Monday, April 27, 2009

Dolphins go for depth, special teams on draft's second day

After the Dolphins surprised us all with the Pat White selection on Day One, what would the team have in store for us for Day Two?

The Dolphins began the day by picking wide receivers in back-to-back rounds. This was significant because it said that there was more to the Pat White pick than just a potential slot receiver. GM Jeff Ireland confirmed this the day after the draft by saying that White would indeed be seeing time at quarterback.

You can imagine how heartbroken I was when one of my favorite prospects—Cal Poly receiver Ramses Barden—went to the New York Giants two picks before Miami selected USC receiver Patrick Turner. In my view, the Dolphins reached for both Turner and Hartline, which was disappointing to see.

My only other complaint of the day was the absence of a nose tackle, particularly in the fourth round. Although I like what I hear of Hartline as a special teamer, I would have preferred the team to take a defensive lineman like Vaughn Martin or Sammie Lee Hill, who went to the Chargers and Lions, respectively, a short time after Hartline was selected.

After that, the Dolphins simply took the best players available on their board, addressing depth in some areas and adding potentially significant contributors on special teams.

Also, kudos to the Dolphins for trading their other seventh-round pick to Kansas City. The team obviously didn't feel like it needed to take another player at the end of this draft, so they did well to acquire an extra pick in next year's draft.

Here's what I think about each of Miami's second-day picks:

Name: Patrick Turner
Position: Wide receiver
College: Southern California
Age: 21
Height/Weight: 6'5", 223 lb.
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 87
Projected 2009 role: Backup wide receiver

This was yet another surprise for me in this draft, as I didn't expect Turner to go off the board until the fourth round at the earliest and possibly much later than that. One has to wonder if Miami would have opted for Ramses Barden had he not gone to the Giants a few picks before.

Turner has tremendous size and good hands, but had a largely unimpressive college career. His inability to put up better numbers and dominate Pac-10 defenses on an extremely talented USC team is certainly a concern.

The reason for this pick was obvious: to be the player Ernest Wilford wasn't. The former Jaguar could barely get on the field in 2008 and was one of the front office's few free agent misses offseason.

Here's hoping Turner can be the player they envisioned Wilford being, and not the player Wilford actually was in Miami.

Name: Brian Hartline
Position: Wide receiver
College: Ohio State
Age: 22
Height/Weight: 6'2", 195 lb.
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 108
Projected 2009 role: Backup wide receiver, special teams

The second (or third?) receiver the Dolphins took in this draft, Hartline comes from a good program, has okay hands and decent speed.

That being the said, this pick was likely more about special teams than offense. Hartline is a standout special teams guy who loves playing that part of the game and always gives all of his effort on every play.

My only complaint with this pick is how high it was. Lots of people thought Hartline was a seventh-round pick or could possibly even go undrafted, so to take him in the fourth round is pretty surprising.

Still, Hartline can earn his draft spot by excelling on special teams and developing into a quality backup receiver.

Name: John Nalbone
Position: Tight end
College: Monmouth
Age: 22
Height/Weight: 6'4", 251 lb.
Drafted: Round 5, Pick 161
Projected 2009 role: Backup tight end, special teams, possibly practice squad

Who?

I'm sure that was the question every Dolphins fan asked themselves when this pick came across the screen, as most of us had probably never heard of Nalbone.

The first player ever selected from Division I-FCS Monmouth (take that, Miles Austin!), Nalbone broke every one of the school's receiving records for tight ends. He finished his collegiate career with 101 catches for 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns.

Nalbone is a developmental guy, as is the case with many small school players. He clearly has talent as a receiver, but he's never faced competition close to anything like what he'll face in the NFL.

Although tight end is not an immediate need for the Dolphins, it's important to note that the team's top two players at the position—Anthony Fasano and David Martin—are free agents after the season.

Nalbone will likely begin his career as a backup tight end, and could possibly be headed for the practice squad in 2009 if he can't beat out Joey Haynos for the No. 3 job. There's also an outside chance Martin could be let go to accommodate the younger players, though his play significantly improved last year so that seems unlikely.

Name: Chris Clemons
Position: Safety
College: Clemson
Age: 23
Height/Weight: 6', 208 lb.
Drafted: Round 5, Pick 165
Projected 2009 role: Backup free safety, special teams

Another depth pick, Clemons has good size and athleticism but is somewhat lacking in hands and instincts. He's a solid prospect who could develop into a starter over time, but that's certainly no lock.

With Gibril Wilson signed long-term at free safety, Clemons won't be asked to start soon anyway. Clemons simply provides depth and will likely focus on special teams early in his Dolphins career.

Though Clemons stands a good chance to make the club, he'll have to beat out offseason addition Ethan Kilmer for a spot. Kilmer is a skilled special teams player as well, making Clemons' performance in that area all the more vital to his longevity in Miami

Name: Andrew Gardner
Position: Offensive tackle
College: Georgia Tech
Age: 23
Height/Weight: 6'7", 304 lb.
Drafted: Round 6, Pick 181
Projected 2009 role: Backup offensive tackle

Tackle depth was one of the Dolphins' biggest needs going into the draft, and they were wise to address it here.

Though not a great athlete, Gardner has extensive experience as a starting tackle in the ACC and is an intelligent, hard-working player. An injury his senior season caused him to miss some workouts before the draft, which likely hurt his stock.

This was a good pick for the team because the only real other backup tackle the Dolphins have on the roster is Nate Garner, although Brandon Frye and Ike Ndukwe can play out there as well.

Because of this, Gardner stands a reasonable chance of making the team in 2009. He's no lock and will face competition from Garner and some undrafted free agents, but my initial guess is he will stick around.

Name: J. D. Folsom
Position: Linebacker
College: Weber State
Age: 24
Height/Weight: 6'3", 230 lb.
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 214
Projected 2009 role: Backup inside linebacker, special teams, possibly practice squad

Surprises in Rounds 2 and 3? Not so fun. Surprises in Round 7? Not that big a deal.

Folsom wasn't really on the map for a lot of teams and seemed likely to go undrafted, but the Dolphins obviously wanted to ensure they got the special teamer rather than face competition for his services in undrafted free agency.

Folsom will likely never be a starter in the NFL and may not even have a future in the league, but the Dolphins drafted him in hopes his work ethic would translate into a quality special teams player.

Special teams was obviously a sore spot for the Dolphins last year, which is why the team chose players almost specifically for that purpose like Hartline and Folsom.

Folsom's main competition for a roster spot will be William Kershaw, who saw some playing time late last season and even forced a fumble on special teams against Kansas City.

If he makes the team, Folsom will be limited strictly to special teams and wouldn't be higher than the fourth inside linebacker on the depth chart. My initial guess, however, is that he's destined for the practice squad this year.