Yes - I know I said yesterday that I don't believe in grading drafts so soon. It takes years to really know if a particular team's draft was good or bad. Yet the "talking heads" insist on grading each team's draft the day after the draft is completed.
So I am indeed going to grade the Dolphins' draft. But I'm going to do so in a very different manner. I'm not going to give letter grades for each pick - because that's just dumb and pointless. Instead, I'm going to grade each pick individually based on my reaction to the pick now that we've had some time to digest what occured this past weekend.
Round 1, Pick 25 - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
I came into the draft thinking that our number one priority was the secondary. While others were hoping for a wide receiver like Hakeem Nicks, I was dying for a cornerback that could step right in and start right from day one. Most scouts and "draft experts" agree that Davis is a top 10 talent who fell due to "character concerns." Well I'm not concerned at all about his character. He has never had an off-the-field incident and has no known issues other than he might not work as hard as he could. Our coaches will take care of that. In fact, Vontae himself already said that having Bill Parcells draft you "speaks louder than words." This pick is going to turn out very well - I'm 100% confident in that.
Reaction: Absolutely thrilled
Round 2, Pick 44 - Pat White, QB/WR, West Virginia
Back in March, I wrote a fairly lengthy post making my case for the Dolphins to draft Pat White - which you can read by clicking here. The only thing I was wrong about was saying that the Dolphins probably wouldn't take him before pick 56. But like I said yesterday, it's hard to call the pick a "reach" because we don't know where other teams had White on their boards. But would anyone have been surprised if the Patriots had him rated high? Or the Cowboys? Those are the two teams I think were most likely to nab White. So what's his role going to be? I don't know. I'm not sure if I really buy the company line right now that Jeff Ireland is feeding up - saying he's going to compete at the quarterback position. I think they are saying that to keep Pat himself satisfied. But what I do know for a fact is that White is a proven winner - having never lost a Bowl game - and will bring an element of explosion, excitement, and unpredictability that we've never seen before in the NFL. David Lee and Dan Henning are going to find ways to use Pat White - make no mistake about it.
Reaction: Pleasantly surprised
Round 2, Pick 61 - Sean Smith, CB, Utah
If you have been reading this blog somewhat regularly this offseason, then you probably know how I feel about this pick. Smith has been my top "mancrush" for a while now. I think he possesses such a rare blend of size, speed, and athleticism for a corner that he might have the highest ceiling of any cornerback in this draft. But he is raw at the position, compared to most other college cornerbacks. Smith began his college career as a wide receiver, switching to cornerback in the final two games of 2006. He made the switch to full-time cornerback in 2007 and never looked back - blossoming into the team's top defensive playmaker. My favorite part of Smith's game outside of his measurables, though, is how cocky he is. Like Vontae Davis, Smith brings a swagger to the field - which is something I think cornerbacks need at this level. And if you want to know more about Smith, I'd suggest checking out this piece that was written by a guy who has watched all of Smith's snaps at Utah.
Reaction: Absolutely thrilled - favorite pick in this draft
Round 3, Pick 87 - Patrick Turner, WR, USC
Many people thought the Dolphins needed a big receiver - and you don't get much bigger than the 6'5 Patrick Turner. Turner is a guy who is rather athletic despite his large 22o pound frame. He runs good routes and possesses reliable hands. But he wasn't exactly a stand-out at USC. And that lack of production causes some concern. Why wasn't a huge target like Turner able to produce more against college cornerbacks? That question is impossible for me to answer because I didn't make it a point to watch many USC games over the past 2 years.
Reaction: Optimistic, but there are question marks
Round 4, Pick 108 - Brian Hartline, WR, Ohio State
This pick has puzzled many Dolphin fans. With the selection of Turner a round earlier and already having a number of receivers on the roster, why take another wide receiver - especially one that lacks great collegiate production? But Hartline is a physical receiver who, like Turner, is a good route runner. He's also a very hard worker, from what I hear, and a guy who loves contributing on special teams. But is that enough to spend a fourth round pick on? I'm not sure - but SI's Peter King seems to be a fan of the pick, calling Hartline a "fascinating prospect" and writing, "I don't like Brian Hartline to the Dolphins in the fourth round. I love it."
Reaction: Surprised, but cautiously optimistic
Round 5, Pick 161 - John Nalbone, TE, Monmouth
I understand the reasoning for the pick - with both Anthony Fasano and Davis Martin heading to free agency following the '09 season. And I like Nalbone as a prospect - even listing him in one of my "day two prospects to watch" a few weeks back. He's a very good pass catcher as well as a good blocker. But I can't help but wonder if we might have passed on better potential players to take this kid.
Reaction: Very surprised and slightly disappointed, though I do like the potential the kid possesses
Round 5, Pick 165 - Chris Clemons, S, Clemson
The more I read about this kid, the more I like the pick. We needed some young depth behind our two safeties and Clemons seems like a player who can contribute on special teams right away while he backs up Yeremiah Bell and Gibril Wilson. He's one of the fastest safeties in the draft. He has good size and coverage skills. And he has a ton of experience - as he was a 3 year starter at a bigtime football school in the ACC.
Round 6, Pick 181 - Andrew Gardner, OT, Georgia Tech
The Dolphins were clearly lacking depth at the tackle position and Gardner is a guy who has a lot of starting experience at the college level. He has good size, at over 6'6, and is athletic. He's very smart and was a team leader at GT. A shoulder injury probably knocked him down the draft board some. The Dolphins might have gotten very good value with this 6th round pick. At least, that's what Gardner himself thinks, saying "I think I'm really one of the best values in this draft at this position."
Reaction: Satisfied - very good value/potential
Round 7, Pick 214 - J.D. Folsom, LB, Weber State
You know you're in the last round of the draft when the player you take publicly says he didn't expect to be drafted. But this zoology major is going to be battling to make the roster - or at least the practice squad - as a developmental inside linebacker. We know he has solid coverage skills, having played the "rover" position in college. If the Dolphins can make room for him on their practice squad, he'll likely spend the year there to develop.
Reaction: Practice squad candidate - so I don't really have a reaction
So there are my "draft grades" for each pick made by the Dolphins. Overall, I have to say I'm happy with the draft as a whole - especially day one. I love the three picks the Dolphins made on day one. Day two was filled with some question marks, for sure. But let's hold off saying that the Dolphins made bad decisions until we see this guys on the field a few times.