Reviewing the Dolphins' 5 Biggest Scouting Combine Takeaways
The Dolphins brought 55 coaches and scouts along with general manager Jeff Ireland to the combine, as they scouted for what looks to be Miami's most important draft of the Ireland era. A misstep in the draft or free agency could potentially lead to an entirely different contingent representing the Dolphins in Indianapolis next year, so it was imperative that Miami do its due diligence this time around, as well as throughout the rest of the offseason.
So what did we take away from this year's version of the "Underwear Olympics" as it pertains to the Miami Dolphins?
Plenty it turns out.
Combine numbers courtesy of NFL.com
Jeff Ireland Managed to Say a Lot of Nothing
The Dolphins' combine started off with a Jeff Ireland presser where he revealed:
We brought every single person in the building. So we have eyes on every single player at the combine, we brought 55 personnel and coaches to the combine, so we’ve got a lot of eyes on a lot of different guys so it really doesn’t change the process. We are trying to prioritize who we are looking at, what we are looking at, this is an information gathering process. No firm decisions are made during this time period, we are just gathering all the information in and then we will start analyzing it as the information comes in.
My takeaway from that was if Ireland wanted a cookie, aren't the Dolphins supposed to be thorough when looking at prospects?
Ireland also talked about how he didn't care about taking players when they could be a reach with a good answer to that question:
Well if history repeats itself, I really don’t care what the public perception is. I care about what my scouts say and what my eyes are telling me. So we have our own evaluations that we go into and sometimes you have a need there, sometimes you have the grade and they have to marry to each other when they do you take the player.
He does have a point, as sometimes the failure to reach does lead to teams missing out on impact players.
Then when it came to free agency, this is where Ireland really started to say nothing in a lot of words. But would you expect him to publicly say exactly what he's going to do? Of course not, that would be foolish. Despite the fact that the Dolphins likely won't use the franchise tag this season, Ireland did say, “We have a pretty good idea where we’re going with it,” without stating any specific names.
Just about everything Ireland said could mean anything, as he played the press conference fairly well. Say what you will about him but he has managed to improve his approach toward the media and has fit in well with the Dolphins' new policy of transparency.
However this wasn't the time for transparency, and he played it up well by talking a lot, but saying nothing at all.
Here's the full transcript where Ireland's quotes came from, courtesy of MiamiDolphins.com.
Free Agent Pickup or Not, Miami Must Grab a Wide Receiver in This Year's Draft
The Dolphins lucked into the right time to desperately need a wide receiver.
In addition to the receivers that are a part of this year's free agent class, the 2013 Draft is lousy with talented receivers.
There isn't a consensus best receiver available, although many seem to think it's Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson. The reality is though that Miami can't really do wrong this season so long as at least two of their five picks in the first three rounds are used on a wide receiver.
The most impressive receiver at the combine was Tavon Austin, who ran a 4.34 40-yard dash and looks like he will become an elite slot receiver in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Keenan Allen didn't participate in any workouts due to an injury sustained during last year's college football season, but he did interview with the Dolphins and even drew up plays with head coach Joe Philbin, per The Miami Herald. About the interview Allen simply stated: "The connection was there."
With all of the options at the position, Miami should be able to spend two of their first five draft picks on a wide receiver, even if they sign either Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings. Look for plenty of good receivers to be available in both the second and third rounds, including Texas A&M's Ryan Swope, the former teammate of Ryan Tannehill's who ran a 4.34 40-yard dash and had stated about joining the Dolphins (per Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post):
That would be really cool to go there and see that coaching staff that I’m close with, and see Tannehill and just be surrounded by some good old Aggies.
Plenty of Cornerbacks to Go Around in This Year's Draft Class
My ultimate dream scenario would be for Alabama's Dee Milliner to fall to the Dolphins at the No. 12 pick.
Milliner is the best cornerback in the draft, and despite the fact that he is nursing a torn labrum injury that requires surgery (per ProFootballTalk.com), he still has managed to impress just about everyone at the combine with his athleticism, even running a 4.31 40-yard dash.
But the reality is Milliner likely won't be available at No. 12, which means Miami will have to look elsewhere for secondary help.
Lucky for them there are plenty of prospects, such as Florida State's Xavier Rhodes and Miami's Brandon McGee. McGee is an intriguing prospect as it's likely he will be available in the fourth round, but had a solid combine, even running a 4.38 40-yard dash.
Rhodes is a likely late-first-round pick, which means he should be available should the Dolphins decide to trade down. However, if Miami did reach for him at No. 12, it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, save for the fact that he is more of a press coverage corner in the same mold as Sean Smith.
One disappointing name was Johnthan Banks, whose combine likely pushed him further down in the first round, possibly even into round two.
Much like with wide receivers, Miami has an abundance of corners to choose from in this year's draft that should bring great value in the second and third rounds.
Miami Can Afford to Wait a Couple of Rounds to Draft a Tight End
Eifert or Ertz, Ertz or Eifert.
For Dolphins fans, either of those players will do, but the reality is the Dolphins can actually afford to skip them and go for a tight end later on in the draft.
Yes, the most controversial statement I'll ever make is the fact that the Dolphins can afford to pass on Stanford's Zach Ertz and Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert.
Ertz was a tad disappointing, running a 4.76 40-yard dash, but his 24 reps in the bench press was pretty good. Eifert looked like the more complete athlete, however, as he ran a 4.68 40 and had 22 reps in the bench press.
But those guys weren't alone, as San Diego State's Gavin Escobar and Rice's Vance McDonald both graded out well at the combine, as well as Florida's Jordan Reed. Each of these players should be available late in round three or later.
On top of that, Miami still has Charles Clay and could work out a decent deal to retain Anthony Fasano, and there are a few intriguing options at the tight end position available at free agency to fill in that hole.
Miami and New England's First Matchup Will Commence in March
While this isn't necessarily a combine note, it is a note of importance.
The deal will give New England close to $27 million in cap room (less than the Dolphins, but keep in mind they have much less holes to fill, per Bleacher Report's Erik Frenz), and allow them to not only retain Wes Welker, but add the deep threat they haven't had since Randy Moss.
Mike Wallace fits that bill, and could be pursued by the Patriots. The Dolphins already reportedly have Wallace at the top of their list (per NFL.com), but despite having more money to spend than New England, they have many more holes to fill and will be competing against the team that has one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time as well as a decade of sustained excellence.
This makes an already intriguing offseason that much more exciting, and could lead to Miami's first heartbreak of 2013.
Miami just became the underdogs in the Mike Wallace race, and it will be a battle next month between the two squads for his services.