Miami Dolphins: What Options Are Left at Quarterback?

Luke TaylorCorrespondent IIMarch 20, 2012

Miami Dolphins: What Options Are Left at Quarterback?

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    The offseason started with such promise didn’t it? Remember when the Miami Dolphins were favourites to sign Peyton Manning?

    How about when they were favourites to sign Matt Flynn if they failed to woo Manning?

    Well, Manning chose Denver over Miami. In the Dolphins’ defense, there was nothing they could do to sign him; he preferred other options.

    Matt Flynn seemed like Plan B, but he chose Seattle over South Beach. Strange? Yes, but Dolphins’ head coach Joe Philbin knew all there was to know about Flynn. If he didn’t want to pay the money for Flynn, there must have been a reason.

    So Miami missed out on the two big prizes for whatever reason, and a visit from Alex Smith came to nothing too. The result?

    David Garrard signs a one-year deal to join the Dolphins and challenge Matt Moore for the starting spot.

    Hardly the Phins making a splash in free agency, was it?

    However, it’s clear that even with the signing of Garrard, nothing changes for Miami. They will obtain a young quarterback at some point this offseason, most likely through the draft.

    Here’s a breakdown of potential options in the draft for Miami (with a couple of young NFL quarterbacks thrown into the mix too).

Ryan Tannehill, 1st Round Draft Pick

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    New offensive coordinator Mike Sherman coached Tannehill at Texas A&M and should be able to give Miami the inside scoop on his former quarterback.

    As a former wide receiver in college, his athleticism is off the charts. Tall and quick, with excellent intangibles, he is a viable option with Miami’s first-round draft pick.

    However, despite throwing 42 touchdowns and for over 5,400 yards in college, he only started 19 games at quarterback. As a result, he is very raw as a prospect and not ready to start in the NFL right away (perhaps Garrard or Moore could start until he is ready though).

    Tannehill is accurate with a big arm. He can throw well on the run and make plays with his feet. His footwork is solid as he played both in the shotgun and from under center.

    His inexperience is a hindrance though, as he needs to improve reading coverage to succeed in the NFL where he can not just stare down receivers. He will need time to adjust to the NFL before he can play and, as a result, Miami could be staring at another couple of years of mediocrity if he is their next franchise quarterback.

    Tannehill has the tools to succeed and the Dolphins should be interested in him. But Cleveland also has the potential to scupper their plans. The Browns are also looking for a new quarterback and pick four spots ahead of Miami.

    To be certain they sign Tannehill, Miami would need to trade up above Cleveland. But that would come at a steep price and is a risky move considering he is by no means the finished article.

    If he falls to eight, Miami will pick him. If not, then they can not give away picks to move up and draft him. He could be a franchise quarterback, but it is by no means a certainty. And with all due respect, he is not worth the third pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Brandon Weeden, 1st-2nd Round Draft Pick

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    Why would they draft him, you say? He’s old…

    Well, perhaps because he’s the best pure passer in the draft not named Andrew Luck. If his age is the best criticism you have, then I'm happy with Weeden.

    Weeden is a proven winner (taking Oklahoma State to a 11-1 record while beating Luck’s Stanford in a bowl game) who can make every throw in the NFL. He is an excellent pocket passer, very accurate and can throw a touch pass (how Miami have missed them).

    The former Cowboy has good size, is very tough, and can take a hit. He is a leader and earned the respect of his team. His decision making is, on the whole, very good and he has a great release.

    While his footwork could use some work and he does occasionally trust his arm a little too much, Weeden has all the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback soon. He played mainly out of the shotgun and would fit a West Coast offense like the one Miami will run next year.

    But he’s old right? At 28 years old, he is an aging rookie, that can’t be questioned. However, that means that his draft grade is lower than it should be. Weeden has the talent to be a first-round pick. His age drops him into the second round.

    Considering his tools translate well to the NFL, he would be well worth a second-round pick or even a late first-rounder should the Dolphins trade back.

    Whoever drafts Weeden will get at least six or seven good years from the quarterback. He is not as big a risk as other options like Tannehill, but his age is holding him back. It shouldn’t.

    Weeden has the talent to be an elite quarterback in the NFL if all goes to plan; this is much more important than the fact he might have six years less in the league than other less-talented quarterbacks in his draft class.

Brock Osweiler, 2nd Round Draft Pick

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    Raw, but talented, Arizona State’s Osweiler is a good prospect for teams who want to develop a quarterback. He has a huge arm, is accurate, stands 6' 7" tall, and is surprising athletic for a big man. But he has only started 15 games in college.

    His incredible arm strength will appeal to teams as will his accuracy and quick release too. His height will help him read the field as he can see over NFL lines and will prevent teams from batting down his passes at the line of scrimmage.

    There are some drawbacks to his talent that need improvement. Osweiler has a tendency to stare down receivers and didn’t play under center much in college. He could do with a couple of years as a backup to refine his skills and improve the mental side of his game. But he is a real prospect with a second-round pick.

    As a team captain and a tough leader, he has the intangibles needed to succeed in the NFL. He has huge potential with the right coaching. Miami might like what they see in Osweiler, but whether they have the time needed to develop him is another question.

    Osweiler should not be rushed into the NFL as he would benefit from backing up an established name for at least a couple of years, The Dolphins might not be able to give him this, so should consider carefully whether they want to risk selecting him and rushing his development, particularly considering their fans are hardly the most patient in the league.

Kirk Cousins, 2nd-3rd Round Draft Pick

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    Tough, intelligent, and a leader, Cousins also has the athletic tools to be a starter in the NFL. While his athleticism is not elite, he certainly has enough to be a solid quarterback in the league. With a bit of time to sit and learn an offense, he could shine.

    He is not as raw a prospect as either Tannehill or Osweiler, but Cousins doesn’t have as big an arm as either prospect. That being said, he is an accurate passer and can throw a good deep ball.

    He is more NFL ready than most prospects as he ran a pro-style offense at Michigan State and he is comfortable under center. His has good size for a quarterback and he goes through his reads when looking for an open receiver.

    While his footwork requires improvement and his mechanics could be altered to improve his arm strength, there is a lot of potential to work with. If good coaching can improve these aspects of his game, then there is no reason why he can’t start in the NFL in the next couple of years.

    Cousins would be a second or third round pick and should Miami miss on Tannehill or Weeden, could be the best option available considering the Dolphins want to win as soon as possible.

Nick Foles, 3rd-4th Round Draft Pick

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    Would you be put off of Foles if I said he compared to Chad Henne? (I thought so).

    He transferred to Arizona after Cousins beat him out at Michigan State. While he is a solid player, he perhaps lacks the ability to become an elite quarterback.

    He has good size, arm strength, and pocket presence, but none of these traits are great. He does throw well on the move though (still sounding like Henne?).

    Foles might have the upper hand on Henne though in the mental aspect of the game. He can read a defense and make quick decisions, but threw a lot of checkdowns at college (Henne?). His 33 college interceptions will be a concern too.

    He would need to learn a pro-style offense and never enjoyed much success at college, so he is not experienced in winning (15-18 record). He is a good leader though, and a very tough player. While he makes quick reads, he needs to have his mechanics refined and he needs to feel pressure better. He could become a serviceable starter in the NFL.

    Will he be elite? That much is unclear, but there are certainly other prospects with more potential. If Miami miss on all their early round targets, Foles could be available in the fourth round and could be worth a punt then. Any higher could be a reach.

    Fans won’t like the Henne comparisons though. That would go against Foles from the start and it would be cruel of the front office to put him in that situation from the off.

Late Round Prospects

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    Could Miami go for a late-round prospect? Potential targets are:

    Ryan Lindley

    The knock on Lindley is his accuracy is inconsistent and he is not the most mobile quarterback. Lindley has a good arm, with good size and can read a defense, but his accuracy will hurt him. That is a major trait needed to be a quarterback in a West Coast offense, so he likely isn’t a fit in Miami.

    Case Keenum

    A record breaker at University of Houston, he is undersized and has a weak arm. He is accurate and makes good decisions, but ultimately will struggle to make the transition to the NFL due to his physical limitations.

    Kellen Moore

    Another record breaker in college, who is very intelligent and accurate. However, his physical limitations will again likely prevent him from making a successful NFL transition. His arm is not strong, he has no pro-style offense experience and he is only 5-10 tall, so won’t be able to see past NFL lineman.

    Russell Wilson

    A dual-threat quarterback with great athleticism, a good arm, and leadership qualities. He is just 5'11" and weighs around 200 pounds though. Can anyone say Pat White?

Trade for Tim Tebow

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    You knew this slide was coming didn’t you?

    First things first, I love Tim Tebow. He is a leader, a winner and a great person. One thing he is not though, is a West Coast offense quarterback.

    He will put fans in seats, but he is everything Joe Philbin doesn’t need in a quarterback. The West Coast offense needs accuracy and quick decisions; neither is Tebow’s forte.

    If you are trading for Tebow, it’s a fourth round pick at the very maximum as Tebow would only be used in gimmick offensive plays or as a H-Back. He’ll put fans in seats regardless.

    Unfortunately, he doesn’t fit the Dolphins. But with Stephen Ross desperate to sell more tickets, who knows what will happen. It’s difficult to see Philbin tailoring his offense (which was very successful in Green Bay if you didn’t notice) around Tebow though, so expect Miami to pass on Tebowmania.

Trade for Ryan Mallett

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    Let’s get one thing straight—this man’s name is only on the list because some fans insist on mentioning him on message boards across the internet.

    Putting aside the fact that Miami didn’t believe he was worth selecting last year and likely won’t have changed their mind in the last 12 months considering Mallett hasn’t even seen the field in New England, why would the Dolphins go for him?

    He is very tall with a huge arm. If that was all that is required of an NFL quarterback then the Dolphins should make the trade.

    Unfortunately, an NFL quarterback needs to be intelligent, accurate and should be able to outrun a nose tackle. I’m uncertain that Mallett has any of those intangibles.

    Mallett does not fit a West Coast offense and he is not worth trading for. I hoped that any talk about him joining the Dolphins would subside after Miami ignored him no less than three times and also traded up for a running back ahead of him in the 2011 Draft; sadly I was wrong.

    Now let’s put this Ryan Mallett to Miami talk to bed please. He is not Dan Marino.

Another Acorn?

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    Jeff Ireland’s favourite!

    An established quarterback is replaced and cut by a rival, and Miami snatch him up before he leads them to the playoffs. It worked with Chad Pennington after all.

    It is, however, unlikely to happen again. There might be some serviceable signal callers on the market later on in the year, but will any be better than Matt Moore?

    Considering only Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn were considered upgrades in free agency, this scenario is unlikely…

    Although, David Garrard could be that acorn I suppose… Or not.

    Short of Drew Brees throwing a tantrum of volcanic proportions, and ending up on the trade block, it’s safe to say Miami’s quarterbacks will be Moore, Garrard or Devlin, and a rookie.

    Let’s hope that rookie turns out to be a franchise quarterback.