Let's pretend you are Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland. You have fiery red hair, you get excited about drafting players who have great motors, and you haven't had a good night's sleep since the 2011 season started. You were essentially Bill Parcells' yes man for the better part of seven seasons with the Cowboys and Dolphins. And, whether it's fair or not, you're now on the hook for Parcells' butcher job in Miami.
It hasn't been all bad during your stay as general manager for the Dolphins, but the knockout picks you've been a part of (Jake Long, Mike Pouncey) have been completely overshadowed by this regime's inability to adapt to the current pass-happy NFL and draft a franchise-caliber quarterback. Sure, you selected Michigan quarterback Chad Henne in the second round of the 2008 draft, but he's essentially damaged goods at this point, and has clearly demonstrated the inability to command a pro offense. Sorry, but he's not the guy.
So what now, you ask? While Tony Sparano's employment will almost certainly expire the moment the 2011 regular season ends, you have a chance--albeit a very slight one--of keeping your current position with the Dolphins. If you're lucky enough to pull this off, you need to get your 2012 draft board put together posthaste. And, like Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon, all you have to do is not miss ... at all.
Right off the bat, you need to draft a franchise-caliber quarterback early ... and by "early," I don't mean the second or third round. If you have a top 5 pick in 2012, you'll likely be in position to draft the No. 2 quarterback prospect in the draft. A top 10 pick will probably get you a crack at the No. 3 signal caller. Regardless, snag the quarterback you feel gives you the best chance to play in Super Bowls instead of simply watching them on television. Miami has drafted two quarterbacks in the first round since 1967, and both of those quarterbacks have had their number retired by the Dolphins. Stop ignoring the obvious and spring for a passer in the first round.
Once you have the quarterback issue out of the way, it's time to make some high value picks in the next few rounds. Safety, left guard, tight end and outside linebacker are all positions that can be addressed in round two. Round three, however, should be used to address the right tackle position. Marc Colombo has been a virtual screen door for opposing pass rushers this season (please be polite and wipe your feet off before you blast into the pocket and piledrive our quarterback), and Vernon Carey is just too old and slow to be protecting the right side. The fix? Well, if this next prospect is still on the board, he could be an excellent pick for the Dolphins.Andrew Datko, OT Florida State University
A strong complement to Jake Long
The Seminoles have rolled out some impressive offensive line talent as of late, and Andrew Datko is no exception. Huge (6'6", 315), intelligent and a ridiculously good technician, Datko has the look and skill of a left tackle (his position in Tallahassee), but should transition very easily to the right tackle spot at the next level. He's a natural in pass pro, boasting some of the best footwork of any lineman prospect in the 2012 draft. And for a player who's not a true bulldozer, Datko is considerably strong as a run blocker--able to use his athleticism and technique to consistently get downfield and defeat defenders pursuing the ball. Datko also gets off the line in a hurry and rarely whiffs on blocks. Trust me, you do not want to be in this guy's crosshairs
For the Dolphins, Datko's footwork should be his most appealing skill. He's very tough to beat around the edge, and has the speed and active hands to reposition and eliminate counter moves. While mean, Datko isn't a completely ruthless lineman like Long or Richie Incognito. Instead, he has a "cooler heads prevail" approach to play his position, and is very much a cerebral offensive tackle. That's not to say he doesn't have a nasty streak in him at times; he clearly enjoys finishing blocks and humiliating defenders.
One reason why Datko might be a better fit at right tackle is his tendency to not fully extend his arms on blocks. He has active hands and does a good job of getting a good initial punch on pass rushers, but Datko can sometimes let defenders get too close to him in "phone booth" situations. Still, he's not much of a lunger, stays off of the ground and does a great job of keeping his assignment in front of him.
The injury thing
While reading the previous three paragraphs, you might've wondered why Andrew Datko could available in the third round of the 2012 draft. Well, it's because he's struggled to stay healthy during the last 14 months. Datko started the first 27 games of his college career before he went down with shoulder injuries in September 2010. Datko then came back this season and played very well before suffering another shoulder injury last month.
Datko's injury history is certainly a red flag, especially since the Dolphins already struggle to maintain a healthy roster. However, if Datko can get his health together, he's a player that warrants a serious look in the second or third round. His combination of athleticism, power and technique is rare, and since his style of play relies on much more than just brute strength, he might not be as affected by the shoulder injuries he has suffered. Tough call, but sometimes in the draft, you need to swing for the fences. And selecting Datko could be a home-run swing.
We'll have to see how Datko looks during pre-draft workouts. But if his shoulders check out, it might be a huge mistake to pass on this guy. Bottom line, it'd be nice to draft a couple of offensive linemen who can keep our brand-new franchise quarterback off of the obits page. Is that too much to ask!?