Bienvenidos a Miami Nashville! I guess I need to switch from a Cuba libre over to a mint julep for this article. Let’s begin with the storied Miami Dolphins franchise. Miami rostered three quarterbacks who passed for over 20,000 yards and threw for over 120 touchdowns. You may have seen the bronze busts of the first two–Dan Marino and Bob Griese–in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet it is the third Dolphins quarterback who owns the lowest interception rate and highest career quarterback rating of the trio. Yes, that’s right, Ryan Tannehill just made you say “no way,” but in that confusing dude-bro style that means “yes, extra sriracha pickles please.” Let’s take a closer look at Ryan Tannehill, who is an ideal quarterback to target in 2020 fantasy football, whether it be redraft, dynasty, best ball, or daily fantasy.

After sitting out 2017 with an ACL tear and struggling through shoulder injuries in 2018, Tannehill lost his starting job in Miami. In 2019, the Dolphins traded Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans to back up Marcus Mariota. After Mariota stumbled out of the gate, Tannehill took over as starter and never looked back, earning him Comeback Player of the Year honors and a multi-year contract extension as the Titan’s quarterback of the future. But, Tannehill’s performance was–rightfully–shadowed by Derek Henry’s stellar year at running back. Ryan Tannehill’s performance in 2019 was so exceptional yet under the radar, it was like Metallica getting passed over for the Hard Rock Grammy in favor of the flute-fronted Jethro Tull. 2020 has messed with our minds so much that Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield, and Daniel Jones are going off the board three or four rounds before Tannehill. That’s fine if you want to pay a high price for some of the leaders in short passes and errant passes–you do you, after all–but I’m here to talk up Tannehill around the Covid-laced water cooler.
Tannehill’s 2019 Breakout
In 10 games last year, Tannehill led the league in completion percentage above expectation, performing over 30% better than his nearest competition of Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, and Russell Wilson. It’s the way that Tannehill completed these passes, however, that deserves attention. Tannehill passed aggressively in each game, darting passes to his receivers at the sixth riskiest rate in the league. The receivers kept pulling in those tough passes, giving Tannehill the league’s fourth best Average Completed Air Yards. The receivers then boosted Tannehill’s stats even more by running a league second-best 6.2 yards after the catch. Blitzes didn’t bother Tannehill, and he put up a league-best 112.4 passer rating under pressure. In short, Tannehill threw accurate balls, he threw them deep, and his receivers were in position to keep moving after the catch. Furthermore, he did this at a rate superior to many of the consensus Top 10 quarterbacks. 

Tannehill in 2020 Fantasy Football
With such an elite performance in 2019, readers may wonder why Tannehill is so far off the fantasy radar. According to FantasyPros, Tannehill is the consensus 18th ranked QB. I personally ranked Tannehill as my #10 QB for 2019, and was absolutely razzed up when Donkey Teeth gave Tannehill an aggressive rank of 11th best QB for 2020 Fantasy Football. Many fantasy pundits are concerned about three factors for Tannehill’s production in 2020: 1) Tannehill’s seemingly weak track record, and 2) the prolific run game from Derek Henry, and 3) Tannehill’s injury history. I contend that the first point–Tannehill’s weak track record–isn’t demonstrated by the evidence. From 2012-2018, Tannehill was among the top 20 QBs in total TDs and pass yardage. Additionally, with so many top fantasy QBs relying on a combination of running and passing skills, pundits are worried about whether Tannehill can continue the success of his running game. Since 2012, when Tannehill entered the league, he’s the 11th ranked passer in terms of rushing yards. And, you’re not going to like this stat: Tannehill’s rushing yards per attempt of 4.79 is better than Patrick Mahomes’ 4.55 yards per attempt. That second point–the high workload of Derek Henry–is more concerning. The Titans ranked second-to-last in the league in pass attempts last year. But–and this is a Blair after spending his quarantine stimulus at Shake Shack-sized but–the team that threw the least passes last year? Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Tannehill averaged 26 attempts in 2019, roughly the same as Jackson (averaged 26.7 attempts), and close to Josh Allen (averaging 28 attempts per game). Tannehill enters his second year in Tennessee surrounded by a talented offense, with A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and Jonnu Smith forming his receiving corps. Everybody in the NFL has some sort of weakness, but I’m not letting the arguments of track record or Derek Henry dampen my spirits on Tannehill. The injury history? Well, it kept him out of football for nearly two seasons, so, that’s a major consideration. Injury history isn’t stopping people from drafting Carson Wentz as the #10 QB on average, though.

Fantasy Football Draft Strategy
I’m a guy that thinks differently, and that’s why I’m here telling you to draft the 20th ranked quarterback with such flair and swagger that you start shotgunning the ghost pepper sauce at the Buffalo Wild Wings draft party. Myself, I’m bullish on quarterbacks in fantasy football: they’re often your teams’ highest overall point scorer, they’re often the most consistent source of healthy playing time, and you’re able to get high value QBs late in the draft if you know what you’re doing.

In redraft and bestball, I’m focusing early on RB, WR, and TE. Yes, I love Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. I want them on my team, just like I want one a tricked out Subaru Impreza with the unnecessary tail fin and vent for the engine. However, when you get together with your friends and family in a socially-distanced garage staring at your computers for your draft party, you know that your cousin Chad is going to take Mahomes in the first round and start talking about how he’s already won the championship. Meanwhile, you’re quietly taking RB, WR, and TE–the volatile and scarce positions–knowing that you’ve got an ace up your sleeve. You know, you good Razzball reader you, that Tannehill is going to be sitting on the board at the end of the draft, and you’re happy to do the QB-free fall. Still nervous? Pick up a higher ranked quarterback AND Tannehill late in the draft, and then trade one of them (in redraft) once the season is underway. In bestball, I’m thinking Tannehill would be a nice second quarterback for your team. Keep in mind, there’s a fair amount of volatility in fantasy running backs this year. Targeting a QB like Tannehill lets you focus on those volatile RB/WR/TE spots in the middle of the draft. Now go put some pepper in Chad’s beer while he’s in the bathroom. 

In dynasty, it’s important to remember that Tannehill turns 32 at the start of the season, and he’s had knee and shoulder issues. Personally, I want to compete every year in dynasty, so I see Tannehill as an ideal option for teams needing a QB this year. If your dynasty team performs poorly in 2020, then pack up Tannehill in a trade package to a winning team and get some sort of value for him–draft picks, auction money, prospects, a bottle of rum, whatever gets you excited. One manager’s garbaggio is another manager’s fantasy championship.

As for daily fantasy, Tannehill is a riskier player with a high floor and lower ceiling. However, Tannehill’s ability to make completions and put his receivers in position to run the field adds volatility. If Derek Henry can get even a handful more passes caught, it would dramatically improve Tannehill’s outlook.

Get Your Fill of Tannehill

Drop a note below if you’re bullish on Tannehill, too, and if you disagree, let us know who your favorite late round quarterback is. And if you haven’t done so already, sign up for the RazzBowl for an opportunity to take on industry and rubes in the greatest fantasy football competition in 2020. 

  1. Dase says:

    In 2014 he finished as the number nine quarterback overall, and last year his points per game, placed him as the number 10 QB. In both of these seasons he had his two highest average carries per game, 3.5 (2014) and 4.3 (2019, including playoffs). The big difference came with his rushing touchdowns (four), as last year he almost matched his career total of six. I don’t see any reason to think he does not see at least four carries per game but I do think it’s a very real possibility we see a rushing touchdown regression. If you bake in the regression of rushing TDs with the limited volume in the passing game, I think it’s fair to view him as a solid QB2 option as his floor and upside of being a backend QB1. With the QB position being so deep, it’s not the easiest to find real value, a player like Tannehill has the opportunity to represent real value this year.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:

      Great points! I think a lot of veterans might end up grabbing a consensus top 12 QB and then take Tannehill as the backup, hoping to leverage one of those QBs in a trade later in the season. Tannehill is the QB2 of QB1s. :)

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