Spring is in full swoon, are you feeling the love like I am?
The titans of NFL business sure aren't.
With the 2011 NFL draft just a few days away and a record 25 players set to attend, Judge Susan Nelson dealt a massive blow to entertainment’s greatest oligopoly. I feel both sides in this labor dispute, but I also feel a warm glow inside, as this victory for the players harks back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt. Now, if only a judge would swing the hammer to the financial industry.
I digress. But honestly, do any Miami Dolphins fans regret the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft?
A lot of crop talk has been dusting around about the Miami Dolphins from the former South Beach Czar Bill Parcells, who apparently is “disappointed” with Chad Henne and drafting his valiant Michigan protector, Jake Long, may have been a “mistake.”
No, Bill, Pat White was a mistake.
The Miami Dolphins select Jake all day Long. In 2008 number one overall, now with hindsight and in the future when he is a hall of fame Left Tackle. The Dolphins were atrocious before 2008, and our offensive line, the most important battalion of the team, was in shambles. Selecting Jake Long was the dawning of a new era in Miami, and it’s only going to continue to improve.
Call me an optimist, but this weather is too fine to not love the future. Here is my full, seven round best-case scenario Miami Dolphins mock draft.
Need: OL, RB, WR, TE, QB, ILB, S
This article is meant to be read with levity and incredibly good luck in mind. But, even more, viewed and enjoyed. The highlights of these sensational players, especially the running backs, wide recievers, tight ends and quarterbacks highlight why we love the game. Why we can’t wait until September. Why we can’t quit the most complete team sport on Earth.
So sit back, enjoy whatever party supply you like, hit play on the videos and turn off the sound. Then put on whatever stunting music you like, (I personally prefer Mac Dre, Lil Wayne, and Gangstagrass) and prepare for the ride.
This is American Football!
It is the same in 2011 as it was in 2008, 1972 and for all time. The offensive line is the most important unit in American Football. The Miami Dolphins have the pieces for a truly elite squad with Jake Long, Vernon Carey, and Richie Incognito. I am not completely sold on John Jerry, but Pouncey may be the final piece the Dolphins need to become one of the greatest offensive vanguards of the next decade.
I honestly believe there will be such a run at Quarterbacks in this draft that the Dolphins will be able to trade back in the first and pick up the second round pick lost in the Brandon Marshall trade with the Denver Broncos.
He played alongside his twin brother at Florida, and the Pittsburgh Pouncey has more than proven worthy of the first round pick, becoming an immediate starter. This makes Pouncey, genetically, one of the safest picks in the entire draft.
Mike could play center or guard, as can Incognito, which would make for a versatile, athletic and powerful interior line.
Alternate: Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor: 310 lbs, 6’3”
This would be a much more risky pick, as Watkins is an interesting prospect, and one of the more unlikely stories of the draft. Watkins is an old-school Canadian Hockey and Rugby player in the body of an NFL lineman. A 22-year old firefighter in Canada, Watkins moved to California to pursue the career full time. He enrolled in a local community college, and the rest is history. He started and dominated the competition over 22 games before enrolling at Baylor University. He has less experience and has seen more winters than most prospects, but his natural skills, instincts and unique experience with the savage sports of Hockey and Rugby make him worthy of a late first round pick.
Alternate: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Even if the Dolphins don’t trade back and take him at 15, I would not be disappointed. A franchise running back.
Remember when I called myself an optimist? Yep.
It is unlikely, however possible, that this year’s draft class is so deep and full of talent at the running back position that the former Heisman winner may be available in the second round. If not, it is equally likely that the elite prototypical bruising workhorse, Mikel LeShoure, will fall to the Dolphins at this spot.
The main running back buzz (other than Miami) surrounds the New York Giants, the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers. In the best case scenario, one of the three will select one of these two candidates, leaving the other available when the Miami Dolphins select in the second round. As a former halfback, it pains me to say this, but the position is no longer one of great esteem and value. A franchise tackle or guard in the first and a running back sleeper in the mid rounds is a much more intelligent and safer draft strategy. Too many injuries and uncertainties make a high pick on the RB position a generally unbalanced move.
However, make no mistake, both of these players are elite and special, and they will prove this on the field in the NFL.
Personally, I prefer Mark Ingram. He has no exceptional straight-line speed, no spectacular physical gifts. These things mean nothing to the 2009 Heisman trophy winner. What Mark Ingram does have is intelligence, patience, balance and one of the most aggressive running styles I have ever witnessed.
All you have to do is watch the tape. If you only watch from 4:34 to 4:46 on the video, you'll get the picture.
At 5’9,” Ingram has the bulk and low center of gravity to turn his size into an asset, grinding out yards and playing bump and run on the inside. He can do this because his explosiveness, body control and footwork allow for superb misdirection. His body control may be his greatest asset, as he can change speed or direction on the radius of a dime, much like Brandon Marshall. He is highly intelligent and has great field awareness, allowing his line to pave the way for the most effective ground assault possible, which is a perfect fit for the Dolphins. Like Ingram said, “The difference between 4.6 and 4.4 is like that. It all evens out on the field.”
Maybe I just prefer Ingram because in terms of playing style and body type, he's my clone... just 30 pounds heavier and a whole lot more baller. His ground assault style is strategic, and did I mention his father caught the Fake Spike pass from Marino against the Jets?
Alternate: Torrey Smith, WR/KR, Maryland: 204 lbs, 6’1”
This is the more likely scenario, and it may be the better one. Wide Receiver is the most difficult position to learn in the NFL, so utilizing a WR pick in the early rounds is sound strategy. Smith is the third ranked receiver in the draft behind the gifted A.J. Green and Julio Jones, and is the dual WR/KR threat the Dolphins so desperately need. He is a burner that can open up the field for Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess underneath. He is a bit raw, but can take it to the house on any play. It's time to let the Teddy Ginn healing process begin.
Mark Ingram, Sr. catches 4 touchdowns against our most hated enemy and the scourge of the league: the New York Jets.
Perhaps the greatest game in the entire vaunted history of the Miami Dolphins.
I, unlike most draft nuts, believe Mikel LeShoure, not Mark Ingram, will be the first running back taken, most likely by the Patriots early in the second round. It would be an epic rivalry if LeShoure goes to New England and Ingram goes to South Florida, which is a very real possibility.
I believe LeShoure will come off the board first because he is, as his nickname suggests, a “LeShoure Thing.” He is harder, faster and stronger than Mark Ingram. He's just not better. The reason he should be selected is durability and clean injury history. Ingram may be the more complete package, but the injury frequency at the NFL RB position paired with Ingram’s knee make him the riskier pick. Mikel LeShoure also has more upside. Ingram has patience and blocking intelligence, but the running back learning curve is the easiest thing to overcome in the NFL. Oh, and and a 6.8 yards-per-carry campaign might be a plus.
Alternate: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame: 265 lbs, 6’6’
I actually really like Anthony Fasano, and believe he’s a Pro Bowl worthy tight end. However, it’s only for his blocking skills, which are NFL-elite. Grabbing the best tight end in the draft in the second round would be an absolute steal and give the Fins the weapon they need to compete with the New England Patriots.
Alternate: Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU: 350 lbs, 6’5”
The gargantuan tackle out of TCU is an athletic freak for his size, making him a rare blend of burst and power. The Dynamic Cannon reminds me of a more polished John Jerry, and if he can develop into a quality RT, it would allow Vernon Carey to move inside. If he cannot handle that position, he can easily use his rare combination of acceleration and body control to move inside, bolstering our interior line, the greatest area of need.
It is difficult to find quality video for Edmund Gates, as he comes from a smaller school. This means he has been going up against inferior competition, but his pure talent makes this pick one of my favorites in the draft.
Born in the Lone Star State, Gates comes from a dark past. His father is serving 18 years in prison for murder. He was a high school basketball star and had one successful season in junior college but was asked not to return, causing him to search for a different path. He took the same path to the NFL as his close friend, the successful Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox. Both hail from Texas and attended the small-name school in Abilene.
Much like Johnny Knox and Torrey Smith, Edmund Gates is an athletic speed demon, with a 4.37 40-yard dash at the combine, highest amongst all wide receivers. In fact, the workout warrior is essentially a Johnny Knox clone, with the same frame, athleticism and speed as his companion. Gates also had 16 bench press reps at the combine, one less than Julio Jones and two less than A.J. Green, who both weigh in at over 200 pounds and are 6'3" and 6'4," respectively.
He is a bit raw in his route running, which is a huge downside, but he provides the burner wide receiver/ kick returner the Dolphins so desperately need. His all-threat ability and heart make him a quality selection at 79.
Alternate: Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State: 199 lbs, 5'7"
Youtube his name, watch the tape. His compact frame, speed, and athleticism stand alone. He is an absolute beast and is the second coming of Darren Sproles. He needs to be a bit more aggressive in his running style, but that can be trained. He is ellusive, intelligent, and gets extra points for style.
Alternate: Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada: 233 lbs, 6'5"
Colin Kaepernick is really the first quarterback I would select in this draft behind Cam Newton, Christian Ponder and maybe Andy Dalton. He has prototypical size and the youthful spirit to light a fire under Henne's belly. His trainer also mentored Cam Newton and said Kaepernick is more athletic
For me to select a product out of USC, you know I like the kid. I don't say that because I'm a UCLA fan, but because USC just has not put out quality NFL players recently.
Matt Leinhart was a massive draft bust, and Dolphin fans know all too well the lack of output for the prototypical WR draft bust, Patrick Turner. However, Jordan Cameron has too much upside in the TE game for the Dolphins to pass up at this spot.
Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers had shown America the value of basketball—tight end hybrids, and Cameron may be the next elite pass-catcher the dolphins need. He scored in the top three of each combine drill he performed in. He has very limited experience, but his upside is limitless.
Virgil Green, the Veteran: 240 lbs, 6'3"
Green is an experienced player at the tight end position and is the skill receiver the dolphins need. Not as much upside as Cameron, but knows the position and has the muscle memory to compete immediately. He is extremely athletic, much like Cameron, but has more bulk and ground attack ability. He could be a halfback, as Cameron can be a wide receiver. However, Green becoming a weapon in the ground game is much more likely. A more complete prospect.
Alternate: Shane Vereen, RB, California: 205 lbs, 5'10"
The backup to successful NFL rookie Jahvid Best in college, Vereen is a quality back in a long line of UC Berkeley running backs (Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, J.J. Arrington). He has the short, compact frame suited to the halfback position with a surprising blend of burst and power. He will overplay his draft position.
Alternate: Greg Little, WR, North Carolina: 220 lbs, 6'2"
He was suspended for the entire 2010 season because of interaction with an agent, but honestly, it happens all the time and is not a good indicator of character. Little has superb body-control and rare, big-time play ability. Raw as a route runner, but a versatile project the Dolphins could coach well.
I know I've said this before, but literally, this could be my favorite pick the Dolphins make in the entire draft. He will be there, and pairing the hyper-intelligent McElroy with Mark Ingram should be Miami's top draft priority. It is a small reach, but is the perfect time to grab the steal of the draft.
No, he doesn't have Kaepernick's athleticism or Mallet's arm, but the So-Cal boy has class, cunning and an unparrelled leadership capacity. He blew it in the 2009 BCS Championship game, but his partner in crime Ingram carried the team to victory over the undefeated Longhorns. He is hungry for redemption, and the fifth round selection is enough to challenge Henne for the starting quarterback position without undermining our leader's confidence.
What I like most about McElroy is his ambition, clever wit and high intelligence. His original score on the Wonderlic test was a 48 out of 50, tying Ryan Fitzpatrick for highest score all-time. With the quarterback position being a highly cerebral one, this is a match made in heaven.The primary difference is Fitzpatrick led Harvard while McElroy led Alabama, a championship team, against the nation's greatest football players.
He attained his undergraduate degree in 3 years and enrolled as a graduate student in his second. He has a stunning drive to achieve.
Alternate: Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon: 232 lbs, 6'1"
Yes, the theme of this draft is legacy and brotherhood, and who better to relieve Channing Crowder of his starting duties alongside future superstar Karlos Dansby? Matthews is the latest in a long line of national football players, the most recent being his star and Superbowl champion brother Clay Matthews, Jr. The oldest is his grandfather, Clay Sr.
He reminds me of Zack Thomas, one of my favorite Dolphins of all time.
Alternate: Rob Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic: 250 lbs, 6'6"
The pure tight end prospect the Dolphins need to pair with Anthony Fasano. Housler is a pure receiving tight end and Fasano is a pure blocker. An Ideal match. Has surprising lateral speed and has sure hands. He would be a weapon who overplays his hype.
In last year"s draft we let Mike Nolan take the reigns and form his defense. This year, the Dolphins have a new offensive coordinator and the first five selections will help set the precedent for his reign in Miami. However, one of my favorite positions on the defense is incomplete. We have underrated sack powerhouse Cameron Wake, The developing all-rookie Koa Misi, and the natural leader of our defense, the sensational Karlos Dansby.
Dent would be perfect to challenge Crowder for the starting spot alongside Dansby, and is extremely talented against the run. He could learn under Crowder and contribute on special teams immediately. He is undersized for the position, much like Zack Thomas was, but is a fierce competitor and brutal tackler. I would love to see Reshad Jones, Dent's teammate at Georgia and the Fins' fifth round pick last year, emerge with Dent to add a Georgia Bulldog-like mean streak for the Miami defense in the next decade.
Alternate: Jamie Harper, RB, Clemson: 235 lbs, 5'11"
Compact yet titanic in size, Harper is the ideal bruiser who could turn into a steal in the later rounds. A great example of why this draft is so saturated with running back talent. Would be an ideal compliment to Kendall Hunter or another speedy, shifty back the Fins could select.
Alternate: Nate Irving, ILB, North Carolina state: 242 lbs, 6'1"
Another undersized inside linebacker, missed the entire 2009 season due to injuries sustained in a car accident. However, he recovered and I believe his durability will not be an issue, as they were not inflicted on the field. Great knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage. He would pair well with the playmaker Dansby.
In just two seasons at Pittsburgh, Lewis piled up nearly 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. He had a spectacular rookie season, scoring 17 touchdowns with 1,800 yards. He hails from a school known for quality players, a true football town. It's even Dan Marino's alma mater.
He is very inexperienced, but at 20 years old had the fire to leave college and live the NFL life. He mixes brute force with hyper elusiveness, and would be the perfect selection in the later rounds, shoring up the depth of the position after a much higher RB is taken. Due to his size, he would be paired well with a bruiser like Mikel LeShoure or Ryan Williams.
I think drafting line anchors late in the rounds is a brilliant draft strategy. Reid is a bit tall for the position and often looks awkward in stance. However, his size allows him to tower over opponents. This is a plus simply for the use of deception, shielding vision in the ground assault.
The Florida boy has no injury history and has great athleticism for his size. He can add bulk in the NFL and turn into a behemoth anchor if coached properly say by someone like Jake Long. An ideal line would be Jake Long, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey, Vernon Carey, and Jah Reid. If coached right, it could be a trench for the ages.
See, Cam Cameron? This is where we should have picked up Teddy Ginn.
He is a scrappy, undersized playmaker like Ginn, yet has superb concentration to catch the ball, even in traffic, highly unlike his predecessor. He is also highly intelligent and an outspoken and eloquent leader. However, he isn't a burner whatsoever, Ginn's greatest asset.
It is not easy to be small and slow in the NFL, yet the tape does not lie. He is a quality weapon in the aerial assault. He is also the perfect guy to take with the last pick. His stature and leadership capabilities make for the perfect blend in the seventh, as he will be ferociously hungry to make the roster and contribute to the team's success.
Have a beautiful spring day and enjoy as the evening turns to epic events. These franchises represent entire cities, regions and fans everywhere. Enjoy it as you like.
Photo by Michael A. Pancier