It's common knowledge that there are plenty of "ifs" surrounding Miami's approach to the quarterback position in 2012. What if Archie Manning decides that Peyton should play for the Dolphins? What if Joe Philbin is in it for Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn once free agency kicks off on March 13? What if the Dolphins throw caution (and picks) to the wind and pursue Robert Griffin III in the NFL Draft this April? We'll explore each scenario over the next few weeks and try to get an idea of how a Manning or Flynn acquisition will affect the Dolphins' 2012 early-round draft plans. And in the meantime, we'll be able to alter those draft plans, based on what happens during the NFL Combine in late February, as well as the plethora of pro day workouts scheduled to take place between now and late April.
The inaugural post in this series will focus on quarterback addition that would've seemed like an impossibly long pipe dream just nine months ago: Peyton Manning
Round one: Find an impact pass-rusher ASAP
Manning's presence in Miami won't change the fact that the Dolphins' pass-rush is wildly inconsistent (at best) and straight-up nonexistent (at worst). Cameron Wake should feel completely at home as a defensive end in the Dolphins' 4-3 hybrid scheme (which is what the team is slated to run next season), and Jared Odrick and Randy Starks both have the size and strength to make plenty of noise along the interior; however, Miami absolutely needs a flexible-yet-stout pass-rush presence across from Wake, and that means their first-round selection should be used on a defensive end prospect with "tweener" size. North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples would be an immediate run-stuffing presence at end for the Dolphins, but the operative word here is "hybrid," and while Coples is a phenomenal athlete, his play just doesn't suggest the presence of scheme diversity (for what it's worth, I don't like Coples as a 5-technique player, either). On the contrary, South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram's play does, in fact, reek of scheme diversity, and you could also make the case that he's actually a purer pass-rushing presence than Coples.
Ingram (6'2, 271) is strong enough to put his hand on the ground and play end in the 4-3, yet fast enough to make a difference at outside linebacker in the 3-4. It's extremely difficult to find a defender with the strength and athleticism to be effective at both positions, and the selection of Ingram would mean that the Dolphins technically have two players capable of fulfilling such a daunting requirement. That's rare stuff.
Round two: Find a quarterback to groom behind No. 18
All eyes should be on Miami's second-round pick this April, since it could be the spot where the Dolphins select their long-awaited "quarterback of the future." If the team follows through on a signal caller during day two of the draft, that player will be put in the enviable position of learning behind the most cerebral quarterback to ever play the game, and that means the Dolphins might be less hesitant to select a quarterback who is big on physical talent but raw in terms of mental approach to the position.
Who might that quarterback be? How about Arizona State's Brock Osweiler?
Osweiler is a gifted passer who will almost certainly need 1-2 years of development time before he's ready to step into a starting role. Like Manning, Osweiler (6'8", 240) is tall for the position; however, unlike his would-be mentor, Osweiler is shockingly athletic for a player of his height, and consistently flashes the ability to make things happen outside the pocket. Osweiler also bucks the quarterback theorem, super height = long release, with an ultra-compact throwing motion capable of producing major-league heat. When his feet are set, Osweiler displays good accuracy and decent touch on the ball, but he'll need plenty of footwork drilling at the next level. His pocket awareness needs plenty of work, as well.
Like many players with upside galore, Osweiler will enter the draft with plenty of question marks regarding his ability to adapt to the NFL game, so why not ease the learning curve and allow him to learn from Peyton freaking Manning? In fact, perhaps the best aspect of Manning's presence in Miami is this: it'd allow the Dolphins to swing for the fences on a quarterback they normally wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.
Next week, we'll take a look at what the Dolphins might look to do if Matt Flynn decides to join Joe Philbin in Miami.