Dec 31, 2011; Houston, TX, USA; Texas A

Ryan Tannehill: What Would It Take?


The Ryan Tannehill to Kansas City Chiefs debate rages on.

Tannehill being selected by the Chiefs is not a generally popular proposition to Chiefs fans. I find that strange for a town that hasn’t drafted a first-round QB since Todd Blacklege but I can understand the trepidation.

There is a lot to be nervous about with a Tannehill pick. I am willing to bet that the QB’s lack of experience scares most fans. I’d wager that when they hear he converted from wide receiver, they get even more wary of his prospects. Lastly, the price it might take to obtain Tannehill, likely a top 10 draft pick and possibly and some later picks, definitely makes his selection a risk.

Sure, drafting Tannehill would be a risk but in the end, all draft picks are a roll of the dice. The year the Chiefs selected Tyson Jackson, the Seattle Seahawks who held the very next pick, swiped “the safest pick in the draft,” linebacker Aaron Curry. Recently, the Seahawks traded Curry to the Oakland Raiders for an old box full of Playboy magazines from the 70s and some magic beans.

There are no safe picks in the draft.

I understand that the Chiefs need to be cautious with how they use their draft picks. KC fans pay way too much attention to the Oakland Raiders to not know that being foolish with your picks can set your organization back years. Al Davis often gave up high draft picks for players that had no chance of turning around his team’s fortunes by themselves and so the organization languished in misery for a decade.

Yet, wasn’t there incredible risk in trading a second round pick to the New England Patriots for Matt Cassel? After all, Cassel had one season under his belt as a starter in the NFL. Before that, he hadn’t started a single game since high school.

At the time of the trade, the Chiefs had needs at every single position on their team. They needed as many draft picks as possible.

Yet the Cassel trade, at the time, was overwhelmingly popular. Fans were stoked about Scott Pioli’s arrival in town. They were excited about the surprise season Cassel had with an immensely talented New England Patriots team. There was great hope that a franchise QB had finally arrived in Kansas City.

Only he didn’t.

Even the staunchest Cassel supporters now admit the position can be upgraded. Generally everybody agrees that the Chiefs can win some games with Cassel. Almost nobody can say with a straight face that they can win a Super Bowl with him. Sure, anything is possible, we all know that.

But with Cassel at QB, regardless of how talented the Chiefs are, the odds are not in their favor.

So the Chiefs traded a second round pick for Matt Cassel, Mike Vrabel, one AFC West Championship, a blowout playoff loss, a 4-12 nightmare and a 7-9 season. Unfortunately we can’t give Cassel credit for all seven wins in 2011. Two of them came from Kyle Orton, who had arrived mid-season and another from Tyler Palko, who doesn’t even belong on an NFL field.

Despite all that, I like the Cassel trade. The 2009 draft was a disaster anyway. Scott Pioli didn’t do much with his picks that year and I doubt one more second round pick would have made much of a difference.

Yet the Chiefs still got better. Despite having a draft that netted them only a two-down DE (Tin Man), a backup QB (Cassel) and a kicker (Succop), despite all that, the Chiefs have a good team heading into 2012.

Good, save one, glaring weakness.

Cassel.

Cassel hasn’t been holding the Chiefs back since his arrival in Kansas City but his teammates have now passed him by. He is not a difference-maker. He’s never made the guys around him better. The formula for Cassel has always been that he needs guys around him to make him better.

There are many arguments against Tannehill. Here are some of them:

1. He doesn’t have enough experience. (see Cassel, Matt)
2. He needs time on the bench. (see Cassel, Matt)
3. He converted from WR. (So he can run as well as throw? Cool.)
4. His value is inflated. (It is. Sure, it is. But draft picks often have inflated value as well. See Siavi, Junior)
5. He isn’t a franchise QB. (Can’t argue with this one. If you think he’s a backup, I won’t convince you he’s not)

The thing is, most scouts seem to agree that Tannhill does have the tools to be a franchise QB. In case you hadn’t noticed, franchise QBs don’t grow on trees outside of Green Bay. Given the importance of the QB position in the NFL, isn’t obtaining a franchise QB worth the risk?

But what is the risk? How much would the Chiefs have to give up to find out if Tannehill is the answer? Multiple first round picks? Multiple, high picks in 2012?

It depends on where they try to select him.

The only way the Chiefs can guarantee themselves Tannehill is to trade up to #3 with the Minnesota Vikings. That move would be immensely expensive. According to the NFL trade value chart, the #3 pick is worth 2,600 points. KC’s #11 pick is only worth 1,250. To even things out with the Vikings, the Chiefs would almost certainly have to give up their 2013 first rounder and probably a second this year. Perhaps even more, depending on the value of a future first rounder the the Vikings.

I agree with those who believe moving to #3 for Tannehill is foolish. It is a very big gamble and it would cost the Chiefs a shot at building their depth. While I would still be excited about the prospect of Tannehill if the Chiefs did it, I’d be very nervous about the whole affair.

Some other desperate team might try to move up to #3 to get Tannehill but I don’t see it happening. I don’t see it happening because I don’t think teams really believe the Browns are really going to select Tannehill at #4. They obviously aren’t thrilled with QB Colt McCoy but they have so many holes, particularly on offense, that Tannehill would be unlikely to fare much better in Cleveland than McCoy. After watching AJ Green in Cincinnati last year and given their deficiencies at WR, I don’t see how the Browns pass on Justin Blackmon.

After Cleveland, Tannehill is likely to slide all the way down to the Dolphins at #8. Stephen Ross is so desperate for a QB it is hard not to see the Phins selecting Tannehill, unless someone leaps over them.

That someone should be the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs can easily move from #11 to #7 without risking too much. Jacksonville holds the #7 pick, which according to the trade value chart is worth 1,500 points. Pick #11, which the Chiefs would swap with the Jags, is worth 1,250. That means the Chiefs need only to give the Jaguars an extra 250 points. KC’s third round pick, #74, is worth 220 points.

Unless there are others trying to get to #7, the Jaguars very well might take that deal. They’d get #74 and all they would have to do is move back four slots. If they wanted more, the Chiefs could throw in their fifth-round pick, #146, which is worth 33 points.

A franchise QB for a first and third or a first and fifth?

I would have the Chiefs give that up any day.

Ask yourself, will the players the Chiefs select with the 11th and 74th picks this year increase their chances of winning a Super Bowl with Matt Cassel in the next two to three years? Will David DeCastro or Luke Kuechly be what puts the Chiefs over the top?

I don’t think so.

DeCastro and Kuechly might be great players but I don’t think they make the Chiefs so much better that they can win a Super Bowl without a franchise QB.

Furthermore, if the Chiefs are wrong about Tannehill, it changes absolutely nothing. It doesn’t mortgage the future of the team. The Chiefs will still have their 2012 second round selection. They’ll still have they’re 2013 first round pick. They’ll still have Tamba Hali, Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, Tony Moeaki, Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry and Justin Houston. They will still have a young, talented team and they will still need a QB.

Lastly, some have pointed out a quote by Scott Pioli about his willingness to trade up.

Here is what he said:

“From year to year you have so many needs,” Pioli said. “To start giving up multiple No. 1 picks, that’s a big decision because right now we may say we have needs in these five areas and to sacrifice multiple drafts in the future, I tend to want to be a little more responsible than that.

I didn’t come here to win one championship. I didn’t come here to get the quick fix, be done and move onto the next job. This is where our family is. This is where I want to spend the rest of my career.

“So what I’m gong to do is make prudent decisions to get the best players and get the best team built. Being too short-sighted and trading too many draft picks for any one player….I don’t even know who the player is who I’d say I’d give up multiple first round picks based on where we’re at.”

Pay special attention to the parts in bold. Pioli gave this quote when many, including myself, were calling for the Chiefs to consider acquiring Robert Griffen III. That would have meant giving up multiple #1 picks.

Yet getting Tannehill at #7 wouldn’t cost multiple #1 picks. In fact, at the least it would cost two picks total and at the most, maybe three, one of them being a late round pick.

The part about having needs in five areas also seems to ring a little false considering since this quote was made, head coach Romeo Crennel said that the Chiefs didn’t need to draft for need this season. They feel so good about their free agency acquisitions that they feel they could lineup and play tomorrow if they had to. That in itself is a game changer for the team’s 2012 draft.

Lastly, Pioli says that he doesn’t want to win just one championship. Getting a franchise QB through the draft would set the Chiefs up to win multiple championships, not just one. Pioli has assembled a talented team that has championship possibilities but no championship QB.

Perhaps betting the farm to grab RGIII was a move too rich for Pioli’s blood. I can understand that.

Tannehill would not present even a fraction of the risk the RGIII trade would have.

Let’s not forget that the first thing Scott Pioli did when he came to Kansas City, was trade a high pick for a potential franchise QB. He knows the value of the position.

The Chiefs tried to get into the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. They have taken a good look at every top QB in the draft, guys projected to go in the first and second rounds. Due diligence be damned, the Chiefs know they need a QB.

I think the Chiefs will seriously consider trying to leap over the Dolphins. I think they’ll wait and see if the Browns pass on Tannhill and if they do, they’ll be on the phone with Jacksonville. I think they’d be right to do that.

And I think KC fans should be more open to a move like this.

Because if the Chiefs don’t get their franchise QB now, where is he going to come from?

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