by Ray Kuhn
Let’s start with the fact that contracts for quarterbacks are meaningless. As soon as the ink is dried they are outdated and the compensation market at the position isn’t directly correlated to expected fantasy production. A lot of it simply comes down to timing as to when a quarterback is a free agent.
Take Ryan Tannehill as the newest, prime example. There is no denying the success he had last season with the Tennessee Titans as he led them to the playoffs, and at 31-years old and without much of a track record of success he received a $118 million contract over four years with $62 million of that guaranteed.
If we want to look at early, and the emphasis is on early, drafts Tannehill is currently the 17th quarterback coming off the board which upon initial glance, appears to be a reasonable price. We have established that Tannehill’s fantasy value shouldn’t be equated to the contract he just received, but as he now enters his second season with the Titans, and first as the starter from the onset, what can we expect from him in 2020?
In 12 games last season Tannehill completed 70.3% of his passes for 2,742 yards and 22 TD against just 6 INT. It was a resurgence of sorts as he took a step backwards in 2016 prior to missing 2017 with injury and then struggling in 2018.
From 2013 to 2015 he averaged 4,054 yards and 25 TD so we know last year’s success wasn’t a fluke, and the Titans’ passing game only stands to improve to 2020 with young receivers Corey Davis and A.J. Brown as downfield threats. Last season Tannehilll’s average target depth was 10.1 yards and he had an average receiver yard per catch of 6.4 yards, both being above average. As Brown enters his second season the bar is set pretty high after catching 52 passes for 1,051 yards and 8 TD. With Adam Humphries in the slot and Jonnu Smith at tight end, not only does Tannehill have weapons but there is continuity.
It is for that reason, besides the fact that he won the Comeback Player of the Year and took Tennessee to the playoffs, that the Titans made re-signing Tannehill a priority. Even more importantly we buried the lead as he clearly benefited, and should continue to benefit, from Derrick Henry controlling the run game.
He will likely throw more than 6 INT in 2020, but there is no reason why Tannehill can’t repeat his performance. What will keep his value down as a QB2 is the lack of upside. We have already seen his best, and with 185 rushing yards last season there isn’t much upside when it comes to that part of his game (and it’s hard to bank on a repeat of 4 rushing TD).
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t any value to be found as a QB2. We have familiarity with the offense, talent around him and upside in the receiving game with the downfield arm to match. Don’t overvalue Tannehill, but there is streaming value at a minimum.