2012 NFL Draft: 8 Options Not Named Andrew Luck for the Miami Dolphins
So, it's time for the 'Fins to turn their attention towards some of the other elite prospects that this upcoming draft class has to offer.
Although it's still early, Miami will likely land a selection within the top five, which leaves the team a rich abundance of players to choose from.
Free agency could alter whom the Dolphins select with their first-round pick but, rest assured, these eight prospects will be on their radar come draft day.
Robert Griffin III
What more could you ask for?
Griffin is easily the most electrifying quarterback prospect to surface since Michael Vick. His combination of speed, arm strength and character is unparalleled, and his potential is infinite.
Cam Newton's seamless transition and wild success in the NFL will also help boost RGIII's draft stock, which is bound to catapult over the next few months. Griffin has thrown for 3,093 yards, 29 touchdowns and only five interceptions in a string of masterful performances this season.
It's still early, but I'm pinning Griffin as the favorite for Miami's first-round pick.
Because USC has been banned from postseason play for the last two seasons, the national media has neglected the once-predominant program. However, a lack of spotlight hasn't prevented Matt Barkley from maturing into one of the best quarterback prospects the school has ever produced.
Through 10 games this season, Barkley has thrown for 2,782 yards and tossed 29 touchdowns with only six interceptions—all while leading the Trojans to an 8-2 record.
Barkley might not have a cannon arm—and that should spawn some concern—but he appears to have all of the tools and intangibles required of a stud NFL quarterback.
At the outset of the 2011 college football season, Oklahoma's Landry Jones projected as the second-best quarterback prospect behind Andrew Luck. Jones has an ideal NFL build (6'4", 230 pounds), a laser arm (threw 38 TDs in 2010) and a winning history (led OU to 12 wins in '10).
However, Jones' stock has taken a hit this season.
Houston Chronicle reporter Lance Zierlein reported that two NFL scouts believe Jones needs to stay in school, and this is probably because the Sooners' quarterback plays primarily out of the shotgun, is surrounded by elite talent and looked largely unimpressive against FSU—the best defense OU faced this season.
Despite the criticisms, Jones did throw for almost 5,000 yards last season and is on pace to throw for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns this year.
If the Dolphins continue their winning ways, they could run themselves out of contention for Griffin and Barkley. In this scenario, Miami could settle for Jones, who still has brilliant upside.
I know what you're all thinking: "Not another offensive lineman."
And sure, drafting offensive tackle Matt Kalil wouldn't excite the fanbase, but it would give the Dolphins an incredible offensive line—one that could make a mediocre quarterback look great.
Kalil, who tips the scales at 6'7", 295 pounds, is currently regarded as the best lineman in the 2012 draft class. His unique blend of size and athleticism gives him Pro Bowl potential.
If the Dolphins opt to pursue a quarterback like Matt Flynn in free agency, then Kalil becomes a legitimate reality. Installing him alongside Mike Pouncey and Jake Long would allow Miami's entire offense to thrive at unheralded levels.
Imagine placing the best wide receiver in college football alongside Brandon Marshall.
It's a frightening proposition for NFL defenses—and one that could become a reality if the Dolphins draft Oklahoma State star Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon's play over the past two seasons has been straight-up ridiculous. He reeled in 111 receptions and 20 touchdowns in 2010, and currently has 93 catches and 14 scores.
Although he doesn't boast an imposing frame (6'1", 215 pounds), Blackmon's uncanny combination of speed, soft hands, toughness and aggressiveness allows him to play bigger.
Obviously, Miami's first priority is finding a franchise quarterback. But if they choose to do so via free agency, then Blackmon becomes a legitimate target for the 'Fins.
Karlos Dansby's resurgence has minimized Miami's need for another inside linebacker. However, the Dolphins might be enticed by Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict come draft day.
Although he currently projects as a mid-first-round pick, Burfict has the anatomy of an NFL linebacker. He weighs in at 6'3", 250 pounds, racked up 89 tackles in 2010 and can lay some violent hits.
So why, you ask, isn't Burfict a top-10 prospect?
If Burfict can keep his head on straight, stay out of trouble and finish the season strong, he will become a top-flight prospect—one who could draw the appeal of the Dolphins.
Miami's inability to generate a consistent pass rush this season has exposed their need for a rush outside linebacker. Cam Wake cannot carry the burden by himself, and outside linebacker will rank among the Dolphins' most pressing needs this offseason.
If the Dolphins miss out on Robert Griffin and Matt Barkley, then there's a chance they could target UNC defensive end Quinton Coples.
Coples is a 6'6", 285-pound behemoth who accrued 10 sacks in 2010. Although his production has dipped off in 2011, that is probably a product of offenses avoiding his side of the field.
Drafting Coples would give the Dolphins a dangerously good front seven that could overwhelm even the best offensive lines.
There's a reason Reggie Bush only averages 11 carries per game: He is not an every-down running back. Daniel Thomas was supposed to serve as the bruising, between-the-tackles complement to Bush, but his play has been disconcertingly poor over the past few weeks.
It's far too early to discard Thomas, especially considering he is a rookie.
If, however, the Dolphins do not feel confident that Thomas will mature into a reliable runner, then they could target Alabama's Trent Richardson in the 2012 draft.
Richardson's skill set is unbelievable. He can run through, over and around defenders, and his 1,205 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns speak for themselves.
Richardson seems like a sure-fire future star, and if the Dolphins address their quarterback issues in free agency, then he could don orange and aqua in 2012.