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Tannehill waits for chance to prove he's top-10 material

INDIANAPOLIS -- It's a near certainty, as it has been for two years now, that Andrew Luck will be the first pick in the draft.

It seems increasingly likely, especially on the heels of Sunday's official 4.41 40-yard dash time, that Robert Griffin III will come off the board next, with his landing spot riding on whatever price the Rams can exact for the second pick.

And here's what else is coming clear: Ryan Tannehill could well be a top 10 pick. At the very least, he's separating himself from the quarterback pack that sits behind Luck and Griffin. Ask NFL evaluators, and you'll hear the consensus building that the Texas A&M prospect is the third guy in this class at the most important position.

"Yes," said one college scout, when asked if Tannehill's the clear cut No. 3. "Assuming he works out well at the end of the month, and that his foot is healed, then yes."

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"Not by leaps and bounds," texted a personnel executive, "but yes."

Sources say multiple teams in the top 10 have more than a cursory interest in Tannehill, a 6-foot-4 specimen who was athletic enough to play receiver in College Station before wresting the job under center. Tannehill is not participating in drills at the combine, as he rehabs a foot injury suffered in January, but did go through medical testing and team interviews.

So how does Tannehill see it? He might or might not know this, but the race to be first in the draft appears to be over, with Luck ticketed for Indy. Likewise, Griffin likely will know his fate in the few minutes after Luck comes off the board. All that, though, doesn't mean Tannehill is throwing in the towel.

He does, in fact, seem himself as being in competition with the other two Texans. Can he catch them?

"I'm a super-competitive guy who's going to do everything I can to maximize my potential in the next two months, doing everything I can to impress some teams out there," he told me. "And hopefully one team will fall in love with me and draft me. Definitely, I want to compete with those guys. It's not up to me to decide what order we go in. But definitely, I want to compete, I want to go as high as possible. That's just in my nature to compete, as well it would be with those guys."

Here's the reality: He's not catching Luck. He's probably not catching Griffin either. But simply by interjecting himself in the conversation with those two, he's won the battle, to a certain extent. Beyond just that, if a team in the top 10 is convinced he projects as a franchise quarterback, it's unlikely now they'd pass on Tannehill, based the importance of that spot.

"No one will like him more than Luck," said the scout. "But I wouldn't be shocked if someone likes him more than Griffin. He has prototypical size, arm strength and athleticism. You are betting upside some with him, because he's only been a starting quarterback for a year and a half."

Some clubs like Tannehill more than they did Blaine Gabbert (picked 10th in 2011) or Christian Ponder (12th). Tannehill could rise similarly up the board in April. But he swears that, for now, he's not wrapped up in that, with Luck and Griffin, two guys he followed as a Texas high schooler, grabbing all the headlines.

"That's not for me to decide," he said. "I want to do everything I can, and one day we'll decide who's the best quarterback. Right now, it doesn't matter. We're just trying to prepare for the draft and be the best quarterbacks we can be in a small timeframe. … I'm excited about where I'm at. My foot's rehabbing, and I'm feeling good."

He'll work out in late March in College Station. And he's got two weeks to go in the rehab process, an eternity if you're waiting on something as significant as this.

At this point, it's impossible to know where Tannehill's final destination is. What we know now is he probably won't be waiting long on April 26.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer

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