Disclaimer: This is a really long Post.
First let's access where we are at some key positions:
We have Paul Soliai as the starting NT for the first 8 games of the season. Soliai is not the answer. Our defense struggled to stop the run when Jason Ferguson was out. Soliai is probably not even a good backup. Last year we didn't address the need because we had a young guy named Solai that was a possible backup. This year we have a slightly older guy named Soliai who we know was ineffective last year after learning the ropes from Ferguson.
Ferguson is 35. Ferguson was never a dominant NT, but he was a serviceable option for a team with too many other needs to be addressed. After addressing those needs through the draft the past few years and free agency we have some solutions at most other positions, but we still haven't done anything about the middle of our defense, the most crucial piece to making a 3-4 defense work.
This is the most glaring need we have right now.We need to come out of this draft with 2 NT prospects, one in the early rounds and a late round pickup to completely replace Solai. There are no NTs out there in free agency. Even the marginally good NTs have been snatched up, while there are still some quality free agents out there at other positions of need.
The more I look at things, the more I think that Dan Williams will not fall to us at 12. There are multiple mock drafts that actually have him going either to Buffalo at 9 or Denver at 11. NTs are a premium in this league and as Jeff Ireland said, "There are only so many big guys walking on this earth, It's a big priority in any defense. When you find them, you've got to keep them." How many NTs that were supposed to hit the market got the franchise tag this year? More and more teams are starting to realize the key to the defense is those big guys up front.
That said I still like Terrence Cody at 12 over Dan Williams. I know he looks like a slob, but watch game tape of this kid. He is exactly what you want out of a NT. There is no way that he falls to us at 43, especially if he has dropped to 340 by draft day like he is saying (only 9 lbs to go). He gives you the push up front that you are looking for. Anyone who does not see it doesn't know anything about defensive line. You are not looking for a sack master out of your NT, you want a run stuffer, a guy that just eats up blockers. If you can get someone who can either push the line of scrimmage back or hold up 2 guys and not give that yard or 2 you have exactly what you need out of him. I really do not see that out of any of the other prospects.
Take a look at this video where they discuss some of the top DTs in the draft, Suh, McCoy and ...Cody??
A quick recap if you don't go see the video. Jamie Dukes says that Vince Wilfork is probably pushing 370 and they all agree that NT is a different position, Billick says that he doesn't mind if a NT is a little sloppy.
A NT's job is not to make tackles or sacks. NT is not a role that requires instincts as some people have said. If they occasionally get a tackle or a sack it is just bonus. Their job is to make everything else in your defense work.
1.) They push the pocket back to flush the QB out of the pocket and into the arms or your OLBs. You are not looking for them to run down a QB. The threat of your NT potentially falling on the other teams QB is all you really need. 40 time is completely useless for evaluating a NT because he is not there to be fast, but to speed up the rest of the defense.
2.) They push the center and guard back allowing your ILB to come up and make a play on the RB in the backfield instead of 2-3 yards deep. If the NT is getting pushed even a yard or 2 back they are losing the battle at NT, because then the ILB has to decide which side of the NT the RB is going to and run around in order to make the tackle, or they can just give up 3 yards and make the tackle behind the new line of scrimmage that the NT has allowed. What happens far too many times in that situation is the LB comes up and tries to guess, the RB then sees and goes the other way and you are then looking to your safeties to make the play.
3.) They get their hands up on a pass play and knock it down before it can get to their WR or TE coming over the middle. If there is a place that instincts helps for a NT this is the only place.
I just hope that they discount this kid as out of shape and let him drop to us.
I am hoping we resign Jason Taylor. I think he will be the key to helping Cameron Wake and the OLB we select hopefully in the second round develop. I think if you go beyond the second round you are hoping for a miracle to find a good OLB that can rush the passer. You have no arguments from me that this is our number 2 need in this years draft and we have to come out of this draft with a legitimate heir to the void that will be left when JT retires. There are plenty of talented OLBs out there, maybe even a few small school gems to be found and if anyone can find them, it is the trifecta.
Improving our NT will indirectly improve our pass rush. When we push the pocket back the QB is forced to get out of the pocket, hopefully right into the hands of one of our OLBs. If we address all the other needs we have in the draft and we need to go after a second OLB prospect as you can never have too many pass rushers. Obviously we would go with a second OLB before a second NT just from a sheer numbers standpoint, but it is important to come out of the draft with both 2 OLBs and 2 NTs.
Anyone who thinks we should go after a FS over a NT in round 1 should consider this:
Over a week into free agency and there are 2 viable FS upgrades sitting out there for us to grab. There is either the long term upgrade of Oshiomogho Atogwe, or the as a short term veteran Darren Sharper who will help Chris Clemons learn how to fill the role that we drafted him to fill last year in the sixth round. Clemons has all the measurables right now but he is still very raw.
Considering that we went hard after Antrel Rolle then after Ryan Clark the FO is looking to address the FS position in free agency. Hopefully we will hear that we sign either Atogwe or Sharper soon solving our FS hole. That said if all the NTs and OLBs that we want are gone by pick 12 and we have a chance at either Berry(not holding my breath), or Earl Thomas I say we pull the trigger. Otherwise I think we need to go after a late round FS as competition for Clemons and Culver.
I think we will be better at receiver this year than a lot of people think. Brian Hartline is going to be even better this year. Hartline is the guy that takes over in the WR meeting room and is probably one of our most intelligent receivers. He could very well develop into a legitimate #1 receiver or a Wes Welker clone.
I really think that Patrick Turner is going to develop this year for us. People that have called him a bust after one year do not realize that it generally takes a WR 3 years to develop. I also think that we are speculating that Brian Hartline beat him out last year when from what I heard from Sparano is that Turner was not on the field because he was too big and didn't fit the mold for a special teams guy. I think once Hartline got on the field he surprised everyone and wound up grabbing more of a role for himself than they had anticipated. Let's wait until we actually see him on the field before we call him a bust, or at least until the end of this season if he has not made into the rotation by then.
In typical trifecta fashion we quietly picked up Ryan Grice-Mullen this offseason. Grice-Mullen and Davone Bess were teammates at Hawaii(for Little Nicky) on a pass happy team and they know how to get open, and have tons of practice catching a football, and playing together. Grice-Mullen was clocked at 4.36 in the 40 on his pro day while Davone Bess clocked a 4.60. Let's not forget the 3rd year rule with WRs and let me point out that both Bess and Grice-Mullen will be entering their 3rd year this year.
We are also working on developing Julius Pruitt and Taurus Johnson. Out of all of the young receivers we have right now the only one we have with no possible #1 receiver potential is Davone Bess. That said, if he isn't already the best possession receiver in the league, he soon will be.
I like Ted Ginn Jr., he seems like a really nice kid, but I just don't like him in Miami. I think we need to get whatever value we can out of him and just call it a failed experiment compliments of Cam Cameron. Think of it this way though, at least we didn't draft Brady Quinn like everyone was screaming at us to do with that pick, otherwise it would have been a more expensive mistake than it turned out being because QB contracts usually cost more than other players that would have been drafted at that pick.
I think Greg Camarillo will be outclassed this year and you obviously deal him or cut him before the draft. Camarillo will always be a Dolphin and he is still the savior of the 2007 season, but business is business and we just have too many young receivers that are doing the same thing he is doing with Bess, Hartline and soon Grice-Mullen.
So out of Brian Hartline, Patrick Turner, Ryan Grice-Mullen, Julius Pruitt and Taurus Johnson, at some point one of these guys is going to develop into that number one receiver we have all been looking for and we will not have to deal with the attitude of Brandon Marshall or Terrell Owens. I have said it before though, if we have the ability to go get a T. O. and the front office thinks he will behave, I would not be against it given the fact that we have so many young receivers to develop. I will leave that up to them to decide if we need the drama or if we just want to see them work it out themselves.
If we get T. O. we do not need to worry about a WR in the draft given all the other young talent we have at WR. Otherwise we are down to 6 receivers (all with less than 3 years of experience). If we don't sign Terrell Owens to a short term deal with lots of incentives for behaving, I think it would be foolish though to come out of this draft without another potential #1 receiver.
I think that this is way down on our list of needs at this point after the signing of Karlos Dansby. I think Dansby will make Channing Crowder better and I am anxious to see what happens this year with those 2. I still think we need some competition for Crowder or at the very least some more depth, considering those guys can always contribute on special teams.
We need an upgrade at TE. While this is behind all the other positions needs we have, it is still a need for this team. If we have the opportunity to get an upgrade at TE in the draft and we have either addressed our other needs or all the viable options are gone for filling the needs we need to make it happen. If someone takes the bait on Anthony Fasano and gives us a 2nd round pick---AWESOME!!
We need some depth at G. I think this is less of a pressing need and we can do this in the later rounds but do not mistake the importance of us getting a solution here. Last year showed we have some pretty good line depth already but it also showed that we are short one guy.
I really do not see a problem here. We have resigned Ronnie Brown for a discount and if someone decides to take the bait and give us their #1 pick for him, then we can go after CJ Spiller. If not we have Ronnie Brown, and Ricky Williams this year and they will probably be one of the best duos in the league. Next year Ricky Williams retires like he is saying he will, then we still have Ronnie Brown, Patrick Cobbs, and Lex Hilliard. I really don't place as much value on these guys as most people do. I think like most people say it is a passing league. The key to a good RB is a good offensive line. If our offensive line is anything like they were last year(and I think they will actually get better) we can plug any schlub in there. They will be able to average 3-4 yds per carry by just letting our offensive line push teams back 2-3 yards and falling forward, which will do more than enough to open our passing game.
The draft is impossible to accurately mock because no one can anticipate Al Davis drafting Darius Heyward-Bey at 7... but we are all free to mock him after the draft for doing it. I put who I would want in each round in order of who I would want us to take. If a guy I think has a first round grade is still available to take in the second round we take him before anyone else in that round.
Obviously, if that guy is gone we would go for the next guy with that grade in order. I do not think we need to take 2 NTs before we draft a OLB so obviously if we picked Cody or Williams in the first round we wouldn't go and pick Cam Thomas in the 3rd until we have sufficiently filled some of our other needs. I would like to see us come out of this draft with 2 OLBs and also 2 NT prospects so that we can get rid of Paul Solai. We need to get both of our OLBs by the 4th round, and we should try to pick up our 2nd NT by the 6th round.
If we can trade down and pick up extra picks awesome, but I am not even going to try to predict who would want to trade with us and much less which picks they would offer us. Also if someone we expect to go sooner drops unexpentantly, it would be great to be able to jump up and get them, but there is no way to predict that either, so I won't try.
Feel free to offer suggestions about who we can take at what spot, if I have missed someone that you think will be available.
Pick 12 :
Terrence Cody NT, Dan Williams NT(if available), Jason Pierre-Paul OLB, Sean Witherspoon OLB, Brandon Graham OLB, Sergio Kindle OLB, or Earl Thomas FS
Jerry Hughes OLB, Ricky Sapp OLB, Demaryius Thomas WR, or Brandon Lefell WR
Thaddeus Gibson OLB, Arrelious Benn WR, Brandon Spikes ILB, Cam Thomas NT, or Aaron Hernandez TE
Linval Joseph NT, Jermaine Cunningham OLB, Jimmy Graham TE, Mitch Petrus G
Torell Troup NT, or I think we take the best G available at this point for some offensive line depth
round 6b: reserved for a small school gem that the trifecta finds for us (G, ILB, OLB, WR or RB)
round 7a: reserved for a small school gem that the trifecta finds for us (G, ILB, OLB, WR or RB)
round 7b: reserved for a small school gem that the trifecta finds for us (G, ILB, OLB, WR or RB)