As Dolphins fans, we have quite a bit to be excited about come next offseason: a new coach, a new regime and, of course, a new quarterback. But what are we going to do once we add that franchise (hopefully) signal caller? Miami has serious deficiencies on the offensive line, a linebacker corps that is more likely to beat on Omar Kelly than Dolphins opponents, and a secondary that might be one of the worst in the NFL right now (Vincent Jackson made an impressive grab, fell down, took a nap, got up and outran Sean Smith on that first Chargers touchdown last Sunday).
The problems with this Miami Dolphins roster run much deeper than just the quarterback position, so it's important to become familiar with the players who will likely be on the Dolphins' radar after they take a quarterback in the first round. And before we get to the player who is, in my opinion, as tailor-made as it gets for the Miami Dolphins, I want to say one more thing about the Andrew Luck mania sweeping through The Phinsider right now: Luck is an unbelievable QB prospect, but don't lose sight of the other two blue-chippers coming out this year. Matt Barkley and Landry Jones would both be in consideration for the No.1 overall pick in any year other than 2011, so if we don't get the first overall pick and miss out on Luck, don't get too down. The other two quarterbacks have the potential to be outstanding players at the next level, and we'll be incredibly fortunate to get one of them in aqua and orange.
Anyway, I'd like to spend the rest of this post looking at a prospect who would provide a serious upgrade to our tight end position in a hurry. As someone who grew up watching Keith Jackson tear apart AFC East defenses on an almost disturbingly consistent basis, I've been incredibly frustrated with the lackluster talent we've rolled out at tight end for much of the last decade . Anthony Fasano isn't horrible, but he'll make a jaw-dropping grab up the seam one play, and then get called for holding on the next three plays. And he also really likes to drop passes in the second half. I'll consider our next regime to be completely braindead if it saddles our new QB with the tight ends we currently have. Therefore, a stud addition at TE is in order.
Dwayne Allen, TE Clemson
My criteria for college tight ends is very simple: they need to have above-average size and speed for the position; they must excel at taking on blocks; and they must have great hands. With these three principals in mind, no tight end in the country is better than Clemson's Dwayne Allen. A hulking (6'4", 255) prospect with some of the best hands in college football, Allen has absolutely destroyed defenses this season. However, it's not the speed he flashes while exploiting the seam or the routine circus catches he makes that have me hooked--it's how ruthless he is while taking on blocks. Watch some of Allen's game film from 2011 and you'll see a tight end who can stand up a defensive end on one play, and then shoot into the second level to take out a linebacker on the next play. Allen isn't shy about taking on defenders, either, and rarely loses at the initial point of contact. He's also able to quickly disengage from blocks and slip into the flats or seam, and those areas are typically where he does his best work (though he's more than capable of getting up on the sideline and using his height and athleticism to elevate and make a play).
What can Allen do that Fasano can't?
I'll try to be nice here. Fasano does some things very well--"rubbing" defenders while running routes; discreetly slipping blocks at the line of scrimmage, etc. But he doesn't have great hands (not consistently, anyway), struggles to stretch the seam and draws penalties far too often while taking on blocks. A tight end of Allen's caliber, on the other hand, would immediately become an asset to our running attack, and also provide Miami with a pass catcher who possesses the speed and hops to violate defenses. Allen looks to be exceptionally difficult to jam at the line of scrimmage, and he boasts huge, soft mitts that just envelope the football. He also has the sheer vertical to go upstairs and make the grab, even when he has to adjust to the football after he's already left his feet.
A blocking tight end with such a high level of athleticism? I don't believe it
Clemson is well aware of Allen's athleticism, and they're not afraid to line him up in the backfield or spread him out wide on the line scrimmage. And the funny thing is how comfortable Allen looks in both those scenarios. He almost looks like a big kid running amok along the seam, but he knows how to consistently get open and can sniff out the soft spots in coverage. Feel free to go back and review Allen's performance against Auburn three weeks ago if you need further convincing. Allen just abused the Tigers during that game, and was practically a vacuum cleaner for throws in the red zone. Hmmm. I don't suppose that would interest the Dolphins much ...
Which NFL tight ends compare favorably to Allen?
Brandon Pettigrew of the Detroit Lions, without question. Pettigrew is a bit taller (6'5"), but both guys are awesome, ruthless blockers who have the ability to make tough catches look easy.
Why should we use a second-round pick on this guy?
A freakishly athletic, sure-handed tight end like Dwayne Allen would likely become the ultimate security blanket for the quarterback we draft next April. And it'd be nice to finally have a Pro-Bowl-caliber tight end in Miami, yes? Allen won't be flying under the radar for much longer this season, so we'll likely have to use a high 2 if we want to go get him. Of course, this won't be an issue if we can mini-fire sale and stockpile some 2012 draft picks.