Miami Dolphins 2012 NFL Draft: Reacting to All 9 Draft Picks

Robert MaloneContributor IIIApril 29, 2012

Miami Dolphins 2012 NFL Draft: Reacting to All 9 Draft Picks

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    Kicking off a new coaching era, nothing is more important than coming out and making a strong statement with a solid draft.  The Miami Dolphins had nine picks in this year's draft, and those nine had plenty to say.

    Some of these picks were great.  Others were a bit surprising.  Too many times during the draft the front office made you feel like they were more focused on fixing 2013 than 2012.  

    Regardless, a lot of new talents are joining the Dolphins this year.  Let's take a look at what they got, what they could have gotten, and how it all works together in the long run.

Ryan Tannehill

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    Drafted 8th overall in the first round.

    Whether you like this pick or you don't, the one thing that's crystal clear is Tannehill cannot start right away.  Every draft expert and analyst has dubbed him a project player, but the biggest debate is the expected time frame.

    Some have favorably made it a two- to three-year window.  If Tannehill comes out within three years and makes the Dolphins a competitor, then Miami made a great choice.  

    The issue and most bothersome thing about this pick was from something said by Todd McShay, who was one of Tannehill's biggest supporters before the draft.  According to McShay (here), Tannehill is a four- to five-year project before he's ready to be an "upper echelon starter."  

    Four to five years is a long time to wait for an eighth overall pick to develop, and it's highly doubtful Dolphins fans will wait that long if the losing persists.  If this team isn't winning with or without Tannehill within three years, it's hard to see Joe Philbin, Jeff Ireland or Mike Sherman (the biggest support case for drafting Tannehill in the first place) remaining a part of the Dolphins organization.  

    Tannehill's potential is through the roof, but the fanbase justifiably may not be patient long enough to see it through. 

Jonathan Martin

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    Drafted 42nd overall in the second round.

    This was an interesting draft pick.  Miami has Pro Bowl tackle Jake Long and just re-signed Lydon Murtha to play on the other side.  Even if you're not sold on Murtha, it still doesn't address Miami's biggest hole on the offensive line, which is at guard.

    The right guard position was so bad last season, the team got desperate enough to take Vernon Carey from his tackle spot and put him out of his comfort zone at guard.  Then, they signed the aged Marc Colombo to play tackle.  The line looked patch-worked, but patch-worked was better than when John Jerry played in at guard .

    This is a solid pickup in terms of talent, but does leave a hint of bewilderment.  If the team wanted to address their line's needs, then why not take equally talented but more versatile guard options like Jeff Allen or Kelechi Osemele.  That way the team can be more adjustment-friendly depending on who stands out best among Jerry, Murtha, Nat Gardner or Artis Hicks.

    However, this doesn't discount the talent Miami gets with Martin and by no means makes him the wrong choice.  Assuming Carey is gone, he will definitely address a need and should greatly benefit from having Long opposite him, which gives him the easier defensive assignment earlier in his career.  

    This move also rings with the scary possibility the Dolphins are prepared to move away from Long once his contract expires.  This seems a ridiculous notion, but Ireland has not been shy about keeping long-term contracts off the team's books.

Olivier Vernon

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    Drafted 72nd overall in the third round.

    By some standards this pick was a reach, but, regardless, it addresses a huge need in a way that thinks about the future.

    Vernon is not going to be an immediate starter, and the Dolphins don't need him to be.  Vernon is a raw player, and that's been his biggest drawback.  His footwork is a bit weak, he struggles breaking away once a lineman has him in his clutches and most of his best plays are made off of athletic bursts before containment.

    However, that's the beauty of the pick.  He gets to grow behind great Pro Bowl defensive linemen like Cameron Wake and Randy Starks while still being the occasional contributor on defense.   

    He's not the dominate pass-rusher Miami was pining after, but his defensive adjustment against the run game is impressive.  He is an excellent defender against the run and has got a great talent for grabbing and tackling runners while engaged with a blocker.

    He also can play a bit of linebacker in the 3-4 and seems to rush better with that little bit of extra space because it allows him to make more athletic moves.

    With all that said, it leads to the ulterior motive of the pick.

    Both Wake and Starks have expiring contracts coming up next season, and the team is essentially shopping for replaceable parts.  Vernon seems like he's in a position to become one of those parts.

Michael Egnew

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    Drafted 78th overall in the third round.

    This is a great pick.  Egnew is essentially an oversized wide receiver.  Think Jermichael Finley.  Think Rob Gronkowski.  Anthony Fasano has been great for Miami, but this will make the passing offense a bit more potent.  Besides, Fasano's contract is another one coming off the books soon, and Egnew now gives the Dolphins a bit of breathing room at the position.  This also gives Joe Philbin another tight end to fill out his vision of the offense.  

    If the goal is to exploit matchups with receivers as Philbin suggests, Egnew is going to be a tough one in coverage.  His size will make him ideal against the average corner and safety, his speed makes him a matchup concern against linebackers and his excellent catching ability consistently makes him a threat on passing plays.

    He is a liability with blocking, and this is more than a huge issue for the Dolphins.  The biggest asset to Miami's offense last year was the rush attack from Reggie Bush, and Bush's greatest strength is rushing the edge.  If you put a tight end out there that can't run block well, it potentially leaves Bush exposed.  

    However, as the offense evolves under new management, this could become a negligible concern since neither Philbin nor Sherman usually use this style of running back.

Lamar Miller

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    Drafted 97th overall in the fourth round.

    This may be one of the most bothersome picks of the draft.  

    Yes, Reggie Bush is a free agent next season.  Yes, there are still some questions and concerns about Daniel Thomas.  

    Even with knowing all of that, those are future problems, and they are different problems compared to the circumstances around Martin, Vernon and Egnew.  Those are guys that address a need now, can grow into full-time starters depending on the contractual issues of 2013, and will be contributors next season barring injury.  Miller feels like a premeditated decision to replace Bush. 

    Miller admittedly was a complete value pick at where Miami picked him up, but look at what Miami missed out on to get him.  This team has huge needs at wide receiver and could have picked up Greg Childs, Juron Criner or Marvin Jones without anyone having an issue.  They could have drafted Ryan Miller or Joe Looney to address the inside of the offensive line, and no one would have complained.  Instead, the team drafted a running back in an already-talented backfield.  

    The other issue is Miller's fit in this offense.  Both Philbin and Sherman have a history of using running backs that can grind out the games.  Right now, Miller doesn't really meet the prototypical size for that style of run game.  He does have time to bulk for that type of workload, but, right now, he falls a bit short.

Josh Kaddu

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    Drafted 155th overall in the fifth round.

    This may be the second-most upsetting pick of the draft for Miami.

    Again, with all the needs the Dolphins had, they took another potential future concern, but this time it wasn't the most talented running back left on the board but a mildly talented linebacker known for his tenacity.  

    Once again, this was a pick that could have gone to Criner, Jones or Ryan Miller, and, instead, Miami stacked the linebackers with a guy that won't start and probably won't play much outside of special teams.  

    That doesn't mean Kaddu is completely without merit.  While not a great talent in terms of overall production, he has strong potential in the pass rush.  It is completely believable this guy, like Vernon, is being groomed as a starting pass-rusher for next season in wake of expiring contracts.  There are lower expectations for Kaddu because he is more raw and doesn't play with the same finesse for technique.  Kaddu is an aggressor that tenaciously sacks the quarterbacks in ways that look almost criminal.  

    He's not a bad pick for someone trying to jump start a pass rush or looking ahead to the future, but it is a bit shocking.  When you consider that nine other outside linebackers just came off the board between Miami's fourth and fifth picks with two high-rated linebackers still on the board, it just feels like the Dolphins could have drafted a more essential talent here first and then grabbed Kaddu a round later.

B.J. Cunningham

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    Drafted 183rd overall in the sixth round.

    Cunningham is a great fit that has attributes very similar to what you expect to see in a Philbin-type receiver.  He does a good job at picking apart zone coverage (seeming to always be in the right spot) making him a good candidate for option-routes.  He does a great job of selling routes with his footwork and making necessary moves to make the play (just watch his touchdown catch in the shrine game).  He was consistently involved in the passing game in college and had a huge senior year to cap it all off.

    There was a reason he was drafted where he was, though.  

    His speed leaves something to be desired.  He has trouble consistently creating separation from the defender, which is a bigger issue at the NFL level in man coverage.  His vertical isn't great, his strength isn't great, his hands are significantly smaller than most other receivers and, overall, he comes in about below average in many of the physical components you want in a receiver.  However, this guy's awareness at the position greatly makes up for each of those little slights, and, in the sixth round, there isn't much of a loss here.  

    It's a little surprising Miami didn't draft Marvin McNutt instead.  He's got connections to the team through Ken O'Keefe and is a better physical specimen at receiver than Cunningham, but you have to imagine this completely came down to Cunningham's mental edge versus McNutt's physical one.

    He's also not a very good run blocker .  More than a few times he looks like he's blatantly holding his defender, and, if that doesn't get worked out immediately, Miami could be looking at a few holding penalties.

Kheeston Randall

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    Drafted 215th overall in the seventh round.

    This pick was the most bothersome pick of the draft.  

    Yes, it's a seventh-round pick in what was utterly a small pool of talent, but Randall is the most niche player that Miami could have drafted here.

    Perhaps it is splitting hairs, but Randall's lone strength is run stopping.  Miami's best attribute last season was run stopping.  Where does this guy fit in?  They have a defensive front that's already stacked with solid defensive tackles, and, since Randall is actually considered a liability against the pass, he's hardly going to help the team's pass rush.  

    This wouldn't be nearly as bothersome if the Dolphins didn't have blaring holes at the safety position.  Losing Yeremiah Bell was huge, and the rest of the squad (Tyrone Culver, Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons) hasn't always been inspiring.  

    So, you bring in D.J. Campbell or Antonio Allen and let them compete for a spot on the team.  Those guys aren't phenomenal safety talents, but they could potentially serve a need and serve one right away if good enough.  

    Randall feels like another pre-planned resolution to contract concerns of the future.  Seriously, the Dolphins are going to need to address the concerns of 2012 at some point.

Rishard Matthews

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    Drafted 227th overall in the seventh round.

    This almost feels like a consolation prize to getting a wide receiver too late.  Matthews isn't a terrible prospect by any means, but his strength as a receiver is solely based upon his good size and physical nature.

    He's a fighter in traffic, has great strength for a receiver and will battle before and after the catch.  There are many components of his game that strike a familiar chord with Green Bay's receiver James Jones.  

    He's not the fastest or most finesse receiver and will need to fight through press coverage more often than his quarterback will like (often delaying the route), but he'll go up and fight for the ball if given the chance.

    He's completely raw, but there is a usefulness to him.  He addresses a key need the Dolphins ignored earlier in the draft, and, with a bit of refinement to make him a more threatening weapon, he could be an antagonizing force to opposing defensive backs.  

    He's got experience as a return specialist, but it's hard seeing Clyde Gates replaced there unless he's upgraded to starting receiver.