Miami Dolphins Mock Draft: Updated 7-Round Projection After Senior Bowl
During the week, scouts and executives got a great look at the players' practices; it was a trip that culminated in the game itself, which ended with the South defeating the North by the score of 21-16.
But the score of the game isn't too important, what is vital is the information that the teams gathered on the players who participated in the contest. From that information, we have a better look at where these players will wind up in the draft.
It also allows me to write a better mock draft than some of the previous ones I have posted in the last couple of months, which is exactly what I did thanks to the information I've gathered about some of these players as well as seeing them play in this game.
So let's take a look at the Miami Dolphins post-Senior Bowl mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 12: Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU
I wasn't exactly impressed with what I read about Ziggy during Senior Bowl week's practices (h/t Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com):
Ansah is one of the most physically gifted players in this draft class, but he showed this week that he still has a lot of developing to do. During pass-rush periods, he repeatedly tried to work through the numbers of the offensive tackle, but his bull rush was rarely effective. He flashed one inside-spin move, but otherwise was predictable and unsuccessful in his pass-rushing attempts. Some teams are concerned with what transpired this week, while others are still bullish on the incredible upside of the BYU defender.
Despite all of that, Ansah wound up impressing me and everyone else who watched the Senior Bowl.
He was a hot topic on Twitter as his draft stock seemed to shoot into the top 20.
It's not like he's a one-game wonder; in his three years at BYU (keep in mind he's only been playing football for three years), Ansah amassed 72 tackles (13 for a loss), 4.5 sacks, 10 pass deflections and a forced fumble.
Most of those numbers came in 2012, as he shot up the draft boards.
The Senior Bowl definitely helped his cause as he was a pest throughout the game in the backfield.
Now he's up in the top 20, and with his raw talent and athleticism, there's a good chance he will be ripe for the taking by the Dolphins.
Round 2, Pick 42: Zach Ertz, Tight End, Stanford
Zach Ertz has intrigued me all season, but there is absolutely no way this guy will fall to the second round, especially not to the Dolphins.
Here's what CBSSports' Dane Brugler has to say about Ertz:
He is moves well for his size (6-6, 252) and does a great job using his body to shield defenders and his arms to extend and snatch the ball out of the air.
Where Ertz really impresses NFL scouts is his willingness to help his teammates, whether it's his persistence to get open or his effort-blocking at all levels of the field.
Now, name one Dolphins tight end like that. Just one. Michael Egnew? No, he can't block. Anthony Fasano? He's decent, not exactly a world-beater though.
Charles Clay? He's all right, needs more touches and should be an integral part of the offense next year, but he doesn't quite have Ertz's upside and is about three inches shorter with a shorter wingspan.
He needs a teammate, but alas, it's not like Ertz, who is ranked as Matt Miller's top tight end of this year's draft, will be available in the second round, right? Here's what Miller had to say about him:
11. Miami Dolphins—Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
A potential top-20 player who falls down the board only due to team needs, Ertz would be the Dolphins' best tight end from his first practice.
That was from the Round 2 page of Miller's most recent mock? He has Ertz falling to the Dolphins?
I'm not exactly going to take it as if it's set in stone (nor should you take any mock draft as such), but if he is available in Round 2, expect the Dolphins to pounce.
Fasano is a free agent, Clay needs another tight end alongside him in the West Coast offense, Tannehill needs weapons, and Michael Egnew can't really be trusted at this time and will likely be looking for a new team come August.
If Ertz isn't available, Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert will be available in Round 2 when the Dolphins pick, and he'd be a fine addition as well.
But between the two, I'd go with Ertz—something that the Dolphins will likely do as well. Thankfully for the Dolphins, it worked out well. Most teams don't look at the tight end position as a pressing need in this year's draft, and from it they get their first second-round steal.
Round 2, Pick 54: Larry Warford, Guard, Kentucky
Drafting a guard like Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper in Round 1 will likely result in a reaction like, this.
Side note to the video: joke's on us, Ted Ginn and his family are going to the Super Bowl.
But if the first two picks the Dolphins use are on a shutdown corner like Brandon Banks and a playmaking tight end like Ertz (as highlighted in the mock draft so far), I don't think there will be a problem with Miami using this pick to select Kentucky's Larry Warford.
In fact, Warford is actually a better fit for the Dolphins' zone-blocking scheme than the two projected first-rounders. While he's not as overpowering as Warmack or Cooper, his feet are more nimble and he can block for both the pass and the run at a very successful rate.
You could see this in the Senior Bowl, where it appeared that Warford couldn't miss a block even if he chose to. His footwork was outstanding, and he was especially exceptional when pulling.
While he didn't play in the zone scheme at Kentucky, he looks like he will fit well in the scheme.
I was on board with the Dolphins drafting Alabama's Warmack in Round 1, but seeing that Kentucky's Warford is a better fit has me convinced that, while guard is an important position for the Dolphins to seek, they would be better off waiting until Round 2.
Round 3, Pick 69: Quinton Patton, Wide Receiver, Louisiana Tech
Quinton Patton is a steal in Round 3, which is exactly where he will likely be available for the Dolphins to snap him up.
All throughout Senior Bowl week, Patton has impressed scouts and reporters during the Senior Bowl practices, and in fact was named the most outstanding receiver at the Senior Bowl's banquet.
Now if you are worried about Patton due to him going to Louisiana Tech instead of a bigger school, keep this in mind: Patton had 614 receiving yards on 49 catches with seven touchdowns when Louisiana Tech took on automatic-qualifying schools such as Illinois, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas A&M.
Louisiana Tech's record in those games: 3-2, with both losses coming in overtime. All of those games were on the road.
He's NFL-ready and already garnering comparisons to Steve Smith. While Miami will likely add a receiver in free agency, Patton would still be a tremendous draft pick for them in Round 3.
Round 3, Pick 74: Robert Alford, Cornerback, Southeastern Louisiana
Let's start with Alford's great punt return to start the Senior Bowl, which went for 95 yards and set up the South's first touchdown of the game.
Now remember that Miami won't need a return man with Marcus Thigpen having a good 2012.
Alford, however, showed he could do more than return punts throughout the week, as Bleacher Report's Alex Dunlap reported:
Alford looked like he was operating on a higher level than any DB on the South roster during the change-of-direction drills under the watchful eye of a fired-up Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.
Any scout will tell you that athleticism starts in the feet and moves upward. Alford's lateral agility and footwork in drills translated beautifully to his on-field performances through the week.
During the game, Alford was aggressive throughout the afternoon and his explosiveness will also be a big help in run defense as receivers have had a hard time blocking him.
He also showed great ball-hawking skills as he intercepted Zac Dysert when the North was attempting a two-point conversion late in the game.
Alford's time at Southeastern Louisiana will show you a hint of what he's capable of as he ended his senior season with four interceptions and 10 picks for his career.
Round 4, Pick 101: Jonathan Cyprien, Strong Safety, Florida International
Jonathan Cyprien impressed many during Senior Bowl practice, including that of Senior Bowl executive and former NFL scout Phil Savage (per AL.com):
I watched him over the summer based off last year. I loved his tackling, his explosiveness. He just had a football temperament that jumped off the tape. We kind of waited and let some of the other people go in and check him out. I had a friend from another team go in and check him out late in the year and I told him to just text me, thumbs up or thumbs down. He texted me 'Thumbs way up.
He's come in here and done what I really thought he could do in terms of the football mentality. He's been in tune with it. Beneath the service, he's one of the more talked-about players here at the Senior Bowl.
Hopefully that friend from another team was one Jeff Ireland, who last year missed out on another local product right in his backyard (T.Y. Hilton).
Cyprien led FIU with four interceptions and 93 tackles and is a hard-hitting ballhawk could play either of the safety positions or even cornerback at 6'0", 209 lbs.
Placed in a defensive backfield alongside Reshad Jones, Cyprien would form one half of a duo that would be fear for any wide receiver.
If he's available in Round 4 (where he is graded by NFLDraftScout.com), he would be the steal of the draft, which is something the Dolphins will need to find.
Round 5, Pick 132: Conner Vernon, Wide Receiver, Duke
Have you seen Brian Hartline's contract demands?
Here, take a look, as reported by Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald.
Are you back? Alright, close your mouth.
As great as Hartline has been, I don't see him being worth that much money; especially when you consider that 2012 was his first "great" season. I mean great in a relative sense, because he did only score one touchdown to go along with his 1,083 yards on 74 catches.
I liked him this year, but I'd have to see if he could continue this momentum for another year before committing $6 million to him, especially when for $3 million more you could have Greg Jennings as a true No. 1. Not to mention that Davone Bess is already great for the slot receiver role.
So it's safe to say that whether the Dolphins sign a wide receiver or not, they should double down at the position (and that's also the case regardless of if they let Hartline go or not). I already had them picking Patton in Round 3, and in Round 5 I see an intriguing prospect in Conner Vernon.
If you've watched the ACC, I'm sure you're familiar with the Duke Blue Devil, who originally hails from Key Biscayne. He's the ACC's all-time reception leader and for the last three years was the best player on that Duke offense.
But he also participated in the Senior Bowl, where he caught four passes for 35 yards.
Meanwhile, Bleacher Report's own NFC North Blogger, Andrew Garda, had this to say about Vernon on his Cheesehead TV blog:
During individual position drills, Vernon didn’t look sharp. He didn’t look bad, he just didn’t look as good as Swope.
Then the defensive backs stepped in and Vernon woke up. Vernon made some incredible grabs, ran outstanding routes and just flat out muscled the ball away from the defenders on a consistent basis.
Of the receivers, he was the most surprising to me and the guy who got me most excited on offense.
The comparison to Texas A&M's Ryan Swope is one that he will likely get up until the draft. Based off of the comments I have received, most Dolphins fans want Swope, which is fair considering he already has a connection with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
However, Swope is likely to go in the second or third round, where the Dolphins will have better options both at receiver and at other needs. Waiting until the fifth round to pick the second wide receiver in the draft is a good idea that turns great by drafting the Miami native, who had this to say about growing up in Miami to MiamiDolphins.com:
Growing up I was always a Dolphins fan and enjoyed tailgating. Miami was fun and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I grew up great and there’s a lot of tradition there. It was a lot of fun on Saturdays and Sundays and I saw a lot of games in the Orange Bowl but I did see a few Dolphins games at that stadium, even though it was a bit more of a drive from our home in Key Biscayne.
Vernon wants to play here, and can produce for the Dolphins in their position of biggest need. Sounds like a perfect match, especially in Round 5.
Round 7, Pick 169: Devin Taylor, Defensive End, South Carolina
How stacked is this year's draft?
So stacked that Devin Taylor is actually projected as a sixth- or even seventh-round pick. Going based off of the assumption that many teams will rush (no pun intended) on pass-rushers early and often in this year's draft, I see Taylor being available in the seventh round for the Dolphins to pick.
He would be another steal as well. Let's run down why.
First of all, he's an SEC guy. I just trust SEC players to succeed in the pros more because they play against more NFL-ready competition than just about anyone.
Secondly, yes, he was the second-best pass-rusher on the Gamecocks in 2012. The best, though, is a player who even in this year's pass-rush-heavy NFL draft would likely be the first man off the board in Jadeveon Clowney.
Taylor finished the season with 46 tackles (13 of them for a loss), 7.5 sacks and eight pass deflections. He's fast, he's active on the defensive line, and he impressed me enough in the East-West Shrine Game (if you didn't watch it I don't blame you) to say this:
We might as well start off with the biggest winner on defense of this game, South Carolina's Devin Taylor.
Taylor was one of many defensive ends entering the draft this year, a draft that has plenty of depth at his position as it is. He needed a big game on Saturday and delivered by being a disruptive force on defense for the East team and recording multiple tackles and a forced fumble.
The NFL scouts in attendance will no doubt notice Taylor much more now, but his work is far from over. A strong combine and pro day could continue to raise Taylor's stock prior to the draft. After his impressive performance on Saturday, that stock is already well on it's way up.
Again, this is a player who's still projected to go late in Round 6 or early in Round 7. If he's available for the Dolphins, they have to jump.
I know I already have a defensive end in this mock draft in Tank Carradine; however, the Dolphins should consider doubling down on pass-rushers in this draft as much as they should double down on receivers.
This would be a great way to do so. As for having multiple pass-rushers? That works out well when you're competing with the Patriots, who do struggle whenever Tom Brady is made uncomfortable. Just ask the New York Giants last year or the Baltimore Ravens this year.
You do remember that the Dolphins have to play them twice a year, right?
Round 7, Pick 172: Caleb Sturgis, Kicker, Florida
Yes, a kicker.
It's a seventh-round pick; this is where kickers should go.
Florida's Sturgis will likely go in the seventh round, which is where the Dolphins should pounce for plenty of reasons.
He's used to the Florida weather, which is the best place to start in arguing why he should be chosen. He was 9-of-10 from beyond 40 yards last year, and overall for his career at Florida made 79.5 percent of his field goals.
This kid has a great leg and has gotten better with every passing season with the Gators. For this reason he and Florida State's Dustin Hopkins will likely get picked up in the seventh round.
I prefer the more accurate Sturgis out of the two to not only provide competition for Dan Carpenter (who started the season shaky but wound up recovering), but also to likely replace the higher-priced veteran.
Mock Draft Recap
Round 1: Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU
Round 2: Zach Ertz, Tight End, Stanford
Round 2: Larry Warford, Guard, Kentucky
Round 3: Quinton Patton, Wide Receiver, Louisiana Tech
Round 3: Robert Alford, Cornerback, Southeastern Louisiana
Round 4: Jonathan Cyprien, Strong Safety, Florida International
Round 5: Conner Vernon, Wide Receiver, Duke
Round 7: Devin Taylor, Defensive End, South Carolina
Round 7: Caleb Sturgis, Kicker, Florida
As you can see, this draft would address Miami's issues with playmakers on offense and defense, as well as bring in a new kicker. Keep in mind that for the first-round pick, it is actually preferable if the Dolphins could find a way to trade down in the draft.
Either way, this will not be the last mock draft that you have read or that will write. There are plenty of factors from free agency to potential trades as well as the NFL Scouting Combine that will impact how the chips fall.
April is still four months away, but after the Senior Bowl, we do have a better idea of where the Dolphins could go in terms of filling up needs to better compete with New England in the AFC East.