For the past month, I’ve been in the throes of potty training my two year old. His performance hasn’t been awful, but naturally there have been some bumps on the road. One such incident happened last Thursday. He was running around the living room like a maniac when all of a sudden, he stopped on a dime like an uncoordinated Dante Hall, looked directly into my soul, and promptly shit himself. Dagger. But the actual unfortunate event happened after I explained that his BM needs to go in the toilet and not in his underwear. Well it turns out he’s a real man of action and questionable decision-making like his old man because he then reached into his soiled underwear, pulled out some poop, and dropped it in the toilet, making sure to give it a squeeze before releasing it so it smeared all over his hands. While this anecdote is a graphic reminder that kids are gross, it also serves as the perfect metaphor for The 2017 Ryan Tannehill Experience – ultimately effective, but potentially really disgusting. Allow me to explain.
Before I attempt to straight-face defend why I think Ryan Tannehill will be an undervalued 2017 fantasy asset, it’s important to explain why I chose to go down this path. Otherwise you aren’t going to listen to a word I say and will just think of him as the author of this masterpiece. Which is not wrong, because Tannehill isn’t exactly “good at football.”
There are essentially three strategies to addressing the quarterback position in 2QB drafts. The first is to draft QBs early and often. Since QBs score significantly more points than RB/WR/TEs, the rationale here is to simply get the best quarterbacks possible. The next option is to draft one sure-fire QB1 early, then wait until the mid-late rounds to find a QB. The last theory is to uncover QB value in late rounds while drafting elite positional players early. For several years, I subscribed to the first approach and assumed that spending premium draft picks on the position that pays the bills was the right way to go. However, over the last few years, data shows this might not be the ideal strategy.
If you look at QB performances from 2010-2013, the average QB1 scored almost 50 percent more than the average QB2. In my mind, this was enough of a difference to justify the early focus on QBs. Over the last three years though, the difference has dropped to 29 percent. Said differently, if you compare the last three years to the previous four, QB1 scoring has improved 11 percent, where QB2 scoring has jumped 31 percent. The NFL is a passing league, but from a fantasy perspective, it turns out the rules benefit lesser QBs more than elite performers. Based on this, I now subscribe to the second approach. I still want a top signal caller who I can set and forget as my QB1, but prefer to find a QB2 in later rounds. This approach allows me to draft elite positional talent and enjoy the roster flexibility provided by not investing two top picks on QBs. Now, here’s where this gets tricky. This is the part of the post where I give you four reasons why, despite Miko Grimes’ subtle jabs, Ryan Tannehill is a QB2 to target in 2017 drafts.
Trust Me, in four parts.
In the NFL, continuity on the offensive side of the ball is hugely important. There is a clip from 2015 where Matty Ice tells Kyle Shanahan that he “can’t wait until he knows the offense inside and out, bro, because they are going to kill people with it.” I thought this statement was extremely over-the-top at the time. How much difference could one year possibly make? Well, in my friggin’ face. Ryan and the Falcons went out and set the world on fire. While it’s easy to say that Tannehill isn’t nearly as accurate as Ryan and even more Julio-less, remember that Tannehill’s ADP/perceived value was almost identical to Ryan heading into 2016 (QB22 vs. QB20, respectively). If the Ryan comparison is too much, what about Andy Dalton? The Red Rifle’s two best seasons came under offensive coordinators Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson during their second years working together. I certainly don’t expect Tannehill to have a 60 percent improvement in fantasy points like Ryan, but a modest jump under respected offensive mind Adam Gase isn’t unreasonable. Considering the combination of Tannehill and Matt Moore finished as the QB13 last year, we already find ourselves in high-end QB2 status.
Skill Position Upside
No one has ever accused Jarvis Landry or DeVante Parker of being All Pro WRs, but they are superior options compared to the weapons surrounding Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, and Sam Bradford – all currently ranked within two spots of Tannehill. Landry just put up his second consecutive 1,100-yard season and the explosive Parker is entering his third season, a common year for WRs to make a leap in production. Looking ahead into free agency, Gase and VP Mike Tannenbaum have already expressed a desire to bring back deep threat Kenny Stills, who finished third in the NFL with an average of 17.3 yards per catch. Earlier this week, they also traded for Julius Thomas, who saw his best seasons come under Gase in Denver. While it would be foolish to overlook the role a healthy Peyton Manning played in Thomas’ performance, he is a clear upgrade over blocking specialist and complete non-factor Dion Sims.
Talented Offensive Line
The Dolphins have invested a great deal in their offensive line in recent years, with Mike Pouncey, Laremy Tunsil, and Ja’Wuan James all being former first round picks. The problem the Dolphins faced in 2016 is keeping their best players on the field, as injuries decimated the line. But in Week Six, all starters were active and they dominated the Steelers. If the line can stay healthy and gel as a unit, they will give Tannehill the protection he sorely needs to get past his woeful pocket awareness. Big if though. One might argue that the potential trade/loss of Branden Albert will negatively impact the line, but I don’t see it that way. His performance slipped greatly in 2016 where, according to Pro Football Focus, he ranked 65th among offensive tackles compared to 29th in 2015. Also, he has missed 13 of a possible 48 games across his three seasons in Miami.
After looking where the Dolphins’ 2017 opponents finished in terms of 2016 passing DVOA, the Dolphins are sitting pretty. They are #blessed to play in the annually embarrassing AFC East and will face only six teams all year with passing defenses that finished in the top half of the league. Tannehill doesn’t have the chops to carve up elite defenses, but even Shane Falco could light up the Bills, Jets, and Saints. Miami ended the season with a bottom of the barrel defense, which shouldn’t be a surprise based on free agency misses and their inexplicable aversion to drafting defensive players. Remember Dion Jordon? Because I sure don’t. It’s a bit surprising, however, that they finished in the middle of the pack in scoring defense. A credit to Vance Joseph, who is now in Denver. This defense will take a step back. I see a lot of 34-31 games for Miami next season – a delicious scenario for any lackluster QB2.