The Miami Dolphins have selected Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the eighth pick in the NFL Draft. With a fan base dying for a quarterback who can develop into a long-term starter, the Dolphins took a chance on a passer who began college as a wide receiver and only started 19 games in college.
Miami's interest in Tannehill has been apparent for a long time. Tannehill played under incoming Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman at Texas A&M, and the team had already failed to upgrade at quarterback in free agency. Team owner Stephen Ross was reported to be pressuring general manager Jeff Ireland to pick Tannehill earlier in the week, but the team denied those reports.
He was the third passer drafted, after the Colts and Redskins picked Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, respectively, as expected.
Tannehill is the first quarterback drafted by Miami in the first round since Dan Marino, way back in 1983. He will not be expected to contribute right away the way Marino did. Instead, the team will likely start either Matt Moore or David Garrard in 2012, and give Tannehill time to develop his skills.
"I couldn't be more excited" to join the Dolphins, Tannehill told ESPN immediately after his name was called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In his senior season with the Aggies, he completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 3,744 yards, with 29 touchdowns against 15 interceptions.
He does not come without risks, though. Tannehill has been criticized for trying to do too much, forcing throws to receivers that weren't open and resulting in interceptions. This was especially apparent in Texas A&M's four toughest games in 2011, when he threw 10 of his 15 interceptions. The Aggies lost all four matchups.
Regardless, the Dolphins are playing the long game in picking Tannehill. He will get a season or two to learn on the bench behind Moore or Garrard, and the team will play down all expectations regarding his play. It will take more than a few seasons to figure out whether Tannehill will be a star or a bust (or somewhere in between).
For now, Miami can safely say they have turned the page to a new era in Dolphins history. "This finalizes a plan we put in place several months ago. This solidifies the quarterback position," general manager Jeff Ireland said Thursday night.
"I didn't take him with the eighth pick in the draft to be a backup quarterback. I picked him to be a starter at some point."