all-too-often fruitless — cannonball into free agency. They overhauled their receiving corps even though the N.F.L. has docked them $36 million in cap space over the next two years because of what the league said were improperly structured contracts during the 2010 uncapped season.

First, they reeled in the former Indianapolis receiver Pierre Garcon, who will provide a speedy downfield — though drop-prone — threat. Fox Sports reported that the five-year contract includes a staggering $21.5 million in guaranteed money, which puts him behind the $24 million in guarantees Santonio Holmes got from the Jets, remarkable for a player who has never had a 1,000-yard season.

The Redskins also negotiated with the former San Francisco receiver Josh Morgan and the former Broncos receiver Eddie Royal.

While the Redskins were remaking their offense, New Orleans was making sure its powerhouse unit stayed largely intact, signing receiver Marques Colston to a five-year deal before free agency began.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who must try to compete with the Saints in the N.F.C. South and who have a whopping $45 million in salary-cap space, signed the former San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson to a five-year deal, giving quarterback Josh Freeman the option he needs to continue to develop.

The most intriguing signing, though, may have been the one that happened nearly 24 hours before free agency began. Randy Moss, who did not play last season, signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers late Monday night after a workout in which he caught passes from Coach Jim Harbaugh.

In 2010, an unhappy Moss was with three teams and caught only 28 passes. But Moss has apparently retained his speed, and if he remains healthy and committed to playing hard, the low-risk contract — there was no guaranteed money — provides the 49ers and the likely starting quarterback Alex Smith with the vertical threat their passing game lacked in 2011, when they lost the N.F.C. championship game to the Giants.

THOMAS STAYS WITH JETS The Jets re-signed the outside linebacker Bryan Thomas for another year. The team selected Thomas in the first round of the 2002 draft. Thomas, 32, missed the final 12 games last season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon on Oct. 2. No one from a group including Josh Mauga, Garrett McIntyre and Jamaal Westerman distinguished himself as a replacement.

Retaining Thomas, 32, should not preclude the Jets from pursuing additional help at the position, and they could make a play for Jarret Johnson, a longtime favorite of Coach Rex Ryan’s from Baltimore. BEN SHPIGEL

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