With the NFL Draft fast approaching, its time to look at what the Miami Dolphins can do with their options.
Miami has several needs. The most pressing issues are currently at nose tackle, free safety, and outside linebacker.
At the point of their 3-4 defense, Jason Ferguson is suspended for the first half of the season for a drugs violation. Paul Solai is not seen as the man to replace Ferguson, so the Dolphins will likely address that issue in the draft.
At OLB, Joey Porter has gone and recently signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Jason Taylor is not a certainty to return; particularly now he is the focus of the New York Jets’ attention, and even if he does return, he is now 35 years old and coming to the end of his illustrious career.
Miami released Gibril Wilson at free safety following a disastrous campaign, and failed to fill the void with Antrell Rolle or Ryan Clark. Now they appear to have turned their attention to the draft for options at safety, despite free agents Darren Sharper and OJ Atogwe offering interesting propositions to fill the void.
In addition, Miami needs a top receiver for Chad Henne to throw to, as Ted Ginn has failed to develop into that player.
They also have needs at guard, having put Justin Smiley on the trading block, and running back, where Ronnie Brown is coming off another season ending injury, and Ricky Williams has previously said he will retire at the end of this year.
The Dolphins also hope to add depth at tight end, and possibly inside linebacker, although the big-money arrival of Karlos Dansby has made that problem much less significant.
So, who will Miami look to in the draft? Well, the following is a possibly scenario that would help alleviate all Miami’s immediate needs, and add depth to a team that hopes to push for the playoffs next season.
First Round – 12th Pick Overall
The first option that should be explored in Miami’s war room is the possibility of trading down.
The 12th pick in the draft is valuable, but with such great depth in most positions, it might be wise to trade in the hope of picking up an extra second or third round pick, while swapping first rounders.
Furthermore, all Miami's targets are not seen to merit the 12th pick of the draft, and most are expected to reach the 20th pick if Miami does not select them. Dez Bryant, Dan Williams, and Sergio Kindle could all reach this pick, and would be much better value later in the draft than at 12.
The teams that could figure in a trade are Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and the New England Patriots. Dallas obviously enjoys close relations with Miami due to the Parcells/Sparano link, while they hold the 27th pick in the draft.
The Eagles recently acquired the fourth pick of the second round following the trade of Donavon McNabb to the Redskins. There are rumours that they will move up the board from the 24th pick in search of a safety.
However, if Earl Thomas and Eric Berry are gone by Miami’s 12th pick, then this trade will not happen.
New England would prove a more rewarding trade, as they hold the 22nd pick in the draft, as well as three second-round picks (44, 47, and 53). Any of these picks could be used to select starters for Miami, so a trade with the Patriots would be a big incentive for the Dolphins.
Should Miami trade down? It would be a great opportunity to grab two starters with two picks in the second round, but Miami are targeting an outside linebacker, just like New England, so they may not be willing to let the Patriots pick before them.
The latest rumours indicate that Miami are looking to trade down, and they still believe they will be able to draft the man they want.
Williams, Kindle, Graham, Weatherspoon, and even Bryant could be late round picks if Miami does not draft them at 12, so the best option would be a trade, before signing the best available late on in the draft.
The most obvious options that will likely be available for selection are Dan Williams, Sergio Kindle, and the controversial Dez Bryant.
Should Miami move down in the draft, then outside linebacker remains the spot to fill. Kindle is expected to fall down the board if Miami pass on him, and some believe he will land in New England at 22. Sean Weatherspoon is a possibility, as is Brandon Graham.
Meanwhile, if the Jaguars pass on Derrick Morgan, then Miami might fancy a shot at him. He has the size and speed that the Dolphins' like, but he would fit best in a 4-3 defense, and can be inconsistent. He might be gone by 12, but if not, then expect Miami to think long and hard about him.
Williams had an impressive Senior Bowl, and is rated the No. 1 nose tackle on the board. Many believe that he will land in Miami on the 22nd, but there is a great deal of depth in the draft for nose tackles, and a later round pick could offer more value for Miami.
Sergio Kindle is the top outside linebacker in the draft, and would become a starter in the position immediately. He is a strong tackler, and effective in both the pass rush, and stopping the run. However, there are concerns about his consistency, but these are unlikely to put Parcells off. Kindle is the size that Parcells wants in his OLBs, and may well be the top target.
Dez Bryant is an exceptional receiver, but his character issues remain, and his draft stock is falling rapidly due to this. Again, the depth at WR in the draft is very deep, so Miami will likely pass on Bryant in favour of a linebacker or nose tackle. Either way, passing on Bryant is the right thing to do.
Other options at OLB include Brandon Graham and Sean Weatherspoon. The latter can play inside or outside linebacker, and has great productivity and speed.
However, he isn't big for a linebacker, and concerns about his size will dissuade Miami from taking him in the first round.
Graham is a top prospect in the draft. He is the top ranked OLB in the draft, and has shown everyone what to expect from him with an impressive Senior Bowl appearance. Chalking up five tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble, Graham demonstrated his ability, and should be considered by Miami when they are finally on the clock.
Unfortunately, Graham may not warrant the 12th pick of the draft, and should Miami trade down into the twenties, he is unlikely to pass Atlanta's pick at 19. If he is on the board, then he should be the pick. Trading down would make this a highly unlikely prospect, but staying at 12 is considered too high. Either way, Graham will most likely not be playing in a Dolphins uniform next year.
Regardless of what number Miami picks at in the first round, it would be sensible to use it on an outside linebacker. Which one? Parcells and Sparano will want Kindle.
Trading down and still selecting Kindle would be perfect for Miami, and it is quite possible that the Dolphins could achieve this.
First Round Pick: Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas