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College Stock Watch: Tannehill's ability second only to Luck's

Brett Davis / US Presswire
Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill is new to playing quarterback, but he's shown the potential to be special.


Each Monday throughout the college football season, NFL.com draft expert Bucky Brooks will share his notes and evaluations on potential NFL prospects for the 2012 draft and beyond. An asterisk (*) denotes players who aren't seniors.

There are several great college quarterback prospects. While Andrew Luck* is the nation's top signal-caller, the second spot isn't as clear.

Supporters of Oklahoma's Landry Jones* and USC's Matt Barkley* will make the case for each of those quarterbacks, but Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill has the athleticism, arm strength and intangibles to be a star.

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With Aaron Rodgers the NFL's most dominant quarterback, more teams are seeking athletic passers who can play inside or outside of the pocket. Tannehill, a 6-foot-4, 222-pound receiver-turned-quarterback, has shown he can do damage with his feet or arm. He nimbly avoids rushers and has the mobility to pass once protection breaks down. While some athletic quarterbacks look to run first when leaving the pocket, Tannehill keeps his eyes up the field hoping to find an available receiver. His awareness and improvisational skills are impressive considering his lack of experience as a quarterback.

As a drop back passer, Tannehill is not quite as polished, but has the tools to make all of the throws. His arm strength is above average and he has excellent range on deep throws. From an accuracy standpoint, he is outstanding on short-to-intermediate passes. He excels on in-breaking routes between the hashes, but is also capable of delivering the ball with zip on deep outs and comebacks.

In looking at Tannehill's flaws, his inconsistency and touch on deep balls stands out. He routinely fails to connect with open receivers on vertical routes despite a strong arm. Some of his problems stem from his lack of timing and anticipation, which can be corrected with more experience.

Tannehill's limited résumé (13 games as a starter) is also a potential issue for evaluators. His learning curve likely will be steeper than more seasoned prospects.

However, the recent successes of Cam Newton and Mark Sanchez despite their limited playing history could alleviate those concerns and prompt a team to focus on Tannehill's immense potential as a franchise quarterback.

Pac-12 has premier offensive tackles

USC's Matt Kalil* and Stanford's Jonathan Martin* are the best offensive tackles in the country, and it's not even close.

Kalil, a 6-6, 295-pound redshirt junior, is a polished left tackle. He's up to the task of sliding and mirroring elite rushers, yet has the body control to anchor against power players. Kalil has played well against top competition, which has earned him high marks from scouts. Beyond sound fundamentals, his football intelligence, instincts and awareness are all strengths. Kalil was held in such high regard at USC that former Trojan Tyron Smith was unable to start at left tackle despite being a top 10 pick in the 2011 draft.

Martin, a 6-6, 305-pound also a redshirt junior, has all the physical tools to develop into a franchise left tackle. Although he's most effective as a run blocker due to his strength and power, he also has the athleticism to shadow pass rushers. He effortlessly slides to stay in front of players and maintains proper position. Martin still needs to tighten up some of his technique, but his natural talent should allow him to easily pick up the nuances of the position.

Word on the street

» Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles might not earn a first-round grade on most boards, but a prominent NFC West evaluator believes he will make an immediate contributor as a pro. The scout tabbed Broyles as the best route runner in college football and compared him to the Patriots' Deion Branch and Wes Welker as a potential slot receiver. The scout added that he could see Broyles make his mark as a No. 3 receiver on a team that utilizes a lot of spread formations.

» South Carolina wideout Alshon Jeffrey* has generated some buzz because of his size (6-4, 229), athleticism and ball skills, but some scouts question his overall speed and burst. They wonder about his ability to separate from elite corners at the next level and that could prevent Jeffrey from emerging as an impact player.

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Stock up

» Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma, WR: He hauled in 13 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns scores in a blowout of Kansas. This marks the third time this season Broyles has finished with 13-plus catches and is his fourth straight game with 100-plus yards receiving. As the NCAA career leader in receptions (326) and the Big 12 leader in receiving touchdowns (44), Broyles has cemented his status as one of the top playmakers in college football.

» Trent Richardson*, Alabama, RB: He topped the 100-yard mark for the sixth straight game with his 17-carry, 183-yard performance against Ole Miss. He added four rushing touchdowns, including a remarkable 76-yard score that showcased his quickness and body control while eluding multiple defenders on the way to the end zone.

» Morris Claiborne*, LSU, CB: He continues to prove he's one of the top cover corners in college football. He picked off his third pass of the season and added two deflections in LSU's win over Tennessee.

» Kenjon Barner*, Oregon, RB: He capably filled in for an injured LaMichael James* by rushing for 171 yards on 31 carries against Arizona State. Barner flashed speed and quickness getting to the perimeter, but had enough power to break arm tackles. Although Barner isn't a playmaker of James' caliber, he's capable of carrying the Ducks' offense in the interim.

» Dion Bailey*, USC, LB: The redshirt freshman made quite a statement with his all-around game against Cal. Bailey finished with eight tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Although both picks could be called gifts, he should be credited with being in the right place at the right time.

Stock down

» Denard Robinson*, Michigan, QB: He's been the primary offensive weapon for most of the season, but struggled against Michigan State. He completed 9 of 24 attempts and had a critical interception in the fourth quarter. As a runner, Robinson had 42 yards on 18 attempts and failed to deliver the big play the offense desperately needed.

» B.J. Daniels*, South Florida, QB: He was expected to emerge as a top quarterback this season, but is mired in a two-game slump that has seen him complete 50 percent of his passes with two interceptions. Daniels has struggled to string together completions and failed to keep South Florida's explosive offense going.

» Ray Graham*, Pittsburgh, RB: After rushing for 100-plus yards in four of his first six games, Graham was held to 46 yards on 12 carries vs. Utah. While he didn't get many opportunities, he found little daylight when given the ball and didn't resemble the player that created buzz earlier in the season.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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