I'll look at the team's strengths and areas of need, who is under contract, who are the free agents and their prospects for being re-signed, and who they might look at via trade, free agency, and the draft.
This article focuses on the tight end position.
- John Nalbone (through 2011) — The Dolphins' fifth-round pick in 2009, Nalbone was very raw coming out of Division I-FCS Monmouth and failed to make an impact as a rookie. He's no lock to make the team in 2010, and he's a long way from being able to contribute on offense.
- Kory Sperry (through 2010) — The undrafted free agent out of Colorado State made a splash with a touchdown grab in his NFL debut last November, but he's nowhere near ready to be a full-time player. He'll compete for the No. 3 spot with Nalbone and possibly some new additions in 2010.
- Anthony Fasano (restricted) — Fasano took a step back as a receiver in 2009, seeing his his receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns all drop from the previous season. He was an excellent blocker though, and should be safe at the second-round tender he received from the Dolphins as an RFA.
- Joey Haynos (exclusive-rights) — Haynos has the size you dream about in a red-zone target at 6-foot-8, and he did set career highs during his second season with 16 games played, eight starts, 19 catches, 162 yards and two touchdowns. He'll likely remain in the No. 2 role again in 2010, though the Dolphins will continue to develop him in hopes he could one day be a starter.
- Fasano has the ability to be a good starting tight end in the NFL, as indicated by his performance in 2008. Meanwhile, Haynos has great size for the position and is an intriguing prospect. The Dolphins' top two tight ends are also both strong blockers.
Areas of Needs
- While not a necessity for successful offense, having a playmaker at tight end is a nice luxury to have, and its one the Dolphins do not have at the moment. Fasano regressed as a receiver in 2008 and doesn't have Pro Bowl talent, while the rest of the team's tight ends, while young and with some potential, are all still unknowns.
Free Agency Outlook
- I don't expect the Dolphins to spend money in free agency for a tight end, especially considering the market isn't that great and contains no Pro Bowl-caliber players. Benjamin Watson (Patriots) is the best of the bunch, but he's not really worth signing to replace Fasano.
- The Dolphins have a handful of other needs to address in this year's draft, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them pick a tight end within the first four rounds, and possibly as early as the second. Essentially any tight end except for likely first-rounder Jermaine Gresham (Oklahoma) will be on the Dolphins' radar.
- In Round 2, Ed Dickson (Oregon), Rob Gronkowski (Arizona), and Anthony McCoy (Southern California) are all options. I don't consider Florida's Aaron Hernandez a realistic possibility due to his height (6-foot-2).
- It also wouldn't surprise me to see raw college basketball player Jimmy Graham (U. of Miami) sneak into the second round due to his top-notch physical tools and upside. I really wouldn't be mad if the Dolphins took Graham in the second round, and I'd absolutely love him in the third round if he's there, as he'd be a great prospect to bring along slowly behind Fasano and Haynos.
- I also wouldn't rule out Pitt's Dorin Dickerson in the third or fourth rounds, and I'm very intrigued by him as a prospect. Although he's just 6-foot-1, Dickerson has 4.4 speed, room to bulk up, and the ability to contribute as a fullback, H-back, tight end and slot receiver.
- Mid-to-late-round possibilities include Nate Byham (Pittsburgh), Dennis Pitta (BYU), and Andrew Quarless (Penn State).
Tight end isn't a glaring need for the Dolphins in my book, simply because I don't feel it's necessary to have a guy on Antonio Gates' level to be successful on offense. The Dolphins have a rising star at quarterback, a good running game, and (hopefully) will acquire a true No. 1 receiver this offseason.
That being said, it'd be nice to see Fasano step up his game as a receiver, Haynos develop into a starter, or find that elite tight end somewhere—possibly in this year's draft.
How do you feel about the Dolphins' tight ends heading into the 2010 offseason? Share your thoughts on the forum here!