The NFL Scouting Combine kicks off next week in Indianapolis. The week long event will begin with the ever so creepy weigh-ins, when we get to see images of young men like this in their underwear in front of dozens of cameras. Awesome.
It also means that the craziness that is the NFL Draft process officially kicks into high gear. The hype machine gets set on overdrive and analysts start breaking down every little fault that these young men have as they attempt to begin their professional careers.
And some NFL Draft talk is where we begin this week's "Five."
1. Mike Mayock believes that identifying and then acquiring your team's franchise quarterback is objective number one. On his media conference call yesterday, the NFL Network draft analyst (who is widely considered the best in the business...and I would generally agree) made it clear in no uncertain terms that those teams drafting in the top half of the draft - which includes the Dolphins - that need a quarterback should do whatever it may take to land the quarterback they believe is "the guy" for them.
"If you believe there’s a franchise quarterback, that trumps every other need," Mayock says. "Every team in the top ten who thinks they need a quarterback ought to be grinding (film of) those quarterbacks, and they better look at Blaine Gabbert."
The Dolphins may not be in the top ten, but they should be doing as much preparation as possible on the top quarterbacks in the draft. And if they feel like one of those guys will be great, then they must move up in the draft to get him - assuming the guy falls at least outside the top five (because moving into the top five would probably cost too much).
Like Mayock says, I would start my thorough analysis on Missouri's Blaine Gabbert. Despite all the hype and all the media attention that Cam Newton has gotten (and will continue to receive as the draft nears), it's Gabbert who I firmly believe is the very best the 2011 quarterback class has to offer. I'm not saying I dislike Newton. There's a lot to like about him as well - and I wouldn't be disappointed at all if he was the next member of the Miami Dolphins. But it's Gabbert who I feel will be the better quarterback in the NFL.
I suppose I should face the fact, though, that it's unlikely the Dolphins will aggressively look to move up in round one to land either of those two. That second tier of quarterbacks, though, are enticing in their own right. Mayock lists Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, Ricky Stanzi, and Colin Kaepernick as that second tier - and I could probably live with the Dolphins taking a shot on any of those four.
But I'll admit, as of right now, I'm on the "move up and take a quarterback in the top ten" bandwagon.
2. Todd McShay sees "plenty of third-round value picks" at the running back position. That's exactly why I don't think selecting Alabama's Mark Ingram is the right move for the Dolphins in the first round. On his media conference call, McShay said that he feels Ingram is the only running back with a first round grade. But he adds that there are a number of guys in the mid rounds who can come in and contribute.
Three of the guys he mentions are particularly intriguing to me. Kentucky's Derrick Locke, Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter, and Cal's Shane Vereen are all guys who I could easily see being impact players in Miami's backfield. And the one sleeper I would throw into that group - because his stock will rise between now and April, is UCONN's Jordan Todman.
There are numerous running backs in the mid rounds who could come in and play right away for the Dolphins. There's no need to spend a first round pick on one.
3. The NFL and the Players Association have agreed to mediation and seven consecutive days of negotiations. That's the good news - and the first positive sign since the Super Bowl that a prolonged lockout can be avoided. But if you actually believe that these two sides will really meet for a week straight, you're kidding. Some insiders even believe this whole "mediation" thing is pointless. I guess we'll see. But don't get overly optimistic.
4. It's becoming clear that most NFL fans do not want an 18 game regular season. Our own unscientific poll showed just that. And pretty much every single poll I've seen of NFL fans has resulted in similar results. It makes you wonder what the hell Commissioner Roger Goodell is talking about when he continuously proclaims that this is what fans want. Which fans? The ones who happen to be related to team owners or television network executives?
5. Bryan Cox back in Miami? I'm down with that. The Miami Herald reported this week that the former linebacker interviewed with head coach Tony Sparano for a spot on Tony's coaching staff. His role? It was never specified in the report. But I have two guesses - either as an assistant linebackers coach, or as the office linebacker.