Part of the fun in watching the 2012 Miami Dolphins come together under new head coach Joe Philbin is acknowledging that Miami's front office will continue to add talent at receiver, pass-rusher and in the secondary over the next few seasons. Their first opportunity to do so, however, might be the most critical, as the 2013 NFL Draft will offer the positional talent the Dolphins both want and need.
No doubt about it, this young Miami team can get a lot better if the front office plays its cards right. Thus, I present to you a brief rundown of the college prospects who will make the most sense for the Dolphins come next April.
1) Jarvis Jones, OLB Georgia (6'2", 245)
Sort of a no-brainer at this point, since the Dolphins need to dial up more heat on opposing quarterbacks, and Jones is the definition of "dialed-up heat on the quarterback." Very much a pass-rusher in the Von Miller mold, especially because he's an excellent 3-4 fit who could be just as effective as a 4-3 outside linebacker. Miami will probably have too high a pick to get a crack at drafting Jones, but I dare to dream.
2) Sam Montgomery, DE LSU (6'4", 260)
Montgomery gets lost in the all the talk about teammate and fellow defensive end Barkevious Mingo, but it's Montgomery who is LSU's most complete pass-rusher.. Montgomery is up to 260 pounds this season, and he continues to prove himself to be an agile defensive end with advanced instincts, outstanding hand use and the ability to dismantle the run.3) Keenan Allen, WR California (6'3", 204)
Yes, I realize Joe Philbin comes from a Green Bay culture that doesn't believe in using day one picks on receivers. However, Cal's Keenan Allen is very much the type of receiver Philbin needs to take Miami's receiver corps to the next level. Allen has outstanding hands, good speed, size and diamond-precise route-running ability, and he plays like a supercharged Jordy Nelson on tape. Probably my favorite overall prospect in this draft.
4) Barkevious Mingo, DE LSU (6'5", 245)
The flashier and more sudden of LSU's tenacious pass-rushing duo, Mingo's outrageous length, freak athleticism and cheetah-esque closing ability will bring an element of fear to opposing quarterbacks at the NFL level. I would love to unleash this guy on AFC East quarterbacks. Repeat: love.
5) David Amerson, CB North Carolina State (6'2", 190)
Amerson got a lot of crap for his inauspicious start against Tennessee on Labor Day weekend, but he's a big-time corner prospect with range, technique and fluidity. He's big enough to warrant talk of a switch to safety in the pros, but his prowess as a ball-hawk cornerback with the coverage skills to lock down NFL receivers is what makes him so special. Very much a corner in the Asomugha mold.
6) Manti Te'o, ILB Notre Dame (6'1", 247)
Te'o would be considered by some as a luxury pick, but he's both a classic and prototypical prospect at the middle linebacker position.. A supremely gifted defender with rare instincts, Te'o excels at eliminating the run. He also has a Courtney Upshaw-like ability to disengage from blocks with ease.. And hey, it's not like Karlos Dansby's getting any younger here.
7) Dee Milliner, CB Alabama (6'1", 200)
Milliner isn't as well known as Amerson or Johnthan Banks, but he might be the most complete corner in the country right now. Fast, fluid and physical, Milliner's game in many ways resembles Darrelle Revis'. As a result, he'll likely be the first corner selected next spring. As to whether he gets out of the top 10 remains to be seen.
8) Eric Reid, S LSU (6'2", 215)
I have no idea why Reid hasn't received much attention from draft analysts this fall. He's only the most complete safety in the country, boasting prototypical size, physicality and exceptional awareness in coverage. I see him as a stronger and perhaps more versatile version of Mark Barron.
9) Robert Woods, WR USC (6'1", 187)
A receiver in the Reggie Wayne/Greg Jennings mold, Woods' stock has dipped a bit in the wake of teammate Marqise Lee's emergence, as well as USC's recent struggles. Woods is a master route-runner with top-notch hands, however, and he'd immediately become an ultra-reliable target for Ryan Tannehill.
10) Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas (6'1", 212)
Vaccaro's as good a coverage safety as you'll find in the college ranks, possessing the burst and awareness necessary to dominate in a centerfielder-type role. He's like a bigger, more physical version of former Longhorn safety standout Earl Thomas.
11) Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia (5'8", 175)
Scouts Inc. finally came around on the explosive Tavon Austin, so I should probably include him on my Big Board, as well. Austin is arguably the best route runner in the country and excels at creating yards after the catch--essential qualities in the West Coast offense--and he'd give the Dolphins' receiver corps a sort of Randall Cobb-like presence. Who the hell is going to say no to that?
12) Terrance Williams, WR Baylor (6'2", 200)
My man-crush on Williams lives on. The lanky Baylor speedster has a lot of James Jones in his game, and possesses the lift to go up and get the football. Fast, raw and dynamic, Williams could be a day two steal, and if he was good enough to be an essential part of Robert Griffin III's receiver corps in Waco, he's certainly good enough to play a pivotal role in Miami's up-and-coming passing attack.