Tannehill, quarterbacks and rolling the dice

A recent back-and-forth between ESPN's Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. regarding Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill pointed to the educated guesswork that goes into evaluating quarterbacks for the NFL draft.

Does anyone really know how these prospects will turn out? The answer is 'no' because many factors beyond a player's talent influence the course of his NFL career.

Back to Tannehill.

"There is a reason he is going to be, most likely, a top 10 pick," McShay said in the video above. "He has the size, the arm, the athleticism. He gets the ball out quickly, has a very good sense in the pocket, throws very accurately on the run to both sides. The only thing he's missing, in my opinion right now, is more experience and understanding game decisions."

2011 Drafted QBs

How Tannehill gets that needed experience -- over time, right away, and under which coaches -- will be a critical factor. These variables are already affecting the 2011 quarterback class, listed in the chart.

"Yeah, he's going to be overdrafted, he's been overhyped by McShay and others, but the bottom line is, he should be a mid-to-late first, he's going to go in the top five, maybe, at worst top eight, and we'll see what happens," Kiper said of Tannehill. "I think how he's handled at Miami, if he goes there, will determine his fate."

NFC West teams head into the 2012 NFL draft with their starting quarterbacks under contract, for better or worse.

Sam Bradford will start for the St. Louis Rams. Matt Flynn or Tarvaris Jackson will start for the Seattle Seahawks. Kevin Kolb or John Skelton will start for the Arizona Cardinals. Alex Smith will start for the San Francisco 49ers, with Colin Kaepernick trying to push him for the job.

Tannehill probably isn't coming to the NFC West unless he slips outside the top 10, at which point Seattle (picking 12th) and Arizona (13th) would have decisions to make. Would they consider Tannehill, or might they trade down, acquiring additional picks from a team with stronger interest in the quarterback?

Think that would be an easy decision?

Seattle had a similar one last year and decided against selecting Andy Dalton with the 25th overall choice. When Cincinnati drafted Dalton at No. 35, the 49ers traded up to select Kaepernick one pick later. With that, NFL teams had drafted six quarterbacks among the top 36 choices, including four among the top 12 -- leaps of faith in just about every case.