Even though the NFL Combine is in the books and draft day is less than two months away, the Dolphins draft outlook remains jumbled. However, one thing is clear: they will try to trade down in the first round. Although this is obviously not definite, Miami needs extra picks and there probably will not be a player that piques the team's interest at 15.
Last week, I speculated about five trade-down scenarios for the Dolphins. For this particular mock draft, let us imagine that the Dolphins and Chiefs swapped first-round picks, giving the 'Fins an extra third-round selection. Miami has a ton of needs on the offensive side of the ball, and trading down to pick up extra selections might be the best case scenario for Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano.
Now that the 'Fins have the 22nd overall pick as opposed to the 15th, they sit in a more appropriate spot to draft Florida center Mike Pouncey.
The 6'5", 303 pound lineman would immediately fill a gaping hole along the Dolphins offensive front. Before this team can begin to consider which running back will shoulder the load and which quarterback will call the signals, they need to fortify the line.
The recent re-signing of Richie Incognito suggests Pouncey would play guard if drafted by the Dolphins, where he would be able to further utilize his uncanny athleticism. While he is not believed to be quite on par with his brother Maurkice (Steelers' 2010 first round pick), he is not far behind.
All signs point to Pouncey as a beast of a player capable of stepping into an NFL starting line up right now.
Recent history has repeatedly proven that running back is no longer a "premium position." In other words, excluding elite prospects, quality running backs can be had in the second and third rounds, making teams less likely to address it in the first round.
This year's draft class is loaded with big-time collegiate backs who are projected to fall in the second to fourth round range. Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter was statistically dominant in college, yet his talent, despite a stellar combine, remains oddly overlooked. Hunter ran for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, and carried that momentum into last week's combine where he posted the best broad jump, 3-cone drill time, and 60-yard shuttle time.
Mike Mayock still does not have Hunter on his list of top five running backs, and that may be a byproduct of his 5'7" frame. But based on the recent success of short, stocky running backs (Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Michael Turner), his size should not cause too much concern.
If the Dolphins can get Ronnie Brown back at the right price, he and Hunter could make for a nice duo in 2011.
Tight end is another extremely pressing position whose absence plagued the Dolphins passing game last season. Miami essentially acknowledged this as a need when they brought Jeremy Shockey in for a physical, but his age, durability issues, and erratic character may have scared the Dolphins away.
Although prospects like FAU's Robert Housler and USC Jordan Cameron posted great 40 times and look to be stellar receivers, Miami will steer clear of them in favor of a well-rounded, big tight end with solid hands. Tennessee's Luke Stocker fits the bill.
Stocker has a massive 6'4", 258 pound frame, and caught 39 passes for the Vols last season. NFL.com praised his blend of blocking and receiving skills, and it is that combination that will have Stocker on the Dolphins' radar on draft day.
Arguably (and I stress arguably) the most pressing need in this year's draft is a "burner" wide receiver. The Dolphins need a wide receiver with straight-ahead, scorching speed who can draw attention and free Brandon Marshall of constant double teams.
Abilene Christain's Edmond Gates hails from the same alma-mater as NFL speedsters Johnny Knox, Bernard Scott, and Daniael Manning. Fittingly, Gates ran a 4.37 at combine despite re-aggravating a groin injury he suffered during the regular season. It was an impressive display that will have him rising up draft boards.
Jeff Ireland has openly and continually acknowledged that the Dolphins' biggest need this off-season is not relegated to a single position, but rather to speed. Gates is a picturesque prospect to fill this hole on Miami's roster.
With so many needs on the offensive side of the ball, the Dolphins can afford to wait until the later rounds of the draft to pick up some defensive and special teams depth. Miami looks to be well stocked at defensive line and in the secondary, but there is room for competition in the linebacker corps.
North Carolina State's Nate Irving is an athletic inside linebacker who plays with an intimidating intensity. He was voted on to both Scout.com and Sports Illustrated's 2010 All-American rosters.
Irving plays with the kind of insane attitude and general disrespect for his body that could make him a special teams ace, and eventually a contributor to Miami's defensive rotation.
According to Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel, the Dolphins have "done extensive research" on Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle. He is a relative unknown amongst this year's crop of Q.B.'s, but watching him play makes it easy to see why Miami would be interested.
Enderle is extremely patient and poised in the pocket, and although he has a funky throwing motion and a tendency to pat the ball before his release, he surveys the entire field before making consistently accurate passes.
Also, he is constantly reading defenses and calling out audibles before the snap, a la Peyton Manning. He tends to dump passes off in the flats, but usually only after other options are exhausted, which contrasts nicely to Chad Henne's check down obsession.
Enderle might remind some of Chad Pennington due to the aforementioned qualities, as well as the 61.5 completion percentage he posted in 2009. After four years as the Vandals starting quarterback and consistently improving statistics, Enderle could make for a nice sleeper-project in the sixth round.
Heralded as one of the best offensive lineman in the FCS, Missouri State's David Arkin could make for an intriguing pick at the tail end of the 2011 Draft.
Arkin possesses the mammoth size typical of this Dolphins regime's lineman. He stands at 6'5", 305 pounds, and did not miss a start throughout the entirety of his stellar four-year career.
Arkin might grade out to be a practice squad project, but he dominated the I-AA ranks, and certainly deserves a shot with the big boys. Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano seem to have an uncanny knack for finding quality offensive linemen in the darkest depths of the football world (Joe Berger, Nate Garner, Donald Thomas, Pat McQuistan, etc.), and Arkin seems to fit the bill for Miami.
Following in this summer's theme of speed, the Dolphins might utilize one of their final selections to pick up the best athlete on the board, perhaps in hope of converting him into a kick return specialist. Chattanooga cornerback Buster Skrine could be the best athlete available when Miami picks in the seventh round.
At the combine, Skrine ran a blistering 4.29 40, and according to his bio, once posted a time of 4.22. Skrine's burst drew praise from the likes of Deion Sanders and Mike Mayock, and this might boost his stock into the fifth or sixth round. However, if he is on the board, Miami should most definitely take a flier on a prospect who could provide some electricity to the return game and possibly other areas.