After looking at many stories on the NFL draft and details about the Miami Dolphins Roster I have a couple observations I don't think have been brought up before, or at least discussed much. I don't think the Miami Dolphins organization considers the needs that the rest of us see. Here are some assumptions which I think will illustrate where the dolphins will go in the draft.
- First, the dolphins have a lack of playmakers on special teams. They have tried Patrick Cobbs, Nolan Carroll, and many others. Nobody is a playmaker. This will be a draft priority, but can be combined with the needs at RB. For the RBs they consider, they will likely only consider RBs who also are special team returners. Most NFL teams have only backup Running Backs who also contribute on special teams as possible returners. Because Miami's Wide Receivers are not special teams playmakers, the playmakers will have to come from the RBs they draft.
- Second, the Dolphins believe in running the ball to set up the pass. Their philosophy in reviewing the last year off tapes is likely that: Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown were ineffective, and therefore Brandon Marshall and the other wide receivers and Tight Ends were blanketed and rendered the big plays impotent. This prioritizes RB over WR, as long as they feel the WR talent they have is sufficient. However, there are 14-16 starting quality RBs who can be had throughout the whole draft. Expect Miami to double dip in the later rounds.
- Third, due to the ineffectiveness of the running backs, the lack of depth at TE, the constant shifting of the starters on the Offensive Line, the on and off again use of the Wildcat attack, and (As much as it won't be admitted openly) the playcalling of Dan Henning, Chad Henne has not been given enough of a chance to illustrate his effectiveness. In their minds, they see the boom boom pow wins against the Jets two years ago and the Packers this last year, as well as how close other games were, and see a quarterback who sometimes lacks passion, but also was given a bad hand without the support system necessary to fairly succeed.
- Fourth, I don't think the Dolphins see much of a need at WR. Marshall and Hartline can both go deep, both are playmakers, and Marshall is working on his speed this offseason as well (Likely directed by the Dolphins before the offseason started). Not only that, but they have Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, and Roberto Wallace who all have the speed to develop into a deep threat. The organization also feels like the lack of a seam threat at TE is what limited Miami's WR effectiveness, not talent. They will keep their minds open to WRs with return ability and speed, but only if greater priorities are unavailable at the pick. If Julio Jones, Randall Cobb, or Edmund Gates fall to them in the first, late second, or third, respectively, I think they may pull the trigger, as they would be great value.
- Fifth, I think the Dolphins recognize some weaknesses in their Offensive Line, but maybe differently than most people think. They don't need Tackles, they need a backup Tackle. Lydon Murtha is not good enough to replace Long or Carey effectively. Carey is getting older and can't be expected to play the entire year anymore. Nate garner can play backup OT, and do it well, as long as he is completely recovered from injury. Also, I don't think the Dolphins see a lack of talent at the Guard position. They have Incognito, John Jerry, and Nate Garner. They don't need Guards, they need a true starting Center.
How do these assumptions effect the draft. Here's how I think it plays out.
Here's what I think they consider their primary needs:
o Two RBs who complement each other's style, can be special teams return men, and will compete with Hilliard and Sheets for starting RB.
o Seam-Threat TE
o WR with speed, return ability (Randall Cobb, Jernigan, Edmund Gates)
Here's what I think they consider their luxury picks if someone drops far enough:
o Pass Rushing OLB
o ILB (But only if an upgrade over Crowder, Dobbins, and Edds)
o NT (Give a year to grow behind Solial, and replace their departing DE/DT)
o FB (Polite drop-off)
o The two early round quarterbacks they see as being NFL ready and would be willing to take this year are Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton...nobody else. If they can't trade up to nine to get one of those (And I don't believe they would trade any more of this year's picks. Most likely they would trade a 2nd or 3rd from next year. Dallas could get the same OT, or Harris at CB at 15 same as 9 ) then they will not draft any QB until rounds 6-7. Mallett is only a possibility if they trade back to the end of the first or middle of the second and nobody else is there they want.
o At 15, they try to trade down. If they can't, then they target the biggest piece they are missing. There are no true starting centers out there worth the 15th pick. Pouncey is a Guard, not a Center. Miami can effectively double dip in the later rounds to find a diamond at the Center position, and get a top Guard in free agency, so why waste the pick. Incognito is not proven at Center, but he can compete with some late round picks or free agency pickup. I believe if they can't trade down they target Robert Quinn, Von Miller, or Julio Jones, none of whom should be there. If they are gone and a trade isn't possible, there are no great options at Guard or RB here. None of the DEs look convertible here. Aldon Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, Da'Quan Bowers, Cameron Jordan and J.J. Watt are pure Defensive Ends or Non-physical-Freak Tweeners, not straight OLBs. Honestly, the best option for them is to take TE Kyle Rudolph in the first or Jordan Cameron in the second, or D.J. Williams in the fourth and solidify their TE position. The TEs are thin this year, while OL and RB are deep. Rudolph and Cameron have been rising up the draft boards recently and would fill a great need without compromising on blocking ability. Rudolph would open up Marshall, Hartline, and Bess more while allowing Fasano to excel at his specialty of blocking and short area passes. Also, it adds another pass catching threat which will free up the RBs from eight in the box defenses. With Fasano, Rudolph, and Epps (Development TE) at TE the dolphins would be a much better offense and increase the effectiveness of the WRs and RBs, and, most especially, Chad Henne.
o If they trade down, they will likely target Rudolph (TE), Mark Ingram (RB, who would be worth the value in the end of 1st), or Martez Wilson (ILB). Still no Centers worth it here, and Torrey Smith isn't appreciably better than Marlon Moore as a speed wideout. OLB is a possibility, but Sheard and Houston are not value picks here.
o I expect in the second round they will target a value at RB (Leshoure, Williams), ILB (Mason, Wilson), WR (Randall Cobb, Jernigan), or OLB, depending on who they picked in the first.
o In the 3rd-6th round, who is the value to target? The best ILBs are gone, the rest offer no upgrade value over Crowder or Dobbins. The value is in the RB/Returner positions, Developmental TEs (Virgil Green, D.J. Williams, Housler), injury downgraded CBs (Ras-I Dowling), and Center/Guard prospects.
o My guess in the picks the Dolphins end up with:
o Either Rudolph, Jones (WR), or Quinn in the first or two flyers on TEs in the middle late rounds to find a seam threat.
o Either Martez Wilson, Sturdivant, or Mason Foster at ILB, or stick with Crowder
o Either Cobb, Gates, Titus Young, or Julio Jones at WR, or a flyer in the later rounds on Aldrick Robinson or another similar return-man WR to find our version of Darren Sproles.
o Two center prospects with Guard experience. They compete with Incognito for Center, and the losers provide OL depth.
o A flyer on a developmental Tackle with a higher Ceiling than Murtha. He is big but foot speed and talent trump that.
o Two complimentary RBs with at least one of them being a special teams returner. I would picture Hunter or Bilal Powell in the 3rd, Dion, or Johnny White in the 4th. Possibly Leshoure or Williams in the 2nd if one drops to a spot we trade into.
o A top undrafted FA to compete with Lousaka.
o A NT to groom behind Solial. Kenrick Ellis or Marvin Austin are probably gone too early, but finding a prototypical size NT with upside (e.g. Ratliff in Dallas) is possible in the late rounds.
o Possibly a roll of the dice on a QB prospect in the 7th to create some QB competition (In Name only) for Henne.
o Whatever key positions Miami didn't get will be filled in free agency. Likely an offensive lineman or a two, a pass rusher, and maybe a veteran QB.