Miami made some selections this past weekend that will undoubtedly come to define the franchise over the next 3-5 years, the most prominent being the drafting of their "franchise QB" at #8 overall. Whether you feel this was a reach, hidden gem, or necessity, is irrelevant at this point. He's on the roster, he's going to become the starting quarterback, and he was drafted in the top 10 because of this. You might as well get behind the guy, because he's our man for the foreseeable future, and the mere fact that he isn't Chad Henne is enough for me. If you want to find a breakdown of Tannehill, look elsewhere, I'm sure there's a number of articles on the world wide web at this point breaking down his skill set and abilities. I want to focus on dissecting the talent level on the roster, and finding some players I believe are poised for a breakout season with the Dolphins this year.
For starters, I feel we whiffed a couple potential superstars by drafting Olivier Vernon in the 3rd round as our pass rusher. I personally was very high on Ronnell Lewis, and when the team selected Josh Kaddu over Lewis, I was once again dismayed. That being said, I feel that Kaddu is more ready for the pro game. He was an integral part of the Ducks' defensive unit, and plays with a high motor and athletic style that makes him an intriguing selection. On top of that, I see Vernon as more of a 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 DE, and more of a situational pass rusher than anything. He has great length and measurable's, and is void of character concerns despite serving an NCAA suspension last season. I think after a year of development, he can overtake Koa Misi's role in the defence. Misi's game is great in every area but pass rush, where he has failed to emerge as a factor, despite his pass rushing being a major factor in the Miami Dolphins drafting him. I think at this point, Kaddu is more prepared to step on an NFL field and produce, but Vernon has more upside. For that reason, I feel Kaddu will have a number of opportunities as a rotational player to become one of the better rookies taken in the 5th round, this year. I can see him passing Westerman and Vernon on the depth chart at some point this season, and really emerging as a starter in our defence. He has the physical abilities, he just needs to work on his reads and football I.Q to counter what he lacks in natural instinct and feel for the game. Other than that, he is an above average athlete for a LB, and is the type of defender that flies around the field and gets in on as much action as possible, similar to the player Miami lost on it's defence when Yeremiah Bell was cut.
As the draft progressed, some draft selections made me ecstatic. Rishard Matthews was a WR I wanted us to sign after the draft, so might as well pick him during, and the B.J Cunningham selection had me jumping for joy. He's a year or so away, but once he acclimates himself to the speed of the NFL and familiarizes himself with the Phins offence, I expect him to develop into a starter, and a great value pick late in the draft. As for Matthews, I see him as an overall athlete, who should contribute immediately in special teams and compete for a position on the finalized roster. Competition breeds excellence, and I think we snatched up two quality receivers late in the draft, plus Tannehill's former college teammate, Jeff Fuller, who was signed as an UDFA following the draft. These additions were not of the elite caliber receivers the fans (Including myself) anticipated Miami drafting, but nonetheless, considering the position they were drafted in, I'm more than happy with the players we came away with. Miami now boasts a nameless core of young receivers, and that's fine. WR is a position where quantity can be taken over quality, with so many different uses and schemes they can contribute in. Factor that in to the WCO system Miami adopted, which doesn't lean so heavily on a primary receiver, and the exchange of Brandon Marshall for some new young talent seem's much better than you'd think. As the cherry on top, Miami used its 3rd rounder from the trade this year to acquire Michael Egnew, a Mizzou TE. As a former WR, he has the speed and athleticism NFL teams covet in their receiving TE, with the size to line up along the line and do work in the seam. He won't be utilized much as a blocker, but he adds another dimension to the Dolphins TE crew. I look forward to seeing a Clay/Egnew duo take over in the near future, with Fasano entering the last year of his contract.
I don't see the receivers Miami acquired this year as the difference makers as offensive rookies entering this season. Jonathan Martin, the Stanford tackle drafted in the 2nd round, is the clear cut choice for a difference maker amongst his offensive rookie class. Martin should be able to step into the starting role at RT, left void by the incompetent Marc Colombo, to put it nicely. Don't count out John Jerry and Lydon Murtha from the competition at RT. Jerry stepped in for Jake Long at the tail end of last year, and performed surprisingly well. Not only that, he was consistent through the his starts when he got the opportunity. Murtha was hurt last year, but if he comes in focused and healthy, he could push for playing time on the right side. Artis Hicks is by no means a lock for the RG spot, but I like John Jerry as a flex OL, capable of fitting in at tackle or in the interior of the line. If Martin comes into camp prepared, and works on his physical attributes as he should, his talent should separate him from the other candidates on the roster. He has perhaps the best punch off the line that I've seen from O linemen in this draft in general, and is great fit for a zone blocking line that Joe Philbin is looking to build. Martin has solid footwork, moves fast and fluid in his kick step, and can isolate pass rushers 1 v 1 for days. The issue I have with him is his drive blocking. I wouldn't consider him a liability in the ground game, but moving to RT, he may experience some growing pains adjusting to the physicality of the NFL. Switching sides of the line, and moving to a more complex offence are things I expect Martin to adjust too. He was a classic's major at Stanford, which off reputation alone should tell us that the complexities of the pro game should not be lost on him. He is a smart and hard working athlete, something that cannot be overlooked when considering how much of a contribution he can make as a rookie.
Overall, I'm excited to see how this FA and draft class we have brought in pans out. We are free of big name acquisitions, and have committed very little cap space to this group. I'm excited to see Legedu Naanee and Tyrell Johnson compete for time in a competitive group of receivers and DB's all looking to separate themselves from the competition. Of the FA signings, I see Nanee and Johnson making the biggest contributions, while there is potential amongst the LB signings we made in FA, with Guyton and Westerman expected to push for time.
I like the look of the Dolphins roster as of now, and now it's time to see if all these bargain signings and late round value picks come to fruition. On paper, there is reason to be optimistic, and should we hit on the majority of these acquisitions, Miami could be a very formidable team come 2012.