- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Tannehill stood on his broken right foot on Lucas Oil Stadium’s playing field Sunday and watched Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III solidify themselves as the top two quarterbacks in this year’s draft class.

Neither Griffin nor Luck threw during the workout, but they ran fast 40-yard dash times — 4.41 and 4.67 seconds, respectively — and performed well in other drills. Tannehill and the rest of the quarterback prospects appear to be competing for third place. That makes his name one Washington Redskins fans should remember.

The second tier of quarterbacks is territory the Redskins will have to strongly consider in April’s draft. They might not be willing to trade the resources necessary to outbid teams such as Cleveland or Miami in trading up from No. 6 to acquire the second-overall pick from St. Louis and use it to select Griffin. An alternate course could lead Washington to Tannehill, a physically gifted but relatively raw quarterback from Texas A&M.

“You never know what team — there’s always a shocker that jumps in there,” Tannehill said Friday. “I’m excited about the teams that potentially could be in the quarterback hunt and the opportunities that it presents.”

Tannehill has emerged as the third-ranked quarterback in the draft class, according to several analysts, scouting services and talent evaluators. Perhaps his broken foot — which he suffered during training in January — has helped in that regard. No quarterback at the Senior Bowl last month separated himself from the pack, and Tannehill has done nothing to lower his stock.

Redskins coaches were eager to work with Tannehill at the Senior Bowl and were disappointed his injury kept him out. The intrigue about the former collegiate wide receiver remains because he didn’t work out Sunday at the Scouting Combine, either.

Tannehill took a circuitous route to his current place among NFL prospects. He arrived at Texas A&M in 2007 as a quarterback. He redshirted his first year and began the following season third on the quarterback depth chart, too low to make an impact there. Coaches liked his athleticism, though — he measured 6-foot-4, 221 pounds Friday — and moved him to receiver.

His 55 catches and 844 receiving yards were school records for a freshman. He was named honorable mention All-Big 12 as a sophomore. Playing quarterback, however, always was his goal.

“I was frustrated by the fact that I didn’t get to play quarterback,” Tannehill said. “I always thought of myself as a quarterback, but yet blessed by the opportunity to play another position. Not a lot of people get to contribute in another way to help their team. It was exciting for me to be able to do that. I learned a lot about the game, got a lot of experience.”

In midseason of his junior year, he won the quarterback job and started the final 19 games of his career. But he still is inexperienced compared to other quarterbacks in the draft class. His potential might be attractive to some teams, but he also is considered unrefined in some areas.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, a former New York Giants safety, questions Tannehill’s timing and ability to anticipate open receivers. However, Mayock believes he is a first-round talent. Former NFL coach Brian Billick disagrees.

“Once we get past those top two, there will be somebody -whether it’s Tannehill or the like — that gets pulled up into the first round; probably belong in the second round in terms of what they’ve done, what their history is,” said Billick, now an analyst for NFL Network. “They’re going to be pulled up due to need as opposed to: this guy is worth the 20th, 25th 28th pick.”

Tannehill didn’t garner as much media attention as Luck or Griffin during their respective news conferences Friday, but Tannehill was composed and well-spoken. He intelligently answered questions with a strong demeanor. It was clear how he endeared himself to teammates.

“He’s one of the smartest people I know,” said Jeff Fuller, a receiver prospect out of Texas A&M. “At the same time, he’s also really down to earth. He used to play receiver, so he is a coach on the field. He’s able with the young receivers — me as well — to pull them off to the side and say, ‘You need to run this like this, and it’s going to be here at this time.’ “

Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming, who intercepted Tannehill a total of three times in two games the last two seasons, praised Tannehill’s mobility and intangibles.

“He can throw — just to me,” Fleming cracked. “He’s a competitor, really. Maybe that’s the biggest thing about him. Especially [in 2010] when we lost — he threw two interceptions to me, but he kept fighting and scratching.”

Whether the Redskins decide to target Tannehill could depend on their willingness to endure his growing pains. After winning only 11 games the past two seasons, that might be a tough sell. The urgency for a winning product promises to be extremely high in coach Mike Shanahan’s third year.

Tannehill just wants the chance to prove himself.

“I did only start [19] games at quarterback,” he said. “It’s a question that deservedly needs an answer.”

• Rich Campbell can be reached at rcampbell@washingtontimes.com.

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