NFL Draft Picks Who Would Be Instant Starters for the Miami Dolphins
One look at the Miami Dolphins 2012 roster makes it very clear that they will have to hit big in the draft on players ready to contribute to the roster from day one.
Whether it's at wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line or the secondary, an upgrade in talent is needed for the Dolphins to improve upon their 7-9 record from 2012.
But can such help be found in the draft?
Of course. The NFL draft manages to produce players ready for the big show every year. However, for every Jonathan Martin and Ryan Tannehill that can start from Week 1 through the rest of the season, there a couple Michael Egnews, who won't make an appearance until late in the season, in Egnew's case Week 15 and, even then, only due to injury.
That is unacceptable, especially from a third-round draft pick acquired in exchange for a receiver who would go on to have one of his best seasons. With five draft picks in the top-100 of the 2013 draft, Miami has to find guys ready to play right away.
But who are some of these players?
Dee Milliner—Cornerback, Alabama
Find a better cornerback in this year's draft.
Go ahead, I'll wait.
Before we get to a player who will more likely be available for Miami at the number 12 pick or lower should they make the smart decision to trade down (Johnthan Banks) on the next slide, let's take a quick look at Milliner, who is heads-and-shoulders above Banks in just about every way at the position.
The 6'1" 198 lb Crimson Tide corner finished 2012 with 54 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two interceptions.
Why so few interceptions? Would you throw it at this guy? I didn't think so.
He's the definition of a shutdown corner and the best player on the best secondary in the country, coached up by one of the best defensive back coaches in all of football who also happens to be his head coach. Yes, I did just compliment Nick Saban.
Milliner comes right out of the box ready to use. He'd immediately be the best corner on the Dolphins and, unless the Jets trade Darrelle Revis, the second-best cornerback in the AFC East.
Johnthan Banks—Cornerback, Mississippi State
Yes, that's Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez getting a catch stolen from him by Johnthan Banks in that photo.
Tim Tebow was the quarterback though, so odds are Hernandez had to go back to make an attempt to catch the ball.
That aide, it was nice to see a picture of that in the hopes that Banks can cover Hernandez just as well in the NFL as the shot suggests
But he's not someone I'd pick at number 12. I would trade down and then take him.
Even though that's how I feel about Banks, that doesn't mean he won't start the second he sets foot on the Dolphins' Davie campus.
On the contrary, he will be the best corner on the team. He doesn't have the speed of Milliner and is a few notches below him, but the discrepancy is comparable to the difference between a Revis and Charles Tillman.
You would take Tillman on the Dolphins, right?
Xavier Rhodes—Cornerback, Florida State
Let's start with the fact that Rhodes was recruited out of college as a wide receiver. This either means he won't drop the interceptions that routinely go through the hands of Sean Smith or that he was moved there because he has hands of stone.
The interception numbers (eight in three seasons) may also be telling stats: either he's so good that quarterbacks don't attempt to challenge him or he can't catch at all.
Considering he's considered a first-round pick, I'm going with the former on both of those. I'm also going to say that he would start for the Dolphins from day one, much like Milliner or Banks.
I am a fan of what I've seen of Rhodes covering wide receivers. He's physical and has the size (6'2" 217) to match up with bigger wide receivers, routinely pressing them at the line of scrimmage.
The flip-side to that is he can be too physical, but you can tolerate a questionable pass interference penalty or two if he can follow that up with an interception.
Zach Ertz—Tight End, Stanford
In my last Dolphins Seven-Round Mock (a mock where I somewhat wish I could take back the first-round pick considering that I don't even think he'd be able to start in Week 1), I mentioned how there was no way Ertz would drop to the Dolphins before citing Matt Miller's Mock:
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.
Now, best tight end from his first practice? Doesn't that mean he'd be ready to start immediately?
I don't think I have to add much more to this really, however CBSSports Dane Brugler did 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.
If Ertz is available in round two and Jeff Ireland doesn't select him, Stephen Ross should fire him right on the spot.
Tyler Eifert—Tight End, Notre Dame
I know that there's a great chance that Ertz won't be available for the Dolphins in round two. Preferably if Miami trades down in the first round and the best players that would fill the rest of Miami's needs aren't available, they'd go with Ertz there.
But that's not even a guarantee. You would be more likely to see Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert available for the Dolphins, even when they get to their second selection of round two.
He's a must-pick and, like Ertz, would come into training camp as the Dolphins' top tight end (much like Ertz).
He's not as fast as Ertz and isn't as good of a blocker, but Eifert does have great catching ability and presents a legitimate mismatch for anyone attempting to cover him.
Pairing him (or Ertz) up with Charles Clay would give Miami a solid tight end combination that would instantly become Ryan Tannehill's best friend, especially in the red zone.
Datone Jones—Defensive End, UCLA
Datone Jones is 6'4" 280 lbs and has a great combination of quickness and strength that the Dolphins will need to pair up with Cameron Wake along the defensive line.
To be Wake's future running mate, it might help out to be flexible and Jones has proven to be just that, playing not only at defensive end, but also seeing some time at defensive tackle for the Bruins as well.
In Miami Jones would only play defensive end, with Jared Odrick possibly moving to defensive tackle and Olivier Vernon moving to linebacker working out best for the Dolphins. Letting this guy get to the quarterback from the beginning of the season could be a disaster—for the rest of the AFC East.
Now, Jones did only have 6.5 sacks with the Bruins in 2012, but blame that on the constant moving that UCLA put Jones through. While he's not graded as high as Bjoern Werner or Damontre Moore (or LSU's Barkevious Mingo a.k.a. Vernon Gholston II), he is more versatile than the two and would thrive in Kevin Coyle's defensive schemes.
Larry Warford—Guard, Kentucky
I'm not particularly proud of this but I actually asked Omar Kelly of The Sun-Sentinel for advice.
This isn't an attack on him, as he can be a great writer at times when he isn't too busy letting the people on Twitter get to him. I just say I'm not proud of this because I don't like to think of myself as someone who needs to ask for help evaluating a player.
RT @thomasgalicia: Kentucky Guard Larry Warford; what did you think of him?» A little big for what Dolphins want to do. But he's solid.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) January 27, 2013
I asked this about Larry Warford after watching the Senior Bowl, a game where I saw him playing more like a zone-blocking guard. He pulled well and managed to hold off both the pass rush and the run defense. I loved what I saw from the kid, and think that despite his size, he has enough agility to work in Miami.
He's not as great of a zone-blocker as the next man I will name, but he would work well, despite what Omar might have told me. But Omar was right: Warford is solid enough to start at left guard on day one, and move the Pro Bowler Richie "please call yourself Ric" Incognito to the right side.
Jonathan Cooper—Guard, North Carolina
Jonathan Cooper; now THIS is the ideal zone-blocking guard.
Bleacher Report Draft expert Matt Miller, please tell us about Jonathan Cooper:
Cooper is a powerful blocker who looks to dominate at the point of attack. He'll put defenders on their backs and keep running—showing off good balance and quickness to pull and lead on outside runs.
Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com, please further elaborate:
Cooper is a smooth, coordinated athlete with fluid footwork and outstanding balance, blocking well on the move and constantly getting to the second level. Cooper lacks overpowering strength and needs to cut down on the penalties, but is an extremely effortless mover with explosive quickness in tight quarters. With an impressive senior season, Cooper, who is almost fully recovered from January shoulder surgery, could be the first offensive lineman out of North Carolina to be drafted in the first round since 1987 (Harris Barton).
Power, agility, fluidity and coordination; At times, this was missing from the Dolphins' offensive line, but with Cooper, some of that will get better on the left side of the line.
However, I know how Dolphins fans are: you will boo this pick. If the Dolphins take Cooper over Cordarelle Patterson, Keenan Allen, Johnthan Banks or any other playmaker (even if it's the result of trading down), you will boo, you will be upset that the Dolphins will take a guard so early in the first round.
This would be the reaction even if the Dolphins managed to trade down to the 31st or 32nd pick and grab Cooper (by the way, a trade like that would be won by the Dolphins if they get Cooper along with an extra third rounder out of it).
I get it, the Dolphins don't "need" an offensive lineman, even though the lineman on the roster don't exactly fit the scheme being run. You want a play-maker, fine.
Just remember, five picks in the top-100, and plenty of play-makers to choose from. I named the only other guard that would be a possibility for the Dolphins that would be available in rounds two or three, but Cooper is a better fit for the Dolphins, and would start the second he sets foot in Miami.
Jonathan Cyprien—Strong Safety, Florida International
I had Cyprien going to the Dolphins in round four of the draft.
Now it's looking like he won't last that long. Oh well, I would be just fine with the Dolphins drafting him in rounds two or three.
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.
I have had yet to talk to someone about the draft who didn't want Cyprien on their team. After an impressive Senior Bowl outing, he's been a very popular commodity.
I can at least say I've seen the kid play in person. The hype is well warranted, wherever the ball seems to go, Cyprien seems to be. There's a lot of Ed Reed in that kid, and being a local guy of course scores points with me because no region seems to produce talent as well as South Florida.
Where Are the Wide Receivers, Thomas?
Wide receivers need time to develop.
This is why the focus should be on the Dolphins going after a Greg Jennings or Mike Wallace while retaining Brian Hartline, assuming Hartline can be talked into a lower price than he wants.
Miami can draft a wide receiver, but it should come as a supplement to Jennings or Wallace, preferably in round three (Quinton Patton of Louisiana Tech) and either the other third round pick (Ryan Swope of Texas A&M) or round five (Conner Vernon of Duke).
But are those players NFL-ready right now? No, it will take some time. But you can say the same thing about Cal's Keenan Allen, Tennessee's Justin Hunter and Cordarelle Patterson, West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, and USC's Robert Woods.
I wouldn't be against drafting any of those guys, but they wouldn't start from day one unless Ireland really messes up in free agency and isn't able to lure Jennings or Wallace to South Beach. Sorry, Miami Gardens.
Of course, if that's the case, I'll meet you guys in Davie for this year's protest. I'm sure there will be more people attending that one.