It is hard to preach patience to a fan base that hasn’t seen a Super Bowl championship in over forty years and has been an utter disaster for almost a decade but patience is what this fan base needs to embrace. The Dolphins were ready to gear up for a title run but they lost out in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes and once they realized Peyton was not coming to Miami they went to “Plan B” which was to rebuild. This was evident when the team traded away its best offensive player, Brandon Marshall, for a pair of third round draft picks. The team also parted ways with one their defensive leaders when they released safety Yeremiah Bell just a week after they promised him he were safe. Instead of being major players in free agency the Dolphins signed the likes of QB David Garrard, OL Artis Hicks, LB Jamaal Westerman, LB Gary Guyton, and S-Tyrell Johnson. I think we can all agree that this wasn’t the “splash” in free agency that we were looking for. All of these things lend me to believe that if the Dolphins were to land Peyton Manning they were poised to make a major run and after losing the “Manning Sweepstakes” they decided to start over.
The Dolphins’ free agency lacked that key signing that we were all looking for but the Dolphins were able to make their splash at the 2012 NFL Draft. In round one the Miami Dolphins selected quarterback, Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M with the 8th pick of the draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper was the first to criticize the selection saying it was “unheard of” for a quarterback with only 19 collegiate starts to be selected so high. Well Mel Kiper is an opinionated guy and that is what he gets paid to be but in this case he is severely wrong. The Dolphins have been riddled and baffled in their attempt to find a successor for Dan Marino. The search for a franchise quarterback in Miami has been ongoing for well over a decade and drafting a quarterback in the first round of the draft is the way to address the issue. Sure Tannehill is raw at the position and needs some work but lucky for him the national spotlight will be on the likes of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III so Tannehill can grab a clipboard and learn the game. Another thing Tannehill has going in his favor is that the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman was Tannehill’s head coach at College Station. From a skills standpoint Ryan Tannehill has elite skills which features above average arm strength, ideal size, elite athleticism, and the ability to throw on the run that is unparalleled by any prospect in this draft. The naysayers will point to the interceptions that Tannehill threw in clutch situations which are a valid concern but let’s not forget that the kid didn’t have much to work with at A&M. No team dropped more balls than the A&M receivers who dropped a total of 60 balls in 2011. The Dolphins could not afford to let another franchise quarterback pass them by and Tannehill is going to prove any doubters wrong and should end the Dolphins long term search for a successor to Dan Marino.
In round two the Dolphins selected Stanford’s offensive tackle, Jonathan Martin with the 42nd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. You talk about getting good value; Martin was projected as a top ten pick in every mock draft across the country just a month prior to the draft. Martin was the man who protected the blind-side of Andrew Luck during his tenure at Stanford and to say he did a good job would be a real understatement. The knock on Martin is that he is a “finesse” offensive tackle and what I take from that is that he has exceptional technique but like a lot of rookies needs to spend more time in the weight-room. The Dolphins biggest weakness in the 2011 season was right tackle Marc Colombo and the Dolphins upgraded the position in a significant way. Martin is an athletic tackle with natural bend and great feet which makes him suited to play on either the right or left side of the offensive line. The Dolphins’ offensive line is young group but make no mistake about it they will be a force to reckon with as Jake Long, Mike Pouncey, and now Jonathan Martin give them some serious talent.
The Dolphins had two picks in the third round of the NFL draft and they used them to add a play-maker to each side of the ball. Their first selection of round three was the explosive pass-rusher from Miami Olivier Vernon. Vernon has the look and burst that teams seek when searching for a pass rusher but for some reason it hasn’t translated from a production standpoint. Hopefully playing Vernon in space and utilizing his strengths will equate to a more productive NFL career. The thing that goes unnoticed in Vernon’s game is the fact that he is an awesome run defender. Vernon has an impressive combination of athleticism and size but needs to be molded. Playing with Cameron Wake who is the one of the best pass-rushers in the league might help a great deal. When I watch Olivier Vernon on tape I see an explosive player with a great first step who has potential to be a lethal pass-rusher at the next level. With their second selection in the third round the Miami Dolphins took Missouri tight end Michael Egnew. Egnew had a very productive junior campaign catching passes from Blaine Gabbert but his production fell a bit in 2011 but a good portion of that can be attributed to poor quarterback play. Egnew has great size and athleticism and is quicker than fast. Egnew has good hands and is a good natural pass catcher with the ability to separate from defenders. Dolphins’ fans should be excited about the combination of Egnew and Charles Clay in the future.
The Dolphins absolutely struck gold in round for when they selected Lamar Miller from the University of Miami. I had running-back as a need for the Dolphins as I figured Reggie Bush and Steve Slaton were on one year deals and last years’ second round selection Daniel Thomas didn’t show anything to make you think he was capable of carrying the load yet. Lamar Miller reminds me of Chris Johnson as he is a one cut and go runner with game changing speed. Miller is a tougher runner than given credit for and has a second gear that will leave defenders in the dust. There are some concerns regarding his shoulder but Miller says he will be ready and I have a feeling he will come to camp with a chip on his shoulder consider he fell to the fourth round.
In round 5 the Miami Dolphins drafted Oregon linebacker, Josh Kaddu. I watched tape on Kaddu and when you watch him he comes off as the most explosive guy on the field that is always around the football. The thing I like about Kaddu is that I see him as scheme versatile with the ability to play in a 34 or 43 defense. Kaddu will start off as a rotational player but will eventually start in some capacity.
In round six the Dolphins drafted the very productive Michigan State receiver, BJ Cunningham. Cunningham caught 79 passes for over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior season. Cunningham does a great job of tracking the football and possesses great body control. He is not going to blow the roof off the stadium with his speed but Cunningham has the tools to be a very productive receiver in the new Miami attacking style of offense.
The Dolphins had two picks in round 7 and again they took the best player on the board with both of those picks. With their first selection of round seven the Dolphins selected Texas’ Kheeston Randall. Randall instantly enters the defensive line rotation and is another player who is scheme versatile. The best part of Randall’s game is his strength which allows him to dispose of blockers and get to the football. The second selection for the Dolphins in round seven was Nevada wide receiver Rishard Matthews. Matthews is a tough and physical receiver who can create yards after the catch. Matthews possesses great hands and was very productive at Nevada. Dolphins’ general manager, Jeff Ireland, hit a major home-run when it came to the draft as the Dolphins were able to land impact player that will change the direction of this franchise.
Carrying on with the positive momentum the Dolphins recently reached a 6 year contract extension with Cameron Wake who is among the league’s best pass rushers. After the 2012 NFL season the Dolphins’ will be $70 million under the projected salary cap but have to resign Randy Starks, Reggie Bush, Sean Smith, and of course Jake Long. I would suspect after locking up this group of players the Dolphins will still have roughly $50 million in cap space which should really give them something to work with. The future is very bright in Miami given everything I mentioned above but what does that say about the 2012 season? The Dolphins have major holes at positions such as wide receiver and safety and are likely to have a rookie starting at quarterback. I’d expect the Dolphins to be in the seven wins range which gives them a lot of to build off of with a ton of salary cap space and another draft class heading into the 2013 NFL season. It would be foolish to expect the Dolphins to be Super-Bowl bound in 2012 but they are putting themselves in a strong position to make a run in the next couple of years. Below you will find my projected 2012 Miami Dolphins’ roster…….
QB-Matt Moore/ David Garrard/Ryan Tannehill
RB: Reggie Bush/ Daniel Thomas/Lamar Miller
FB: Jonas Gray
TE: Anthony Fasano/Charles Clay/Michael Egnew/ Jeron Mustrad
WR: Davone Bess/Clyde Gates/ Rishard Matthews
WR: Brian Hartline/ Jeff Fuller/ BJ Cunningham
LT: Jake Long
LG: Richie Incognito/Nate Garner
C: Mike Pouncey/ Ryan Cook
RG: Artis Hicks/ John Jerry
RT: Jonathan Martin/Lydon Murtha
DE: Jared Odrick/ Tony McDaniel
NT: Paul Soliai/ Ryan Baker
DE: Randy Starks/ Kheeston Randall
OLB: Cameron Wake/ Jamaal Westerman
OLB: Koa Misi/ Olivier Vernon/ Jason Trusnick
ILB: Karlos Dansby/ Kevin Burnett/ Gary Guyton/ Austin Spitler
CB: Vontae Davis/ Nolan Carroll
CB: Sean Smith/ Richard Marshall
S: Reshad Jones/ Tyrell Johnson
S: Jimmy Wilson/ Tyrone Culver/ Chris Clemons