Immediatly following every NFL Draft, the discussion turns to grading each team's draft picks. Nothing is known about how the player will actually perform at the NFL level, but we all are excited by the big name first rounder, the late round sleeper, and are drooling over exactly how our team will come together.
Then something strange happens. The players actually play the game. Players like Robert Griffin III, three years ago, looked like a sure-fire star coming out of Baylor. He was such a solid guarantee that the Washington Redskins mortgaged their future for the chance to move up and grab him. Three years later, the discussion is focused on whether or not RG3 will be able to return to the Redskins next year, and if he is capable of being an NFL quarterback.
Immediate satisfaction after the draft does not necessarily mean the team picked the right player, or that their picks will be able to play at the NFL level. The general thought is, it takes three seasons for a true idea of a player to be established. Three years to know what exactly a team received in the draft. Three years for an accurate grade.
For the 2012 NFL Draft class, those three years are now complete. How did the Miami Dolphins do in the Draft? Let's take a look.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Coming out of Texas A&M, Tannehill was considered a "reach" by many, who said his lack of playing time at quarterback would result in an ineffective passer at the NFL level. Instead, he has improved in every major statistical category for the Dolphins every year. He is the only Dolphins rookie quarterback to start every game his rookie year, and he has not missed a game, despite an offensive line who allowed a league high in sacks in 2013, then allowed the second most quarterback hits/sacks/knockdowns this year. Tannehill became the only Dolphins quarterback not named Dan Marino to throw for 4,000 yards in a season this year, and he set the team record for most completions in a season, in fewer attempts than Marino. Tannehill still is developing, and he is not at the elite level (yet?) but he has clearly shown he can be an NFL starting quarterback, and has stabilized a position that has been a revolving door since Marino retired.
Round 2 - Pick 42
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Obviously, we all know the drama that ultimately led Miami to trade Martin to the San Francisco 49ers last March. The bullying-scandal that rocked the Dolphins as the 2013 season wound down ended any chance for Miami to get value out of their second round pick from 2012. Before Martin left the team, he had been inserted into Miami's starting lineup as a left tackle, after having played right tackle as a rookie. His play on Tannehill's blindside, however, led to the Dolphins trading for Bryant McKinnie in season, moving Martin back to right tackle. For much of the lead up to the Draft, Martin was seen as a first-round talent, who fell into the second round, where the Dolphins were happy to grab him. After the fiasco involving Martin, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey, and John Jerry, the Dolphins shipped Martin to the 49ers for a conditional 2015 draft pick.
While the 2013 drama surrounding Martin could not be foretold when he was drafted in 2012, the fact that Martin was not panning out as a starting tackle for the Dolphins hurt. To get an idea of how Martin played this year, his third in the league, I spojke to David Fucillo of SB Nation's Niners Nation:
Jonathan Martin ended up getting significant playing time in 2014 due to right tackle Anthony Davis suffering multiple injures. Martin starting 9 games at right tackle, and filled in a couple other times. He struggled with consistency, although I don't think he was as bad as some people would say. But it was very clear the 49ers offensive line was much better with Anthony Davis in at right tackle. He is signed for one more year and will get his chance to handle the swing tackle role, but with Jim Harbaugh gone now, it would not be entirely shocking if he did not win a backup job out of camp.
Round 3 - Pick 72
Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami
Vernon broke out in his second season with the Dolphins, tallying 11.5 sacks in 2013, along with 57 tackles. He fell back in 2014, finishing the year with 46 tackles and 6.5 sacks, as well as two forced fumbles. He seemed to disappear in the second half of the year, much like the defense as a whole. He has a solid position on the Dolphins' roster and has been a two-year starter for the team. He may be pushed for the starting role next year, as Dion Jordan and Chris McCain make their cases for more playing time, but so far, Vernon has hled them off and is a really good starter opposite Cameron Wake.
Round 3 - Pick 78
Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
Egnew got a bad wrap with Dolphins fans right from the start, when offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was shown on HBO's Hard Knocks in 2012 saying he would cut the tight end during training camp if he were the general manager. Egnew was never an in-line tight end at Missouri, and that carried over to the NFL, where he did not have the strength, nor the desire it seemed, to be a blocker. After a rookie season in which he was inactive on most gamedays, Egnew saw playing time in his second season, appearing in all 16 games, with give starts, but only recorded seven receptions for 69 yards. Coming into the 2014 season, Egnew was on the outside looking in, behind starter Charles Clay, 2013 fourth round pick Dion Sims, and 2014 fifth round pick Arthur Lynch. Egnew started the preseason looking good, playing with a much higher physicality level, and was even lining up as a fullback and lead blocking. The numbers did not fall in his favor, however, and he was waived by the team in the first round of roster cuts. He was claimed by the Detroit Lions, but waived again in the second round of roster cuts. He signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad, but was released in September.
Round 4 - Pick 97
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
Miller struggled in 2013, his first season as the Dolphins' starting running back, a year after serving as a reserve runner behind Reggie Bush. In that 2013 campaign, the Dolphins expected Miller to be good enough to justify allowing Bush to leave via free agency. He was not and the team added running back Knowshon Moreno this past offseason. Miller continued to be listed as the starting running back, but it appeared, after the 134 yard output on 22 carries from Moreno in Week 1, that Miller might start, but Moreno was the workhorse. Then Moreno was injured, and Miller had to take on more of a feature back role. Despite the Dolphins repeatedly choosing to not run the ball in the second half of games, and seeming to have Miller on a 12-15 carry-per-game limit, the Miami native tallied 1,000 yards on the ground for the 2014 season on 216 carries, for a 5.1 yards-per-attempt average. He also scored eight touchdowns rushing (and one receiving), and he recorded the longest run of the year for the league, a 97-yard touchdown against the New York Jets, a run that is the third longest carry in league history. The Dolphins will likely look to add a power running back in 2015, but Miller has shown he can be the starting running back for the Dolphins next season.
Round 5 - Pick 155
Josh Kaddu, LB, Oregon
Kaddu was seen as a developmental linebacker with some good potential when he was drafted, but things just never worked out for the Ducks alumnus. Starting with the NFL rule preventing players from reporting to their teams until their current academic term is complete, Kaddu had to wait until after Oregon's quarter system term ended, pushing him behind the rest of the rookies. He was able to appear in four games for the Dolphins as a rookie, but just one in his second season before being released from the team in October 2013. After the season, he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, but was waived in the last round of the 2014 roster cuts. He then joined the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad, where he spent most of the season before being added to the 53-man roster for the final game of the year as an injury replacement for Anthony Barr, and appeared on special teams for the game.
Round 6 - Pick 183
B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State
The Dolphins added the all-time receptions leader at Michigan State in the sixth round, but he did not last with the team through the preseason. Miami cut Cunningham in the last round of roster cuts, in no small part due to a drops issue that appeared during training camp. He then signed with the Eagles' practice squad, spending the 2012 and 2013 seasons bouncing on and off of it. He spent a portion of this season on the Chicago Bears practice squad.
Round 7 - Pick 215
Kheeston Randall, DT, Texas
Randall appeared in 12 games for the Dolphins as a rookie, recording eight tackles, then appeared in all four of the Dolphins' 2013 preseason games before being among the team's final round of roster cuts. He was then signed by the Cincinnati Bengals to provide depth following an injury to Geno Atkins. He was released shortly thereafter, lasting two weeks with Cincinnati. He signed in Janaury 2014 with the Minnesota Vikings, a week after his Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer signed as the Vikings head coach. He was released in the final round of roster cuts in August.
Round 7 - Pick 227
Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada
Matthews appeared in eight games as a rookie, recording 11 receptions for 151 yards. In his second year, Matthews was the fourth of four receivers on the Dolphins' opening day roster, behind Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson. He played in all 16 games that season, starting five and recording 41 receptions for 448 yards and two touchdowns. This past season, Matthews continued develop as a receiver and a target for Ryan Tannehill, appearing in 14 games with 12 receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
Starters: 3 (Tannehill, Vernon, Miller)
Reserves: 1 (Matthews)
Released, On a 53-man roster at end of 2014: 2 (Martin - SF, Kaddu - MIN)
Others: 3 (Egnew - on JAX practice squad part of year; Cunninggham - on Bears practice squad part of year; Randall - training camp with MIN)
Grade and remarks
The draft is always a tricky thing, with fans expecting a team to walk away with at least seven new starters, or in this case, nine new starters. Add in that this was a Jeff Ireland draft, and there are plenty of people who will pick it apart. In reality, though, this was a really solid draft. Add in the fact that the Dolphins appear to have their quarterback question fainlly solved, and this becomes a good draft. Coming away with three starters, three-years later - when the NFL average career is three years - is a really good measure of how this draft was for the Dolphins. A 4,000 yard passer, a 1,000 yard runner, and a pass rusher with 6.5 sacks (and was a double-digit sack producer in 2013) is a pretty good set of stats for the year from the draft class - then add in Matthews' and you get a little depth out of the class as well.
The Egnew pick and frustration will bring the draft grade down some, and the Martin fiasco will always weight on it, though there was no way to predict that would happen. Late round picks Kaddu, Cunningham, and Randall all did not pan out for the Dolphins, but they are all hanging around the fringes of the league still.
This was not a great draft for the Dolphins, but it was a really good one, which is why I have it in the B range. Add what appears to be a franchise quarterback developing in front of all of us, and I push it up to a B+.