Underfire GM Jeff Ireland Takes Charge of Miami's Draft
In a few days the waiting will all be over.
The NFL draft is just a day away, and as a result, it’s time for final predictions and mock drafts, while teams put out misinformation and smokescreens.
The Dolphins are one of the teams under the most intense media spotlight as they search for their new franchise quarterback, but there are other areas of need, too.
A pass-rusher who can play defensive end or outside linebacker is arguably their biggest need after the retirement of the great Jason Taylor, and it is even more of a need as Cam Wake enters the final year of his contract.
In addition, the new West Coast offense will require new, more athletic offensive linemen and new receivers after the trade of Brandon Marshall. Tight end could be considered an area to strengthen as well, with just Anthony Fasano a proven commodity at the position.
Further depth is required on the defensive line and in the secondary, while there might also be additions at linebacker.
The Dolphins have a full complement of draft picks and an additional pick in the third round courtesy of the Chicago Bears’ trade for Marshall. In the sixth round, Miami swapped picks with the New Orleans Saints in the Reggie Bush trade.
Who will Miami target? Who should Miami target? These are the questions every fan is asking.
These are my predictions for the Dolphins’ 2012 draft selections, followed by alternative options for each round and a few potential undrafted gems that should be targeted.
The Dolphins' Next Franchise Quarterback?
Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Matt Kalil will be off the board, and the same is likely for Trent Richardson, Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon (possibly in that order).
Therefore, Miami will be in a position to draft either Melvin Ingram, Quinton Coples, Fletcher Cox, or Ryan Tannehill, although the Jacksonville Jaguars may take one of the defensive talents with the seventh pick.
How does Miami feel about Tannehill? This depends on Mike Sherman’s report; he knows more about the quarterback than anyone else in the NFL, having coached him in college. If he believes the former Texas A&M man has what it takes to lead Miami to glory in a few years time, then Tannehill should, and likely will, be the pick.
If not, then the Dolphins need to take the best player available, and while Melvin Ingram may be that man, his limited size (6'2") and short arms make him a risky pick for Miami in their defensive scheme.
It’s impossible to discount dominant defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, but the re-signing of Paul Soliai doesn’t make this an immediate need, and Miami would be better served drafting to this need later to add depth on the line.
Therefore, I expect Ryan Tannehill or Quinton Coples to be the pick. It’s hard to see a situation where a team trades up for any player left on the board unless a player unexpectedly falls.
Coples is a physical beast, but his work ethic concerns me. He coasted through parts of his college career, and once he gets paid, it’s possible he could do the same in the NFL. That may be too big a risk considering his character.
Tannehill, however, is also a risk. He would need to sit behind a veteran and develop before he takes the field in the NFL, but his footwork and accuracy are excellent, and his knowledge of the West Coast offense makes him a great fit in Miami.
He might be more worthy of a mid-first-round pick, but quarterbacks are historically overdrafted, and there is no reason to risk missing out on Tannehill if they like him; it all depends on Mike Sherman’s feedback.
Short of a trade down for Brandon Weeden or a pass-rusher like Nick Perry, I just cannot see any real options outside of Tannehill.
Investing another first-round pick in an offensive lineman like David DeCastro would make the unit outstanding, but putting yet more money into the line is unwise considering the other gaps on the roster and the tight salary cap Miami faces.
Luke Kuechly is the dark horse as arguably the best player available, but would Miami draft an inside linebacker at eighth overall? It seems unlikely, although Kuechly would immediately be a fan favorite and is elite at his position like DeCastro.
However, it seems likely Miami fans could get the quarterback they crave. Tannehill’s knowledge of Sherman’s offense will help his NFL transition, and he has the good footwork, accuracy and athleticism required to be a top NFL quarterback with the right development—something he could also get in Miami.
That being said, I could easily see Miami trading this pick or adding the best player available, so while Tannehill makes sense, it’s not a guarantee. However, last year the obvious pick (Mike Pouncey) was the pick, so maybe we’re all just overthinking things.
Miami Dolphins select Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M
Andre Branch Fills the Pass-Rushing Void
Miami has their new franchise quarterback in Tannehill and now need to fill their other needs at wide receiver, pass-rusher, tight end and on the offensive line.
Wide receiver and pass-rusher offer much more value in the early second round than offensive linemen, and this is where the Dolphins should focus their attention.
Alshon Jeffery’s weight issues concern me, as does Stephen Hill’s history in a very simple offense; the latter is very raw, too. Rueben Randle or Mohamed Sanu would both fit Miami nicely, but I believe there is a bigger drop-off between the second- and third-round receivers than with the pass-rushers.
Furthermore, wide receiver is a very deep class in the draft, and great talent can be found in later rounds.
As a result, Miami should go defense with their second-round pick, and it is likely that at least one of the pressure players, like Andre Branch, Whitney Mercilus, Chandler Jones, Vinny Curry or Shea McClellin, will be available.
Not all the pressure players will still be available; I expect Mercilus to be off the board, while Jones' and McClellin’s draft stocks are both on the rise, and they are now seen as first-round picks.
USC’s Nick Perry seems to be the man whose stock is falling, but to me, that’s inexplicable. He’s arguably the best pass-rusher in the draft, with great size, speed and character. There is no reason for him to fall to Miami’s second-round pick, but if he does, it’s a no-brainer. This seems very unlikely, though.
Outside of Perry, Branch and Curry are both fits as 4-3 defensive ends, but they also have the speed to play as 3-4 outside linebackers, and they seem like the two players most likely to be on the board when Miami pick.
Both fit Miami’s schemes. Curry (6'3", 266 lbs) was a team leader, with a great motor and 26 sacks in college, and while he lacks a bit of explosiveness, with the right development he could become a dangerous force opposite Wake, although he played against questionable competition.
Branch is raw but has long arms and is explosive off the line. With 10.5 sacks in 2011 and 17.5 in his college career at Clemson, he is a pass-rushing force. His technique still needs work, and he lacks the size (6'4", 259 lbs) and strength to be great against the run, but he has the body to add the 10+ pounds he needs to play as a 4-3 end.
While I would find it difficult to pass on Mohamed Sanu if he was on the board, Miami must look at later rounds and consider receiver an easier void to fill. Sadly, I don’t see Perry (the top pass-rusher) or Mercilus on the board, and they are the best fits.
Curry and Branch could still be on the board when Miami picks, but Branch’s explosion and production against better competition gives him the edge.
Miami Dolphins select Andre Branch, Defensive End, Clemson
Arizona's Juron Criner Replaces Brandon Marshall's Void
With back-to-back picks in the third round, the Dolphins can relax knowing they can take their top two players on the board in the third round.
There are a number of directions Miami can go with their two third-round picks, but adding help for their quarterback remains a very sensible one with at least one of their third-rounders, particularly if no receivers are added in the first two rounds.
Brian Quick, Nick Toon, Juron Criner, Devon Wylie, Ryan Broyles, Chris Givens, Tommy Streeter and Marvin McNutt are all potential additions, and the Dolphins might select any one of them if they are still on the board.
Streeter (6'5", 219 lbs) and Criner (6'3", 224 lbs) represent the big receivers that should interest Miami, while Broyles, Wylie and Givens are smaller, faster talents.
However, both Criner and Streeter have excellent speed for their size. The former, however, might have the softer hands, which could give him the advantage, although Streeter is more of a deep threat with incredible size.
Criner was Nick Foles’ favorite target in Arizona and made things happen on a variety of routes and screens. He is an excellent fit for the West Coast offense, and although the U’s Tommy Streeter would be the more popular pick, Criner might be considered better for the offense.
Streeter would be a good pickup, but he might even be available in the fourth round. However, he is raw as a route runner, and his one season of production is a worry.
Givens is a special talent, with elite speed and agility and great hands, and I could see him being the pick, while Broyles has punt-returning abilities, but there are durability concerns, and he isn’t as big as the other options.
However, just four months after ACL surgery, Broyles ran a 4.7 40-yard dash. At his pro day a month later, he improved that to 4.5; that takes some real guts and determination and shows that the injury did not affect his speed.
Broyles is an elusive runner with terrific hands, and he would be an excellent slot receiver due to his ability to get separation, but Miami might see him as being too similar to Davone Bess to invest a third-round pick in. If they take Broyles, they need another big receiver, too.
Givens could do it all in Miami’s offense, but his size does not make him the big, physical player that Miami covets after Brandon Marshall’s departure.
Criner offers something different; his size and speed could make him the big receiver Miami need to replace Brandon Marshall, and he has no character issues that could put the Dolphins’ front office off.
Miami selects Juron Criner, Wide Receiver, Arizona
Kelemete Strengthen's Miami's O-Line
With a wide receiver, pass-rusher and quarterback all selected, Miami can fill their final major area of need: the offensive line.
There are areas which could be addressed, such as cornerback, tight end and the defensive line, but Miami should be able to pick up a solid, athletic starter for the offensive line in the third round.
With Miami in need of athletic linemen, there are a couple of names who stand out.
Mississippi’s Bobby Massie has been flying up draft boards and is seen as a right tackle in the NFL; an area in which Miami need depth. Massie had 102 knockdown blocks last year, and he also has prototypical size (6'6", 316 lbs) and good quickness.
He is athletic and strong, with good lateral movement, and while there are questions over his work ethic, his talent certainly warrants Miami’s attention. He would be the obvious pick if on the board in the third. However, he has flown up draft boards and might not be available in the third round.
The other standout option is Senio Kelemete, who is a very athletic lineman with good size and experience. While his best fit in the NFL is as a guard, he played both left and right tackle in college and offers great depth on the line.
As a pulling guard, Kelemete would be a great addition, too. He fits the new offensive line’s needs and size requirements, although he would be a slight reach on draft day. This is not a flashy pick, but Kelemete has the talent to rise up draft boards and be a starter from day one.
However, the Dolphins do have other options, and tight ends like Dwayne Allen or Ladarius Green might still be available. Cornerback Brandon Boykin would also be a popular choice, adding depth at the position and also providing Miami with a dynamic return man.
Miami also has the option to double down on receivers in the third round and draft a smaller receiver to complement Criner, like Boyles or Givens, but I believe they will strengthen their offensive line with either Massie or Kelemete.
The former will likely be off the board already, so Miami will take Washington’s athletic lineman. It's a slight reach, but the Dolphins need athletic linemen, and he fits the bill perfectly.
Miami Dolphins select Senio Kelemete, Offensive Lineman, Washington
Randall Adds Depth to the Defensive Line
Again, receivers and tight ends will be an option in the fourth, as some will fall down draft boards, but Miami could also use this pick on a lineman, either defensive or offensive.
Offensive tackles Tom Compton (6'5", 314 lbs) and Tony Bergstrom (6'5", 313 lbs) are both players who could be pushed inside at the next level, but they fit Miami’s size molds and could play as right tackles. Both are strong, with good enough agility, and are solid in pass protection, but Bergstrom is arguably a better fit due to his superior athleticism.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive tackles Derek Wolfe and Kheeston Randall will come under scrutiny, while defensive end Malik Jackson could be another options.
Tennessee’s Jackson is big (6'5", 285 lbs), strong and aggressive. He’s an explosive player with a good motor, although his technique still needs improvement.
Wolfe could play at end or tackle in a 4-3 and is very versatile. He is aggressive and has good technique, but he can be inconsistent and also lacks elite strength.
Randall is a team leader, with exceptional explosiveness, long arms and good strength. He eats up blocks and was considered a nose tackle at the NFL combine, but he needs to improve his block shedding.
However, he could start by getting snaps at defensive tackle and could be groomed as a nose tackle, which is something Miami may wish to do behind Paul Soliai in their hybrid offense.
Any of the offensive linemen could challenge to start this year, while the defensive linemen would see snaps and offer important depth. If Miami choose wisely in Round 4, they can find themselves a starting lineman for the next decade on either side of the ball.
Miami Dolphins select Kheeston Randall, Defensive Tackle, Texas
Miami now turns their attention to their final needs, and some of the best players left in the draft could fill these voids.
Missouri’s Michael Egnew (6'5", 252 lbs) could prove to be the receiving tight end Miami needs, with his great hands and speed. However, the Dolphins have suggested they are set at the position, particularly with Charles Clay more likely to line up at tight end than fullback next year. Even so, Egnew would be a steal in the fifth round.
The Miami Hurricanes’ Olivier Vernon could also be a steal as a pass-rusher due to his athleticism and speed, and if the Dolphins don’t bulk up on the defensive line in the first four rounds, DT/DE Malik Jackson, defensive end Jake Bequette or giant Baylor nose tackle Nicholas Jean-Baptiste could all be options.
Cornerback Chase Minnifield and safety Taylor Guy would be solid selections and would add depth to the secondary, but it’s likely that the Dolphins add further offensive line depth due to their need for athletic linemen.
With Massie able to compete to start at tackle, competition at guard is the key, and the Dolphins should consider Jaymes Brooks and Adam Gettis, who both have the tools Miami needs in their new offensive line.
Brooks has a great attitude and is happy to play center or guard. He is undersized (6'2", 298 lbs), but is a perfect fit for zone-blocking schemes, with good agility and speed.
Like Brooks, Gettis is undersized (6'2", 293 lbs) but fits the bill of an athletic offensive lineman perfectly. His combine showing was outstanding, and that boosted his draft stock, as there are very few linemen in the draft class with his level of athleticism (4.91 40-yard dash). He is agile and excellent on the move, with good hustle.
Both men will have trouble blocking the Vince Wilforks of the game, but then again, who doesn’t? Either way, both men will need to bulk up to deal with the big linemen they will face in the pro game. However, Gettis’ exceptional athleticism gives him the edge and is exactly what Miami need. With a fifth-round pick, he really could prove to be a steal.
Miami selects Adam Gettis, Guard, Iowa
Hemmingway (#21) Could Be a Late Round Steal
Miami picks later in the sixth round, having swapped picks with the Saints when trading for Reggie Bush (couldn’t help but mention it; what a steal!). Incidently, they could draft a backup for Bush with this pick if Florida running back Chris Rainey is still available, but with Steve Slaton back, Miami can wait another year to add a scatback unless they are really blown away by Rainey’s skills.
If the inside of the offensive line isn’t already addressed, then Rishaw Johnson, Nate Potter or center David Molk could all fill the void, with Molk allowing Pouncey to move to guard, but I expect that hole to be filled already.
Depth in the secondary, or adding a man to the receiving corps, be it a wideout or tight end, will be options, although drafting the best player available seems to be the best plan for late-round prospects.
Chase Ford is a big, quick tight end. The former Hurricane may not have seen much of the ball in college, with just 16 catches, but he is 6'7" and 225 pounds, with soft hands. He is very raw but could be a good project at the position if Miami wants to develop him.
In the secondary, one option is Donnie Fletcher from Boston College. He has good enough speed and smooth hips, and his physicality and long frame makes him a fit for press coverage. He is ideal in zone coverage, which might put Miami off, but with good ball skills and tackling ability, Miami might see him as a good cornerback who in time could be an even better safety.
The top wide receiver in the sixth round is arguably Junior Hemingway (providing there are not surprise falls down draft boards). At 6'1" and 225 lbs, he has good size and is very competitive when fighting for the ball.
Hemingway ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 and had the NFL combine’s third-best shuttle time. He was the Wolverines’ leading receiver in 2011 and the Sugar Bowl MVP. Powerful, with good route running, and able to make a big play, he has solid character, too. His injury history might put teams off, but as a late-round pick, his talent could overshadow this.
One of the best late-round prospects is arguably inside linebacker Jerry Franklin. He has a big build, is strong against the run and is capable of landing big hits. While he is not the most athletic defender, and his instincts sometimes let him down, he has a nose for the ball, with 376 tackles, four recovered fumbles, five interceptions and two defensive touchdowns in four seasons.
If Hemingway is available, he has the edge due to his upside; however, he may not make it all the way to Miami’s pick later in the round. If he does, then the Dolphins should pounce on him and double down on receivers in the draft.
Miami Dolphins select Junior Hemingway, Wide Receiver, Michigan
With little left on the board in the way of tight ends, and with a quarterback, a pass-rusher, a defensive lineman, two receivers and two offensive linemen already selected, Miami will look to their secondary with the final pick.
Jeff Ireland likes using third-day selections on the secondary, and there will be some talented players still available. With Vontae Davis and Sean Smith both out of contract next year, and only one likely to return, the Dolphins could do with youth at the position to develop in the hope of them making a contribution next season.
Isaiah Frey from Nevada is a project, but with good size (6'0", 190 lbs) and speed (4.51), and coming off a quality season with five interceptions and 16 passes broken up, he showed a big improvement on his ball skills from the previous year, when he recorded one interception. He couldn’t start right away, but could be kept on the practice squad, or give the Dolphins younger depth at the position.
Clemson’s Coty Sensabaugh offers similar value. He ran a blazing 4.37 dash, and at 5'11" and 189 lbs has good size and long arms. He has provided tight man coverage and played in press man coverage, which is needed in the NFL.
He could be a sleeper in the draft, and his speed, size and smooth hips should translate to the NFL. He could also make an immediate contribution on special teams, but he needs to get stronger if he wants to play at a higher level. Like Frey, he improved in his final year, but he must still improve his ball skills and make plays.
Justin Bethel, who is also projected as a free safety, is another candidate. Leading his team in tackles and recording four interceptions, he has good speed (4.53) and size (6'0", 200 lbs). However, coming from Presbyterian College, he is a small-school prospect who will need to step up against better opposition.
Finally, there is the tempting, yet worrying, prospect, Cliff Harris. Kicked out of Oregon for numerous arrests and team violations, Harris has plenty of red flags. One thing is for sure, though: Harris is a playmaker. With six interceptions, 17 passes defended and four punt returns for touchdowns, he has the instincts to go with his speed and agility.
Those red flags are a huge concern, but if he has matured, he could be worth the gamble. A seventh-round pick means there is little risk, and Ireland has shown in the past he will gamble late on players with red flags, like Jimmy Wilson. Miami is more likely to go for a project with no character concerns, though.
Miami Dolphins select Coty Sensabaugh, Cornerback, Clemson
Could Darron Thomas be a Good Project at QB?
Bringing in undrafted talent has been a great aspect of Jeff Ireland's work, and the following names could be some of those worth adding to the roster:
Jordan Jefferson, Quarterback, LSU
Darron Thomas, Quarterback, Oregon
Travaris Cadet, Running Back, Appalachian State
Adonis Thomas, Running Back, Toledo
Keshawn Martin, Wide Receiver, Michigan
Tyler Shoemaker, Wide Receiver, Boise State
Kelvin Beachum, Guard, Southern Methodist
Johnnie Troutman, Guard, Penn State
Cordarro Law, Defensive End, Southern Mississippi
D.J. Holt, Inside Linebacker, California
Tony Dye, Safety, UCLA
Tysyn Hartman, Safety, Kansas State
Could Weeden Be Taken over Tannehill?
It's a long list, but the following names might also come up when Miami is on the clock:
Round 1: Fletcher Cox, DT; Quinton Coples, DE; Melvin Ingram DE/OLB; David DeCastro, OG; Stephen Gilmore, CB; Mark Barron, S; Trade Back; Brandon Weeden, QB; Nick Perry, DE; Whitney Mercilus, DE, Coby Fleener, TE.
Round 2: Mohamed Sanu, WR; Rueben Randle, WR; Brock Osweiler, QB; Kirk Cousins, QB; Shea McClellin, OLB; Vinny Curry, OLB; Chandler Jones, DE; Mike Adams, OT.
Round 3: Tommy Streeter, WR; Chris Givens, WR; Dwayne Allen, TE; Jared Crick, DE; Ryan Broyles, WR; Brandon Boykin, CB; Orson Charles, TE; Brian Quick, WR; Mitchell Schwartz, OT; Brandon Mosley, OT.
Round 4: James-Michael Johnson, ILB; Ladarius Green, TE; George Iloka, S; Derek Wolfe, DE/DT; Marvin McNutt, WR; Devon Wylie, WR; Tom Bergstrom, OT; Tom Compton, OT.
Round 5: Chase Minnifield, CB; Nicholas Jean-Baptiste, NT; Jeff Fuller, WR; Michael Egnew, TE; Olivier Vernon, OLB; Malik Jackson, DE/DT; Jack Bequette, DE; Winston Guy, S; Emmanuel Acho, OLB, TY Hilton, WR.; Jaymes Brooks, G.
Round 6: Donnie Fletcher, CB; Chris Rainey, RB; David Molk, C; Andrew Datko, OT; Chase Ford, TE; Matt McCants, OT; Jerry Franklin, ILB; David Meggett, RB; Donte Paige-Moss, DE; Matt McCants, OT; Coty Sensabaugh, CB
Round 7: Justin Bethel, CB; Cliff Harris, CB; Akiem Hicks, DT; Isaiah Frey, CB; Desmond Wynn, OG; Bradie Ewing, FB; Brandon Lindsey, OLB; Josh Oglesby, OT; Travian Robertson, DT; Levy Adcock, OT. Jeff Adams, OT.