Before we take a look at the top prospects available in rounds two and three of tonight's NFL Draft, I'd like to take a second and point this out. Oh, and this. Unfortunately, Jordan's berzerk Combine performance last February left many--myself included--with the feeling that the Oregon pass-rush extraordinaire wouldn't get out of the draft's first three picks. Turns out we were right--we just didn't know it would be the Dolphins taking Jordan at No. 3 overall.
Hindsight's 20/20, and Jeff Ireland's decision to trade up looks even better considering the way the top 11 shook out. Six offensive linemen, two pass-rushers (not including Jordan), the top cornerback prospect (Dee Milliner) and top wide receiver prospect (Tavon Austin) were all off the board by the 12th selection, and Miami would've sat in virtual no man's land had they stayed put at its initial draft spot. Rather, Ireland traded up nine spots via trading Oakland the No. 42 selection, and, well, here we are--a 6-foot-6 speed-rush juggernaut in tow for the Dolphins.
That was some craziness last night, no doubt, but I get the impression Ireland and Co. aren't through with the high-flying draft moves. Here's my list of the top seven targets for Miami in rounds two and three:
1. Menelik Watson, OT Florida State
A Great Britain-born tackle blessed with outstanding size, 34-inch arms and considerable upper-body strength. Watson is extremely raw (he has just two years of football experience--one at JUCO; one at FSU) and will need some technical refinement in the pros, but he's an incredible athlete and a fierce competitor who fits best at right tackle. Watson may also have the best initial punch of any tackle in this year's class. Think his boxing background has something to do with that?
2. Terron Armstead, OT Arkansas Pine-Bluff
Armstead sure turned a lot of heads when he blazed an official 4.71 40-yard dash at the Combine, but the really cool thing is that Armstead's timed speed didn't simply prop up his draft stock. Rather, it put the spotlight on an offensive tackle who put together some damn good tape while at Arkansas Pine-Bluff. Armstead's upper-body strength, arm length (34 inches) and footwork are all very good, and qualify him as candidate to play the right side in a zone-blocking scheme. He's not without some warts, however, and will need to reinforce his lower base and develop more of an initial punch if he wants to thrive at the NFL level. Still, his athleticism is undeniable, and if you thought Jonathan Cooper and Lane Johnson were quick to reach second-level defenders, wait till you see Armstead get out and run. He's like a truck with a 427 block under the hood.
3. Darius Slay, CB Mississippi State
Oddly enough, the prospect who best fits what the Dolphins are looking for at the cornerback position is currently viewed as a late-second-round pick: Darius Slay, whose semi-ambiguous draft stock is likely due to the fact that he played under the shadow of fellow corner Johnathan Banks at Mississippi State. It's been a case of role reversal for the two this spring, however, as Slay has dominated pre-draft workouts while Banks' testing has been mediocre at best. Slay is a big, aggressive corner with very good awareness and rare timed speed (4.36 40-yard dash at the Combine), and he's displayed improved footwork and change-of-direction skills this spring. Arguably the best zone-corner prospect available next weekend, and he's still developing as a ball hawk and run defender.
4. John Cyprien, S Florida International
This year's race for top overall safety was supposed to be between Texas' Kenny Vaccaro and LSU's Eric Reid. And then Florida International's John Cyprien showed up to the Senior Bowl in January and put up a phenomenal week of practice that landed him in the conversation to be the first safety selected this spring. Cyprien, simply put, is a hammer on legs--a bullish in-the-box defender who can blitz effectively and smash the run. He's still developing his man coverage skills, but Cyprien's ultra-physical style of play bears a strong resemblance to Troy Polamalu in his prime.
5. Gavin Escobar TE San Diego State
The former Aztec is a fantastic red zone threat, and displays the ability to box out lengthy defenders in jump-ball situations. Where Escobar loses points, though, is in the blocking game. In-line work shouldn't be much of a struggle for a player of Escobar's size, but he often lets assignments get outside of his frame, and he doesn't consistently sustain blocks, either. There is upside in the in-line department, however, but blocking is currently one of the chief hang-ups separating Escobar from the top names in this year's tight end class.
6. Robert Alford, CB Southeastern Louisiana
We keep hearing that the Dolphins might address cornerback in the second round of this draft, and it's players like Alford who are fueling such rumors. A perimeter defender who pairs balance and fluidity with great speed and strength, Alford has been one of the biggest risers during this pre-draft season. He's an aware, explosive defender who flashes plenty of grit and tenacity despite his average frame, and he has some of the best closing speed and ball skills of any corner in this year's class. A natural zone defender, but he has the loose hips to match-up well in man coverage.
7. Brennan Williams, OT North Carolina
Perhaps the great undiscovered talent in this year's offensive tackle class, Williams is a burly right-side prospect with long arms (34 inches) and quick feet, and he'll be a valid option for the Dolphins if they A) don't trade for Albert, and B) decide that Jonathan Martin is their guy at left tackle. Williams could use some refining in terms of hand placement and riding speed rushers past the pocket, but he sets quickly, has the base to nullify power rush moves, and will flatten any second-level defender in his path. He doesn't have near the athleticism of Johnson, Armstead or even Watson, but Williams is nimble enough to make it work, and he's also one of the more devastating run blockers available this spring.