Miami Dolphins Mock Draft: 5 Possible First-Round Picks

Robert MaloneContributor IIIApril 2, 2012

Miami Dolphins Mock Draft: 5 Possible First-Round Picks

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    The Miami Dolphins have been one of the worst drafting teams in the NFL over the past decade.  When you look at the Dolphins' past trends, the advertised potential picks, and the NFL’s recent draft history, there are some serious considerations to be aware of concerning the team's recent first-round choices.

    The Dolphins have traditionally done their heavy-lifting through trades and free agency. 

    Ricky Williams. Joey Porter. Karlos Dansby. Brandon Marshall.

    That’s what has made this team tick—but this offseason’s recent failures have fans clinging to the 2012 NFL draft, which would be a change of culture in Miami.

    Since 2002, Miami has drafted 74 players. Of those 74, only four have been to a Pro Bowl (Yeremiah Bell, Ronnie Brown, Jake Long, and Paul Soliai). In that 10-year time span, those four appearances are tied for the fourth-worst in the NFL along with Washington. The teams below Miami are Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Oakland, and Detroit (very bad company to be with).    

    Presently, the biggest issue plaguing Miami is what to do with their most important pick since 2008. The best options to address team needs are a reach at the eighth-overall spot, but drafting value won't make the Dolphins any more competitive next season.

    Regardless, let’s examine some of the options available to Miami.

Offensive Line

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    Between Riley Reiff and David DeCastro, the offensive line is being considered again, and, if the Dolphins draft another lineman in the first round, it’ll be the fourth time since 2004. 

    The justification? 

    It’s about laying a foundation. It’s about the next 10 years. It’s about giving their quarterbacks time to throw and their running backs room to run. These are the same things we heard when Vernon Carey, Jake Long, and Mike Pouncey were all drafted.

    It isn’t unheard of for a team to dedicate a bunch of first-round picks to the offensive line in a short time span. In the 90’s, Green Bay spent their ’94, ’96, and ’97 first-round picks on the o-line and afterwards went to two consecutive Super Bowls. Seattle even had some success with four first-round linemen in eight years. 

    It's a promising tactic. 

    The issue, however, is over investing in a low impact position. Seattle had success, but only two of those four linemen were part of the 2006 Super Bowl team. Then, following that year, their impact players ran dry—particularly Shaun Alexander. Suddenly, a great offensive line was useless and would eventually dissolve through age and free-agency.

    Another thing to look at is the offensive linemen from the 2011 playoff teams. Of the 60 offensive linemen starting a majority of the season, only 13 were first-round draft picks. 

    So while there is success to be had with this kind of buildup, there are other ways to mold that championship-contending foundation.

Quarterback

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    Losing out on Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, Alex Smith and Tim Tebow doesn’t sit well with most Dolphins fans, and many want that addressed in the draft.

    Unfortunately, that might leave the team force-picking Ryan Tannehill out Texas A&M—a move which a lot of mock drafts have gotten behind.

    Honestly, this idea feels worse than drafting another offensive lineman. At least with the lineman, Miami is getting a top-tier player. Tannehill would be a huge risk to waste an eighth pick on, especially when you consider the recent history of Big 12 quarterbacks. 

    Since 2006, four Big 12 quarterbacks have been taken in the first round of the draft (Blaine Gabbert, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman and Vince Young). Their overall numbers from college were great. They combined for an 83-36 record with a combined touchdown-to-interception ratio of 210/89. 

    In the NFL, those numbers are less impressive. They are a combined 60-71 with a ratio of 133/129, and the most impressive of the bunch at both the college and pro level (Vince Young) is now a backup. That's not even considering some of the quarterbacks that rightfully went in the later rounds.

    These numbers could be a sign of caution for Robert Griffin III, and Tannehill wasn't nearly as impressive at Texas A&M. His numbers were definitely worse than those of Bradford and Young. At best, he sits somewhere in between Gabbert and Freeman, and that’s not saying much. 

    Seriously, was Matt Moore so bad for Miami that the team would knowingly take this kind of risk?

Linebackers

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    Melvin Ingram. Luke Kuechly. Courtney Upshaw.  

    These are all names attached to Miami in the category of "other" possibilities out of a "needs" basis. Honestly, this is the most overrated need on the Dolphins' roster. The whole premise seems structured on Kevin Coyle changing the defense from a 3-4 to a hybrid 3-4.  

    The key term here is hybrid, which means the team will be using both schemes. They have a lot of pieces in place already for both and just need tweaks. 

    Karlos Dansby has shown since college an ability to play inside, outside, or in coverage, so it's his versatility providing the comfort here. It'll let Kevin Burnett stay in the middle without concern and, while Koa Misi is weak on the outside in a 3-4 scheme, he's not horrible enough to replace with a high draft pick when there are more important needs.  

    Besides, the first round isn't traditionally a popular place to find SEC linebackers, and, since that makes up most of Miami's options, it's very relevant.

    Only five SEC linebackers have been taken in the first round in the past 10 drafts, and, while Patrick Willis and Jerod Mayo are among the names, it just seems best to roll with the players already on the roster, in free-agency and in later rounds of the draft.  

    After all, with names like Dansby and Burnett, Miami has shown how useful a second-round linebacker can be.

Wide Receiver

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    If they plan on being competitive for years to come, they’ll need more than Brian Hartline and Davone Bess at receiver. Those two have been great beyond expectation, but they weren’t helping the team win games with Brandon Marshall, so it’s hard to imagine things improving without him.

    Michael Floyd is a big target at 6'2", and is known more for being aggressive. The bigger appeal, however, is the growth potential. Detroit got Calvin Johnson and then followed him up with Matthew Stafford. Indianapolis did the same years ago with Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning. Green Bay put Aaron Rodgers in a system with talented receivers already in place.  

    The Dolphins could go Floyd here, with Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson to come. Maybe they'll even consider Brandon Weeden later in the draft.

    Wide receivers have been hit-or-miss in the draft. There is no greater risk than this type of investment. However, recent years have been far kinder to this position, and many first-round receivers are making an immediate impact on their teams, particularly the bigger guys.

    Of the 10 first-round receivers taken since 2009, six have been to the playoffs as starters.  We’ve seen A.J. Green and Julio Jones make a difference in their rookie seasons.  Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant have also been huge impact players when healthy. 

    If Floyd can find a way to drop less touchdown passes than Marshall did last season, then Miami has already won with this pick.  

Defensive Back

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    By cutting Yeremiah Bell, there's a big void at strong safety for the Dolphins. While there are whispers he could return, Mark Barron is a strong (no pun intended) consideration here. He just had surgery to repair a hernia and hasn’t performed at the combine or a pro day, but the game tape shows off his skills as a ball-hawk (particularly in 2009).

    Obviously, a ball-hawk is more favorable at free safety, so the idea is to move Reshad Jones to strong safety and run Barron free. Jones was a strong, physical tackler at Georgia and struggled to make a relevant impression at free safety last season. This kind of change with a suitable substitute could make the difference for this defense.

    Obviously, the memory of Jason Allen will create serious resistance. However, in the last three years, the SEC has put out some quality first-round defensive backs. Patrick Peterson, Eric Berry, and Joe Haden have all been impact players for their teams, while Kareem Jackson is flashing potential with Houston

    Assuming Barron’s healthy, he’ll be an impact player in coverage for a defense that already applies great pressure up front.