The most important thing when putting together a great draft is understanding that it will be all for naught if you don't follow it up with more successful drafts (somewhere, Dan Marino is nodding furiously). That's why it seems weird to call the 2013 NFL Draft a more important one for the Miami than 2012, when the Dolphins walked away with a franchise quarterback, a future replacement for Jake Long, a future pass-rush friend for Cameron Wake and a likely replacement for Reggie Bush. That's just it, though--this draft is absolutely more important than Miami's 2012 outing, as a bad draft next spring would be a great disservice to the progress of these young players. Tannehill has been an absolute revelation for many Dolphins fans this season, but to expect to continue to develop while surrounded by Miami's sickly receiver corps would be simply wrong. Ditto for Vernon, who has had shown flashes of brilliance this season. Instead of counting on him to bail out a very pedestrian corner group, why not get him some cornerback talent that will free him up more and help increase the amount of time he has to rush the quarterback.
Thus, the players on this list represent the talent that Miami needs to further its agenda and continue adding to its young, talented roster. And as we transition from bowl games to pre-draft workouts, we should have some pretty clear ideas of the prospects the Dolphins will target next April.
1) Dion Jordan, DE Oregon (6'6", 245)
As I stated during this week's podcast, it's possible that the Dolphins have won themselves out of the Dion Jordan sweepstakes by earning late-season victories over Jacksonville and Buffalo. We won't know that for sure, however, until Jordan gets out in front of scouts next month. Until then, he's safely atop the Big Board, and projects as a lanky Aldon Smith-type pass-rusher with advanced coverage instincts and outstanding get-off at the line of scrimmage.
2) Alec Ogletree, ILB Georgia (6'3", 240)
Yep, I said it. If the Dolphins are looking for a first-round prospect who can provide maximum impact, Ogletree should be at the top of their list. He was the best player on the field during the SEC Championship Game, and he'll wow scouts this winter with a skill set that is equal parts freak athlete and instinctual playmaker. Ogletree isn't a cerebral technician in the mold of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, but he qualifies as an elite prospect at a position that rarely gets early-first-round attention. Works for me.
3) Keenan Allen, WR California (6'3", 205)
It will be interesting to see if Allen is still considered the No. 1 receiver prospect in this class come springtime. He certainly has the route-running ability, size and wheels to warrant a top 15 draft selection, and Allen did some special things this season with a not-so-special quarterback. Good polish for a college receiver; lack of long-term upside might hurt his stock a bit, though.
4) Chance Warmack, G Alabama (6'2", 320)
Warmack is the highest-rated guard I've ever seen, hands down. And if Jeff Ireland has the balls to take Mike Pouncey at No. 15 overall, he most certainly has the balls to take Warmack in the same draft vicinity (not saying I agree with this, but history suggests a strong likelihood here). In a scenario where the Dolphins have too high a pick to justify taking a receiver and too low a pick to be in position to nab world-class talent like Te'o, Jordan, Ogletree or Dee Milliner, guard could somehow become a BPA-type move if Warmack is still available. That said, how in the hell is it possible for a guard to be the third-best draft prospect this year?
5) Eric Reid, S LSU (6'2", 220)
Should the Dolphins want to find a powerhouse safety complement to rising star Reshad Jones, they'll have a few options early in this draft. LSU's Eric Reid is equally adept as a run extinguisher and centerfield-type defender, and best fits what the Dolphins currently need most from their secondary: physicality and exceptional awareness. Scouts Inc. has largely ignored Reid the last few months, but I think his stock will get a big boost during pre-draft workouts. Awesome talent, and a prospect the Dolphins can likely trade down to acquire.
6) Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tennessee (6'3", 205)
Patterson will likely push Allen for the No. 1 receiver mantle in this draft class, and it's easy to see why when you look at his tape. Patterson has been a slashing playmaker from the word go--a relentless open-field runner who is fearless over the middle and capable of going up top to make tough grabs. Not an elite route-runner, but certainly better than average.
7) Ezekiel Ansah, DE BYU (6'6", 270)
The ultimate flex pass-rusher prospect, Ansah has been a revelation for the Cougars this season. Big enough to play effectively on the interior, and fast enough to kick over to a stand-up role, Ansah will be a hot commodity among teams looking for hybrid pass-rush talent. There's absolutely no way Ansah gets past the Giants this spring.
8) Terrance Williams, WR Baylor (6'2", 200)
The other candidate for this draft's No. 1 receiver crown, Williams in 2012 proved that he didn't need Robert Griffin III in order to post big-time numbers. Williams is a bigger and more dangerous receiver than former teammate Kendall Wright, a first-round selection last season. That said, he'll need to prove he's developing as a route-runner if he wants to crack the top 20 this spring. I believe he'll do just that.
9) Zach Ertz, TE Stanford (6'6", 250)
Tight end won't be Miami's No. 1 need come April, but Zach Ertz could represent irresistible value for a Dolphins offense that simply needs playmakers right now. Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert is the other big-time tight end prospect this spring, but Ertz has Rob Gronkowski-like ability as a pass-catcher and general seam threat. Thus, he gets the nod here. Perhaps another Stanford player to Miami in the second round?
10) Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M (6'5", 305)
Matthews is listed here for a few reasons: He's a slam-drunk tackle prospect for any zone-blocking scheme; he's the best right tackle in college football; and he was coached by Mike Sherman. Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel has drawn some attention away from Matthews this season, but that shouldn't dilute the fact that Matthews is a near-elite protector on the right side. If the Dolphins trade down, Matthews immediately becomes a candidate for aqua and orange (or whatever in the hell color the Dolphins are wearing come draft time).
Best of the rest:
- DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson (6'1", 205)
- Alex Okafor, DE Texas (6'4", 260)
- Desmond Trufant, CB Washington (6'0", 185)
- Jonathan Cooper, G North Carolina (6'3" 300)
- Dallas Thomas, OT/G Tennessee (6'5", 300)
- Stedman Bailey, WR West Virginia (5'11", 195)