Offseason Miami Dolphins Player Power Rankings
The Miami Dolphins have finally taken the field, thus marking the end of the 2014 offseason.
Well, not quite. By taking the field, we mean the beginning of OTAs, and the offseason really doesn't end until the team officially kicks off in Week 1 at home against the New England Patriots.
What we do have is an approximation of what will make up the Miami Dolphins, giving rise to my newest gimmick that will take up too much of your time: power rankings for the top 30 players on the Miami Dolphins.
This list ranks each Dolphins player based off of what they can provide the team in 2014 and what they have provided in the past. The position itself is irrelevant, so I won't weigh some positions higher than others.
Here's a look at the top 30 players on the Miami Dolphins.
Here are the players that didn't quite make the cut due to a myriad of factors, but could find themselves climbing high in the 2015 version of this a year from now.
Jamar Taylor, Cornerback: Ideally, I'd like to see Taylor take the second starting cornerback job, which would push him deep into the top 30.
Before I can do that, he has to remain healthy and show the promise that prompted the Dolphins to use their 2013 second-round pick on him.
Will Davis, Cornerback: Davis can also get his name onto this list, but he doesn't have to start. A true ball hawk at cornerback, Davis would fit the Dolphins as their nickleback for years to come.
Jelani Jenkins, Jordan Tripp, Linebacker: By the end of this season, I wouldn't be surprised if these two gentlemen represented two-thirds of the team's starting linebackers.
Michael Egnew, Dion Sims, Arthur Lynch, Tight End: Can one of these three individuals be the complementary TE threat alongside Charles Clay? If they can, they'll be on this list next season.
30. Billy Turner
I had reservations about placing rookies on this list since they've barely been Miami Dolphins for a month.
However, I do have to include all 22 starters—at least the 22 players who would start if the season began today, hence Jamar Taylor's inclusion on the honorable mentions—and as of right now, Billy Turner is the Miami Dolphins' starting left guard.
Turner is a draft pick that I've liked for quite a while, partially because of his versatility. In addition to guard, he could slide to tackle in the event of an emergency.
Paired with Branden Albert on the left side of the offensive line, I expect Turner to have a pretty good season in Miami as he makes his debut.
29. Ja’Wuan James
Drafting Ja'Wuan James was a bit controversial due to the perception that the Dolphins didn't get enough value for the pick.
The truth is, if James can start immediately for Miami, the Dolphins got proper value for the pick.
Thus far, James is Miami's starting right tackle. Barring injury, I don't think that will change from now until the start of the season.
28. Marcus Thigpen
Marcus Thigpen is the first Dolphin from last year to crack the top 30, yet it wouldn't surprise me if he wasn't on the roster come Week 1.
Thigpen exploded in 2012 with one of the best years from a Dolphins return man since O.J. McDuffie fielded kicks and punts in the mid-'90s, delivering 316 punt return yards and 1,040 kick return yards along with two touchdowns.
The falloff in 2013 was huge, as he delivered 264 punt return yards and 878 kick return yards with no touchdowns.
There were also plenty of questionable plays by Thigpen in 2013 that made you wonder if he truly was the best option for the Dolphins at the position.
Thigpen will be competing with newly signed wide receiver Damian Williams, who does have limited experience as a return man. I'd love to see the Dolphins try Lamar Miller at the position, especially since he was successful in that role during his days with the Miami Hurricanes.
Thigpen could save his roster spot by contributing to the team's offense as a receiver, which the Dolphins will surely try. If not, he could find himself looking for a new team sooner rather than later.
27. Jarvis Landry
Ryan Tannehill has some new weapons to play with this season, and one that I'm most intrigued by is Jarvis Landry.
Landry was an impressive draft pick to me when he was chosen by the Dolphins. According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, he is already impressing the Dolphins in minicamp:
Coaches love good hands. Jarvis Landry has good hands — and showed them off just an hour into his first rookie minicamp practice.
During seven-on-seven drills Friday, the Dolphins’ second-round draft pick darted off the line, got behind cornerback Walt Aikens and made a leaping, contorting catch near the left sideline.
And, just as importantly, he kept his balance, turned up field and picked up even more yards.
Tannehill can certainly use a receiver with great hands, so this is definitely a promising development. Landry will likely be Miami's third wide receiver come autumn and might very well wind up being one of Tannehill's favorite targets before long.
26. Philip Wheeler
Depending on whom you ask, I either have linebacker Philip Wheeler ranked too high or too low on this list.
Wheeler is the lowest-ranked starter on the list, and his 2013 season should tell you exactly why thanks to his poor defense against the run and even worse defense of the pass.
Wheeler spent most of 2013 as Miami's weak-side linebacker, and it very quickly made Dolphins fans reminisce about the days of Karlos Dansby.
Missed tackles, missed assignments and missed opportunities surrounded Wheeler all season, and if it wasn't for the fact that it's actually cheaper for the Dolphins to keep Wheeler in 2014 than dump him, he likely wouldn't be on the team at this point.
Miami's younger linebackers—like Jelani Jenkins and Jordan Tripp—should be breathing down his neck in 2014.
25. John Denney
A long snapper in the power rankings?
Yes, I went there, as all four prominent Dolphins special teamers have a place on this list.
With Denney, it's simple: The guy does his job well. Very rarely do you see a bad snap on punts.
It's why he's survived Nick Saban, Cam Cameron, Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin.
24. Lamar Miller
What will a decreased workload mean for Lamar Miller in 2014?
Will Miller even have a decreased workload in 2014?
I don't see why he wouldn't, considering that Daniel Thomas is still on the roster—and far away from these power rankings. Mike Gillislee is as well, although I'd like to see what he could bring to the table.
On top of that, Miami signed Knowshon Moreno during the offseason, and Moreno is looking like Miami's starting running back in 2014 thanks to his pass-blocking ability.
You will see plenty of Miller, though, and an improved offensive line should help his numbers despite the reduction in carries.
Of Miami's running backs, he's still the one likeliest to hit a home run, but he could use a lot of work in pass protection and pass-catching.
Why the Dolphins won't give him a chance to return kicks and punts is anyone's guess right now, as it might be the best role for him this season.
23. Caleb Sturgis
What would be nice to see from second-year kicker Caleb Sturgis is consistency, and I'm talking about the good kind.
Sturgis started off the 2013 season well, hitting his first 10 field goals as a Miami Dolphin.
Then came his missed field goal at the end of Miami's Week 5 loss to the Ravens—a kick which I thought was a bit out of his range—followed by an atrocious showing against the Bills and Patriots in his next two games.
Sturgis finished the season 26-of-34. In basketball, that would be a great shooting day. For kickers in the NFL, that isn't exactly satisfactory.
22. Cortland Finnegan
Cortland Finnegan looked bad last season in St. Louis, which is why his signing by the Dolphins was questioned—especially in light of them letting go of Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson, who were more productive and would've cost less.
I wasn't in favor of the signing, but his leadership is growing on me. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweeted out that Finnegan stayed after practice to mentor the younger corners, one of which was Jamar Taylor.
You know Taylor, the guy whom Finnegan will be competing against for that second starting job.
On top of that, Omar Kelly of The Sun-Sentinel wrote that Finnegan had a good day during Tuesday's camp session, picking off Ryan Tannehill. The interception wasn't the only good part of his day, as Kelly added:
That job apparently belongs to Finnegan, who was the top performer in practice on Tuesday. Finnegan, who is surprisingly bigger than I remember him, was everywhere, and pulled down a interception on Tannehill during his first snap of the final 11-on-11 session. Taylor backed up Finnegan and Will Davis backed up Grimes, but they did flip sides.
Finnegan is as tough as they come in this league and is looking to prove that he's still a viable starter.
So far, he's on the right track toward doing that and him mentoring younger players can only help the Dolphins out in 2014 and beyond.
21. Matt Moore
It's rare that you see a backup quarterback on this list, especially ahead of a starting linebacker and a potential starting cornerback.
Is it because I think Matt Moore is that good? Not really, but I like the qualities that Moore possesses in terms of his command of the huddle—right now, it's well ahead of Tannehill's—as well as his ability to throw the deep ball—also ahead of Tannehill's.
Do I want Matt Moore starting? No, not at all, but he's a nice insurance policy to have.
20. Shelley Smith
Shelley Smith is only 26 years old and entering his fifth year in the league.
Based on age alone, this was a good signing by Miami. It only gets better when you see that Smith had a Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade of plus-12.3.
His pass-blocking does leave something to be desired, but it can be developed. Expect Smith to be the starting right guard this season, where his run-blocking will be a bit more important.
19. Dannell Ellerbe
Based off of my ranking, I'm sure you can tell I don't have the highest hopes for Philip Wheeler this season.
Dannell Ellerbe is a little bit different in this situation, as I do see him being redeemable if he's put on the outside.
Ellerbe struggled as Miami's middle linebacker in 2013, which should've been expected considering that he was moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3. As a 4-3 MLB, you have a lot more responsibility than an interior 3-4 linebacker would have.
He didn't handle it too well, but wasn't the outright disaster that Wheeler was. If he's shifted outside, we'll see a different player in 2014.
18. Dion Jordan
I'm a Dion Jordan fan, and as I wrote earlier this week on Cover 32, I expect big things from the second-year defensive end.
You should too when you consider that he's healthy—last offseason, he was nursing a shoulder injury—and has worked hard to get into shape.
Jordan has also put on some muscle, thus giving him the look of a defensive end.
His athleticism is still there, and that's what intrigues me and should intrigue Miami's coaching staff.
Jordan is currently No. 18 on my list, but will shoot up the list as the season progresses.
17. Louis Delmas
There's a lot to like with Louis Delmas, whom Miami signed this offseason to replace Chris Clemons.
Delmas provides the Dolphins with big-play ability in the secondary, which Clemons lacked despite his consistency.
His main concern is staying healthy, which he's had issues with in previous years.
16. Brandon Gibson
Had Brandon Gibson been able to play out the entire season in 2013, he'd be ranked higher on this list.
In seven games, Gibson pulled down 30 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns, and was likely on his way to having the best season of his career.
However, football can be a cruel mistress, as all it takes is a bad hit or bad step to end one's season, which was what happened to Gibson.
Now he finds himself in a crowded wide receiver scrum, simply fighting for his job. The good news? Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes that he's already working with the team.
15. Koa Misi
Koa Misi was Miami's best linebacker in 2013, which doesn't say a whole lot about him, but actually should.
Misi showed more maturity in 2013, and he was pretty consistent.
He will be rewarded with a shot at playing middle linebacker this year, as a change in position might help out this struggling unit.
14. Knowshon Moreno
What can Knowshon Moreno bring to the Miami Dolphins?
There's plenty, like his pass-blocking and pass-catching abilities as well as his ability to run the football.
Barring a horrendous training camp showing, there's no reason to think that Moreno won't be Miami's starting running back. As The Sun-Sentinel's Steve Gorten points out, he already has high praise from Ryan Tannehill:
"Knowshon's a talented guy. He's been around. He knows the NFL. He knows the grind of the season," Tannehill said. "And he's a hard runner. His M.O. is he's going to run hard, run between the tackles. But he also has great hands. Just throwing with him over the past couple of months, it's been exciting to see his hands coming out of the backfield, how smooth he catches the ball."
Moreno provides an element to Miami's offense that was missing last season. Along with a revamped offensive line, he could be the missing link.
13. Ryan Tannehill
Back away from your keyboards, ladies and gentlemen. If you are angry at this, please direct that anger toward the Indiana Pacers—or if you're not a Heat fan, toward the Patriots, Jets and Bills as per usual.
Right now, Ryan Tannehill is the 13th-best player on the team. A starting quarterback normally should rank higher, but for now, this is where Tannehill sits.
I like Tannehill and could see him making a leap this season thanks to a better running game and offensive line. I don't think he gets enough credit for last season—one where he practically ran the offense.
Instead, he got more blame for the offense's failures. It's fair because he's the starting quarterback, but considering the circumstances, I wasn't as hard on him as others.
Tannehill still has a lot to improve upon, including his deep-ball accuracy and performance under pressure. He did seem a bit jumpy in the pocket—not that you could blame him—and will have to clean that up.
12. Mike Wallace
Shocking statistic: Mike Wallace set a career high in catches last season with 73.
Digging further, he didn't have a bad season, as he racked up 930 yards and five touchdowns, and could've easily had another 100-plus yards and three touchdowns had the timing on the deep ball been a bit better.
Because of all that, I can't call Wallace's first season in Miami a bust.
I wish he would fight for the ball more, but that's never been who he is. He's a speed threat that can at times break some big runs on screen passes, which will be fun to see in Bill Lazor's offense.
11. Earl Mitchell
This is a ranking that's partially based on potential, as Mitchell has yet to play in a Dolphins uniform or in his new position, which is that of a 4-3 interior defensive lineman. He was a nose tackle with the Houston Texans in their 3-4 alignment.
The scheme in Miami should be a better fit for Mitchell. Considering his work in Houston, that promises big things. He has great pass-rushing ability and can stop the run fairly well.
That was when he played out of position. It will be interesting to see what he can do in a more natural position.
11a. Olivier Vernon
Let this slide be a reminder of two things.
1. I'm an idiot.
2. Never finish an article when you're upset at the results of a poorly-officiated basketball game.
Actually let me add the third thing: I'm an idiot because I wrote this upset at the results of a poorly-officiated basketball game instead of finishing the piece up before the game, hence making myself rush to get a piece done.
Because of that, Olivier Vernon suffers and is left off the list of top-30 Dolphins players after having a tremendous season where he showed himself to be a good run-stopping defensive end and a great pass rushing threat.
Vernon finished the season with 11.5 sacks after winning the starting job as Miami's second defensive end. He was a disruptive presence on the field and allowed Miami to somewhat weather the disappointing Dion Jordan rookie season.
I feel like I'm still slighting him by putting him at 11a, when he should be at 11 as I had originally constructed the list. If you'd like, feel free to knock off Billy Turner, then move everyone back to make way for Vernon.
The extra slide helps my page views anyways.
10. Reshad Jones
Reshad Jones didn't have the best of seasons in 2013, and one can make the argument that he doesn't deserve a spot in the top 10.
I'm not going to demote the guy because of a subpar season, though. Despite the bad play of the linebackers in front of him, Jones still recorded 10 more tackles than the previous year.
Jones has a good track record and should bounce back in 2014 with improved linebacker play and lining up next to Louis Delmas.
9. Brandon Fields
The joke in Miami is that Brandon Fields is the Dolphins' most reliable player, and for good reason.
Fields' punts affect field position in a way that few punters can. On average, his punts travel 48.8 yards and give the defense plenty of room to work with.
In a perfect world, the Dolphins wouldn't need a punter this good. We don't live in that world quite yet.
8. Branden Albert
Branden Albert was on the Miami Dolphins' man-crush list for the last year.
Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel suggested that the team flirted with the idea of trading for Albert during the 2013 draft before the deal fell apart. Albert played well in his franchise tag year, ranking seventh in pass protection and 19th overall according to Pro Football Focus (h/t Ty Schalter of Bleacher Report).
Albert might not be an elite left tackle, and he might be a bit overpriced, but he's the type of player Miami needs.
He can take a leadership role along an offensive line that desperately needs it and, more importantly, protect Ryan Tannehill's blind side.
7. Brian Hartline
For two consecutive seasons, Brian Hartline has been the top receiver for the Miami Dolphins.
Here's how important I find Hartline to be: I honestly believe the Dolphins would have beaten the Jets in Week 17 and made the playoffs had Hartline had not gotten hurt.
Hartline is coming off two straight 1,000-plus-yard seasons. In 2013, he hit a career high in touchdowns with four. The touchdowns should go up this season, but the receptions (74 in 2012, 76 in 2013) and yards have been solid.
More importantly, Hartline has been a reliable pass-catcher and the first receiver that Ryan Tannehill really developed a chemistry and connection with. That should be even better in their third year together.
6. Randy Starks
The next two players on the list are both of Miami's interior defensive linemen, and deciding who goes ahead of the other is a tough call.
For this list, I'm going with Randy Starks at No. 6 and Jared Odrick at No. 5, and I will explain why Odrick is ahead of Starks in the next slide.
As for Starks, he's been a rock in Miami's defense since 2008, starting 81 games and recording 26 sacks and 127 tackles.
In the past, Starks has been paired with Paul Soliai, but this season he will be part of a three-man rotation that also includes Earl Mitchell and Odrick.
5. Jared Odrick
I went with Odrick over Starks in this spot due to the fact that Odrick has more upside.
Odrick played his first season at defensive tackle in 2013 and responded with his best season thus far, recording a career high in tackles.
Odrick remains a pass-rushing threat like he was as a 3-4 end, but his sacks still went down, as he recorded 4.5 last season.
I'll take 4.5 sacks from a defensive tackle, especially if you include his run-stopping ability. Give this man a contract extension.
4. Charles Clay
I've been on the Charles Clay bandwagon since the Dolphins drafted him, so his 2013 season was a joy to watch for me.
Clay possesses just about every quality you'd want in a tight end with the exception of size, but he plays bigger than his frame. Prior to last season, he's always shown the ability to go up and grab the ball and made the effort to do so.
Last season was his best campaign, grabbing 69 receptions for 759 yards and six touchdowns. Clay can also claim a couple of wins to his credit, as he was key in Miami's win over the Steelers in Week 14, grabbing seven passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
The next week against New England, Clay was shut down save for a game-saving six-yard catch on a late 4th-and-5.
Clay will get more attention in 2014, and he's already gotten praise from his contemporaries. He was ranked 89th in the NFL's Top 100 list voted on by the players.
3. Mike Pouncey
If this were a power ranking for tact and intelligence, you wouldn't see Mike Pouncey on this list.
This list is about football, however, which is why he's ranked third.
Pouncey is quite possibly the best center in the NFL, which is part of the reason why his behavior is so infuriating. The Dolphins need him and are a better team with him on the field. He works well with Ryan Tannehill and should be the leader of the offensive line.
Pouncey might miss some games early this season, which could put the Dolphins in a bind at center as they attempt to rebuild their offensive line.
You will notice a big difference between Miami with and without Pouncey.
2. Brent Grimes
How was Brent Grimes not the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year in 2013?
Grimes signed with Miami on a one-year "prove it" deal after missing 15 games in 2012 due to an Achilles' tendon injury and proceeded to deliver perhaps the best season by a Dolphins cornerback since the days of Sam Madison and Pat Surtain.
Grimes allowed only one touchdown all season, intercepted four passes and scored a touchdown on one of them. His 2013 season was a joy to watch, one of the few joys in a year that the Dolphins would sooner forget.
My only gripe: He should've ranked higher on the NFL 100, where he placed 95th.
1. Cameron Wake
NFL players ranked Cameron Wake as the 66th-best player in the NFL and the fifth-ranked defensive end.
Unless Mike Pouncey is named to the NFL 100—a possibility—Wake is Miami's highest representative on the list. He's also the top player on the Miami Dolphins right now.
I didn't use position as a guide to rank these players, but the fact that Wake is a pass-rusher helps his rating with me. Also helping his rating with me is how much the Dolphins suffered when he was hurt during the season in 2013—especially against the Baltimore Ravens—and just how productive he is on the field.
Wake was the biggest success of the Jeff Ireland era and should be the player Miami builds around on defense—at least in the very near future.
He's not only the best player on defense, but the best player on the team.
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com