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Miami Dolphins: 2011's Most Needed Draft & Free Agent Offensive Moves

Erick JamesContributor ISeptember 21, 2016

Miami Dolphins: 2011's Most Needed Draft & Free Agent Offensive Moves

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    Over two months ago, I wrote an article about offensive issues the Dolphins desperately needed to address that would positively affect the team for the now and later.  After the 2010 season, it became very clear Miami was a few steps behind on the offensive line, quarterback and general speed areas, only to be hit with an ensuing drought on the running back position by the start of 2011.

    Things have changed since I published the initial article on February 14th, with a significant portion of the free agents I mentioned interest in were either re-signed or found new homes.  Miami seems to be reluctant towards shopping the market until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place, which, for better or for worse, is probably a good idea.

    No one has any clue whether or not there will be a salary cap, what the new regulations on trades will be, or even if the NFL will be up and running for this season.  Around this time last year, I was marveling over the fact the Phins had signed Karlos Dansby and traded for Brandon Marshall, and now, we’re not really sure if we’ll have that veteran addition signing moment anytime soon.

    Nonetheless, here’s to the boys; let’s dream.

    Here’s an updated version of the offensive moves I think Miami should make in the 2011 offseason.

    Check out the first piece here

Quarterback

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    One thing that hasn’t changed very much from my previous piece is my outlook on Chad Henne.  So I don’t have to re-hash on his atrocious, embarrassing, horrifyingly Pee-Wee-like performance in 2010…I’ll just move right along.

    Granted, there are plenty of decent passers coming out of the draft in 2011, but none (with maybe the exception of Mizzou gunner Blaine Gabbert) offer superstar status.  Still, I wouldn’t say Miami should drop all concern for the position due to a lack of promise out there.

    As of now, the Phins have not re-signed Chad Pennington and have placed a second-round tender on Tyler Thigpen, which I strongly doubt anyone would go after.  This means Chad Henne is therefore the best option for the Dolphins at the quarterback position for 2011 currently on the roster, by default.

    Please, nobody panic.

    Many of you are probably thinking “Well, what about free agency?”

    Sadly, the little talent on the market has already been franchise-tagged or re-signed, while the left-overs are either nothing more than back-up talent (Bruce Gradkowski, Alex Smith, Tavaris Jackson, etc.) or knee-deep into their 30s (Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger, Kerry Collins, etc.).

    I did denounce trading for Kevin Kolb from the Philadelphia Eagles since he doesn’t have much of a resumé to bet on, but I did suggest trading for Kyle Orton, but the new coaching regime in Denver has insisted on keeping the original starter from the 2010 Broncos season.  A few months ago, it also seemed very likely for the Titans to release Vince Young, but the Tennessee brass has reiterated time and time again that they will not be parting ways with the two-time Pro Bowler and former AP Offensive Rookie of the Year recipient, yet have now talked about letting him go once again.  That entire franchise needs a life coach.

    This series of events has now made it inevitable for the Dolphins to look into the draft for a quarterback if they pursue one this year.

    I suggest the Phins DO NOT select a quarterback in the first-round.  Anyone who honestly thinks Blaine Gabbert of Missouri or Cam Newton of Auburn will fall out of the top 10 (or anywhere near Miami’s range for that matter) is kidding themselves, and is trying to believe it too.  Other than that, all of the other top 10 QB prospects aren’t solid choices.

    Ricky Stanzi from Iowa is extremely inconsistent, and I wouldn’t take a chance on him any earlier than the fifth-round, while Colin Kaepernick from Nevada looks great during drills, but never showed this kind of enthusiasm on the field throughout his last few seasons.  Let’s also not forget the Nevada Wolf Pack run a weeeird pistol formation.

    Andy Dalton from Texas Christian is probably one of the most over-rated prospects coming out in 2011.  His Senior Bowl performance was one of the worst of the bunch, while his Combine moments were pretty forgettable.  He had a half-decent Pro Day, but it’s nothing that would entice me to take him anywhere ahead of the third round.  He’s a great decision-maker, I’ll give him that, but he doesn’t have much of an arm to compliment it.  I’ve seen way too many Jacory Harris-esque lob balls come from him…

    Jake Locker of Washington is another one who had a rough time producing in 2010.  He was once considered to be one of the bigger names in college football as the 2009 season concluded, but has since done a great job of self-inflicted stock murder.  He was one of the better standing passers at the combine, but last year’s campaign, along with his Senior Bowl performance, really stunted any further growth.  He is a late second-rounder for the Dolphins at best, and even then, I’d rather take a pass on him if no one better were available at the QB spot in the second to address other positions.

    Now, this is significantly tough to say seeing as though I’m a big Miami Hurricane supporter, but Christian Ponder of Florida State has been tearing up the off-season sessions all spring.  He was the consensus top quarterback at the Combine and looked great at the FSU Pro Day about a month ago.  Although he was selected as the Senior Bowl MVP, I was still not very impressed, more-so when he opened up the game with a 49-yard pass to Leonard Hankerson, which the receiver had to stop and make a ridiculous catch for on the under-thrown heave.  He doesn’t have big arm-strength, but is a smart kid who makes great decisions and passes fairly accurately.  I’d give him a shot late in the second-round, but his surgery-ridden shoulder would rather make me pick him up in the third.

    Lastly, we have the 6’7", 247-lb. Ryan Mallett of the Arkansas Razorbacks.  He had an amazing Combine performance followed by a fantastic Pro Day, but things aren’t as simple as they seem…

    Ryan had the highest passer-rating in the nation prior to Bowl Week last year at about 170, but his interceptions and accuracy remained a big question.  There is still no doubt, however, that Ryan Mallett was a much better college prospect than Chad Henne, as Mallett threw for two-consecutive seasons of 30 touchdowns or more for his junior and senior years, while Henne threw for 25 at his peak in his freshman year, and slowly watched his numbers drop with each passing season.  Let me also reiterate that Mallet DOES play in the highly touted SEC which has produced the last five BCS National Champions.  People seem to forget that first-round talent cornerbacks like Patrick Peterson from Louisiana State, Joe Haden from Florida and Kareem Jackson from Alabama are just some of the names he faced on a regular basis.

    The kid has superior arm-strength and is a superb pocket passer, but I’m still skeptical of taking him in the first and would feel much more comfortable going for him in the second, assuming there isn’t a better available player at the moment.  Miami isn’t looking for Michael Vick, so his below average speed is not a big concern.  If Miami can manage to protect him, there is a good chance he will be leading the huddle someday at Sun Life Stadium.

    Free Agent Choice: Vince Young (Tennessee Titans); until (and if) he is released, there are no other free agents available worth picking up who could make a big difference, let alone be significant to the Dolphins’ future.

    Trade Choice: Kyle Orton (Denver Broncos); he is not going anywhere, and no team will trade an elite QB for a 15th overall pick in such a QB-dry draft, and Kevin Kolb is just way too big of a gamble on a win-now Dolphins team.

    First-Round Choice: Ryan Mallett (Arkansas Razorbacks); the only way he goes to Miami in the 1st-round is if the Phins trade back and Mike Pouncey has already been selected.

    Second-Round Choice:  Ryan Mallett (Arkansas Razorbacks); if Miami manages to get Pouncey in the first, it will all come down to what they deem to have more importance in: a quarterback like Mallett, or a running back like Ryan Williams.

    Third-Round Choice:  Ryan Mallett (Arkansas Razorbacks) or Jake Locker (Washington Huskies); if either of these gentlemen are available at this point (which could be very possible with what happened to Colt McCoy last year), I say it would be ideal, but it looks as unlikely as catching Santa in the pantry snatching some Oreo’s in the middle of the night on Christmas.

    Fourth/seventh-round Choice: No one good enough will be available thereafter.

    Best Choice: Ryan Mallett

    Final Notes: Fact is Ryan Mallett is the best pure passer who could potentially be available during the second round, and even then, his mental decisions are scary enough for me to not even want him that early on.  Jake Locker is another guy who has earned himself the same reputation, but not so much on the personality end as much as with his on-the-field decision making.  The only way I would suggest the Phins take Mallett in the first round is if Mike Pouncey is gone after they’ve traded back to acquire a second-round pick, and being that he’s the best interior linemen in the draft, could be very likely.

    The Phins have way too many guys with these kinds of on-the-brink-of-snapping personalities to add on another to the roster, especially when it’s a quarterback.  I like everything I see in Christian Ponder, but let’s be honest; the arm-strength is already depleted due to injury.  Why would the Phins want to draft Chad Pennington after his days with the Jets all over again?

Offensive Guard

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    MIAMI - JANUARY 08: Mike Pouncey #55 of the Florida Gators reacts after a play against the Oklahoma Sooners in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game at Dolphin Stadium on January 8, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Arguably the worst performing area of the Dolphins roster in 2010, the interior offensive line couldn’t push their own panic button, let alone the line of scrimmage, for a run play.

    I need not have to get into bringing up the 180-degree spin the guards and centers of the Miami Dolphins produced from one year to the next, as former starting Miami guards Justin Smiley and Donald Thomas, along with center Jake Grove were all either traded or cut due to injuries.

    This left the Dolphins with the worst scenario possible: an interior offensive line headed by a rookie, a back-up and a career technical-fouler.

    Rookie right guard John Jerry will continue to settle into his position after his All-Rookie 2010 season, while veteran Richie Incognito has been re-signed to a three-year deal, and frankly, wasn’t very impressive at the left guard spot, but held his own very well whenever he had to fill in for center.

    I had said Logan Mankins of the New England Patriots was the essential choice for the Miami Dolphins preceding the draft if and when free agency began, but Bill Belichick and the Kraft’s one-upped me and placed the franchise-tag on him.  New Orleans Saints’ brass went ahead and did the same thing with my second choice, Carl Nicks, and tendered him.

    This pretty much means the only guy still around to fill in at left guard (since it has already been announced that Incognito will be playing center) with some good talent is Atlanta’s Justin Blalock.  Yes, both Harvey Dahl from the Falcons and Davin Joseph from the Bucs are available, but people forget they are right guards, a position Miami is currently developing.

    Blalock is not a spectacular player, but he is as reliable as they come and is consistent on both the pass and run.  He is still very young at 27 years of age and can stick around on the team for a few years.  Not to down Incognito and what he accomplished in 2010, but Blalock is better than him, and would upgrade the offensive line in at least a few ways.

    At this point, with so many little options in free agency, it is almost paramount the Dolphins select a left guard within the first two rounds of the draft since free agency will take place after the draft up to this point.

    Miami has two options and two options only:
    1) They draft Mike Pouncey from Florida in the first round, or
    2) They draft one of either Rodney Hudson of Florida State, Marcus Cannon of Texas Christian or Danny Watkins of Baylor in the second round.

    All Miami would need to do is acquire a second round pick and one of those four gentlemen are theirs.  Problem is, which one, and when?

    I love Mike Pouncey.  In fact, I stated that he should be Miami’s first-round selection in the previous article.  Although… here’s the thing.

    Miami fans need to understand (whether they like it or not) that the Dolphins are going to MOVE BACK in first round in order to ACQUIRE A SECOND-ROUND PICK.  This means the Phins will lose out on Mark Ingram, who is slated to be a top-20 selection.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am all for choosing the 2009 season’s Heisman Trophy recipient, but in the eyes of a realist, if the Dolphins were to move back into the high-20s of the first round, Mark Ingram will be long gone.

    This would then leave the Phins in the conundrum of choosing between a quarterback, running back and an offensive guard, at which point, the Dolphins would probably end up getting the best overall player of either side, and in this case there is no doubt it will be the 6’5, 303 lbs Mike Pouncey.

    If Miami were to select a running back as opposed to a guard (assuming Pouncey would then be gone), the Phins would have to look towards a guard in the second round.  Who do they go for?

    Of course, there is no way to tell who will to still be on the board, but let’s analyze these three previously mentioned gentlemen.

    Marcus Cannon came into the Combine at 6’6, 358 lbs, but by the time his Pro Day rolled around two weeks later, he’d dropped nearly 10 lbs at 349 lbs.  On numbers alone, his weight may portray him as being fat, but in all reality, he’s a pretty stocky kid.  He moved swiftly during all of his drills at the Combine and even ran over a 10th of a second faster than many had projected him to.

    Sadly, Cannon was recently diagnosed with a form of cancer that while even after receiving the proper treatment, he may only have an 80-90 percent chance of making a full recovery.  This is just another one of those facts of life that come into football and bring you back to the reality of the world that can destroy the potentially amazing future a young man can have via this sport.  I am hopeful he will make a full recovery while still getting the great recognition he earned as college player and getting drafted at the appropriate point of the draft.

    Rodney Hudson is the shortest of these guys, but at 6’2, 299 lbs, he stands big and tall on the field.  His weight alone will scare anyone from drafting him with the monstrous defensive tackles in the AFC East, but he showed no mercy in his 2010 campaign.  He seemed to drag a bit during his Senior Bowl week practices, but showed big-time ability in the game as he burst big holes for runners as he shifted between the left and right guard positions.  He stayed consistent for his combine and Pro Day drills, so it will all come down to availability and personal favor for Hudson come draft day.

    Then, in comes in the 6’3", 310 lbs, 26-year old, fourth overall selection of the 2010 CFL draft, Danny Watkins of Baylor.  He has been on the money throughout his drills, and has amazing arm-length for his height, moreover for a guard at 34.25".  He is all-around solid and ready to start Week 1 of next season… whenever it is that may happen.  Any team looking to win now and turn their running game around will look to Watkins in Day 2.

    Free Agent Choice: Justin Blalock (Atlanta Falcons); he would fill the void at a decent price, but he wouldn’t be the most dependable choice against the elite pass-rusher-filled AFC East.  Although, it’s not like he wouldn’t be an upgrade next to whatever’s there now.

    Trade Choice: N/A

    First-Round Choice: Mike Pouncey (Florida Gators); the best interior offensive linemen player this draft class has to offer.  He would not be the flashiest selection for the Dolphins, but he surely would be the safest and smartest.

    Second-Round Choice: Marcus Cannon (Texas Christian Horned Frogs); just about 350 lbs at 6’6 tall?  I’m surprised Tony Sparano hasn’t called him out to spend a day with him at the beach.  I’m confident he will back to football shape very soon after he goes through his procedure.  Although, I may have to switch him around with the guy I’m about to talk about next.

    Third-Round Choice: Danny Watkins (Baylor Bears); I just wanted to note that I doubt he’d be available this late, but there’s a possibility he could fall this far behind because of his age.  Besides, I know for a fact Miami would have already addressed guard in the previous two rounds, but in the event QB and RB are selected before this, I would just be trying to weave my dreams together at this point.  I could see Cannon falling out of the second and ending up here as well.

    Best Choice: Mike Pouncey

    Final Notes: I strongly believe Mike Pouncey is the best guard in this forthcoming draft, although there is one thing that scares me to hell which most people have failed to mention; he only did 25 reps of 225lbs on the bench during his Pro-Day.  Each of the other three guys I mentioned out-benched him, including Watkins (29), Hudson (27) and Cannon (33).

Center

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    Last time, I made a case for the Phins selecting Mike Pouncey as a center.  How naïve I was…but that was before Richie Incognito had publicly announced his move to center, so cut me some slack.

    Despite the fact he did play center last year after his brother Mike Pouncey forewent his senior year, Pouncey was and will always be a pure offensive guard.  I chose him more so because I wanted Mankins, and bringing in Pouncey would solidify the center-to left side for years to come.  Shame on me.

    Now, we didn’t get to see Incognito in a lot of action at center, but we do know he can hold his own and get the job done.  With that being said, if Miami chooses to draft a center, it is not a position they need to desperately address within the first three rounds.

    There isn’t much top talent floating around in free agency either.  The best of it, Ryan Kalil, got franchised by the Carolina Panthers as I stated they would likely do so in my previous article.

    The remaining talent is between Olin Kreutz of the Chicago Bears, who at his age (34) is on the decline, and Kyle Cook of the Cincinnati Bengals, who will likely require a draft pick to be traded for to be brought into Miami, which is simply not worth it.

    Lyle Sendlein from the Arizona Cardinals is the last and best center option for Miami, if they choose to go for one.  He’s an all-around solid player and hasn’t missed a game in three years.  Still, I don’t see why Miami would get a center in free agency (which would ask for more money) when they could draft and groom a quality rookie in the middle rounds while they still have talent good enough to start on the roster today.

    With that being said, Miami has absolutely no need to draft a center between the first through third.  Stefen Wisniewski (the top center prospect in 2011), will be gone by the time the third round approaches, and even then, I’m not sure Miami should go for a center until the fourth round.

    Available at this point would be Jake Kirkpatrick, the 6’2", 300-lb center from the Texas Christian Horned Frogs.  He only managed 25 reps on the bench at his Pro Day, but he is very reliable on the field and has wonderful mechanics.  The possibility of him falling all the way down to the fourth is not because of his lack of skills, but because this year is heavy in other positions.

    Following him (and more so into the fifth round) is Kris O’Dowd from Southern California.  The 6’4, 304-lb. Trojan has was beaten badly during the Senior Bowl, but even with that, I have an unsung faith that he could develop into a starter in the NFL.  He has the body and natural ability to play, but his mechanics aren’t all there yet.  With proper coaching, O’Dowd could be a force at the pro-level if guided the right away.

    In conclusion, Miami doesn’t need to break into car windows in search of a center.  In fact, they don’t even need to use up early draft picks in order to find one either.

    There is no certainty with what will happen to Joe Berger, but Richie Incognito is still there, and his statements regarding his playing time for next season being geared towards the center position came right from his mouth.  This means Miami doesn’t have to frantically throw money away on one in free agency, and will not have to be concerned with one until after the first two days of the draft.

    Free Agency Choice: Lyle Sendlein (Arizona Cardinals); he is about as a reliable and good as Richie Incognito.  Despite his upside, I truthfully don’t see this happening.

    Trade Choice: N/A

    First-Round Choice: N/A

    Second-Round Choice: N/A

    Third-Round Choice: N/A

    Fourth-Round Choice: Jake Kirkpatrick (Texas Christian Horned Frogs)

    Fifth/Sixth-Round Choice: Kris O’Dowd (Southern California Trojans)

    Best Choice: Either Kirkpatrick or O’Dowd

    Final Notes: At this point, the center position isn’t a very big question mark on the roster any longer.  Incognito brings some reliability to the team at the position, and if they’d like to (just if they’d like to) Miami can draft someone in the fifth or later as insurance.

Offensive Tackle

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 25:  Offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert #76 of the Florida Gators takes a breather during a stoppage in play against the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida. Florida defeate
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Everyone knows I love me some Vernon Carey.  Disappointingly though, time seems to be catching up with him, as he is becoming more and more injury prone.  Let’s not even mention how badly he is getting beaten off of the line to stop defensive ends preying on Chad Henne.

    Miami needs to bring someone in who could watch Henne’s front (because he clearly can’t do that on his own without dropping to the floor in fear of getting creamed), while Jake Long superbly watches his back.

    The best right tackle available on the market is Pro-Bowler Tyson Clabo from the Atlanta Falcons.  The undrafted free agent will without a doubt be looking for big money, so expect Atlanta to keep their boy on the right.

    With Miami not needing to address the need early on, chances are they’ll look amongst the third through fifth rounds (or even more likely, later) to acquire a guy to fill in for Vernon Carey after some proper grooming.  The best of those likely to be available is Joseph Barksdale of the Louisiana State Tigers.  He has superior arm length at 36” and has some serious strength as he hit 29 reps on the bench.  On top of that, his mechanics are highly respected in this draft class, so anyone looking for a right, even a left tackle outside of the first round will be quite happy with him.

    James Brewer, the 6’6", 320-lb Indiana Hoosier, has some decent speed and commendable mechanics, but there are issues in strength.  Regardless of that, his arm length is damn reliable at 35.375” and can hold someone back long enough for a quarterback to make a decision.  What you’ve seen in the Combine and Pro Day are about exactly what you will get, as he posted nearly the same numbers on both occasions.  There will be no scare about him in the future and is about as safe of a pick in the fourth round as could possibly come.

    I still stand by Marcus Gilbert from Florida.  He is 6’6", 330 lbs, and despite clocking in at a bit of a slow time at the combine (5.43) along with a short arm length with 34”, he still hit 30 reps on the bench during his Pro Day workouts.  He is a pure right tackle, and if he falls into the fourth, might I dare say fifth round, he is someone Miami should definitely have on their radar.

    Free Agent Choice: Tyson Clabo (Atlanta Falcons)

    Trade Choice: N/A

    First-Round Choice: N/A

    Second-Round Choice: N/A

    Third-Round Choice: Joseph Barksdale (Louisiana State Tigers); a steal in the third, but I don’t see Miami going after a tackle this early.

    Fourth-Round Choice: James Brewer (Indiana Hoosiers); assuming positions like running back, tight end, receiver or linebacker haven’t already been addressed and the right players have been taken, Brewer makes perfect sense here.

    Fifth-Round Choice: Marcus Gilbert (Florida Gators); I’m still a bit skeptical about him, seeing as though he played on such a talented team, but anything could happen.

    Best Choice: Marcus Gilbert

    Final Notes: I would like to take Joseph Barksdale if he were available in the third round, but at that point I believe Miami will be looking to address other positions.  Vernon Carey may have slumped in 2010, but he was great in 2009, so much so it may have all just been a bad year, and even one that may have been caused by nagging injuries.  I still believe he can hold it together for a few more years, but it doesn’t mean the Phins should ignore acquiring some insurance

    Gilbert is an iffy pick, but he’s got some serious strength and would just need to be groomed the right way into a starting job opposite Jake Long.

Running Back

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    Everyone is very aware that all of the running backs on Miami’s roster have expiring contracts.  The Dolphins have the exclusive rights to two of them, Kory Sheets and Lex Hilliard, but they are fourth-string/practice squad members at best.  The other three include Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown and one of last year’s team captain, Patrick Cobbs, who the Phins have already announced are letting go.

    Ricky Williams has shown signs of displeasure and sounds like he wants out of Miami already.  At 34 years old, the veteran has had some serious ups and downs with the Dolphins, but it seems as though the story may be over now.  Meanwhile, Ronnie Brown has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career in South Florida, and Miami may also be parting ways with him as well.

    From the looks of things, it appears the Phins may have to draft a running back, sign a free agent running back, but also have to re-sign one of either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams, which looks ridiculously doubtful with the relationships the two of them have had with the franchise.

    What to do, what to do…

    If Miami pursues a back in the free agency pool, they have a few choices still hanging out there.  The top rusher, DeAngelo Williams, is still available.  I don’t see why the Phins wouldn’t make a run at picking him up.  Owner Stephen Ross was very willing to throw $8 million a season at an unproven college head coach in Jim Harbaugh, so why not on one of the top-10 running backs in the league?  There really isn’t much more to be said about D-Will; we are all very aware that he is the real deal.

    In a recent interview, DeAngelo Williams talked about his desire to become a Miami Dolphin, saying “I hope I am at the top of their list and they come after me.”  He went on to mention how he wants to live in Miami and how he feels he has what it takes to be a Miami Dolphin stating “I’m running on premium and I have more than half a tank left.”

    The majority of the other running backs available are nothing to be very happy with.  Joseph Addai isn’t the most impressive runner in the league with the Colts, while Michael Bush wasn’t even the number one running back in Oakland last year!

    Many have suggested Ahmad Bradshaw, and clearly, the guy has some game, but he also has three Pro Bowl offensive linemen in Chris Snee, Shaun O’Hara and David Diehlman.

    Let’s just say Miami doesn’t have that kind of talent on the front line…

    Blocking like that would make any halfback’s life a whole lot easier as well.  Despite his big numbers in 2010 (1,235 yards and 8 touchdowns), Bradshaw has a serious problem keeping the ball in his hands, as he fumbled seven times last year, and six of them were for losses.

    With so little to offer in free agency, and the odds of it not even taking place before the draft, it would probably be a good idea for Miami to draft two running backs in 2011; one early and one late.

    The ideal scenario is very likely to happen for the Dolphins if they don’t trade down, and that’d be selecting Mark Ingram from the Alabama Crimson Tide as the 15th-overall pick.  Ingram is the No. 1 prospect coming into the NFL this year, and has a whole slew of accolades to his name, including the 2009 season Heisman Trophy and comparisons to Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith.  Although, like I stated previously in the ‘Offensive Guard’ slide, the Phins should be trading down in order to get themselves a second-round pick, and the odds of Ingram being available much farther down in the draft is highly unlikely.

    Should Miami select a running back in the first round if Ingram is already taken?  How about Mikel Leshoure from Illinois, or would that be too big of a stretch?  I’ve already stated that I’d prefer Miami go for Mike Pouncey after moving back and Ingram were to be taken already, so how about the second round?

    I do like Mikel Leshoure, but to be quite honest, there is nothing really spectacular about him.  He has a decent size at 6’0", 232 lbs, but there are some dedication issues.  He’s already gained 5 lbs since the combine when he weighed in at the Illini’s Pro Day weeks later.  He is also not the fastest guy with his 4.56 40-time, and isn’t a big threat in the open field.

    To be quite honest, I would much rather the Phins take Virginia Tech Hokie Ryan Williams in the second round.  Mike Mayock of ESPN has him ahead of Leshoure on his big board, and make no mistake, Mayock’s done his due diligence.

    Williams had a better vertical jump, broad jump and 40-time with 4.55 at the combine, then bettered himself by a tenth of a second with 4.45 during VT’s Pro Day.  His breakaway speed is well respected while his cutting ability is that of elite material.  He is also an extremely patient runner, the kind who waits for opportunities as well as creates them when the original plays fall over.  The differences between Ingram and Williams are very miniscule, as they are the same height with Ingram being 4 lbs heavier, while Williams is an entire 10th of a second faster.

    Williams may not be Ingram, but he is damn close.  He gets my nod for Miami’s second-round pick if the situation is appropriate.

    If things don’t go as picture perfectly planned, Miami can look into the third round to find one of these two very promising candidates, assuming they fall out of the second.

    Jordan Todman of the Connecticut Huskies is a near stand-alone running back.  At 5’9", 203 lbs, he may not be the fastest rusher with his 4.44 40-time at this year’s combine, but his on-the-field talents speak volumes.  He was the 2010 Big East Player of the Year and the No. 2 ranked rusher in the nation by season’s end.  Sadly, the Kiper and Mayock talking heads have him falling nearly out of Day 2.  Make no mistake; this kid is coming for blood.

    My dark-horse, small school prospect is none other than Eastern Washington’s Taiwan Jones.  After suffering a foot injury late in the season, Jones was unable to participate at the Combine, but on his April 15th Pro Day, Taiwan ran a 4.29 40, along with a 39.5 vertical and an 11-foot broad jump.  That is what I call “beastly”!  He was also named Big Sky Football’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year in 2010, something his 14 touchdowns and 1,742 rushing yards helped him achieve, and lest we forget the two videos of him jumping out of three-foot-deep pool water floating around on YouTube…

    For the fifth, maybe even the sixth round, Miami should take a look at Noel Devine of West Virginia if he is still on the board.  The Dolphins need speed, and Devine can definitely deliver it.  He didn’t run at the combine, but he did post a 4.26 40-time at West Virginia’s Pro Day, which is pretty ridiculous.  His speed is something serious, and if he drops low, maybe even into the fourth round, Miami should take a good look at him.

    Free Agent Choice: DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers); he wants to be here, and most importantly, he needs to be here.

    Trade Choice: N/A

    First-Round Choice: Mark Ingram (Alabama Crimson Tide); I personally believe the interior offensive line and quarterback are needs which need much more attention than running back in the first round.

    Second-Round Choice: Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech Okies); he’s an all-purpose back with some power, speed and finesse. I like just about everything I see in him, but picking him in the second will come down to what happens in the first and whether he is available when the Phins are on the clock.

    Third-Round Choice: Taiwan Jones (Eastern Washington Eagles)/Jordan Todman (Connecticut Huskies); I love the potential in either one of these guys.  If Miami drafts a top guard prospect to open up some breathing room for one of these guys, while also signing a big free agent tailback, the running game will be back in the great shape it once was.  I know Jones catches a lot of criticism for being from a small school, but the way he gets whipped around in the video above will show that his balance is unprecedented.

    Fourth/Fifth-Round Choice: Noel Devine (West Virginia Gold Rush); he would make a great complimentary scat back for someone like DeAngelo Williams.

    Best Choice: DeAngelo Williams and Taiwan Jones

    Final Thoughts: Miami doesn’t need to draft a running back in the first round.  Mark Ingram would be nice, but he isn’t dreadfully needed.  The differences between first- and second-round backs are paper-thin, unless we’re talking about the consensus best player in draft.  Besides that, just to make everyone feel better, of the three teams who drafted a running back in the first round in 2010, none of them made the playoffs.  Not the Bills, Chargers or Lions.

    There is no telling if Ricky or Ronnie will be back, but to be safe, they should get themselves DeAngelo Williams who is much better than both of them and is a proven player, unlike someone out of the draft.  Williams has already stated his desire to be a Dolphin, so Ross and company should make it happen ASAP.  Running back is just way too tricky at this point of the offseason with the lockout pushing free agency after the draft until this minute, and if the Ricky and Ronnie show does end, the Phins should play it safe and draft a half back, potentially someone in the third like Taiwan Jones, to compliment a big free agency signing like D-Will.

Wide Receiver

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    Miami has got just about everything figured out at the receiver position.  Brandon Marshall is the ideal, big-bodied possession wide-out every team would do anything to acquire for their roster.  Brought in after a trade with the Denver Broncos, Marshall instantly helped out the passing game with his 86 receptions in 2010, after 2009’s leader had a sub-60 catch season to his name.

    It was four  years ago that Miami let go of slot-receiver Wes Welker, as he fell into the hands of the New England Patriots, beginning a new Pro-Bowl chapter of his career.  Since then, Miami has not looked back after signing undrafted free agent Davone Bess from Hawaii in 2008.  He is the prototypical short-yardage monster most defenses can’t stand to deal with, as he will irritate the life out of any D-coordinator, five yards at a time.

    Despite things seeming too peachy for reality on this already upside-down offensive, Miami still needs a reliable speedster, as well as a returner.  These kinds of players don’t need to be found in the first round, sometimes not even the second, although they can be.

    All of my guestimates will have to come down to what the big board is looking like come draft day.  Brandon Marshall (the Phins deadliest receiver) ran a 4.55 at the combine back in 2006, and with Miami’s fastest player (Brian Hartline) running a 4.44, I’d say the Dolphins are looking to add someone who is at least running something faster than a 4.40.

    The more highly regarded free agent receivers of 2011 are currently Jets, and I predict Rex Ryan and Co. will not be letting any of his three boys (Santonio Holmes, Brad Smith and Braylon Edwards) slip away.  Aside from them, there isn’t much speed available attached to more respectable names.

    Sidney Rice from Minnesota, Jacoby Jones from Houston and James Jones from Green Bay are all about 4.5 receivers at best.  The only free agent receiver I truthfully like is the recently released Jacksonville Jaguar, Mike Sims-Walker.

    Sims-Walker was a close friend of Brandon Marshall at the University of Central Florida during their college days, and since Mike’s release, have both been boasting about wanting to play alongside each other this coming season in Miami.

    He’s got the body, at 6’2, 214 lbs, and he’s also got an under 4.4 speed, although, I’m not sure how long that will hold up with his injuries.  Since being drafted in 2007, Sims-Walker has yet to play a 16-game schedule, and has started 14 and 13 games in the last two seasons.

    His upside is very respectable, but the injuries are a cause for concern.  As far as I know, he would be very happy to take I-95 South into Miami, which given his positive upside, is as respectable as it is reassuring.  It seems as though he wants to be a Miami Dolphin, but only time will tell what the final decision will turn out to be.

    Julio Jones from Alabama was bar-none the best player to display the kind of speed Miami desires at the Combine and Pro Day work-outs, but he’ll be long gone by the time Miami’s first-round pick is announced.

    The Phins will more than likely look for a receiver between the second through fourth rounds, and the best receiver to potentially drop into the second is Torrey Smith of Maryland.  The 6’1, 204 lbs Terrapin has a lot of upside, like his 4.37 combine 40-yard dash time, or his 41-inch vertical jump, which was only bested by one other top-20 wide receiver prospect; Jonathan Baldwin, and it was only by one inch.  One of his other major credentials is his return abilities, where he can help out any team on either punt or kick returns immediately.

    Sadly though, Smith’s one major flaw is his hands, which are a petite 8 5/8 inches.  Let me not go without saying that Torrey did not drop a single ball at his Pro Day drills, but we all know there is a big difference between practice and the real-deal.

    Take Miami’s former first round pick, Ted Ginn Jr.  The 2007 ninth-overall selection was too afraid to even come near a linebacker, which didn’t really surprise me with his 6’0, 170-lb. frame.  I do agree that Smith’s size is much greater than Ginn’s, but the hands are just as questionable.  Ginn had bigger hands, but a smaller body, while Smith has a bigger body, but smaller hands.  I’m just not sure how it will play out, and would rather pass up on him than to take the risk and be proven otherwise.  Sorry guys.

    Next up is Jerrel Jernigan of the Troy Trojans.  Most projected him to run under a 4.4, but he clocked in at 4.47 at the combine.  His 5’9, 185 lbs body would simply not settle for such a distasteful showing, as he ran a 4.38 then a 4.32 at Troy’s Pro Day workouts, respectively.  His small body gets major props for his 38-inch vertical jump and his 9.25-inch hands, as there is plenty of potential in what he could bring to the NFL.

    Jernigan’s return abilities also go unquestioned, as he averaged 23 yards a carry in his final college season.  It almost sounds too good to be true, but Miami should give him a fair shot to play on their roster.  The hands a reliable, the speed is unquestioned, and he would give them the boost Miami’s special teams lost in a 180-degree flop after Ginn was traded.

    Lastly, as a potential third or fourth-round prospect, we have Edmund Gates of Abilene Christian University.  He is one of my absolute favorite small-school receivers in this year’s draft class, particularly because many thought he couldn’t run anything faster than a 4.45 40-time.  Standing at 6’, 189 lbs, plus a 9.375-inch hand size, he’s done everything to show off his skills with his 40-inch vertical leap, his 11-2 broad jump and his ridiculous 4.31 40-time.  That’s a near first-round resumé.

    Sadly, as stated earlier, Gates comes from a small private school in Texas, one that doesn’t match up in popularity with all of the other college football juggernauts within the state.  Luckily for teams like the Dolphins, who are looking for someone like him somewhere after the second round, Gates just so happens to possess the skill-set they are looking for.

    Another later round dark-horse is Ricardo Lockette from Fort Valley State.  At 6’2", 211 lbs, he rocked the combine with a 4.34 dash, a 39-inch vertical jump and a 10-7 broad.  He wasn’t very dependable as a receiver with only 23 receptions in 2010, but he did average 24 yards per return.

    Free Agent Choice: Mike Sims-Walker (Jacksonville Jaguars)

    Trade Choice: N/A

    First-Round Choice: N/A

    Second-Round Choice: Torrey Smith (Maryland Terrapins); he’s got the talent, but Miami’s been down this road before, and will need to address other positions in the second.

    Third-Round Choice: Jerrel Jernigan (Troy Trojans); seems pretty safe.  He is projected to go somewhere between the second and third, but the most realistic outlook seems to be that he will go off the board around this time.

    Fourth-Round Choice: Edmund Gates (Abilene Christian Wildcats); he has the speed and the measurables, so there isn’t really much I can say in doubt about him.  His 66 catches and 1,182 yards in his final campaign show he is ready to bring the heat to the NFL and is clearly being under-estimated.

    Fifth/Sixth-Round Choice: Ricardo Lockette (Fort Valley State Wildcats); he would be a great addition as a return specialist late in the draft, but he won’t make much of an investment as a full-time deep receiver.

    Best Choice: Edmund Gates

    Final Thoughts: Miami has receiver just about squared away on the roster as of right now.  Hartline isn’t terribly bad, but let’s also think about the guy who is passing to him.  If they are looking to find a receiver, they should do so between the third and fourth round.

    Jernigan secures both the return specialist and speed receiver spot and they could fill it in with one pick.  Is it really worth a third-round pick???  I’m not so sure about that.  If Miami can get a conversation going with Gates and talk about his return abilities, and he just so happens to fall into a late third-round scenario, more preferably, the fourth, Miami should nab him up fast.

Tight End

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    Miami isn’t hurting THAT bad at the tight end position.  They gave their best guy at the spot, Anthony Fasano, a contract extension after a five-catch, 107-yard performance against the Tennessee Titans, giving the Phins a huge performance in their first (and only) home win.

    Fasano is a very talented player, as he has great hands and is almost a lock down short yardage receiver, complimented with great blocking to get wide-outs extra room to breathe.  Despite these great qualities, the tight end lacks the one thing pretty much everyone else on the Dolphin roster doesn’t have; speed.

    Most of the stud tight ends in the free agent market have all been franchised or re-signed, leaving only Zach Miller of the Oakland Raiders as the last option.  This kid will automatically upgrade any offense, as he is a great end-zone threat and has recorded well over 50 catches in each of the last three seasons.

    He may not be extremely fast, but he is faster than Fasano and does offer a better offensive skillset.  I myself would personally love him on the roster, but let’s face it; he is due for a massive contract, and for a slight upgrade over what Miami has now, I’d rather find the right combination of hands and speed in the draft.

    Kyle Rudolph is this year’s Jermaine Gresham; or, as the draft’s prized tight end.  At 6’6", 258 lbs, the monstrous pass blocker and catcher is the consensus best tight end in the 2011 lottery, intriguing any team looking for a short route receiver.  This Notre Dame star may have not posted the most amazing numbers at the Fighting Irish’ Pro Day with a 4.75 run and only 19 bench reps, but he is a whole ‘nother monster on the field.  Some guys can’t be measured in training is what I say… but the Phins need not look this early in the draft into an area of the team they are currently sitting nicely in.

    Let’s be honest with each other for once and say the Phins don’t need a tight end in the first three, maybe even first four rounds.  Let’s look back into late third, if not fourth-round prospects to be a bit more realistic.

    I don’t want to hear anything about Virgil Green from Nevada.  First of all, he comes from a weird offensive scheme headed by a quarterback I’m not much of a fan of in Colin Kaepernick, and he can’t really run routes, so he’d be way too much of a gamble.  Yes, he did run a 4.54 at the combine, and yes, he did have a 42.5 vertical jump, but I’d rather a take someone who looks as good on the field as they do in the drills, and those are two areas he varied far and wide away from when compared to each other.  6’3", 252 lbs… never mind.

    I really like Jordan Cameron of the Southern California Trojans, but there has been a lot of speculation of teams would be looking into picking him up as early in the second round.  I personally see him coming off of the board in the late third, more than likely fourth for having a semi-quiet final season, but anything is possible.  Who isn’t intrigued by a 4.55 combine 40 and later having an equally impressive Pro Day?  A lot of teams saw him in action, and as much as I think he’d be perfect in the fourth, I’d say there are going to be plenty of GM’s out there who would beg to differ.

    Another player I was once hot on but have now grown cold towards is D.J. Williams of the Arkansas Razorbacks.  He used to kill it burning up the sideline after catching bombs from Ryan Mallett, but there are measurable issues with the kid.  He’s only 6’2", where the average tight end stands between 6’4"-6’6".  His Combine performance also wasn’t the most memorable, as he ran a 4.63 40.  When it’s all said done, the AFC East is full of aggressive, ball-hawk secondary threats who would love to pick this guy off.  Would it look like if a big bad tight end got intercepted by Jairus Byrd, Brandon Meriweather, Devin McCourty, Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis?  4.63 won’t leave them too far behind, that’s for sure.

    Despite everyone falling in love with Virgil Green at the Combine, my personal favorite tight end this year is Rob Housler of the Florida Atlantic Owls.  He had one of the fastest sprints of the day with a 4.51, and unlike Green, he was solid in every single drill that was thrown at him.  At 6’5", 244 lbs and a 37-inch vertical jump, it seems almost ideal for this small-school prospect to go anywhere between the fourth through sixth, despite having top round talent.  If he falls deep enough into the fifth-round area, or even a doubtful sixth, I think Miami would make no mistake bringing the tight end two counties south to play some pro ball with the Phins.

    Free Agent Choice: Zach Miller (Oakland Raiders)

    Trade Choice: N/A

    First-Round Choice: N/A

    Second-Round Choice: N/A

    Third-Round Choice: N/A

    Fourth-Round Choice: Jordan Cameron (Southern California Trojans)

    Fifth/Sixth-Round Choice: Rob Housler (Florida Atlantic Owls)

    Best Choice: Rob Housler

    Final Thoughts: As I stated earlier, even though Zach Miller is guaranteed talent and an automatic upgrade, he will be asking for big money, and if the Phins look towards spending big bucks on a free agent signee, chances are it will be on either a quarterback, running back or offensive lineman.

    Housler is almost 100 percent ideal.  He may not be the absolute best and most talented tight end in the crop, but he’s got immense potential to be relevant on the team and potentially the league.

Final Thoughts & Best Choices

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 12:  Head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Tony Sparano on the sideline against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 12, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins need to sign DeAngelo Williams right away.  I have feeling that all three of the fans, myself and the Dolphins brass have lost faith in Ronnie Brown, while Ricky Williams has had it with the franchise altogether.

    After moving back into the 20’s of the first round, Miami will have lost the opportunity to grab Mark Ingram, and be left with deciding between Mike Pouncey and Ryan Mallett.

    My suggestion?  If Pouncey is available, take Pouncey first, and if he is gone, run after Mallett immediately.  Brandon Marshall himself has already personally endorsed Mallett coming to the Dolphins, so I don’t see why it would be a no-brainer to get your franchise wide receiver his preferred outlet to success.

    When the second round rolls around, Miami will have earned their pick after moving back, which will more than likely land them back into the 50’s.  If the Phins pick up Pouncey in the first, they will then go for either Mallett if he’s still available, or Ryan Williams if Mallett is gone.  If the Phins take Mallett in the first round, the Dolphins will shoot for either Danny Watkins or Rodney Hudson at guard, or Williams.

    My gut feeling tells me the Phins will have secured quarterback and offensive guard in the first two rounds, leaving them with the option of either selecting a running back, wide receiver, or someone on defense like a linebacker or potential cornerback.  I strongly believe the Phins will aim at running back, going for either Jordan Todman or Taiwan Jones with Jones preferred over Todman.  If both of these guys are gone, I can see Miami going for either a pass rusher or a cover corner, since the draft is so deep at both of these positions this year.  I doubt Jerrel Jernigan’s speed will let him fall into the third-round, but there is a possibility for him to fall this low into the draft.

    I like Miami looking at a wide receiver at this point, preferably Edmund Gates if he still around, or a running back like Noel Devine if not addressed previously, maybe even going for him in the fifth.  The linebacker or and cornerback are also not forgotten at this point if they haven’t been chosen.

    Point is, offense is where the biggest woes on the team lie right now.  With free agency still not having been announced, Miami will need to address every team need in the draft, with the most important ones immediately into the first two days.

    I’m sure most of are uncertain of what will happen, but these are just my thoughts and speculation.  I wouldn’t be shocked if everything turns out to go completely different from what I’ve presented here, but then again, Jeff Ireland has surprised me before, in a bad way.

    As Dolphin fans, and football fans as a whole, let’s all just hope it turns out well, and continue keep hope for football in 2011!

    SALUTE!

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