Grading a team's performance in the draft assumes two things on the part of the writer:
- They know how these prospects will turn out in a few years;
- They know what the team was trying to accomplish with their draft.
While the Miami Dolphins approach to the 2012 draft has several pundits questioning the value of Ryan Tannehill with the No. 8 overall pick (most had him ranked as a late first-round prospect) as well as the lack of weaponry provided to the young quarterback (aside from tight end Michael Egnew, the team waited until the sixth round to draft a wide receiver), the goal of the draft is vividly clear: putting the pieces in place for the West Coast offense.
Let's just take a look at the offensive players not named Ryan Tannehill that the Dolphins picked up from April 26-28, and why they could be a fit in Joe Philbin's offense (click the links for my full scouting analysis on each player).
Joe Philbin made it known before the draft that the team was looking for more athletic offensive linemen, and they wasted no time by adding Martin. He's not the most powerful blocker, but his finesse style should fit perfectly in the West Coast offense.
We'll go ahead and venture a guess that Martin (6'6", 304 pounds, 22 years old) might be just a little more athletic than Marc Colombo (6'7", 320 pounds, 33 years old) and scouting reports on Martin from CBS Sports and National Football Post seem to verify that line of thinking.
We've seen the impact that a "move" tight end can have in Joe Philbin's offense (see: Finley, Jermichael) and though the team already had Charles Clay in that role, Egnew might be seen as a better fit.
Either way, we've also seen the impact that two solid tight ends can have on an offense (see: Hernandez, Aaron and Gronkowski, Rob). Egnew also has the ability to create after the catch, as his big body is difficult to bring down.
He's not going to throw a ton of blocks, but he's a movable piece that can line up as an in-line tight end, an H-back and even split out wide.
That Miller lasted all the way to the fourth round likely had the Dolphins running faster than Miller's 5.6 yards per carry to get to the podium with their selection card.
He's identical in ways to Reggie Bush (which may or may not have any bearing on Bush's long-term future with the team) but will need to polish his skills as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Anytime you yield a comparison to LeSean McCoy, you know the ceiling is high.
Plus, McCoy is often seen as the quintessential West Coast offense running back.
The Dolphins could set Miller up for great success with their quicker offensive linemen, who should be able to block for him out in space.
Cunningham became a favorite target of Kirk Cousins at Michigan State, and logged 1,306 yards, averaged 16.5 yards per catch and recorded 12 touchdowns. He won't match that productivity in the NFL, especially in the YPC area, where his long speed is a bit of a question mark.
What does he bring that will help the Dolphins implement their scheme? Quickness, route-running savvy and strong hands that will help him make the tough catches over the middle of the field. Again, the short and intermediate passing game are a priority for Philbin's offense.
Matthews is essentially a carbon copy of Cunningham, in that the two are quicker than fast and have the big bodies that will help them shed blocks and create yards after the catch.
He ran a faster three-cone drill than a lot of prospects at the combine, and his shiftiness should help him create some separation on short and intermediate routes, even if his long speed is lacking.
Matthews screams "West Coast offense" right from the get-go.
To clarify, I skipped Tannehill because it's clear that he's a fit for Mike Sherman's offense, and it's also clear that Philbin would not have allowed him to be taken by the Dolphins if he didn't see Tannehill as a fit.
No matter who the signal-caller is in 2012, the Dolphins did a masterful job of picking up pieces from the top to the bottom of the draft that will allow for Philbin to implement his scheme.
Philbin put his stamp on the Dolphins offense with this draft, and if his picks pan out as expected, they could yield success on offense for years to come.