Miami Dolphins 2012 NFL Draft: Comprehensive Grades with Analysis

Alessandro Miglio@@AlexMiglioFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2012

Miami Dolphins 2012 NFL Draft: Comprehensive Grades with Analysis

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    Christmas in April, or Draftmas, as I call it, is over. Met with anticipation and trepidation by Dolphins fans across South Florida and beyond, this draft seemed to carry higher importance than in recent years.

    The implications of this draft were not lost on Jeff Ireland, who has been under fire for a poor offseason. 

    How did he and the Dolphins fare? Forge ahead for my analysis and grades on Miami's 2012 NFL Draft.

Round 1

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    Pick: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

    This pick could not have been more telegraphed than a Dan Marino laser to Mark Duper. Despite going out of their way to dispel the notion they would be taking the QB out of College Station, Jeff Ireland snagged a guy they had been looking at since 2010.

    Tannehill is the first QB taken in the first round by Miami since Marino was taken 27th in the 1983 draft. While it might behoove the city not to put that kind of pressure on the young gun, this represents a major breakthrough for a front office that has been widely panned for years, particularly during this past offseason.

    His lack of experience—Tannehill only started 19 games as a college QB—and some concerns about turnovers make him a risky pick at No. 8, but there was no guarantee he would have been there for the Dolphins had they waited, particularly considering the trading frenzy that happened in the first round.

    Scouts and experts are divided on the pick. Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller gave the pick an 'F' grade, saying the Dolphins reached, while our own Sigmund Bloom gave the pick an 'A'. Whether the pick was a reach is debatable—again, the Tennessee Titans picked Locker in the same exact spot last year, and I believe Tannehill is a better prospect coming out of college.

    Time will tell what the real grade is, but considering Miami's need at QB and Tannehill's potential as a franchise quarterback, I will side with Bloom.

    Grade: A-

Round 2

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    Pick: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

    The uproar this pick caused was amusing.

    With the bevy of receiving talent left on the board, including Alshon Jeffery and Rueben Randle, many hoped Jeff Ireland would address the position with this pick. Instead, Ireland went back to the well by selecting another lineman with an early-round pick.

    Considering the excellent value Martin presented at the time—he was considered a first-round talent by many before the draft—Ireland got this pick right. While some view Martin as soft, he is an athletic lineman who fits the zone blocking scheme being implemented along Miami's offensive line well.

    Martin protected Andrew Luck's blindside at Stanford, but he will likely move to the right side with the Dolphins. With Lydon Murtha penciled in as the starting right tackle, Martin provides instant stability to the position and bookends the offensive line along with Jake Long. He also provides Long insurance should he continue to be hampered by injuries or decide to leave via free agency.

    There were plenty of good choices for Miami by the time their number was called in the second round, but there were few better picks than Martin.

    Grade: A

Round 3, Pick 1

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    Pick: Olivier Vernon, DE/OLB, Miami

    As the top pass-rushers flew off the board one by one, the sinking feeling that Miami might take Vernon kept growing. While he fills a position of need, he was not a top choice of mine for the position.

    Vernon was part of the "nightmare draft" scenario I painted for you just before the draft. He was taken in the third round in that scenario, exactly like the real deal.

    The first Miami Hurricane off the board was, surprisingly, Olivier Vernon—a shining example of Randy Shannon's inability to develop promising players during his tenure with the Hurricanes. With 10 total sacks in two-and-a-half seasons—he spent half of last season suspended for his involvement in the Nevin Shapiro scandal—he never fully realized his potential in college.

    A bit undersized at 6'2", Vernon brings versatility to the table. Jeff Ireland called him a developmental player, however—odd considering his ideal to draft starters or important role players in the first three rounds.

    Vernon will have to put everything together to have success at the next level, making him Ireland's worst pick of the draft.

    Grade: C

Round 3, Pick 2

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    Pick: Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri

    The ruckus caused by the Jonathan Martin pick was nothing compared to what Egnew's selection caused. With plenty of quality receivers still on the board, Jeff Ireland surprised and angered many with this selection, at least according to my Twitter feed.

    Egnew may not have directly filled a need at wide receiver, but he will be utilized in a way that will help fill that void. As a 6'5" former receiver, Egnew has great ball skills and ability to run after the catch. His route-running may need a little work, and he was not asked to block much in college—a fact that does not necessarily mean he is not a good blocker (he did a good job at the Senior Bowl)—but Egnew will fill the "joker" role at tight end nicely.

    Unfortunately for him, and perhaps fortunately for the Dolphins, his draft stock fell in large part to losing Blaine Gabbert to the NFL.  After posting 90 catches as a junior, he caught just 58 as a senior. 

    I have a sneaking suspicion Miami was going to use one of their third round picks on Dwayne Allen. When the Indianapolis Colts took the former Clemson tight end unexpectedly—after having taken Coby Fleener in the second round, that is—Jeff Ireland may have decided to trade down and take the best tight end available.

    Egnew was actually selected in my "dream draft," albeit about 25 picks later. Ireland took Egnew a bit high, otherwise there is little to complain about for this pick.

    Grade: B+

Round 4

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    Pick: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

    Thievery.

    That is the one word that best describes this pick.

    Indeed, there was a reason Miller fell from potential first-rounder into the fourth round, but 31 other teams' trash is Miami's treasure. Whatever the reason may be—he had surgery on a bothersome shoulder, and he reportedly failed the "chalkboard test" at the combine—there is no denying Miller has special talent.

    The former Miami Hurricane is an explosive runner cut from a similar cloth as Arian Foster. His one-cut-and-go style is perfect for the ZBS Mike Sherman is implementing on the offensive line. From the Associated Press:

    “We look at Lamar Miller as a back that has the opportunity to create explosive plays,” coach Joe Philbin said. “He’s a guy who can break tackles, and he has very good speed. It was hard to ignore the guy.”

    Miller was the fastest running back at the combine, and he could have been the fastest man were it not for the shoulder surgery from which he was still recovering. To add the cherry on top, Miller is a great kickoff returner, an area where Miami has been lacking in recent years.

    Of course, Ireland had to throw a bit of a wet blanket on the pick. As the Dolphins' GM alluded to after the draft, Miller will need to be coached up on pass blocking and "ruggedness."

    He was just being modest.

    This pick was a home run—Miller could wind up being the best running back the Dolphins have had in a very long time.

    Grade: A+

Round 5

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    Pick: Josh Kaddu, LB, Oregon

    To this point, the draft has fallen perfectly for the Dolphins. They have let the value fall to them, and there are still a ton of names out there at wide receiver, even after trading down 10 spots in the round.

    Marvin Jones, Chris Givens, Tommy Streeter and Marvin McNutt are just some of the guys left when Miami's pick is up. They finally come up on the clock, and the pick is in: Josh Kaddu.

    Who?

    Admittedly, I knew very little about Kaddu when his name was called on the third day. The fact is, however, that Kaddu does not play wide receiver. 

    The disappointment quickly faded when every draftnik and expert I follow on Twitter was disappointed Kaddu was taken and/or praised the pick for Miami.

    The pass-rushing prospect apparently brings some versatility to the table, having played outside linebacker at Oregon. Taking a look at his scouting report, Kaddu possesses great athletic ability and plays with a high motor.

    His negatives amount to him being a raw player, which are the right kind of negatives—the coaching staff can help add pass rushing moves to his repertoire and improve his technique.

    Kaddu can contribute on special teams right away as he develops, and he might eventually make an impact on defense.

    Grade: B

Round 6

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    Pick: B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State

    With the likes of Tommy Streeter and Marvin McNutt still on the board, Cunningham seems like a bit of a head-scratcher.

    The former Spartan does fit what Joe Philbin looks for in a receiver at 6'1" and a 4.59 40-yard dash time, however. While that may not seem fast, straight-line sprint speed is not everything—Jordy Nelson ran a 4.51 at the combine. Heck, Jerry Rice nearly ran a 4.7.

    Cunningham is by no means Jerry Rice. He is a decent receiver, however, and Philbin made the most out of guys like him. Nelson had a great year last year, but if you stuck him on most other rosters he might not produce half of what he did in Green Bay.

    The Michigan State graduate will have his hands full competing for a roster spot with the likes of Rishard Matthews, Jeff Fuller, Derek Moye, and veteran Roberto Wallace to contend with. 

    Grade: C+

Round 7, Pick 1

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    Pick: Kheeston Randall, DT, Texas

    Continuing a tradition of selecting a defensive lineman in the seventh round—Miami selected Frank Kearse last year and Chris McCoy in 2010—the Dolphins look to fill some of the void left by Philip Merling's release with Randall.

    The 6'4", 293-pound big man in the middle is excellent against the run but a poor pass-rusher. If he can be developed, Randall could find himself in the rotation in obvious running situations.

    Grade: B

Round 7, Pick 2

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    Pick: Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada

    The Dolphins address the receiver position again here with their final pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.

    At just under 6'1", Matthews falls smack in the middle of the Philbin mold for wide receivers. Matthews was a big producer at Nevada, leading the WAC with 91 catches for 1,394 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior without Colin Kaepernick, who was holding a clipboard in the NFL. He also has good return skills, which could help him stick on the roster.

    There is really nothing to complain about. Matthews could have been gone earlier in the draft, but he was there for the taking after receivers collectively took a tumble. The former Nevada receiver will compete for a backup role while contributing on special teams.

    Grade: A-

Final Thoughts

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    Jeff Ireland came into the draft with a plan, and he executed it. He took his guys when he needed to (Tannehill and Egnew) and let the value come to him when he wanted (Martin, Miller and Matthews). 

    He even extended his performance during the undrafted free agent frenzy. Among the signees, big receiver Jeff Fuller was reunited with his quarterback, Tannehill.

    This could wind up being seen as a stroke of brilliance—Ireland avoided drafting him, yet managed to steal him in free agency. If Fuller can shake off the dropsies he experienced as a senior and play up to the potential he showed as a junior, the Dolphins will have found a gem in undrafted free agency.

    Other signees that have a shot at sticking on the roster and making an impact are 6'4" receiver Derek Moye out of Penn State, safety Kelcie McCray out of Arkansas State, former running back from Notre Dame Jonas Grey, and former Missouri defensive end Jacques Smith.

    History will be the ultimate judge of this draft, and it hinges on Tannehill. 

    My gut reaction is a positive one, however. Ireland took a big step in the right direction during the 2012 NFL Draft.

    Overall Grade: B+