Thursday, June 16, 2011

KD's NFL Draft Grades - Miami Dolphins

My beloved Miami Dolphins had the 15th pick in the Draft, so forgive me if I embellish a little here. I'd like to feel a little more confident in Miami going into 2011 as they finished with the 6th ranked defense and beat the Super Bowl Champs in Lambeau Field. However, Miami was 30th in the NFL in points scored last year, and parted ways with the ancient Dan Henning at offensive coordinator. They responded by hiring Brian Daboll from Cleveland, who fielded one of only two offense that scored less than Miami last year. Great. Miami's the 3rd youngest team in the league and has a lot of talent, but a deteriorating running game and subpar play from Chad Henne kept them from making a playoff run. They selected Florida C Mike Pouncey to fill the void there, but had things shaken out a little differently on Draft night, he wouldn't have been the pick. Here's why.

1st round, 15th overall) Mike Pouncey - C - Florida
On my Dolphins forum on Draft night we learned that Miami's draft board for the first round went in order as follows: Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Robert Quinn, and they graded Mike Pouncey and Gabe Carimi the same. All I have to say is yikes, and thanks to the Titans and Vikings for keeping Miami away from one of the quarterbacks as I feel like they'd be destined to fail in Miami. Miami suffered through long bouts of bad play in the middle last year from C Joe Berger. Reserve Cory Proctor broke his leg minutes into his first start against Chicago and things went downhill from there as Miami list 4 of its last 6 games. Enter Mike Pouncey to fix things.

How he fits in: Pouncey will be given every opportunity to be the starting C right off the bat, and I'm perfectly fine with that. His younger twin brother, Maurkice, left early and if not for Ndamukong Suh would've been the best rookie in the league last year for the Steelers. Mike joins fellow first rounders Vernon Carey, one of the few survivors from the dreaded Dave Wannstedt era draft of 2004, and Jake Long, who'll be named the top lineman in the NFL this weekend on NFL Networks Top 100 players, falling somewhere between 21st - 30th overall; congrats Jake! Miami will have to add a free agent guard to start opposite Richie Incognito or John Jerry, with Pouncey in the middle. Mike's not quite as technically sound as his twin Maurkice was, but he's still a good player, but has only one year of experience at C. He brings good size at 6'5" and 303lbs, and is excellent in space, an attribute that will be helpful as Daboll will use zone schemes in the running game.

Outlook: Overall, I love the Pouncey pick, as I wanted either him or Alabama's Mark Ingram if Miami was unable to trade down. I think he'll fit in nicely as a C, and in a worse-case scenario, they can play him at guard and move Richie Incognito to C. So, that's a fallback scenario I'm okay with. It stings slightly that they didn't take a chance on Ryan Mallett here, but idiotic owner Stephen Ross, in one of the few moves of his I've actually liked, has basically laid it out that if Miami doesn't make the playoffs this year, Tony Sparano is a goner. GM Jeff Ireland might be safe, and next year's QB crop could be the best one since the 1983 class if certain players declare; so I'm glad he saved some picks and didn't trade up for Locker or Ponder. Pouncey made their Draft for me.

2nd round, 62nd overall) Daniel Thomas - RB - Kansas State
After a run on running backs in round 2, Jeff Ireland made a move back up into the 2nd round to acquire Thomas. Miami didn't have a 2nd round pick due to the Brandon Marshall trade in 2010, so they gave up a 3rd, a 5th, and a 7th round pick to Washington to move back up. Thomas is a big back at 6'0" 230lbs and has sweet feet for a big back to go along with his stellar vision. However, he's not fast, and goes down more easily than a big back should. A former JUCO QB, Thomas only has two years experience as a running back, but we saw what Brian Daboll did with Peyton Hillis in Cleveland last year. I like the pick, but Miami could've waited until the 3rd round and still got a quality back. They also options in free agency and have been linked to DeAngelo Williams (who I think ends up in Denver reuniting with John Fox) and Ahmad Bradshaw, who wouldn't be a free agent if the CBA reverts back to the 2010 league rules. Personally, I'd prefer Bradshaw as he's more of a homerun hitter and can do some more things than Thomas will be able to initially.

4th round, 111th overall) Edmond Gates - WR - Abilene Christian
One of the most glaring weaknesses on Miami's offense last year was that while they're big and physical, they're very slow. Brandon Marshall is fine as a #1 option, but he doesn't have elite speed. Brian Hartline is their fastest guy, but he ended up on IR to close out the year. Davone Bess is an outstanding slot guy and can play outside, but like Marshall, doesn't have elite speed. Undrafted rookies Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace didn't add much. Enter Gates, who was the fastest receiver at the Combine running a 4.37 40. He comes from Abilene Christian, and dominated at that level hauling in 66 passes for 1,182 yards, good for a 17.9 ypc, and 13 TDs. However, he got by on physical talent and being the fastest player on the field at that level. He's 5'11" 193lbs and is pretty similar to Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace, though he's not quite that fast. He should give Miami a shot in the arm as a #4 receiver and kick returner, but he'll have to take his time learning the route tree at the NFL level. Fortunately for Miami, they won't need him to do much more than run fast as a rookie.

6th round, 174th overall) Charles Clay - TE - Tulsa
Miami needed a second TE to compliment Anthony Fasano, whose a fantastic all-around player, but isn't a downfield threat as a receiver. Clay's 6'3" 245lbs and played FB, QB, WR, and TE for the Golden Hurricane. He's a jack of all trades, master of none. During his career he had 179 carries for 911 yards and 10 TDs and caught 176 passes for 2,225 yards and 21 TDs. He's very versatile, but isn't a great blocker as a TE, and didn't do enough in-line blocking as a FB. It'll be interesting to see how they use Clay, but I had to ask, why not take a chance on Virgil Green at this juncture?

7th round, 231st overall) Frank Kearse - NT - Alabama A&M
Miami GM Jeff Ireland's found a few late round and undrafted gems in RB Lex Hilliard, WR Davone Bess, and K Dan Carpenter, but more often than not, his late round picks are throwaways, and that's how I feel here. Miami's defense has some budding stars in NT Paul Soliai, DE Kendall Langford, OLB Cameron Wake, and CBs Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Karlos Dansby's well established, and 2010 rookie Koa Misi did a pretty solid job, however, Miami could've really used a 3rd OLB for pass-rushing situations, and with several guys on the board, they passed and opted for a backup NT. Paul Soliai became the richest defensive player in the history of the Dolphins this offseason, which is saying something as they've had some studes throughout the past 15 years. He won't be going anywhere, and has absolutely abused Nick Mangold, the league's best C in 3 straight games against the Jets. Kearse comes from the SWAC and is the first player drafted from the entire conference since 2004. He's 6'4" and 315lbs and was looked at by a few teams, namely Pittsburgh and New England, so I'll trust Miami taking a chance on him. However, Miami already has Chris Baker, a pet project of Mike Nolan from Denver, ahead of him on the roster, and I think Kearse is destined for the practice squad.

7th round, 235th overall) Jimmy Wilson - CB/S - Montana
Late round picks rarely have stories as interesting as Jimmy Wilson, who spent two years in jail on trial for murder after playing three seasons at CB for the Montana Grizzlies. Wilson got into an argument with his aunt's boyfriend, who was drunk at the time and pulled a rifle on Wilson. Wilson and the boyfriend got into a physical altercation and the gun went off, killing the boyfriend. The New York Times covers the aftermath significantly better than I can, so I'll let you read the story on your own time. Wilson also got into trouble while at Montana for biting his girlfiend in the leg, and was suspsended for a game in 2010. At this time, I'd just like to find it ironic that Miami questioned Dez Bryant about his mother's prostitution and Ryan Mallett's off field activities and removed both from their draft boards, yet they take a chance on Jimmy Wilson. Go figure. Wilson played CB for three seasons and came back as a S after two years in prison. He's undersized for an NFL S at 5'11" 185lbs, but is a fierce hitter and Ireland says he'll start there and have to make a mark on special teams to stick.

Overall Grade: B-
Mike Pouncey and Daniel Thomas really make the draft for Miami. The Dolphins needed significant help in the middle of their O-line, and they got it in Mike Pouncey. If they add a mobile LG (they tried to trade for New England's Logan Mankins last year when he came back from his holdout, so keep an eye on that move if he leaves New England, which is doubtful), they're O-line could be really good. Thomas should be the starter, and if they're successful in luring a talented free agent RB in, they'll have a a nice backfield. Gates will add some speed and will help open things up for Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, and Davone Bess, but he's got a lot to learn before he can make a significant contribution to the offense. Clay is a mystery man for now, and I still contend Virgil Green would've helped them more. Kearse and Wilson were throwaway picks and Miami could've used help at OLB and S, and there were plenty of picks still on the board at those spots at the time. However, I believe that Miami filled some big needs, and they managed to keep all their picks for next year. I think Brian Daboll's passing scheme, which he learned in New England, that empasizes quick throws could, and I'm purposefully emphasizing could here, help out Chad Henne some. However, if he doesn't take the next step, both Henne and Tony Sparano will both be gone in 2012. And I like the fact Jeff Ireland stuck to his guns and kept his picks as they'll have a full arsenal to use to trade up for a QB if needed. If you haven't figured it out by now, I love Andrew Luck and I'd be fine with Miami giving up a slew of picks to get him in 2012, but that's a long way off for now. Overall, Pouncey and Thomas will make this class and whatever Gates and Clay add to it will be a nice bonus.

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