Saturday, April 25, 2009

Assessing the Miami Dolphins' 2009 first-day draft selections

The first day of the 2009 NFL Draft is in the books and the Dolphins have three new players on the roster, including two cornerbacks. This was a pleasant development for me, as I've felt all offseason that cornerback was our biggest need and I was happy to see it addressed quickly in this draft.

I can't say I wasn't a little thrown off by the Pat White pick, and I'm still not sure if it was the right move at that point in the draft. Time will tell though, and White's versatility could certainly be useful.

Noticeably absent from the Dolphins' draft thus far are the wide receiver and outside linebacker positions. I expect both to get addressed tomorrow, however. On the bright side, the fact that the team did not add a top rusher through the draft has to increase the chances of a Jason Taylor reunion in Miami.

I was also pleased to see one of my favorite prospects in this year's draft—Utah cornerback Sean Smith—land in Miami. As you may recall, I had Smith going to the Dolphins in the first round of my final mock draft.

I was also glad to see Miami move down five spots in the second round (from 56 to 61) and pick up an extra fifth-rounder (165th overall) from the Colts along the way. We still got our man in Smith and added another second-day pick, which is always a good thing.

Just a quick reminder before I address each of today's picks individually: The Dolphins have seven more picks in this year's draft. They are:
  • Round 3, Pick 87
  • Round 4, Pick 108 (from Raiders in Samson Satele deal)
  • Round 5, Pick 161
  • Round 5, Pick 165 (from Colts in draft-day trade down)
  • Round 6, Pick 181 (from Raiders in Samson Satele deal)
  • Round 7, Pick 214 (from Browns in Travis Daniels deal)
  • Round 7, Pick 237 (from Panthers in Josh McCown deal)
It should be an exciting second day of the draft and I can't wait to see what other players we add! (*cough* Ramses Barden and Sammie Lee Hill *cough*)

Now, on to the assessment of today's picks. You can view an up-to-the-minute version of my Dolphins projected depth chart here, which contains all of Miami's rookie additions.

Name: Vontae Davis
Position: Cornerback
College: Illinois
Age: 20
Height/Weight: 5'11", 203 lb.
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 25
Projected 2009 role: Starting cornerback

When the best pure cornerback falls into you lap at the 25th pick of the draft, you take him. That's exactly what happened with Vontae Davis this year and that's exactly what the Dolphins did, and wisely so.

The younger brother of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Vontae has prototypical cornerback size and has all the tools you look for in a cover man. He's a physical specimen as well and is a sure tackler. There is no doubt he has all the talent to be a No. 1 cornerback in the NFL

That's a good thing too, because cornerback was Miami's biggest need heading into the draft. Will Allen is the only proven starter of the corners on the roster and he's entering the last year of his contract.

Davis may have some attitude and work ethic concerns, but the Dolphins did their homework and met with him on multiple occasions so they must be confident the benefits outweigh those costs. All in all, the Dolphins got excellent value with this pick and made the right choice.

Name: Pat White
Position: Quarterback / Wide Receiver
College: West Virginia
Age: 23
Height/Weight: 6', 197 lb.
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 44
Projected 2009 role: Third-string quarterback, Wildcat quarterback, reserve wide receiver, return option

I'll admit, this pick prompted a couple quick expletives from me when it was announced on TV. I expected a receiver in the second round, but this wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

The Dolphins needed (and still need) a true wideout to eventually start opposite Ted Ginn, Jr. What they get in White is a physically-skilled player who could develop into a slot receiver, but also a player who has delusions of being a long-term starting quarterback in the NFL.

I just don't see that in White's future. He certainly lacks the prototypical size and bulk for the position, he doesn't read defense well enough and there are many more examples of misses when it comes to scrambling quarterbacks than there are examples of hits.

That being said, White is certainly talented and has the versatility to be used in various ways for the Dolphins. He obviously offers more passing options out of the wildcat formation, but he also provides another slot receiver, a third-string quarterback (which could free up an extra roster spot during the season) and a potential return man.

It's not that I don't think White can be a successful pro, because I do. I just wouldn't have spent higher than a fourth-round pick on him, and if he wasn't going to last that long I just wouldn't have taken him. I would have much preferred a linebacker like Connor Barwin or Clint Sintim, or a true wideout like Mohamed Massaquoi or Juaquin Iglesias. Hopefully White proves me wrong.

Name: Sean Smith
Position: Cornerback
College: Utah
Age: 21
Height/Weight: 6'4", 215 lb.
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 61
Projected 2009 role: Third or fourth cornerback

This was the guy I had Miami taking with their first-round pick and was someone I was really hoping they grabbed, so you can imagine how ecstatic I was when his named popped up on the screen toward the end of the second round.

I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, but I really think Smith has all the tools to be a very good corner in this league. His size is absolutely outstanding, his hands are fantastic (he converted from wide receiver to defensive back in 2006) and his ball skills are top-notch.

Of course, there is some concern over his speed and some think he's more of a safety in the NFL, but I consider 4.5 speed plenty for a corner (especially one as big as Smith) and think he'll do just fine there. Plus, Gibril Wilson is locked in at free safety and cornerback is the need in Miami.

Even with the selection of Davis in the first round, the Dolphins could have used another corner, so they wisely grabbed a second one on the first day of the draft. With two quality safeties signed long-term and two promising rookies added at corner, the Dolphins' secondary is looking promising even if Will Allen isn't retained beyond 2009.