Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2012 NFL Draft Watch: Week 15

For those of us that have been on the "Suck for any quarterback, not necessarily Andrew Luck" bandwagon since about mid-October, the Miami Dolphins' loss to the Eagles in Week 14 was a welcome sight.

With the loss dropping the Dolphins to 4-9 on the season, the team improved their first-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft from eighth to seventh. The team has three divisional games left on its docket, including road games to Buffalo and New England followed by the Jets at home in Week 17.

As I did two weeks ago, I'll take this time to analyze the Dolphins' current draft slot and how things might fall at the top of next year's draft in the team's search for a franchise quarterback, since Matt Moore and J. P. Losman don't seem to be the answer.

Here is the current top-12 draft order for the 2012 NFL Draft:
  1. Indianapolis (0-13)
  2. Minnesota (2-11)
  3. St. Louis (2-11)
  4. Washington (4-9)
  5. Jacksonville (4-9)
  6. Carolina (4-9)
  7. Miami (4-9)
  8. Cleveland (4-9)
  9. Tampa Bay (4-9)
  10. Philadelphia (5-8)
  11. Buffalo (5-8)
  12. Kansas City (5-8)
 I would say Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck remains the most likely option for the Colts with the first overall pick. Minnesota is likely to continue to groom Christian Ponder and it's too early for the Rams to give up on Sam Bradford in an injury-plagued sophomore season.

Washington at No. 4 is flat-out going to take a quarterback, and the most likely options are either USC's Matt Barkley or Baylor's Robert Griffin III, assuming at least one declares. My guess is that Barkley will viewed as the consensus No. 2 prospect the position behind Luck, although the athletic, Heisman-winning Griffin has a chance to overtake Barkley.

You can consider Carolina at No. 6 out of the running with Cam Newton in-house, but Jacksonville is interesting. They have a new owner and will have a new head coach, but they'll still have the same GM that drafted Blaine Gabbert 10th overall last year. It seems unlikely the Jaguars will take a first-round quarterback in back-to-back years, but the rookie contracts are more manageable now and Gabbert has looked downright horrible this season while other rookies like Newton and Andy Dalton have held up well. I've even seen more in two games from Texans' fifth-rounder T. J. Yates than I have from Gabbert in 12 contests.

If I had to mock the first six picks, I think it'd go something like this:
  1. Indianapolis (0-13) — QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
  2. Minnesota (2-11) — OT Matt Kalil, USC
  3. St. Louis (2-11) — CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
  4. Washington (4-9) — QB Matt Barkley, USC
  5. Jacksonville (4-9) — WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
  6. Carolina (4-9) — DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
Not all of these guys might declare for the 2012 NFL Draft, but a basic outcome like the one above would give the Dolphins at least a few quarterback options at the No. 7 spot. On the board here are still Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, and Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, and any one of them could be chosen by the Dolphins if the team deems them worthy enough.

The biggest problem here is a potential trade up past the Dolphins. If the Dolphins covet Griffin, for example, then they'll have to worry about teams after them like Cleveland (No. 8) and Kansas City (No. 12) leapfrogging them.

There is no way the Browns' front office views Colt McCoy as a franchise quarterback, and as a team picking just behind the Dolphins they are the prime candidate to trade up. They certainly have the ammo to trade up as well, as they hold the Atlanta Falcons' first-round pick (currently projected at No. 21) from last April's Julio Jones deal.

That being said, the Dolphins are probably at a good enough position at No. 7 to land a top-three or -four quarterback in the draft. I'd say at least two will go before their current spot and they do have to be worried about trade-ups, but the Dolphins can trade up too if they covet a guy enough and they will still have a shot at a few other nice prospects if they stay put.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the Dolphins respond in Buffalo in Week 15 coming off a pretty bad loss, potentially missing Jake Long at left tackle, and playing for an interim head coach with no prior experience at the position.

Here's hoping the Dolphins finish the remaining three games of the season on a down note and ensure that they can land a franchise quarterback next April so that we don't have to hope for any more losses any time soon.

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