2021 NFL Draft Guide Player Profiles: Ryan Tannehill
Published: Aug 13, 2021
Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill is likely one happy dude after this offseason. In early June, the Titans went out and acquired Julio Jones to pair with A.J. Brown out wide. Arthur Smith has left, and he worked wonders with Tannehill, but the bread and butter of the Tennessee offense remains, which is a heavy dose of Derrick Henry, and then Tannehill spreading it around. However, rather than Corey Davis as the No. 2, it’s now Brown and Jones as the 1A and 1B. Tannehill had an excellent 2020 campaign, but can he build upon that in 2021 for an even better fantasy season?
Last year, Tannehill completed 65 percent of his passes while throwing for over 3,800 yards with a quality 33:7 TD/INT ratio. He was one of nine quarterbacks in the National Football League last year to throw for at least 33 touchdowns, and one of just four to do so with less than 10 interceptions. He posted the fourth-highest QBR, trailing only Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, per Pro Football Reference.
From a fantasy perspective, Tannehill was excellent last year, finishing within the top 10 at the position, and was inside the top 12 at his position in half of his game last year, per RotoViz. Furthermore, he never once finished outside the top 24 at the position, and only finished outside of the top 18 in four games last season, per RotoViz. Tannehill had at least 16 fantasy points in all but two games last year, and down the stretch, he rewarded fantasy owners handsomely.
Over the final seven weeks of the season, only three quarterbacks put up more fantasy points than Tannehill, and his mobility shined, as he scored six rushing touchdowns down the stretch. He was dominant down the stretch and fantasy owners in the playoffs were treated to big performance after big performance from Tannehill. He’s likely due for some touchdown regression in the rushing department, but he’ll still find the end zone a couple of times. I wouldn’t count on him turning 10 red zone carries into six rushing touchdowns again in 2021. For the record, seven of his 17 career rushing touchdowns came last season, and 11 of those 17 have come since he donned the Tennessee uniform.
Henry’s presence is invaluable to the Tennessee offense. The addition of Jones on the outside will have opposing defensive coordinators going mad. Do you stack the box to stop Henry? Can you leave corners on an island by themselves against Brown and Jones? Is Henry going to rumble for 300+ yards if we focus on Brown and Jones? Tennessee is going to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, and Tannehill can navigate this ship with little to no problem.
Just like recent seasons, be warned about the Tennessee play action game. In 2020, only Josh Allen had more passing yards off play action, which is quite impressive considering Buffalo had no running attack last season. Specifically on play-action passes, Tannehill had a 12:3 TD/INT ratio and posted the fifth-highest average depth of target (aDOT) on these plays, per Pro Football Focus (PFF).
Even with Henry in the backfield, hear me out on this. Following Henry’s insane workload last year, and elevated workload in 2019 as well, the Titans wouldn’t have acquired Julio Jones if they didn’t have some desire to throw it a bit more in 2021. New offensive coordinator Todd Downing will likely maintain some of the Arthur Smith staples that Tannehill thrived on, but his lone year as an Offensive Coordinator saw his team employ a more pass-centric approach, as they ranked 15th in pass attempts compared to 30th in rushing attempts, per Pro Football Reference. Tennessee isn’t going to completely flip the script with their offense and become a more pass-oriented team, but there could be an added emphasis on reducing some of Henry’s workload on a week-to-week basis, and any extra pass attempts for Tannehill with his stable of weapons in 2021 should be welcomed by those who invest in the veteran signal caller. However, Tannehill isn’t free of concern with a new OC.
Tannehill posted the third-highest points per drop back in the league last year, per PFF, but that was largely elevated by his unsustainable touchdown rate with the amount of carries he logged last year. Tannehill keepers on zone reads will still be in the playbook, and largely effective with him being an afterthought compared to the other weapons Tennessee boasts, but it’s highly unlikely he finds the end zone seven times again. Even with a reduced fantasy output from his legs, he has more than enough around him to post a second straight QB1 season.
Per NFFC ADP data, he is the 12th quarterback off the board, and it seems like, yet again, people aren’t talking about him enough. Since the start of 2019, he’s one of just 10 quarterbacks to average at least 23 fantasy points per game, per RotoViz. Tannehill should finish the year inside the top 15 at the position, but be careful of pushing him too high up the board. There will be some regression for Tannehill in terms of his rushing output, specifically touchdowns.
If you push Tannehill up your board, you’re heavily buying into the fact that the acquisition of Jones signals for more passing attempts for Tannehill, and I can get on board with that. His ceiling in 2021 is around QB8 or QB9, but there’s just enough mobility from Tannehill and opportunities in the scheme that his floor is likely around QB15.
Tannehill won’t be the flashy or sexy pick in the draft, but he’s a rock solid consistent option who you can count on week after week.