Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Miami Dolphins 2010 NFL Draft Preview and Mock Draft

The Miami Dolphins still have a few glaring needs to address before the 2010 season begins this September, and they hope to fill some of those holes in tomorrow's NFL Draft.

In the following Dolphins draft preview, I will address each position on the team in terms of need, when during the draft the Dolphins might look to address the position, as well as examine potential prospects that might interest the team.

Finally, I will post a mock draft for each of the Dolphins' ten selections in this year's draft.

As a refresher, here are the Dolphins' current picks:
  • Round 1, Pick 12
  • Round 3, Pick 73
  • Round 4, Pick 110
  • Round 5, Pick 145 (from San Francisco for Ted Ginn, Jr.)
  • Round 6, Pick 173 (from Kansas City for Andy Alleman and Ike Ndukwe)
  • Round 6, Pick 174 (from Washington for Jason Taylor)
  • Round 6, Pick 179
  • Round 7, Pick 212 (from Kansas City for a Miami's 2009 seventh-round pick)
  • Round 7, Pick 219
  • Round 7, Pick 252 (compensatory selection)
Notes:
  • Miami's second-round pick (43rd overall) went to Denver for wide receiver Brandon Marshall
  • Miami's fifth-round pick (142nd overall) went to Kansas City for quarterback Tyler Thigpen


Quarterback

The Dolphins currently have four quarterbacks on the roster, but they could have only two if Chad Pennington and/or Tyler Thigpen are dealt. Nevertheless, Miami's starting quarterback is already on the roster in Chad Henne, so the Dolphins wouldn't address the position early.

The Dolphins probably won't consider a quarterback until the middle rounds at the earliest, where a project like John Skelton (Fordham) or Levi Brown (Troy) would be tempting. At the very least, they will probably bring in an undrafted free agent into camp if they can unload one of their current quarterbacks.

Running Back

The Dolphins are set at running back in 2010, but a lot of that could change if Ronnie Brown is traded or Brown and/or Ricky Williams walk in free agency next year. Some people think Miami could target C. J. Spiller at No. 12, but this would be a monumental mistake in my view with so many defensive needs and one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in football.

The Dolphins could consider a running back starting in the middle rounds this year, with Anthony Dixon (Mississippi State) and LeGarrette Blount (Oregon) probably possessing the most upside. The Dolphins will have to unload a back to fit a drafted rookie, however, as Brown, Williams, Patrick Cobbs, and Lex Hilliard currently make up the depth chart's top four.

Fullback

I was tempted to leave this position out of the article altogether, but I suppose a brief address would make the article more complete.

Quite simply, the Dolphins are set with Lousaka Polite playing like a Pro Bowler and the team preferring to keep only one fullback on the roster. The Dolphins may bring in a body to spell Polite during camp, but I wouldn't expect it to be anything but a seventh-rounder or, more likely, an undrafted free agent.

Wide Receiver

The Dolphins solved their need for a No. 1 receiver with last week's acquisition of Brandon Marshall, but they still may take a receiver in tomorrow's draft. Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo offer little upside as possession receivers, while Brian Hartline's ceiling is unknown and Patrick Turner didn't do anything as a rookie.

I expect the Dolphins to bring in a receiver in the mid-to-late rounds to push Turner for a roster spot. Jordan Shipley (Texas), Riley Cooper (Florida) and Mike Williams (Syracuse) would make sense as possession receivers, while Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati), Jacoby Ford (Clemson), Trindon Holliday (LSU) and Brandon Banks (Kansas State) would draw looks as speedy returners.

Tight End

Anthony Fasano slipped a bit as a receiver in 2009 and Joey Haynos is still an unknown, so it's possible the Dolphins are looking for a quality prospect to start long-term. Still, I don't expect the position to take precedence over more glaring needs on defense.

The Dolphins could consider using their third-round pick on someone like Anthony McCoy (Southern California) or Ed Dickson (Oregon), but I would say a pick in the sixth or seventh round is more likely.

Offensive Line

I really don't see Miami doing much on the offensive line outside of adding depth late, although with Justin Smiley on the trading block and little proven talent at right guard, it's possible the team could look for someone fairly early.

My best guess would be Ole Miss' John Jerry in round three, but Mike Johnson (Alabama), Zane Beadles (Utah), Marshall Newhouse (Texas Christian) and Ciron Black (Louisiana State) are also intriguing.

The Dolphins would likely to get a third-round back for Smiley, but that's wishful thinking for an interior lineman with injury problems and a big contract. It's unclear whether or not the Dolphins would settle for a mid-to-late pick, but at this point I don't see the point in hanging on to him.

Defensive End

The Dolphins are more than set at defensive end with Randy Starks, Kendall Langford, and Phillip Merling making up the three-man rotation, so any defensive end the team drafts will be added late and push the backups for a roster spot. Nate Collins (Virginia), Earl Mitchell (Arizona), E. J. Wilson (North Carolina), and Doug Worthington (Ohio State) and potential late-round prospects.

Nose Tackle

A key position in the 3-4 scheme, nose tackle is a huge need for Miami with 35-year-old Jason Ferguson suspended for half the 2010 season and Paul Soliai pretty inconsistent.

The Dolphins could look to fill the position as early as the first round, with Tennessee's Dan Williams the most realistic target. With no second-round pick at this point, the Dolphins would have to home someone like Cam Thomas (North Carolina) or Torell Troup (Central Florida) falls to the third round.

Outside Linebacker

Perhaps the biggest need position on the Dolphins' roster, Miami lacks any proven starting outside linebackers with Joey Porter released and Jason Taylor a free agent. Charlie Anderson has only been a part-time player in his career, while CFL superstar Cameron Wake was solid as an NFL rookie in 2009.

Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland have a history of drafting linebackers early, and they very well could do so in 2010. Brandon Graham (Michigan), Jerry Hughes (Texas Christian), Sergio Kindle (Texas), Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech), and Jason Pierre-Paul (South Florida) will all garner consideration for the No. 12 pick.

The Dolphins will also likely look to address outside linebacker later in the draft even if they do so with their first-round pick. Look for the Dolphins to check out the likes of Brandon Lang (Troy), Ricky Sapp (Clemson), and George Selvie (South Florida) in the middle rounds.

Inside Linebacker

Even with the signing of Karlos Dansby, the Dolphins could still use an upgrade over the very average Channing Crowder. Still, it's not as pressing a need as some of the other defensive positions, making someone like Rolando McClain (Alabama) unlikely at No. 12.

The Dolphins could look for the position in the middle-to-late rounds however, with Jamar Chaney (Mississippi State), Micah Johnson (Kentucky), Brandon Spikes (Florida) and Nathan Triplett (Minnesota) fitting candidates.

Cornerback

The Dolphins are set long-term with Sean Smith and Vontae Davis, as well as veteran Will Allen still in the mix as a highly-effective cover corner.

If the Dolphins do draft a corner, it ill be late, and it will be to replace special-teamer Nathan Jones.

Safety

The Gibril Wilson experiment was a disaster, leaving the Dolphins without a legitimate starting free safety. As a result, Earl Thomas (Texas) will be in strong consideration for the No. 12 pick and is arguably one of the favorites. Taylor Mays (Southern California) is also a possibility, but far less likely in my book.

If the Dolphins do go another direction in the first round, they could look for someone like Myron Lewis (Vanderbilt) or Major Wright (Florida) in the third. A late-round possibility is Robert Johnson (Utah), who played in the Utes' secondary with Dolphins' cornerback Sean Smith.

Special Teams

Between Dan Carpenter and placekicker, Brandon Fields at punter, and John Denney at long snapper, the Dolphins are set and won't really be looking for those positions in the draft. A camp leg in the seventh round is always possible, but not necessary.

The Dolphins definitely do need help in the return game, however, with the departure of Ted Ginn, Jr. to San Francisco and Davone Bess being far below average on punt returns. The Dolphins would prefer to avoid having a player simply for a return specialist role, so look for retuner they pick up to be able to contribute somewhere else as well (running back, wide receiver, cornerback, etc.).


Trade Prospects

The Dolphins have already made a few trades this offseason, and they'd definitely like to do so on draft day.

I'm sure they would love to trade down in the first round and pick up a second-rounder to replace the one they dealt for Brandon Marshall. The two prospects I see potentially falling to No. 12 and causing Miami's phone to go crazy are Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Texas safety Earl Thomas. Neither player will fall out of the Top 20 and either could go to a number of teams in the middle of the round, so Miami's spot might be a target for teams looking to jump someone else.

I expect the Dolphins to attempt to trade several players on draft day, namely running back Ronnie Brown, guard Justin Smiley, and quarterback Tyler Thigpen. I don't think you'll get more than a mid-round pick for any of them, but if you don't plan on keeping a guy around long-term, you're better off getting something for him.

This argument even applies to Brown, despite being a very talented back and someone I like a lot. The reality is that Brown is rapidly approaching 30 and has a troubling injury history, making him an unlikely candidate for a long-term deal. With his contract expiring in 2011, I don't see Miami retaining his services for the kind of money he will be seeking.

Recent rumors have Giants' defensive end Osi Umenyiora on the trading block, with Miami a potential landing spot. There's no way of knowing if there's any truth to this, but if he could be had for a middle-round pick, the Dolphins should absolutely pull the trigger.


Miami Dolphins' Seven-Round Mock Draft
  • 1 (12) — FS Earl Thomas (Texas) — There is simply no playmaker in the secondary available when the Dolphins will picking again, so they have to go with Thomas.
  • 3 (73) — NT Cam Thomas (North Carolina) — Nose tackle is a huge need, and landing a prospect like Thomas in the third round would be huge.
  • 4 (110) — OLB Brandon Lang (Troy) — After failing to address the outside linebacker spot early on, Parcells grabs a former Troy Trojan in hopes of finding his new DeMarcus Ware.
  • 5 (145) — OG Ciron Black (Louisiana State) — A left tackle in college, Black lacks the athleticism to play outside in the pros, but would make a heck of a mauling guard at 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds.
  • 6 (173) — RB LeGarrette Blount (Oregon) — Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams could both be gone by 2011, so the Dolphins need to look for a running back to develop.
  • 6 (174) — OLB George Selvie (South Florida) — The Dolphins pick up a potential gem with a talented but under-performing prospect.
  • 6 (179) — WR Armanti Edwards (Appalachian State) — A quarterback in college, Edwards is a small school Pat White that wouldn't require nearly as high a pick and is willing to play receiver, though he could also factor into the Wildcat.
  • 7 (212) — QB Mike Kafka (Northwestern) — The team would likely move both Tyler Thigpen and Chad Pennington before the season if they could, so Kafka would be a nice backup project for Chad Henne.
  • 7 (219) — CB A. J. Jefferson (Fresno State) — Will Allen ran into some trouble this past offseason and is coming off a torn ACL, so it'd be nice to pick up some long-term corner depth.
  • 7 (252) — ILB Micah Johnson (Kentucky) — A thumper in the middle that could play special teams and be groomed as an inside linebacker.

Why Earl Thomas?

When making a mock draft, some teams you just have pegged. You feel like you know exactly what they are going to do and who they are going to take.

Despite knowing the Dolphins inside and out and far better than any other team in the league, I've had a nearly-impossible time pinpointing what they will do with the No. 12 pick (assuming they don't trade out of that spot).

Sure, we know some likely target positions—outside linebacker, nose tackle, free safety. But picking one guy for them to take is a much more difficult task.

Outside linebacker could easily be any one of Brandon Graham (Michigan), Jerry Hughes (Texas Christian), Sergio Kindle (Texas), Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech), and Jason Pierre-Paul (South Florida).

They most certainly will consider Earl Thomas (Texas) at free safety, and even might give a look to Taylor Mays (Southern California).

Dan Williams (Tennessee) and Terrence Cody (Alabama) will garner consideration at nose tackle.

Add them up, and you have nine potential players at the three need positions. But what if they throw a curveball?

One has to at least consider dark-horse candidates like wide receiver Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State), guard Mike Iupati (Idaho), inside linebacker Rolando McClain (Alabama), and running back C. J. Spiller (Clemson).

Obviously, some players have a better chance than others of going to the Dolphins. But the point is, any of these guys could feasibly be Miami's pick. So how did I decide on Earl Thomas?

Well, considering the team's three needs, I looked at what kind of talent they could get in the first round, and what kind of talent they could get later.

That's when I realized that safety Earl Thomas was the only starting-caliber, play-making safety the Dolphins would have a chance at drafting. With no second-round pick, even a second-tier guy like Nate Allen (South Florida) would be long gone by the time the Dolphins pick again in round three.

On the other hand, the Dolphins will have a shot at some solid outside linebacker and nose tackle prospects in the middle rounds of the draft. Ricky Sapp (Clemson) and Cameron Thomas (North Carolina) are just a few guys that could be available at pick No. 73.

That being the case, the Dolphins are best-suited grabbing their play-making safety in the first round and waiting until later in the draft for an outside linebacker and a nose tackle.

Of course, I'm probably wrong.


What moves would you like to see the Dolphins make in the upcoming draft? Share your thoughts on the forum here!