Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2012 NFL Draft Watch: Week 13

The Dolphins' season is, for all intents and purposes, over. The team has talent in some areas, but has shuffled quarterbacks constantly since Dan Marino retired after the 1999 season and it has become blatantly obvious that the team is in need of a true franchise quarterback in order to be a contender.

With Chad Henne an unrestricted free agent in the 2012 offseason and Matt Moore clearly nothing more than a stopgap option,  it seems a virtual certainty the Dolphins will be selecting a quarterback early next April.

Over the next five weeks, I'll be looking at where the Dolphins are currently projected to pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and how things might shake out in the draft leading up to their selection.

With the Dolphins' loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 12, the team fell to 3-8 on the season and improved their draft slot from 8th to 6th. The Dolphins were helped by the Cardinals and Redskins, who both won their fourth games in Week 12.

That being the case, here is how the draft order through the Dolphins' selection looks right now, courtesy of WalterFootball.com:
1. Indianapolis Colts (0-11)
2. St. Louis Rams (2-9)
3. Minnesota Vikings (2-9)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8)
5. Carolina Panthers (3-8)
6. Miami Dolphins (3-8)

I personally don't see any way the Colts pass on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, regardless of what they plan on doing with Peyton Manning. Manning will be 36 next season and will have likely missed the entire season, so you don't pass up on a potential franchise quarterback even if he has to sit for a few years.

Meanwhile, the other four teams picking ahead of the Dolphins look to be fairly set at the quarterback position. The Rams are unlikely to give up on Sam Bradford this early in his career, while the other three teams all took quarterbacks in the first round in 2010, with Christian Ponder to the Vikings, Blaine Gabbert to the Jaguars, and Cam Newton first overall to Carolina.

The Jaguars' firing of Jack Del Rio could mean Gabbert will fall out of favor, but the general manager that drafted him remains in place and thus it seems likely Jacksonville will not be in the market for a quarterback in 2011.

If the first five teams in the draft stay put, the Dolphins should have elite quarterback prospects Matt Barkley (USC), Robert Griffin III (Baylor), and Landry Jones (Oklahoma) to choose from at No. 6. I really don't think you could go wrong with any of these guys, but Barkley would be my guess for the Dolphins' pick as the guy with the most viewed upside.

One thing to be concerned about, however, is that currently projected to pick right behind Miami is the Washington Redskins at No. 7. Like the Dolphins, this is a team that seems guaranteed to take a quarterback early on in this draft, and if the Redskins have their eye on someone in particular, they may not hesitate to leapfrog the Dolphins to ensure they get their man.

That being said, such an event would still leave the Dolphins with two of the four top quarterback prospects to choose from, so they seem to be in pretty solid position right now at No. 6. Most concerning to me is that the team has three very winnable games coming up at home against the Raiders and Eagles followed by a rematch with the Bills in Buffalo.

I could realistically see the Dolphins going either 2-1 or 1-2 during this stretch, but in a season where there isn't anything to play for and they are already on the fringe of where they'd like to be in the draft, I'd prefer to leave the win column unaltered the rest of the way.

Be sure to check back every Tuesday through the end of the regular season for updated information and analysis on the Dolphins' projected 2012 draft slot!

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