Tracking Miami Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

Joe PenkalaCorrespondent IApril 26, 2012

Tracking Miami Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

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    For a while, the NFL draft belonged to "The U." The University of Miami has a tradition of putting outstanding top talent into the NFL and doing it in the first and second rounds of the NFL draft. 

    In the past, players like Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow II, Michael Irvin and Andre Johnson have come out of "The U" and have represented. The scary part is that's only a small sample of the offensive players Miami has provided the NFL with. 

    This year, Miami is looking to provide the NFL with more talent. While it is not the usual top-end talent that the university is used to, they are still players who could make an impact. 

    During the 2012 NFL draft, look for players like Lamar Miller, Olivier Vernon, Sean Spence, Tommy Streeter, Brandon Washington, Travis Benjamin and Marcus Forston to come off the board and become part of the NFL family. 

    Stay tuned to this slideshow as the draft progresses. As soon as a Miami Hurricane comes off the board, we will update it here live, letting you know where and when they went in this year's NFL draft. 

Olivier Vernon, DE, Drafted by Miami Dolphins, No. 72 Overall

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    Olivier Vernon is another dynamic athlete from the Miami Hurricanes program, but he has faced his fair share of controversy.

    Vernon was suspended for six games last year and received the harshest punishment of any Cane who accepted improper benefits from infamous booster Nevin Shapiro.

    Due to his abbreviated season, the 6'2", 260-pound defensive end finished with just 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks, compared to 39 tackles and six sacks in 2010. 

    The lineman surprised a lot of people when he declared for the draft, despite coming off a lackluster season and having a year of eligibility left. His involvement in the Shapiro scandal inevitably caused character concerns in the pre-draft process.

    The pass-rusher's talent is undeniable. The foundation is there, but he needs to improve his skill set on the field, and become more mature off the field.

    Vernon is also powerful enough to play against the run, which will help him develop into an every-down player. His ESPN draft profile referred to his run-stopping skills as an "area of strength" and gave him solid marks in the category.

    His ability to come off the edge or line up in a 4-point stance gives him the ability to be effective in multiple packages.

    Pick Analysis:

    The Dolphins pick up a versatile defensive playmaker in Olivier Vernon, who won't have to move far to start his NFL career. Likely a rotational player in his rookie season.

Sean Spence, OLB, Drafted by Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 86 Overall

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    Sean Spence has long been classified as an overachiever due to his diminutive stature for a linebacker. Still, he was nothing but solid and consistent for the Miami Hurricanes, notching over 300 tackles in his career at The U. 

    Beyond his consistency, Spence made big-time plays, tackling the opposition for loss 47 times in his career, which is surprising considering he is average at best in his strength and speed. Spence impressed nobody at the combine in putting up only 12 reps on the 225-pound bench press, and running only a 4.71 40.

    The lackluster performance doesn't do justice to the impact Spence can have on the field. On a defense full of speed and strength, Spence still managed to be voted the Most Outstanding Defensive Player above his Hurricane teammates.

    Spence will most likely start his NFL career as a weak-side linebacker and—due to his size—would need to have an incredibly productive training camp and preseason to break into a starting role. However, the intangibles for this student of the game are extremely high, and any starter unlucky enough to go down with an injury might not get their job back once replaced by Spence.

Lamar Miller, RB, Drafted by Miami Dolphins, No. 97 Overall

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    As the running back position becomes more specialized and defined in the NFL, scouts look for players who can do a few things really well. Lamar Miller can do many things really, really well.

    Miller has game-breaking speed and agility, showing a rare knack for shaking defenders in the open field with a subtle head fake or hip shiver. Much like LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles, Miller is just very hard to tackle in space. That's a problem considering how often he has the ball.

    Miller is a true three-tool player who can run, catch and return kicks. He doesn't bring much to the table right now as a blocker, but after coming out as a redshirt sophomore, he has little wear on his frame and is aggressive enough to learn to be a blocker down the road.

    We love Miller's game-breaking speed and quickness, but he will have to learn to accumulate yards when the path to the corner is blocked off. If he can become a better between-the-tackles runner, Miller has the athleticism to become a feature back and Pro Bowl-caliber player.

Travis Benjamin, WR, Drafted by Cleveland Browns, No. 100 Overall

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    Travis Benjamin was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. More information will be forthcoming

Tommy Streeter, WR, Drafted by Baltimore Ravers, No. 198 Overall

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    Few players possess the combination of size and speed that wide receiver Tommy Streeter displayed during his career at Miami.

    At 6'5" and 216 pounds, Streeter ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash at the combine and used his physical gifts to haul in 46 catches for 811 yards and eight touchdowns (all team highs) during his 2011 campaign. 

    Streeter's talent will make him an attractive option for teams looking to add a playmaker, but the wideout's inconsistent effort and unpolished route-running skills will raise concerns.

    Streeter is a raw talent, which makes it unlikely that he will contribute much in his rookie season. His athleticism and size will allow him to make a couple big plays over the course of the season, but they will be few and far between.

    Down the road, he could turn in to a reliable third, or even second, wide receiver. His size and speed make him a unique prospect, and as long as he is willing to be coached, he has a bright future.

Brandon Washington, OG, Drafted by Philadelphia Eagles, No. 200 Overall

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    Brandon Washington is one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the draft, having played almost every position on the line at Miami except center.

    Washington worked extremely hard to get himself an opportunity at Miami, and he made good on his chance, starting every game in the last two seasons for the Hurricanes. He played both guard and tackle during that time, although he will likely move inside to guard full time in the NFL.

    Even though Washington had to spend additional time getting his grades in order, his football IQ is top notch (which could be why he was able to seamlessly move from position to position). Further proof of Washington's mental fortitude is proven in the fact that he only committed eight penalties in almost 2,000 career snaps at Miami.

    Washington saw a fair amount of talent on the defensive line in the ACC, but perhaps nothing (besides Quinton Coples) that might have thoroughly prepared him for immediate success in the NFL. However, scouts may see a lot of Orlando Franklin (a fellow Miami alum who played in Denver last season) in Washington, which bodes well for his ability to grow into a starter. 

    Pick Analysis

    Washington isn't ready to step in and start for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he's got terrific potential to get there eventually. The Miami product is a hard worker who demonstrated above-average versatility and a good football IQ in college. In other words, he's got the tools necessary to improve with experience and time, and he gives the Eagles good depth along the line in the meantime.