Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dolphins draft for need on day two, for value on day three

After taking quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first round of the draft, many of us expected offensive line and defensive end to be among the team's top priorities on day two.

The Dolphins certainly did not disappoint, as they took Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin in the second round with the 42nd overall pick. They followed that with defensive end Olivier Vernon from the University of Miami and then traded down from No. 73 to No. 78, where they selected dynamic Missouri tight end Michael Egnew.

After not taking a single Miami Hurricanes player since Vernon Carey in 2004 coming into this year's draft, the Dolphins took one in back-to-back rounds this weekend as Vernon was followed by running back Lamar Miller in the fourth round.

Before the third and final day of the draft was in the books, the Dolphins would also add Oregon linebacker Josh Kaddu in the fifth round; Michigan State wide receiver B. J. Cunningham in the sixth round; and Texas defensive tackle Kheeston Randall and Nevade wideout Rishard Matthews in the seventh round.

Once signed, these nine draft picks will join the 64 players already under contract with the Dolphins, as well as a handful of undrafted rookie free agents, on the Dolphins' 90-man offseason roster.


OT Jonathan Martin

Martin turned down the opportunity to go to Harvard (as three generations in his family had before him) to play football at Stanford, where he protected the blind side of No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck. Earning first-team all-conference honors each of the past two seasons, Martin started 37 of 39 career games on the blind side.

Considered by some to be a potential first-round pick, the consensus on Martin seems to be that he lacks ideal power. However, his experience in a zone-blocking scheme and a pro-style offense should help his transition to the Dolphins' new offense and he seems to be a solid right tackle prospect.

Although the Dolphins signed veteran journeyman Artis Hicks and some fans remain high on Lydon Murtha, I have to believe Martin is going to get every chance to earn the starting right tackle job as a rookie. I do not for one second believe the Dolphins would consider parting with Jake Long and keeping Martin at left tackle, as has been suggested by a member of the local media.


DE Olivier Vernon

A Miami native, Vernon was ranked as a top 10-15 defensive end coming out of American High School. After a six-sack season as a junior at the University of Miami, Vernon was suspended the first six games of the 2011 season for taking improper benefits from former Canes' booster Nevin Shapiro. He opted to enter the NFL Draft following his junior season, finishing his career with 82 tackles and nine sacks in 30 games.

Vernon is a bit of a project, as he never really lived up to his potential in college and his best tape came as a sophomore in 2010. However, he's a tough, physical hitter with natural pass-rush ability and the physical tools to grow into a productive player.

The Dolphins figure to go with a rotation at defensive end opposite Cameron Wake this season, including free-agent addition Jamaal Westerman. While I wouldn't expect Vernon to start uncontested as a rookie, he should figure into a situational role early on.


TE Michael Egnew

A high school wide receiver, Egnew played sparingly during his first two seasons at Missouri after converting to tight end. He broke out with a career year in 2010, catching 90 passes for 762 yards and five touchdowns as one of Blaine Gabbert's favorite targets. While his numbers fell to just 50 catches and 523 yards as a senior in 2011, he did post a career-best 10.5 yards per catch.

Egnew is certainly one of the new-age tight ends, as he offers little as a blocker but combined good size (6-5, 252) with elite speed for the position. While Mizzou has a poor track record of pro tight ends, Egnew certainly has the appeal of an Aaron Hernandez-type that could develop as a seam threat.


RB Lamar Miller

After leading Dade County in rushing as Miami Killian Senior High School senior with 1,749 yards and 22 touchdowns, Miller redshirted his first season with the Hurricanes in 2009. As a redshirt freshman, led the team with six rushing touchdowns and totaled 646 yards. Miller became the Canes' feature back in 2011, earning second-team All-ACC honors with 1,272 yards—the third-highest rushing total in school history.

While many of us were expecting a receiver here, Miller represented a good value as a consensus second- or third-round talent. Not only does Miller have little wear and tear with only one year of starting, but he also posted impressive acceleration to the hole and good vision.

A poor man's Darren McFadden, Miller joins a crowded Miami backfield but could end up pushing Steve Slaton off the roster entirely but likely would focus on special teams as a rookie. However, if Reggie Bush walks in free agency next ofseason, Miller could be the lightning to Daniel Thomas' thunder in a two-back offense.


WR B. J. Cunningham

After totaling 1,780 receiving yards during his first three seasons with the Spartans, Cunningham nearly doubled that number as a senior with a career-high 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns as the eventual team MVP as voted by his teammates. He leaves Michigan State as the school's all-time leader in receptions (218) and receiving yards (3,086) while also ranks second in touchdown receptions (25).

It took a little longer than expected, but the Dolphins did draft a receiver and they certainly found one with an impressive track record. Cunningham isn't a good athlete and doesn't have great burst, but he normally has solid hands. He's a guy that will have to make his mark on special teams initially, but is also someone that could develop into a rotational receiver.


DT Kheeston Randall

The No. 3 defensive tackle prospect in the state of Texas, Randall appeared in eight games as a true freshman with the Longhorns in 2008. He went on to start 35 of his last 39 games for the team, finishing his career with 98 tackles (21 for a loss) and four sacks on his way to a second-team All-Big 12 selection.

Randall is regarded as a good student and active member of the community off the field and as an impact nose tackle on it. At 6-foot-5 and 293 pounds, I'm not sure he has the bulk for that position in the pros, but he should fit in nicely at defensive tackle in Miami's new 4-3 scheme. He'll be buried on the depth chart, however, and may need a good camp to crack the active roster as a rookie.


WR Rishard Matthews

After transferring from Bakersfield (Calif.) College, Matthews posted two impressive seasons for the Wolfpack with 879 yards and five touchdowns in 2010 and 1,364 yards and eight touchdowns during his senior season.

A good natural athlete, Matthews is still a work-in-progress as a receiver and needs to improve his technique and route-running before contributing at the pro level. He's probably a long shot to make the active roster out of camp unless he makes an impact on special teams, but he's a logical practice squad choice.

Be sure to check out the updated projected depth chart including all these draft picks here!


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