Draft process inflated QB's stock
During the draft process I've given Todd McShay a hard time about Ryan Tannehill, as Todd has the former Texas A&M quarterback notably higher than I do on our respective boards.
Our small split on Tannehill doesn't have a lot to do with what we can see him becoming -- I know we both feel Tannehill has a ton of natural ability and, developed properly, could become a very good NFL quarterback. No, the split is on where we see Tannehill right now as a prospect.
The bottom line is that while Tannehill might have a lot of talent, the draft process has pushed up his stock somewhat artificially because of guys who aren't in the draft. Think about it this way: If Matt Barkley, Landry Jones and even Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson were in the draft, Tannehill would certainly be behind Barkley, but might even be behind Jones and Wilson on many draft boards. Sure, it would have made for an incredible year for QB prospects, but it shows you how the desperation for great quarterbacks in the NFL can create a situation where a team like Miami could take a top-10 shot on a player who still has a lot of projection left. Taking such a shot isn't exactly unique -- I've said before Cam Newton was a risk at No. 1 last year, as gifted as he was, because of how much he was still learning -- but Tannehill simply doesn't have the same physical gifts Newton has.
If Tannehill ends up with Miami, it probably would be the best possible situation for him. He doesn't need to start right away, and he'd have a coach who knows him in offensive coordinator Mike Sherman (the former Texas A&M coach), and one who can develop him in head coach Joe Philbin. But my issue is with Tannehill, and the situation is such an important aspect to this. I'm simply not as sold that he can go anywhere and succeed. And when we're talking about a likely top-10 pick, that shouldn't be as much the case.
Tannehill can be very good, but his stock is as much about the draft process and who isn't in it as it is what he has shown to this point.
Mel Kiper has been the premier name in NFL draft prospect evaluations for more than three decades. He started putting out his annual draft guides in 1978, and began contributing to ESPN as an analyst in 1984. For more from Mel, check out his annual draft publications or his ESPN home page. He can also be found on Twitter here.
A project, not an emerging star
Memphis DT Dontari Poe is a likely top-15 pick, and if he lands with the right team it wouldn't be a terrible pick. Poe clearly has natural ability and great potential.
However, he's a classic workout warrior. The 6-foot-3½, 346-pounder ran a 4.98 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, and bench-pressed 225 pounds 44 times.
Those numbers, combined with a 4.56-second short shuttle and 7.9-second three-cone drill, invited comparisons to Baltimore Ravens DL Haloti Ngata's mind-blowing 2006 workout. However, Ngata was a more polished player coming out of Oregon.
Ngata had 117 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks during his final two seasons in the Pac-10, while Poe had only 74-14.5-3 the past two seasons in Conference USA.
Ngata's tape was far more impressive, and while it's easy to get excited when Poe flashes, spinning off blocks and tracking down ball carriers, those plays are few and far between.
Defensive tackles also tend to have tough adjustments to the NFL. Elite college defensive tackles are used to dominating guards who were not good enough to play tackle. Then they get to the NFL and face college offensive tackles who slid inside to guard and became masters of their craft, with impressive core strength and hand-to-hand combat skills.
Poe's new team must have a good line coach in place and be willing to develop his instincts and recognition skills, as well as the finer points of line play such as hand use.
That's not to say he's a certain bust. His size can't be coached, and Poe will be able to play right away as a rotational run-stuffer. But taking him as high as No. 9 overall to Carolina, or even at No. 14 to Dallas, is risky.
He probably will be a good NFL player, but his combine numbers and rare tools are inflating his stock. It's interesting that at a time when scouts are so cautious when it comes to workouts, a player who looks like a third-rounder on tape will get drafted so much higher than his production would indicate.
Poe is a project rather than an emerging star, and while he can become a quality NFL player, he's not on Ngata's level, and might never be.
Todd McShay is the director of college scouting for Scouts Inc. He has been evaluating prospects for the NFL draft since 1998. Follow McShay on Twitter: @McShay13