In my four years as a member of The Phinsider, I've fielded countless questions regarding why I bother spending time watching college players and projecting them to the Dolphins when more important things--namely pro football--are underway. My answer to that question will fluctuate from time to time, but its guiding principal is this: professional sports (and especially football) are a cyclical affair--an industry in which players come and go every season. Why wouldn't I want to keep an eye out for the exciting college players who are most likely to be wearing my favorite team's uniform in the near future? And for that matter, why don't more NFL fans pay attention to college football? It's 100 percent certain the next player who will be considered to be the savior of your franchise is currently out there somewhere in college football land, thrilling packed stadiums on Saturdays while doing everything he can to ensure that he'll hear his name called on draft night.
That's why I put out numerous Big Boards throughout the year, regardless of whether it's in-season or the offseason. And to be fair, it's not like I am wasting my time here: my introductory mock drafts the previous three years correctly identified the Dolphins' eventual first-round pick (I'll be the first to admit that I had luck on my side earlier this year when the Dolphins traded up for Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan). That said, my Big Board is really just a way to introduce site members to the players whom I believe are most likely to become Miami Dolphins next season. It isn't a perfect science, but I'd like to think that we all have fun along the way.
Well, my conscience is clean. Let's move on to the reason why we're here.
2014 Dolphins-centric Big Board
1) Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M (6'5", 305)
The left tackle prize in a draft that is loaded with talent at the position. Would pick up Miami's zone-blocking scheme in a matter of minutes.
2) Cyrus Kouandjio, OT Alabama (6'6" 310)
Enormous blindside talent with surprising mobility. Effective striker while on the move.
3) Louis Nix III, DT Notre Dame (6'3", 335)
Like Matthews, Nix is the No. 1 name in a very potent positional class. However, Nix does his work on the defensive side of the ball, and he's equal parts clogger and backfield destroyer. Can get after the quarterback a bit, too. Multi-faceted threat with loads of upside, and you're not blocking him with just one guy.
4) Marqise Lee, WR USC (6'0", 195)
Will lose No. 1 receiver votes because of his size, but he'd be an ideal arrow in Miami's offensive quiver. Excellent route-runner with a knack for making things happen after the catch.
5) Timmy Jernigan, DT Florida State (6'2", 295)
The de-facto 3-tech in this draft. If Randy Starks walks, Jernigan could fill his role and then some.
6) Antonio Richardson, OT Tennessee (6'6", 330)
Possibly the strongest and most violent left tackle in this year's class, and he moves obscenely well for such a large individual. Paired with current Dolphins guard Dallas Thomas to wreak havoc in Knoxville. Perhaps a South Florida-based reunion is in order?
7) Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Washington (6'6", 276)
The highlight-reel-making tight end in this year's class. Huge talent with an equally huge frame. Can block with the best of them, and he's equally adept at busting up the seam. Red zone nightmare.
8) De'Anthony Thomas, RB Oregon (5'9", 176)
The running back version of Tavon Austin. Thomas is more of a natural playmaker, however.
9) David Yankey, OT/G Stanford (6'5", 311)
The best guard in the nation can be found on the best offensive line in the nation. Yankey can play any position on the offensive line, and at a high level, too.
10) Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson (6'1", 205)
The home-run hitter in this year's receiver class. A combination of Watkins and Mike Wallace would be simply devastating.
11) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB Oregon (5'10", 190)
Will end up as one of the two-best corners in the 2014 draft class. Great ball skills and excellent speed, and he's plenty physical, as well.
12) Marcus Roberson, CB Florida (6'0", 195)
The other top corner in this draft class. A true cover corner with the speed to hang with just about anyone. His corner partner, Loucheiz Purifoy, isn't too shabby, either.
13) Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina (6'4", 245)
Might be the second-best tight end in this draft behind Seferian-Jenkins. Oregon's Colt Lyerla might have something to say about that, though.
14) Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S Alabama (6'1", 208)
Almost certainly the best safety in this upcoming draft class. Plays the point for Alabama and doesn't make many mistakes. Very good speed and instincts for the position, and his ball skills are top notch.
15) Will Sutton, DT Arizona State (6'1", 290)
Will surprise plenty of people this year with his speed along the interior. Could stand to add some pounds to his frame. Has a lot of Warren Sapp in his game, and would be a nightmare on a Dolphins line that is already thick with pass-rush weapons.