Miami Dolphins second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, with athleticism to burn and a year of pro football’s brutal reality check in the books, would seem a natural fit for the demands of the read-option play that helped make Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson fantasy football deities in 2012.
Tannehill, a former wide receiver at Texas A&M, had some modicum of success when the Dolphins deployed the read-option scheme late in the 2012 season, breaking off a couple highlight-worthy runs that raised the question: with more consistent use of the read-option in 2013, does Tannehill — who rushed for 211 yards and two scores last year — become a draftable quarterback with promising upside, or, at best, a borderline every-week starter?
The Dolphins, in a Week 10 tilt against the Buffalo Bills, deployed the read-option 10 times, racking up 97 yards, or 9.7 yards per read-option attempt. Tannehill watched the defensive end crash down on the running back and kept the football three times for 33 total yards in that game. Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller combined for 64 yards on seven attempts from the read-option against Buffalo’s defense, which, by that point in the season, was not the laughing stock they were in September and October.
Tannehill scampered in for a touchdown after a savvy read of a New England defensive end in Miami’s Dec. 2 game against the Patriots. The rookie signal caller made dove into the end zone. There were undoubtedly some positives in Tannehill’s read-option game.
No one would argue that Tannehill lacks the physical prowess to become a quarterback who could use the read-option as an element sprinkled into the Dolphins offensive attack. He rushed for 308 yards on 58 carries (5.3 YPC) during his final year at Texas A&M, though much of that yardage was gained on impromptu scrambles, not designed runs made possible by correct reads of the defensive front.
Kaepernick, in his final year at the University of Nevada, rushed for 1,206 yards on 73 attempts (16.5 YPC), most of them a result of the read-option run out of Nevada’s lethal pistol formation. Griffin III ran the ball 179 times for 699 yards (4 YPC) in his last season at Baylor. Put simply, these quarterbacks have a lifetime more experience with the variations of the read-option than Tannehill, and it showed.
I’ll readily admit that I don’t watch film. I study numbers and pay attention to players’ market value as if it kept me upright and breathing. I’ve watched All-22 footage, though I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for.
“I can tell you that some of his reads were plain bad,” Plocher said after re-watching Dolphins games that featured the read-option, however briefly.
Plocher pointed to one particularly awful read-option decision that might have cost the Dolphins a walk-in touchdown from 20 yards out (see photo below).
“He had one against Jacksonville where he blew the read so bad that he was clapping his hands in frustration in mid-play,” Plocher said. “The defensive end was chasing the Running Back so the proper read would have been for Tannehill to keep it. However, he gave it to the running back for no gain and he had open space for days staring him in the face.”
Tannehill’s iffy decision making in his team’s limited use of the read-option doesn’t mean he won’t see a statistical boost from rushing in 2013, as the Miami offense included plenty of bootlegs that put Tannehill in open space with blockers ahead of him.
The question, from a fantasy football perspective, is not whether usage of the read-option catapults Tannehill into the top-12 quarterbacks. It won’t. We should ask whether a major bump in rushing yardage makes Tannehill a draftable commodity worthy of a few starts. In short, would the read-option make Tannehill a viable streaming option if you wait on quarterback in drafts this summer?
Tannehill is the 26th quarterback coming off of fantasy draft boards right now, going in the 14th round. I can’t imagine the scenario in which he rises past the 12th round, so this is about your willingness to burn a late-round flier pick on a guy who could be serviceable in 2013.
Tannehill averaged 6.5 yards per carry on 28 attempts in the final six games of 2012. If the Dolphins use the read-option with similar regularity in 2013, that would put Tannehill at around 30 yards rushing per game, or 478 yards for the season.
“I’m sure Tannehill and the Dolphins will be running the read-option next year, and as a result he will get carries, but I can tell you that Tannehill will easily be the worst of the NFL read-option quarterbacks,” Plocher said.