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
Wide receiver will be one of, if not the most pressing need heading into 2013. So it's only natural for the Dolphins to take a look at the best wide receiver in college football: USC's Robert Woods.
Woods was the No. 1 wideout in the country when he committed to USC in 2010, and he has lived up to the hype so far. As a sophomore in 2011, he reeled in 111 receptions for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns.
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
The stars are aligned for wide receiver Ryan Swope to land with the Miami Dolphins.
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.
Swope already knows Sherman's system, which is a huge bonus.
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
This season could be Karlos Dansby's last with the Miami Dolphins.
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.
If the Dolphins in fact trade or cut Dansby after (or before, or during) the 2012 season, then they'll be on the hunt for a new player to captain their defense.
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
Keenan Allen's size could propel above Robert Woods on some draft boards.
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
Now that Vontae Davis is gone, the Dolphins are in the market for a cornerback, and David Amerson has the makings of an elite one.
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.
Imagine pairing Amerson with Sean Smith and Richard Marshall. The Dolphins would immediately boast one of, if not the NFL's biggest and most physical secondaries. This would add a truly unique dynamic to Miami's defense. Opposing teams would hesitate to run the ball outside, and the corners could use their size and skills to play press coverage on a regular basis.
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
Terrance Williams is a 6'3", 205-pound wideout with 4.5 speed. Despite playing second-fiddle to Kendall Wright for the Baylor Bears last season, he still managed to accrue 59 receptions for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns.
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
Had T.J. McDonald declared himself eligible for the draft this season, he could've landed anywhere between the first and third rounds. But like Matt Barkley, he decided to stay at USC and make a run at a national title now that the school's postseason ban is lifted.
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.
With another strong showing in 2012, McDonald can solidify himself as a top-tier prospect. The Dolphins could obviously reap huge benefits from adding a safety of his caliber.
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