Two months ago, when Matt Barkley held his own version of "The Decision" announcing his return to USC for his senior year, Dolphins fans entered a blue funk, which was only aggravated by a later decision made by Landry Jones to do the same. In an instant, the best QB class in decades was downgraded immensely and hope for the Fins to draft a Quarterback in the first round was now a slim possibility.
However, in an unexpected surprise, once the "Draft a Quarterback" goggles were taken off, it became clear that the 2012 draft class was not all about the QB's. This class has far more superior talent than most people thought. The plethora of elite, NFL ready players in this draft is remarkable.Yes, the Dolphins do need to find a Quarterback, but that's not the only missing piece of the puzzle. Miami needs to upgrade multiple positions to be a playoff contender, and there is no better way than to start than at Radio City Music Hall. Let's take a look at the first round candidates that the Dolphins should have their eye on.
Offensive Line: If one reads the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line like they would a book, then they would love the beginning but hate the end. In one of the most absurd acquisitions made during the 2011 off-season, Miami signed RT Marc Colombo, and we all know how much of a wonderful signing that turned out to be. Once again Miami finds itself in the same situation they were in last year, however this time, there are a couple of players in the draft that might fill in the O-Line hole.
OT Iowa Riley Reiff: With the Dolphins most likely switching to the West Coast Offense, they will be looking for an offensive tackle with solid strength and quick feet. Reiff certainly fits into this category.
THE GOOD: His pass blocking ability, which is in my opinion the best in the draft, is very dominating. He doesn’t allow defenders to get the edge against him, he has a keen aptitude to cut-block despite his size, and he is able to recover well enough to cut off the inside rush lane. Riley’s pass blocking is not the only strength of his game. His run blocking capability is astonishing as well. His athleticism provides the quickness and lateral movement needed to block elite pass rushers in the NFL. Reiff has a natural dexterity to block linebackers on the run as well, which is what makes him one of the most intriguing O-Linemen in the draft.
THE BAD: One of the few things Reiff might want to work on is his ability to view the entire front 7 of the defense. This year, he was beat multiple times by inside blitzers because he was only eyeing down one guy, and that can prove costly in the NFL.
Note: Riley Reiff’s athleticism and quick feet is nothing to scoff at and would work wonders for Miami. Also, if you must know, Reiff once ran away from a police officer for over 20 minutes while being drunk.
OT Stanford Jonathan Martin:THE GOOD: Martin, like Reiff, is also quite athletic. He has very good quickness off the line as a run blocker, and in pass-protection his wide-base stance allows him to stand tough against the bull rushes. One of the most valued aspects of Martin’s game is his knowledge of the game. His anticipation of the snap is very unique and his ability to shift his play-style depending on the play call is impressive.
THE BAD: Unfortunately for Martin, his strength is average at best, which can result as a big weakness when he plays against NFL Defensive Ends. Martin lacks a few things that can make up an elite OT, including: lack of foot quickness, lack of upper body strength, lack of trapping defenders on the inside, and lack of containing rushers repeatedly. When Martin gets beat on a play, he gets beaten badly, and that lack of consistency is what makes Martin one less than Reiff.
Note: Don’t look at Martin’s lack of consistency as the deal breaker; after all, he was Andrew Luck’s bodyguard for the past 3 years, which certainly tells us something about him.
DEFENSIVE ENDS: By now, most of you already know that the Dolphins will be switching from a 3-4 defense to a more traditional 4-3 defense. With change to the scheme comes change to the positions. Cameron Wake will have to move back to his original position as a defensive end, Jared Odrick and Randy Starks will become defensive tackles, and Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, & Koa Misi will be shifted to appease the three-linebacker set. Although Paul Soliai is a dominant Nose Tackle, I don’t see him fitting in with the new defense. So as of now, the Dolphins are left looking for a pass-rushing end, which is where we start this assessment.
DE South Carolina Melvin Ingram: Melvin Ingram is one of the stars of the 2012 draft class. His playmaking ability and versatile style makes him loved by mostly all NFL scouts. Personally, this is the man I want the Dolphins taking in the first round.
THE GOOD: Ingram’s flashiness and quick hands is what allows him to beat tackles on the edge. As a senior, he ended up having a very impressive season with 48 tackles (15 TFL) and 10 sacks. Melvin Ingram plays stronger than his size dictates and his knowledge of the game allows him to dissect play-calls on the incstinct, which is why he was rarely fooled by the play-action. His game is composed of a quick fake out to the tackle, leaving the inside lane wide open for him to run through. Although Ingram lacks the strength to get past tackles off the initial snap, he does have two elements that make him an elite DE: 1) The way he spins out of an Offensive Linemen’s grasp 2) His ability to get the quarterback after his Second rush. These two qualities is what every coach craves in their Defensive End.
Note: Ingram also has a pretty good ability in getting passed Tight Ends on the line, but can he block them?
THE BAD: Ingram has demonstrated that he has not always been consistent when placed against a Tight End or Running back in a "cover" situation. Because of Ingram’s smallish size, he may struggle against the big Tight Ends in the NFL. This is not good thing for a team that faces Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez twice a year. Another flaw in Ingram’s game is his tackling skill. Ingram lacks the sense of fully grabbing ball carriers until they fall to the ground. For the most part, Ingram has relied on hard hits and strength alone to bring down these men, but that won’t work in the NFL. Lastly, Ingram’s ability to get to running backs is a bit streaky, which is one blemish he must fix.
DE North Carolina Quinton Coples: After DT Marvin Austin was suspended throughout the entire 2011 season, it seemed as if the North Carolina defense was going to be train wreck. However, a spot opened up for Quinton Coples to display his talents in the insider, and within a few months, he was now labeled as a one of the top senior prospects in the country.
THE GOOD: Quinton Coples has the perfectt size to be a dominant force in the NFL. His bulk, length, height, and strength allow him to be the most powerful force in the draft. His swim move is admirable and his hands are used quite well when rushing the Quarterback. On run defense, because of his monstrous size, Running backs try to avoid even going his way and hesitate long enough to get tackled. Coples' strength is the best asset of his game. He can bull rush almost any Offensive Linemen and push them deep enough into the pocket, which draws pressure to the Quarterback.
THE BAD: Coples lacks the speed and quickness that Ingram has, and often lifts his head too much when coming off the snap & when aiming to tackle the ball carriers.
Contrasting the Two: When looking at both Coples and Ingram, there is quite a difference between the both of them. Ingram has the agility, the football knowledge, and the playmaking ability that Coples doesn’t. However, Coples size, strength, and length makes up for these skills, as he is the more natural DE when compared to Ingram. Both are special talents, so it will be a tough choice to make if it ultimately comes down to the two of them. What is certain with both Ingram and Coples, however, is that they would both make for enormous compliments for the pro-bowler Cameron Wake.WILD CARDS: The Wild Cards in this post are defined as the players that would fit well in Miami’s system, but have a slim chance of landing with the Fins.
QB Texas A&M Ryan Tannehill: This past week, Mike Sherman had a little bit to say about his college Quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Here’s a tidbit in case you missed it: "Like all good quarterbacks he had great poise. Very confident in any system, west coast or not," Sherman said. "Any quarterback has to be confident in his own skin and believe in himself. They always say a great quarterback makes those around him better. I thought [Brett] Favre did that. I think Aaron Rodgers does that. I think Tannehill does that as well." Let’s take a look at what exactly Sherman sees in Tannehill.
THE GOOD: Ryan Tannehill’s game and body type exemplifies the type of player suitable for the West Coast Offense. The WCO comes with four specific characteristics needed from the Quarterback:
- Accuracy: Tannehill has tremendous accuracy in the short passing game. He delivers the ball in time, right on the numbers. When on the run, his accuracy stays the same. He is able to get enough zip on the ball when rolling out, which makes him a big threat to opposing defenses. Like Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Tannehill is able to make the fade passes to the outside and hit receivers in stride. Now you can see why Sherman made the comparison to Rodgers.
- Decision Making: (In "THE BAD")
- Mobility: Tannehill’s mobility for his size is excellent. Because of the fact that he used to be a top receiver, he was able to transition that part of his game to the Quarterback position. This is another factor that makes him desirable to Dolfans.
- Strength: Ryan’s strength is that of an NFL QB. He has the ability to zip the ball into tight spaces and throw the long ball on the run.
THE BAD: Tannehill’s decision making certainly needs work. Too often he throws to receivers with defenders nearby resulting in a big hit. Also, he’s quite pressure sensitive; he will sense as if he’s in danger and throw the ball into terrible spots resulting in interceptions. Lastly, his setup and release of the ball is quite inconsistent. Sometimes he’ll throw a dart with a short arm motion similar to Brett Favre, while other times he takes the ball back too much and side-arms a throw like Tim Tebow. This is one area of his game that he must fix in order to take the next step as an NFL QB.
SS Alabama Mark Barron: The Safety position in the draft is definitely one of the weakest compared to all the others. Miami is in deep need for a free safety and the only free agent in the NFL that might fill that hole is Reggie Nelson. So let’s see if the Dolphins would be willing to take a chance on Mark Barron out of Alabama.
THE GOOD: Barron’s best element of his game is his ability to play the ball. He has a good sense of reading the Quarterback’s eyes and breaking up the pass. Also, when he gets his hands on the ball, Barron does a tremendous job running with it. Another one of his strong suits is his help with run support. Barron has a knack for reading runs quickly and is very aggressive when he gets to the line of scrimmage, and because of his quick feet and agility, he is able to swiftly avoid blockers to get to the runner.
THE BAD: Although Barron does have some flaws to his game; they are all quite minor in a sense. His change of direction is quite mediocre, his hips are a bit stiff, and he can’t cover a slot receiver well (Supposing they put him to cover at times). When it comes to tackling, Barron likes to go for the big hits, missing at times. If he learns to just grab on to the ball handler and not go for the strong hits all the time, his game would increase dramatically.
The elite talent in this draft will make it very hard for the Dolphins mess come draft day. Miami is in desperate need of quite a few positions, but luckily this class has talent across the board, which simplifies its problems. Who knows what will happen from now to April 28th, but what is certain, is that these 6 players will still be available.