When Even Hindsight Isn't 20/20: Grading the 2008 Draft

Super Bowl Sunday is almost upon us.  That means its 27 days until free agency, and 84 days until the draft- and all the associated educated guessing and speculation that makes the offseason bearable.  Before this blitz of player evaluations, scouting reports, and mock. . . oh too late to beat that (you're good Matty- you're good)?  Well, before the real barrage anyways, I wanted to take a look back at last years draft.  I know, you aren't supposed to that for three years, but regardless. . .

Take a look around the league.  Which teams are consistently Super Bowl contenders?  The Colts, the Patriots, the Steelers- they have totally different coaching philosophies, offenses, defenses- you name it.  The one common denominator?  They all draft well.  As the conventional wisdom goes, you can buy a decent team for a year or two, but to consistently win your division, and contend for the playoffs, you have to draft well.

If you believe in this philosophy, it was no surprise that the Dolphins went 1-15 in 2007.  From Wannstadt to Cameron- this franchise was cursed with crummy drafting, and traded away draft picks for unproductive players (Sorry Ricky but you've been in and out too much to justify your twin 1st rounders price tag).  Countless players left the team, and even more of an indictment, many are out of the NFL entirely.  With 7 years of wasted opportunity to gather talent, it was more surprising that it took so long to see the the franchise sink so low than the actual crappy season was itself. 

So we have had one year to try and 're-stock the cupboards'- how does it look so far?

Well due to the talent desert we had created here, a surprising number of rookies got onto the field this year, and gave us a nice glimpse of their abilities.

Here is a complete list of all of our picks from the 2008 drafts- I also included notable UDFAs:


2008 Draft
Pick Player Pos. School
1 Jake Long LT Mich
32 Phillip Merling DE Clem
57 Chad Henne QB Mich
66 Kendall Langford DE Hampton
110 Shawn Murphy OG Utah St.
176 Jalen Parmele RB Toledo
195 Donald Thomas OG UConn.
204 Lex Hilliard RB Montana
245 Lionel Dotson DE Arizona
UDFA Dan Carpenter K Montana
UDFA Davone Bess WR Hawaii


Lets break it down pick by pick:

1.) Jake Long- the #1 overall pick in the draft.  Before playing a single snap, he became the highest paid Offensive lineman in the NFL.  Was he worth it?  Well, he started all 16 games this year, which is a big accomplishment for a rookie.  On the year he allowed 2.5 sacks.  How good is that exactly?  Good enough for 5th place in the NFL behind Ryan Clady, Michael Roos, Tra Thomas, and Orlando Pace.  Not too bad for a guy who's scouting report said he may be a better right tackle than left due to his sub-par pass blocking skills.  The disappointing part?  According to Football Outsiders, we only gained 3.99 adjusted line yards per carry running behind left tackle, only good enough for 20th in the NFL.  To his credit though, he played even through a badly injured ankle, and maintained his composure when Vet Justin Smiley went down with injury and was replaced by some random dude off the street.

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: B-

He played well, but he is not an elite left tackle. He needs to work harder to earn his paycheck- but he showed the potential, and I have faith that he will live up to it.

2.) Phillip Merling- He was notable even before he played a snap for being a first rounder taken in the second round (just wanted to mention that to laugh at the cheating Pats again- haha!).  So how did he actually perform?  Not too bad- he saw playing time in each game, and started 2.  He put up 26 tackles, good for  139th out of all D-lineman. . . not great but a DE in the 3-4 isn't really supposed to be a tackling machine.  He generally ties up blockers well, and holds his ground.  He also collected a sack and an INT- the sweetest interception of the season if you ask me when he perfectly read a Favre screen and took it to the house.

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: B

Nice contribution for a rookie.  If he takes the starting DE spot from Vonnie Holliday this off season I will consider him a complete success.  His grade might be even higher if it weren't for the next DE we picked a bit further along. . .

3.) Chad Henne- It is tough to grade this pick.  He threw two picks vs 1 TD in the preseason.  He saw the field once during the regular season, where he looked improved but not great.  The presence of John Beck on the team also creates the question of whether this was even a team need.  In fact, I think the only reason we took him is because he was by far the best player available.  Before his injury plagued senior season, he was a mid to late first round QB.  Even after his sub par final year, he was projected to go at the top of round 2.  So the main part of his grade comes from the fact that we got a 4 year starter at a major BCS school that runs a pro style offense with the 7th to last pick in the second round.  Also factored in is the fact that it really looked like he was going to win the Henne-McCown-Beck QB competition before Chad Pennington fell into our laps.

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: B+

His high ceiling combined with a low price tag make this a smart pick, but I can't give an A to a player who didn't see the field.  Hopefully in a year or two this will jump up to an A+++. 

4.) Kendall Langford- This is the man who made Merling look bad.  The man says it best himself - "I think I am a power player. I get after the ball. I chase the ball. I believe I make plays."  He certainly does- he burst right out of the gates as the teams starter at DE- starting a total of 13 games over the season.  He totaled 31 tackles, and 2 sacks- good enough to get him onto the NFL's all rookie team.  He was one of the great steals of the draft, and an all around bad motha'.

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: A+

A rookie starter from the 3rd round?  Yes please. 

5.) Shawn Murphy-  OK- this one was kind of a whiff.  He did not sniff one game all year and is considered a project at this point.  Pretty sure we drafted him because his dad was a baseball player.

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: D

He has the tools to do well, lets see if he can put it together next year and see the field.

6.) Jalen Parmele- Tough one to grade.  It seemed like a need because of the uncertainty in the recoveries of Brown and Williams.  Due to their stellar play, he was inactive the first three games, got waived to sign Joey Haynos, was signed to the practice squad, and then poached by the Ravens.  While there, he had a grand total of 2 carries, one for 31 yards, and one for -4 yards.  His preseason with us was similarly boom or bust- he rushed for a total of 123 yards on 21 carries, good for a stellar average of 5.9 ypc- but in individual games he averaged 4.5 ypc, 1.8 ypc, 12.6 ypc, and 1.7 ypc.

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: C-

The regime gets points for finding a back in the 6th round who can play, but they get docked because he'll be playing for someone else.

7.) Donald Thomas- Thinking of that first game still makes my eyes water a bit.  Donald Thomas didn't start playing football until his college years when he was picked up just strolling around campus.  But this kid defines the term natural.  He was a day one starter.  Unfortunately, he had a Lisfranc fracture during the first game of the season.  Being the beast that he is, he played through it- but was shut down the rest of the season.  Even though he was playing hurt, after the game- several Jets defenders raved about his ability completely unsolicited.  Luckily, his injury has a pretty good recovery rate, and he should be back to full strength next season. 

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: A

I know he didn't play more than one game, but he was a 6th rounder starting out of camp. I fully expect him to resume right where he left off last year.  Outstanding pick.

8.) Lex Hilliard- OK, another RB?  This pick kind of perplexed me.  He is a kind of RB/FB tweener.  He rushed for 68 yards in the preseason on 2.8 ypc.  He was waived August 30th, and resigned to the practice squad, where he spent the rest of the season.  January 5th he resigned with the team. . . so at least we still have him.

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: C-

Hasn't done anything of note.  Should probably be a D+ but they get extra points for successfully hiding him on the practice squad at least.

9.) Lionel Dotson- He only played in 2 games, and made one tackle.  The superb play of Langford and Merling meant he he wasn't used much.  He was kept on the roster and not stashed on the practice squad, meaning they probably see something in him.  He has the size to succeed and put up a sack in the preseason.

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: B

What- you were expecting a rookie contributor from the 7th round?  Now you are just being greedy.  He gets points for sticking on the roster, and because his uncle is Vance Bedford, the DB coach at UF.

UDFA 1.) Dan Carpenter- Great move by the regime.  They got rid of a loud mouthed, high paid kicker and got no drop off in production.  Carpenter set a Phins rookie record 11 consecutive field goals made, was the November AFC special teams player of the month, and didn't do too bad on kickoffs to boot.

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: A+

Too easy- a record setter who we got without spending a single draft pick?

UDFA 2.) Davone Bess - Everybody knows the story of this guy.  He turned into a go to receiver in his rookie year after going undrafted.  He played in all 16 games, and started the final 6, as well as the playoff game.  He had 54 receptions for 554 yards and a TD in the regular season - good enough to be the 3rd WR on the team, and caught 2 balls for 54 yards in the playoffs.  Matty called it in the preseason- he turned into something special this year, and only promises to get better.

GatorPhan's Completely Subjective Yet 100% Accurate Grade: A+

He played well all season, and stepped up when the team needed him most after Camarillo went down.  Slam dunk find.


Final draft grade for 2008: A-

6 players who have started at least one game.  A franchise LT.  A possible franchise QB.  The regime focused on the priority of building up the foundations that are the O and D lines.  That would be pretty good any time.  The fact that we found not one, but TWO undrafted free agents who made huge contributions to the team really put it over the top.  And who knows?  Maybe some of the Shawn Murphy types from this draft will end up contributing too.  All I know is that I can't wait to see what we do this year. 

So how do you guys think we measure up?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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