Consider the strength of this draft: It is deep. Consider the strength of next year's draft: It is top heavy. There are lots of players with legitimate first round talents in this draft who will go in the second round. There are some key things Miami needs to have to become a quality team:
- Veteran leadership at key positions: Miami has no veteran leadership in the secondary or in the WRs. Is it any wonder these are the weakest positions on the team? Who are the young guys going to learn from?
- Young playmakers: Miami needs speed and talent at the playmaking positions. I think this will vault the WR, CB, TE, and passrush positions to the top of their list...yes, even ahead of any offensive line issues.
Players the Miami Dolphins should keep who are free agents:
- Chris Clemons - He is a great complement to Rashad Jones. You can't have top money players at every position. Clemons at 3 million per year is a bargain compared to Sean Smith at 8. Clemons is consistent, and one of the fastest players on the team, and will maintain chemistry with Jones. Nothing wrong with that.
- Anthony Fasano - Franchise him for 5.5 mill per year for 1 year. You need veteran leadership at the position and time to determine if Clay and Egnew will reach their potential.
- Brian Hartline - If he will take less than 5.5 million per year he is worth it as a sort of Jordy Nelson lite. He has great hands and is a great fit for the offensive system. He has two weaknesses though, that Miami needs to cover for: He is not a deep threat, and he is not big enough to be a red zone target.
- Depth players - Austin Spitler, Nate Garner, and Pat Devlin play important roles, are cheap, and don't count towards compensatory draft pick deductions.
- Let everyone else go. Bush is too expensive and not tough enough between the tackles. Starks will cost too much money when Miami already has Odrick for 2 more years on the cheap. Smith is not consistent at CB, and that is a key attribute for a CB. Long is not worth more than 6 million per year when you could just as easily sign Cherilus or Albert for cheaper as the RT.
What free agents Miami should sign, and why:
- Sheldon Brown, CB: Miami needs veteran leadership at CB. Brown is still a starting level CB and great team player. He would also likely be willing to sign a 1 or 2 year contract. Some CBs have proven they can play into their 30s with little drop off in play. Brown is one of those.
- Greg Jennings, WR: 3 million cheaper than Wallace or Bowe and provides great veteran leadership? I'll take it. If he had been a free agent last year he would have earned 11+ million per year. He doesn't show a chronic injury history like Harvin, and is the only WR without attitude problems available. I could see him signing a 4 year 30 million dollar contract, with possible incentives bringing it up to 36 million.
- Martellus Bennett, TE: This is a calculated risk, but with a TE you can take risks you can't do with WRs because they are half the cost. Bill Polian and other talent evaluators have Bennett head and shoulders above Dustin Keller and Jared Cook due to maturity issues, but most importantly their lack of blocking ability. Bennett is still a seam threat, but is a great blocker too. Could easily see him signing a 4 year 20 million dollar contract and being a good TE.
- Gosder Cherilus, RT: Cherilus will be an adequate replacement at RT. He was one of the strong links in the Detroit Offensive line last year. He doesn't have the lateral quickness to play LT, but would be an above average RT. Another plus is that he would also be a fairly good value at 4-5 million per year.
What about the draft? I would love to see Miami trade its 1st round pick for a high 2 and 3/4, and a first next year. This year, no one presents the value in the first round like they do next year. Next year you will have guys like Marquise Lee, Sammy Watkins, Jadaveon Clowney, and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. This year, what is the best Miami can get with its first round pick? Not much different compared to the second round.
- Passrushers: Jordan, Ansah, Mingo, etc. - These all have huge risks, and none are can't miss blue chippers you would like with a first round pick. Arguably, you could find players just as effective in the 2nd/3rd: Carradine, Okafor, Montgomery, Datone Jones, etc.
- WRs: Keenan Allen and Cordarelle Patterson? Are you kidding, are these guys really worth a first round pick this year when you will have WRs in the first next year like Sammy Watkins and Marquise Lee? What about a TE like Austin Sefarion-Jenkins? Next years top end of the draft has 'true' blue chip stars at playmaking positions, so why not position yourself for it?
- TEs: No offense, but while Ertz and Eifort are good, they are not the speed threat that Graham or Gonzalez have been in their careers, and are not the all around athletic freaks that Gronkowski and others are. It is much more worth it for Miami to target a TE in Free Agency: Fred Davis, Dustin Keller, or Jared Cook.
- CB: Sorry, after Milliner I don't see another CB worth the 12th pick. Arguably, my two favorite CBs: Blidi Wilson and Logan Ryan, will be available in the 2nd and will grow to be just as good as Milliner. In fact, both are already better than him at stopping the run and are great tacklers.
So, if I was Miami my dream scenario would be trading my 1st round pick to KC, Oakland, Detroit, or Philadelphia for their 2nd and 3rd or 4th, plus their first round pick next year. According to the draft charts Miami would lose a lot of value, but this year it just doesn't hold true, not when you look at the talent difference between pick #12 and, say, #34.
Jeff Ireland's drafts are starting to become somewhat predictable, at least in one dimension. He targets players who have the potential to be high round picks, but have fallen for some reason. Arguably, last year Tannehill, Martin, Vernon, and Miller had the ceiling of 1st round picks. My Dolphins draft for this situation follows Ireland's logic as well:
- 2nd - 1: Logan Ryan, CB - Great CB in both man and zone, as well as the best CB this year in run support. First day starter. Has the potential of a first round pick.
- 2nd - 2: Terrance Williams, WR - Miami needs a deep threat and a red zone threat, and Williams is both. This is not true of Wheaton, Patton, or the other WRs. If he is gone I take the best offensive weapon available. Has the potential ceiling of a first round pick.
- 2nd - 3: Dallas Thomas: G/T - Drops because he is a tweener and has uncertainty in his playing position as either a Guard and Tackle, but again, has the potential, and was originally rated, as a first round pick. Perfect for the zone blocking scheme, and doesn't have the bust potential of Kyle Long or Menelik Watson.
- 3rd - 1: Cornelius Carradine, DE - Drops due to injury, but could be just as good as Woerner, who is a top 5 pick.
- 3rd - 2: Quanterus Smith, OLB - Drops due to an injury, but has the potential of a first round pick. I would love if they got this guy. He has the the pass rush skills of Bruce Irvin, Seattle's 1st round pick last year, but also can grow into a 3 down player to replace Burnett in a year or two.
- 4th - 1: Robert Alford, CB: Immediately becomes a better return man for punts and kicks than Davone Bess ever has been, and will be the starting nickel corner by the end of the first year. Reminds me a lot of a slightly better built Brandon Boykin, who was the Eagles' best CB last year. Is comparable to the value of 2nd round pick Javier Arenas for the Kansas City chiefs a couple years ago.
- 4th - 2: Brandon Williams, DT: He was a monster in the Senior Bowl, and has a surprising 25 sacks for a DT over his career, but because of the DT tackle depth he is rated in the 4th round. Brandon Williams could be as good as John Jenkins, who will be drafted in the 1st/2nd, and could replace Paul Soliai after next year. Another player I would love for this pick is Sio Moore, who has demonstrated he could develop to be an outstanding OLB in the East West Shrine game AND the Senior Bowl, but is still way down most experts linebacker ratings.
- 5th: Ray Graham, RB: He is hugely under-rated, and has the same skill set, or better, as the backs selected in the 2nd/3rd, such as Stepfan Taylor, Gio Bernard, and Jonathan Franklin. Has the skills to be a 3 down back AND break one for the homerun.
- 7th: Developmental Safety
- 7th: Best Value
Would love if this happened, as it is methodical, builds a bridge to the future with veteran leadership, ensures some top of the line playmakers in 2014, and fills the current holes on the team as well.