When it comes to the NFL Draft, no other analyst is as popular as ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. Whatever your personal views are of the man whose hair changes less than Jimmy Johnson's, Kiper is the king of the draft, still ahead of NFL Network's Mike Mayock and ESPN's Todd McShay.
After the draft, Kiper hands out his annual draft grades, looking at each pick, how they fit into the team, and the perceived value of the players taken by the team. For the 2013 NFL Draft, Kiper gave the Miami Dolphins a "B-." To explain the grade, Kiper wrote:
The Dolphins didn't give up a ton when they moved from No. 12 to No. 3. They sent a second-rounder to Oakland, and they had an extra one to give. They took the player they really wanted, which was Dion Jordan. I certainly can't call it a reach because Jordan is one of the top five players on my Big Board. He's a gifted athlete that can help their pass rush. But I can't totally disagree with Jon Gruden, who was critical of the move during our broadcast. I'm not sure you cast him in a 4-3 DE role, because he could be a physical liability against the run. But I don't think Miami will. They'll use plenty of sub packages and use Jordan opposite Cameron Wake, and try to make life hard for opposing quarterbacks. Jamar Taylor at No. 54 is a pretty good value for a player that can probably start. Dallas Thomas at No. 77 is a player Miami might actually think can start at left tackle. If so, good value. But I think he's likely more of a versatile backup. If he starts as a rookie, the Dolphins could have a tough time in pass protection. I'm a fan of Jelani Jenkins, who can cover really well for a linebacker. Dion Sims can't separate very well, but he's good depth at tight end. Caleb Sturgis being drafted could mean Dan Carpenter is out. They could get three good players from those first three picks, but they did give up value for Jordan, so the onus is on them to make that pick become a success.
How much can we take out of Kiper's analysis? Well, let's look back at the last five draft grades to get a better idea.
On my final Big Board, Ryan Tannehill was my 19th-ranked player. The Dolphins got him at No. 8, and probably felt like they couldn't move down. If he's your guy, you take him and live with it. Tannehill is all projection. My worry for him is he needs more game experience, but Miami can't put him out there as a rookie with the hope of being competitive. Remember, this team went 6-3 over its final nine games. Jonathan Martin isn't a bad get at all in the second round. But again, he won't help the team much in 2012. Olivier Vernon doesn't have a high ceiling, but targets a need. Michael Egnew was my No. 4 tight end, and has solid athleticism. He's 6-foot-5, but can run in the mid-4.5 range. Lamar Miller is a great late value; he has some explosiveness and provides some insurance if Reggie Bush gets dinged. Tannehill's success or failure will define this draft -- no way around it.
Well, Kiper, like every other analyst, missed on the Tannehill comment. Obviously, Miami could put Tannehill on the field as a rookie and be competitive. It may not have been a winning season, but being in contention for the playoffs in December has to be considered competitive. Martin, likewise, was helpful in 2012 and will asked to do more in 2013.
No matter what, this draft, as Kiper said, is all about the success or failure of Tannehill. He seems to be aheadof where Kiper put him, and looking back, this draft probably deserved better than a C.
Miami went after needs and got some immediate help in key spots, including guard and running back, getting pretty even value overall. Pouncey should start and pay early dividends at guard, and while Thomas has seen his stock dip, he's a capable running back who could be the starter pretty early in his career. Getting him where the Dolphins did represents good value. Gates is a pretty intriguing player, one of the fastest players in the draft. Clay should stick as a physical fullback. Solid, unspectacular weekend for Miami.
Pretty decent analysis of the 2011 draft for the Dolphins. Pouncey did start, but at center rather than guard, and did pay early dividends. Daniel Thomas is a capable running back, but has seen injuries and turnovers keep him from becoming a starting level runner. Gates ended up being released, headnig to the New York Jets, but Clay is becoming a decent H-back. Although he wasn't mentioned, Jimmy Wilson in the seventh round may be a steal in this draft. B- is a decent grade here.
This draft for me is really Jared Odrick and the rest. Odrick can be a really good player, another active, disruptive tackle in a draft full of them. Koa Misi could be good, but not right away because he'll need to spend a little time transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker. After that, I thought the Dolphins reached a couple of times. Perhaps Nolan Carroll can recover from his injury to become a pretty good player. A low-risk, high-upside pick late with him. I should add that Brandon Marshall is, technically, a part of this draft, and clearly will help Chad Henne.
Odrick has become a solid starter for the Dolphins, and, with his slimming down this year, could see a breakout season - especially if he reacts to second year end Olivier Vernon and rookie Dion Jordan pushing him this year. Kiper is dead on with Misi. Carroll frustrates a lot of Dolphins fans, but he is a good depth cornerback who has probably had too much asked of him lately.
I would probably push this draft grade up a little, but the analysis was not that far off.
Cornerback Vontae Davis is a risk/reward type of player. Pat White has to play receiver to have value where they picked him (No. 44 overall). Defensive back Sean Smith was a good second selection, but third-rounder Patrick Turner was a major reach. With the exception of safety Chris Clemons in the fifth round, the rest of the late-round picks weren't very impressive.
We've reached the start of the Dolphins' purge the past couple of offseasons, with most of the 2009 draft class already off the team. Clearly, General Manager Jeff Ireland is molding this team to Head Coach Joe Philbin's desires after starting to build it to Tony Sparano's wants.
Davis was risk/reward in his time with Miami, and ultimately, the risk outweighed the reward. White was a bust because the Dolphins tried to make him a Wildcat QB, and he couldn't handle it. Smith was a good pick, and was a good player for Miami throughout his rookie contract. The team tried to keep him onto the next contract, but weren't willing to pay him like he thought they should. Turner was a mistake, no doubt about that, and Clemons has been a solid safety for Miami, never stellar, but steady.
Another good analysis of the Dolphins' draft - and I would say this grade is fair.
Jake Long fills a need at left tackle, and I liked Bill Parcells' selection of Clemson DE Phillip Merling with the 32nd overall pick because he's solid against the run. The pick of Chad Henne in the second round tells you Miami is not sold on John Beck; however, I'm not sold on Henne. He has accuracy issues and a long delivery and he isn't mobile. I do like his toughness and he does have some of those intangibles you look for in a quarterback. Defensive end Kendall Langford is a big body, but I thought he was somewhat of a reach after an average senior season. Shawn Murphy really came on as a guard and he could battle for a starting spot. Jalen Parmele was a workhorse at Toledo, a big running back who also has some speed. And Lionel Dotson was a good seventh-round pick who should be able to help at nose tackle.
Long is Long. Unfortunately, Merling never developed like many thought he would. After a torn Achilles' Tendon kept him out most of the 2010 season, he never regained his ability. In probably the best analysis in these five past drafts, Kiper nails Henne - accuracy was one of the most frustrating things about Henne.
A B- grade seems fair, simply because Long was a four time Pro Bowler and an All Pro in his five seasons with the Dolphins.
Kiper seems fairly accurate over the past five years in how he saw the Dolphins' drafts. The 2009 and 2010 drafts were his worst grades, and they weren't stellar selection processes for the Dolphins. Like I said above, I would rank the 2010 draft a little higher than that, but it's not like Kiper was miles away from the target.
What do you think of his grades over the past five years? His analysis? Should we consider his 2013 grade and analysis as accurate, given his track record?