The Miami Dolphins' draft class of 2012 was one of their strongest in the last decade, and certainly the strongest of the Jeff Ireland era.
The draft wound up producing two starters in quarterback Ryan Tannehill and tackle Jonathan Martin, along with two solid contributors in Olivier Vernon (who had some monster games for Miami both on defense and on special teams) and running back Lamar Miller.
The Dolphins also saw a glimpse of hope from developmental projects Kheeston Randle (eight tackles in 12 games, all on special teams), Josh Kaddu (who played on special teams in four games but does seem to have promise) and wide receiver Rishard Matthews.
On top of all of that, it gave us the comedy of Michael Egnew on Hard Knocks as we saw the third-round pick's Facebook get hacked by Richie Incognito as well as Mike Sherman cursing him out like he was a dog that pooped on the sofa.
It was a fun draft class all around, as the only member of the draft class to not survive with the team was sixth-round pick B.J. Cunningham, a wide receiver out of Michigan State who was released after the preseason and would wind up in Philadelphia (who knew going from the Dolphins to the Eagles would be a downgrade at the start of the 2012 season)?
So what should we expect from these eight players in 2013? It may only be a few days after the Super Bowl, but it's not too early to ask and project.
In 2012 Matthews started in Miami's final home game of the season due to an injuries to Davone Bess and Brian Hartline.
If the Dolphins' offseason goes the way many think it will (signing a wide receiver in free agency followed by drafting another wide receiver), Matthews might not start any games at all unless he has a tremendous training camp.
That's not to say he won't be a part of the team. In eight games, Matthews had 11 receptions for 151 yards, and showed promise with his speed and his agility. There were times when better hands would've helped him (such as against the San Francisco 49ers), but you could see the potential in there.
Unless the Dolphins wind up going offensive-line-heavy in the draft and spend nothing on free agents (while letting Brian Hartline replace Wes Welker in New England), Matthews will likely have to fight for a roster spot come training camp.
With Bess and (hopefully) Hartline already on the team, along with Greg Jennings/Mike Wallace and (insert your favorite wide receiver from this year's draft) competing for spots, seeing Matthews released wouldn't surprise me.
But it wouldn't surprise me if he stays with Miami either, if that makes any sense. I can't really project what this young man will do because there are so many variables up in the air. You will see later on with Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon there will be hard numbers backing this up, but with Matthews, I really can't give you anything.
In Kheeston Randall, the Dolphins have a player who showed potential at a position of possible need.
I'm not going to question whether or not Randall makes the team in the same way that I question Matthews, simply because Miami will need him no matter what happens.
The Dolphins' strength on defense was stopping the run, thanks in part to Paul Soliai and Randy Starks up the middle. Starks, however, is an impending free agent who is getting up in age. The main backup that shuffles in and out of the lineup is the dependable Tony McDaniel, but Randall has seen some playing time on the line as well and will likely be used more in 2013.
If Starks does leave in the offseason, the defensive tackle spot opposite Soliai will likely go to Jared Odrick, but Randall will be used heavily as the Dolphins rotate their line to keep it fresh.
Either way, you will see Kheeston Randall contributing in some way to Miami's defensive line.
Projected Numbers: 13 tackles, 0.5 sacks.
Josh Kaddu didn't record any tackles for the Dolphins and only played in four games, but that is partly due to the fact that he was on Miami's practice squad up until an injury to Kevin Burnett forced Miami to upgrade its depth at the linebacker position in Week 6.
Kaddu was one of the last of Miami's cuts prior to the 2012 season (before he was signed to the practice squad), and the cut was mainly made due to Miami's depth at the linebacker position, a position that should remain fairly steady in 2013 barring a cap-room clearing casualty in Karlos Dansby or Kevin Burnett.
Either way, Kaddu will make quite a few more appearances. We could even see Kaddu in training camp challenge Koa Misi for the starting outside linebacker job along with another member of his draft class. However, for now I see Kaddu more as a situational linebacker who will contribute on special teams.
Projected Numbers: 30 tackles, 2.5 sacks.
Are you ready for me to throw two sets of hypothetical "way too early to predict" numbers at you?
Because, that's how I have to treat the Lamar Miller situation.
If Reggie Bush leaves Miami, which is what just about everyone is assuming he will do despite the fact that he seems more interested in staying in Miami, Lamar Miller will be Miami's No. 1 option in the backfield, end of discussion.
How will Miller play? He'll be very good for Miami. His yards per carry will be a tad lower than the 4.9 we saw this season, but when I said a tad lower, I meant 4.7, but with about the same number of carries that Bush saw in 2012.
Why the same number of carries? Miller will beat out Daniel Thomas for the starting job in training camp, and it won't even be close. If anything, Thomas won't be a Dolphin next season, and if Bush is gone, Miller will likely split carries with Marcus Thigpen and/or Jonas Gray.
Projected Numbers: 232 carries for 1,090 yards, 4.7 YPC, 41 catches for 320 yards, 10 total touchdowns.
Of course, Bush could be back and split carries with Miller, which would raise Miller's average but lower the rest of his numbers.
Projected Numbers with Reggie Bush: 120 carries for 612 yards, 5.1 YPC, 15 catches for 153 yards, five total touchdowns.
As I'm sure you can see, I have high hopes for Miller in 2013.
Egnew was a complete and utter waste of a third-round pick. The Dolphins could've had T.Y. Hilton. He's going to be replaced by either the signing of Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook, or the drafting of Stanford's Zach Ertz, Florida's Jordan Reed or even Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert.
I don't know why I'm wasting a slide on him. I just don't have any hope for this kid whatsoever. If I'm wrong and he winds up turning into the next Tony Gonzalez, I will allow Richie Incognito to hack my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles; I might even create an AdultFriendFinder profile for Incognito to hack, which should show how confident I am that Egnew will not be a member of the Miami Dolphins roster come Labor Day weekend.
Note: this offer won't be available if the Patriots pick up Egnew and we are all cursing Ireland and Philbin for failing to develop Egnew and then letting him go next season. That would just show the luck that the Dolphins have.
This kid will be a major part of the Dolphins defense in 2013.
I have no reason to suspect otherwise. He had a more limited role this season, but we got to see him come up big when it mattered.
Vernon practically won the game against St. Louis in October, then followed that up by being an ace on special teams against the Jets by not only blocking a field goal, but also returning a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Vernon ended the season with 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble, along with plenty of reasons to hope.
He also left us with a key question: what position is he?
Vernon looks better suited as an outside linebacker, and if you were to ask me now what he will be in 2013, it will be as a starting outside linebacker. That's right, starter—over Burnett and Koa Misi.
As an outside linebacker Vernon will be seen helping what should be a stronger pass rush for the Dolphins in 2013, while using his athleticism to do a better job of dropping into coverage than we have seen in a while. I wouldn't slate him for 100 tackles just yet, but I could see 90 being a really good possibility with Vernon starting.
Projected Numbers: 93 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one interception.
All I can predict for Martin is that barring injury, he will start every game in 2013 just as he did in 2012.
I can't tell you whether he will be the starting left tackle or right tackle as the Jake Long situation will resolve that, but no matter what, Martin will start.
He will also improve, and despite what happens with Jake Long, will likely play every snap during the preseason as a left tackle. It is his original position out of college, and if it comes to the Dolphins deciding to slap Long with the franchise tag (something I can't see happening), Martin will have to work on that position at an NFL level more anyways.
I do see an improvement in his technique, since it seemed to improve with every game anyways. It will likely take him another season before he can be considered one of the best at his position (whichever one this might be), but he will show that he's worth the draft pick.
I'm sure you've noticed a pattern to this list.
Along with the hackneyed attempts of comedy that belong in the big book of fails, the hatred for Michael Egnew and the mix of overestimating the 'Canes on the list while underestimating everyone else, this list is in inverse order of the Dolphins' 2012 draft as I started with their seventh-round picks and ended with their first-rounder.
I did it because I knew who you wanted to read about the most: Miller, Vernon and Ryan Tannehill. At least I'm being honest with my method.
Jeff Ireland was being honest with his method too when he said the Dolphins "violated their principles" (via Palm Beach Post) by drafting Tannehill last season.
Yeah, Mr. Ireland, please continue to violate your principles more, apparently it works.
Hopefully Ireland is also being honest when he told Omar Kelly: "We've got to get him help" (via NFL.com).
I expect that help to come both in free agency and in the draft, and I expect Tannehill to respond. You may laugh now at the projected numbers, but they are reminiscent of the second season of a recent Super Bowl winner who Tannehill seems to be compared to quite often.
Projected Numbers: 306/490: 3,589 yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, Quarterback rating of 90.8.