It's never too early to start talking about the draft.
This is especially true when your team essentially throws in the towel before Week 1 of the regular season.
Combine a dreadful preseason with the losses of David Garrard, Chad Johnson and Vontae Davis, and the Miami Dolphins now project, at the very least, as a bottom-10 team in 2012.
So, while there's not a whole lot to look forward to this season, the 2013 NFL Draft is only eight months away. And with college football kicking off its 2012 season on Thursday night, it's time to start keeping an eye on collegiate prospects who could don aqua and orange next year.
Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, USC
If he posts similar production in 2012, then there's no doubt he warrants a top-15 pick. However, his size might prevent him from landing inside of the top five. At 6'0", 190 pounds, Woods isn't the physical freak that's typically selected with a high first-round selection.
Still, giving Ryan Tannehill such a talented wide receiver to grow with could pay huge dividends down the road.
Ryan Swope, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
For starters, he plays at Texas A&M. Since the Dolphins hired ex-Aggies head coach Mike Sherman as their offensive coordinator, the team has brought in three of his former players—Ryan Tannehill, Jorvorskie Lane and Jeff Fuller.
And, more importantly, he has a tremendous rapport with Ryan Tannehill. Last season, the pair connected 89 times for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Swope would be an ideal pickup in the second round.
Manti Te'o, Middle Linebacker, Notre Dame
He has underachieved since joining the team two seasons ago, and he's constantly making headlines for the wrong reasons. Joe Philbin has made it clear that he wants players who do things his way, and it doesn't appear as though Dansby is willing to abide.
Plus, Dansby is due roughly $20 million in the next three years.
Notre Dame's Manti Te'o should be the best linebacker in next year's draft. He projects as a franchise player, one who can emerge as a domineering force and strike fear into opposing offenses. Last season, he racked up 128 tackles and five sacks.
Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, Cal
At 6'2", 215 pounds, Allen is two inches taller and 25 pounds bigger than Woods. And his production isn't lagging far behind, either. Last season, he caught 98 passes for 1,342 yards and six touchdowns despite playing alongside fourth-round draft pick Marvin Jones—who demanded a large share of targets. There's no telling what kind of numbers Allen can post now that Jones is gone.
Allen is also a very physical receiver who can absorb hits and make difficult catches in traffic. His blend of size, speed (4.42) and physicality will land him on Miami's radar next offseason.
David Amerson, Cornerback, NC State
Amerson is of the same breed as Sean Smith. He's 6'3", 194 pounds and clocks a 4.46 40-speed. And he puts that size to good use. In 2011, he led the nation with a whopping 13 interceptions and tacked on 59 tackles.
Even if running back, safety or linebacker are bigger needs for the Dolphins heading into the draft, it'll be difficult to pass on a player so gifted.
Terrance Williams, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Baylor's offense emphasizes short, quick routes and relies on its wide receivers' ability to rack up yards after the catch. This made Wright an ideal fit for the West Coast Offense—though he didn't get drafted by a team that runs it—and it'll make Williams an appealing option to teams that utilize the system as well, including the Dolphins.
And remember, Baylor is Jeff Ireland's alma mater, so there's always a possibility he'll target players from there.
Tony Jefferson, Safety, Oklahoma
If there's one thing Miami's defense is sorely lacking right now, it's playmakers.
And if there's one thing Tony Jefferson does, it's make plays.
So naturally, he'll be on the Dolphins' radar.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2011, Jefferson recorded 74 tackles, four interceptions and four-and-a-half sacks.
Jeff Ireland has yet to use anything more than a fifth-round draft pick on a safety, but given the unit's current state, it's time he invests in the position. Although Reshad Jones generated buzz in the offseason and Chris Clemons was a serviceable starter in 2010, neither have played particularly well in preseason game action.
Jefferson could be the ball-hawking, playmaking safety the Phins haven't had since Brock Marion departed in 2003.
T.J. McDonald, Safety, USC
In 2011, McDonald racked up 67 tackles and three interceptions, putting his solid 6'2", 205-pound frame to good use. He also has 4.5 speed.