The tricky thing when evaluating any team's draft class is attributing realistic expectations to each drafted player in question. If you select a player in the first round, you want to see him on the field ASAP. Compare this expectation with that of a third-round quarterback. You wouldn't expect that guy to start right off the bat, would you? Yet, if your quarterback situation is a mess, it's certainly realistic to expect at least the possibility of said quarterback seeing the field some time during his rookie season. Still with me? Kind of confusing, I know, but important to note nonetheless.
Keep this logic in mind as we look at the Miami Dolphins' 2012 draft class.
1. Expectation of Ryan Tannehill -- Starter at some point in 2012
The book on Tannehill when he came out of Texas A&M was that he'd need an entire year of learning while on the bench, and this logic was why Miami's selection of Tannehill at No. 8 was so polarizing; again, you want to see first-round picks (and especially top 10 guys) on the field posthaste. Of course, word is now coming out that Tannehill could be the Dolphins' starting quarterback at some point in 2012 (perhaps sooner than later), which has forced plenty of haters to rethink their criticism of Jeff Ireland for the Tannehill selection. It's not absurd to think Tannehill will start from day one, but it's probably most realistic to think he'll simply take the field as a starter next fall. At what point during the season? That will remain to be seen.2. Expectation of Jonathan Martin -- Immediate starter at right tackle
Unless Lydon Murtha channels his inner-Hercules and lands the starting right tackle spot in Miami, that gig will go to former Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin, who did just fine protecting Andrew Luck's arse on the left side in college. It will be a major upset if Martin doesn't immediately claim and dominate at right tackle, because he has the brains, athleticism and brawn to excel in the Dolphins' zone-blocking scheme. I cannot stress enough the genius of this selection. Not a sexy pick, but one that could actually change the entire look of the Dolphins' offensive line--a line that will be now be structured on fleetness, not force. Also, Martin is absolutely built in the Mike Pouncey mold of tough, old-school blockers who do their best work blowing up the second level of defense.
3. Expectation of Olivier Vernon -- Eventual starter in 2012
Vernon is one of the tougher Dolphins draft picks to gauge, as he could come in and immediately destroy at defensive end in Miami's hybrid scheme, or he could need some time to adjust to pass-rushing at the NFL level. He looks the part of a one-man wrecking crew, though, and Cameron Wake's presence on the other side of the defensive line should somewhat ease Vernon's learning curve.
4. Expectation of Michael Egnew -- Starter and big-time contributor in 2012
I don't want to oversell Egnew's presence in Miami, but if there's anything football fans have learned from tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, it's that a bona fide seam threat can come in and dominate right off the bat. Egnew isn't an in-line player at his position, but that's why Miami has Anthony Fasano. Egnew rather can come in and look to stretch the seam with his size (6'5"), good speed and excellent hands. Don't be surprised if Egnew explodes out of the blocks this season; he's built to play that way.
5. Expectations of Lamar Miller -- Lethal backfield threat in 2012
Not to be all gaga over Lamar Miller, but I can't understate how awesome it was for Jeff Ireland to move up and get him early during Day 3 of the draft. Miller is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball, and his presence will only add to the Dolphins' suddenly lethal backfield. Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas should be a load for defenses in 2012, and now they'll have to gameplan for Miller, as well. That's just wrong, and when you consider that the Dolphins can also split Miller out wide, it's clear that this offense could be cooking with gas next season.
5. Expectation of Josh Kaddu -- Potential contributor at outside linebacker in 2012
Like Vernon, it's difficult to gauge Josh Kaddu's potential at outside linebacker. He certainly has the size, speed and berzerk strength to make some noise at the position, and it'll be up to Dolphins' defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle to see if he can further develop Kaddu's instincts at the position.
6. Expectations of B.J. Cunningham -- Potential contributor in 2012
It's weird to look at a sixth-round wideout and see them starting as a rookie, but Cunningham is certainly built to excel in the West Coast offense. Whether or not he becomes a big-time contributor will depend on how Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman handle the former Spartan receiver.
7. Expectations of Kheeston Randall -- Potential contributor in 2012
Kheeston Randall's draft stock was certainly higher than his seventh-round selection would indicate, but he's nevertheless an intriguing presence along the interior--a player who could erupt or come along slowly. The Dolphins have plenty of talent at defensive tackle, so there's no need to rush Randall's development, but the tools are there for him to make a splash.
8. Expectations of Rishard Matthews -- Potential contributor in 2012
Fair or not, expectations of Rishard Matthews will fall in line with fellow Dolphins rookie receiver B.J. Cunningham. Neither player is an all-world athlete, but both wideouts possess plenty of savvy and the ability to make tough grabs and pick up yards after the catch. These guys could be starters, partial contributors or total no-shows in 2012. Only time will tell.