Over a month ago, I wrote an article about some of the first round candidates the Miami Dolphins might be taking interest in for this year's NFL Draft. Names like Ryan Tannehill and Melvin Ingram made the list of suitors, however it was offensive linemen Riley Reiff that got the majority of the fan vote for the player the Dolphins should draft in 2012 (1040 votes). Comically, in a matter of just a few weeks, the thought of drafting Riley Reiff with the 8th pick in the draft went from realistic to inconceivable, perhaps it had to to do with his short arms demonstrated at the Combine or the fact that Miami is lacking offensive and defensive weapons, showing no desperate need for an 8th pick O-Lineman. Set aside Tannehill and Ingram, multiple other players have made their way to the first round candidacy list, including: Nick Perry, Michael Floyd, and Courtney Upshaw.
With the puddle-like "Splash" that Jeff Ireland gave fans during the 2012 Free Agency period, this FO now seeks to not only make up for the damage it caused to the soul of Miami, but to make the 2012 NFL Draft one of the most memorable ones this franchise has ever seen. As of today, most mock drafts have the Dolphins taking a chance on Ryan Tannehill with the 8th pick. Personally, I believe that's a mistake, but this fan base is in need of some sort of jump-start in their football lives in order to get them excited again. The first round is only the launching pad, however. With a class loaded with this much talent, Ireland and Philbin will be able to make a "splash" anywhere in the draft. Let's take a look at some of the second round candidates the Dolphins should have their eye on.
SECONDARY: Over the last week or so, the Dolphins have lost two of its most important secondary players to the cruel whirlwinds of free agency. Yeremiah Bell; a leader, a captain, and the leading tackler was released due to cap space, freeing up the SS position, and Will Allen, a savvy veteran, was released as well, opening up the Nickel Corner spot. Luckily the draft has a plethora of worthy talent to fill up these badly needed holes, and the first player that comes to mind is Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame.
Harrison Smith FS, Notre Dame:
GOOD: Harrison is a super-freak athletically, and his knowledge of the game & his position is something in which a rookie head coach like Joe Philbin would love. Smith has the prototypical size to play Safety: His 6’2" 213 lb. frame exceeds Yeremiah Bell’s by a bountiful amount. Not to mention that Smith has a 32 5/8" arm length, which comes in very handy when in need of a tackle or a play on the ball.
Smith plays at a fast paced, aggressive, and physical style of game. He closes in a flash with conviction and determination, pursuing the ball handler aggressively during every snap. He makes plays at all levels of the field and has strong hands to make shoestring tackles. Along with his dominating speed and strength, Smith is able to match both of those abilities with his tremendous knowledge. Harrison is very active pre-snap and shows natural awareness. He is able to read the quarterback well in zone and uses his athletic ability to turn and run to make plays on the ball.
BAD: Although Harrison Smith is a great athlete and has a wide variety of football knowledge; he still needs a bit more time to develop before being a starter in the NFL. Smith is an upright athlete who lacks ideal body flexibility and natural explosion to hold up in coverage or space. In order for Harrison to succeed, he needs to be a more technically sound tackler. He often goes for the knockout hit or forced fumble instead of wrapping up, giving receivers or running backs the ability to break away and gain some more extra yardage. If Smith is able to tweak his game and become better at man coverage & at tackling, then he will be a force to be reckoned with in the league.
NOTES: Smith is a very rare athletic specimen. His knowledge of the game matches his athletic ability was shown in Notre Dame Stadium for four years straight, as Smith was a starter and a captain. Overall, Smith is a smart, athletic defender who should push to start early in a zone-heavy NFL scheme.
Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska: Dennard is one of those special players in the draft in which he doesn’t truly excel in one particular aspect of the game, however he is solid in every aspect and lacks almost any weaknesses.
GOOD: As mentioned above, Dennard is a man with very few weaknesses. He has succeeded in both man coverage and zone coverage. In man coverage, he is tough to get off the line against and is willing to mix it up downfield. He has fluid hips and good enough short-area to stay with receivers after initial move. Dennard is solid if playing off the line, as well. His quick feet allow him to catch up to receivers if failing to get a hand on them initially. Switching now to the zone coverage. Dennard flourishes in zone because of his closing speed and secure tackling ability. He jumps underneath, slants routes fluidly, and has an uncanny ability to bait the Quarterback to throw the ball in his direction. Dennard has a lot of experience starting games at high levels and is NFL ready without question.
BAD: For the third time, Dennard has very little weaknesses. Unfortunately, because of his 5’10" frame, he gets beat many times by stronger and more physical receivers. However he never backs down from a challenge, which is one of his many strong assets.
WIDE RECEIVERS: As all you know by now, the Dolphins traded away their Pro Bowl receiver, Brandon Marshall, for a couple of third-round picks. Miami later failed to acquire any big name wide outs through Free Agency, because either they were too expensive, not fit for the team, or because they wanted to find a suitable and talented receiver in the draft.
Tommy Streeter, WR, The __: The last time the Dolphins selected any player from the University of Miami in the draft was back in 2004 where they selected Vernon Carey with the 19th overall pick. Fortunately, Wide Receiver Tommy Streeter from UM is one candidate that would have the fan base excited once again.
GOOD: Unlike many NFL prospects in their junior year, in 2011 Tommy Streeter decided to go back to Miami to finish off his senior year. This decision was probably the most important decision of his life as he racked up incredible numbers with the Canes and showed off his talents to multiple scouts. Streeter has all the tools necessary to become an elite receiver in the NFL. His size and strength gives him the opportunity to stretch the field, leaving other receivers wide open. At 6’5" 219 lbs. Streeter has a tremendous ability of separating from defenders in short/intermediate routes, which makes him both a deep threat and a 5-10 yard threat.
BAD: Although Streeter may have all the tools to become an elite receiver, he is far from it and very raw. Tommy must learn to develop the technical parts of his game in order to get playing time on the outside. He is tall and lengthy, which helps him avoid press, however his burst off the line is average and once defenders get in his face at the line, he has trouble shaking them off. Lastly, Streeter’s routes are quite sloppy and undefined which can prove costly in a West Coast system.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers: Sanu is one of the most underrated and hardest working players in the draft. In his entire Collegiate Football career, he only missed one start and has improved each and every year.
GOOD: Sanu’s body type is prototypical for a West Coast Offense, and his style of play exemplifies it. On his release, Sanu is too big and strong for defenders to test him in press coverage. He has good enough hand placement and upper body strength to fight off the jam and is a threat to beat the defender over the top due to good acceleration and better straight-line speed than he's often credited with possessing.
The key to an effective West Coast Offense for a wide receiver comes from well timed/ran routes and natural hands. Fortunately, Sanu blends both of these qualities harmoniously. Mohamed possesses very reliable hands and a wide catch radius due to his long arms, impressive flexibility, and hand-eye coordination. On routes, Sanu throttles down quickly, sinks his hips and has good burst left and right to generate separation on underneath routes. He is known for having a broad skillset in which he is used from a variety of positions, lining up inside in the slot, outside and put in motion.
Sanu is one of the most exciting receivers to watch after the catch. Because of his strength, he has the ability to rip away from arm tackles and shuck off defenders with his monster stiff-arm. Although he lacks the agility to seep away from defenders in tight spaces, his balance and flexibility give him enough sense to weave through the defense.
And as if Sanu’s skillset couldn’t get any better, he is an excellent blocker, especially when set in motion. Sanu would thrive under Philbin’s offense not only in the passing game, but in the running game as well. How many times did Reggie Bush take the ball on the outside and burst for a huge gain? With Mohamed Sanu on the outside blocking or coming in motion to set a crack back block, Reggie would once again be able to accomplish the same big-gain runs on the outside as he did last year.
Sanu is a guy that coaches raved about on and off the field. His former coach, Greg Schiano, said that Sanu was the hardest working, do-everything player on the team, and it would be very difficult to replace him. Fortunately for Schiano, he doesn’t need to focus on replacing him anymore as he took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching job a couple of months ago.
BAD: Like Alfonzo Dennard, Sanu doesn’t really have a lot of weaknesses. However, he does need to improve his ability on deep passes and his agility after the catch, so he doesn’t solely rely on his strength to break away from tackles.
QUARTERBACKS: In a recent conversation with one of the disgruntled fans that protested in Davie, Stephen Ross told the fan by phone that the Dolphins would be drafting a Quarterback in the draft. Although I feel as if they will take a chance with Ryan Tannehill, I think other options must be weighed first, including the option for Brandon Weeden.
Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: "He’s 28 years old and lacks experience" Who cares! Fans in Miami were clamoring for a 27-year old Matt Flynn singing, even though he only had two games of experience. Weeden is an all around solid Quarterback who has the ability to be a starter in the NFL right now.
GOOD: FLet's quickly get this out of the way: he’s not Chris Weinke (let’s hope). Baseball pitcher translates to NFL arm strength. Weeden can gun the ball anywhere on the field, especially when given a pocket from which to deliver. He is able to stick throws into tight windows over the middle, throwing to a spot on a slant route or even between zone defenders before the receiver is open. Weeden has a nice touch on the ball on fade routes and shorter throws, and he almost never overthrows passes to open receivers. Weeden is a proven leader on and off the field. Even Justin Blackmon stated that Weeden was the best leader on that team.
BAD: Unlike Tannehill, Weeden has difficulty throwing to either sideline and is quite inaccurate on his back step throws. At times, Weeden trusts his arm too much, causing idiotic incompletions, however he rarely throws interceptions (Hard thing to do in a pass-first offense like OKST.) His last weakness: His age. This is the focal point of fans saying "no" to Weeden. I understand, however, Weeden has the potential to be a very good Quarterback in the NFL. He has all the intangibles to win now, and isn’t that what Dolfans truly want? Listen; don’t scratch off Weeden just because of his age. Learn about him from draft scouts and try to watch film on him before coming up with sudden conclusions.
TIGHT ENDS: The elite Tight Ends in the league can almost all out-jump a Cornerback/ Safety. They all have receiver speed, linebacker strength, and excellent blocking skills. Is Anthony Fasano the kind of guy that can thrive in the West Coast system like Vernon Davis or Jermichael Finley? It’s tough to say after the solid year he had. Paired up with Charles Clay, this duo has the capability to succeed in this kind of offense, but perhaps a name like Michael Egnew (Supposing Coby Fleener is out of the question) could make our TE core compete with that of the New England Patriots.
Michael Egnew, TE, Mizzou: Michael Egnew’s size for a Tight End is the new trend in the NFL: A Tight End that can block like O-Linemen, Run like a runninback, and catch like a wide receiver. However, the blocking part for Egnew is a bit suspect, but we'll get to that.
GOOD: Egnew is a converted wide receiver. He was moved to tight end and had much success, causing mismatches up and down the field with linebackers and cornerbacks. The switch to him was a blessing in disguise considering his ability to separate from linebackers and play more physical than most safeties. Like Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis, Egnew has a superb ability of catching the ball in any given radius & running with it as well. This is key for the West Coast Offense, and Joe Philbin should be making these connections when evaluating players.
BAD: Although Egnew was able to transition easily from WR to TE, for the receiving aspect of the game; he stumbled a bit on the blocking aspect of the game. Egnew has had trouble getting off blocks and/or blocking defensive linemen. He’s been physically outplayed at the line numerous times, and this will have to chance dramatically if he wants to be successful as an NFL tight end. Luckily, Egnew had a very good outing at this year’s combine, which improved his draft stock sensationally.