2012 NFL Draft Recap: Grading Miami Dolphins' Draft

Luke TaylorCorrespondent IIMay 1, 2012

2012 NFL Draft Recap: Grading Miami Dolphins' Draft

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    The 2012 NFL Draft has come and gone, and Dolphins’ fans were finally treated to the first-round quarterback they craved.

    Their draft haul included nine players selected, with six on the offensive side of the ball and three defensive players.

    In addition to grading the Dolphins’ draft selections, I’ll have a quick look at those undrafted free agents known to be trying out or signing with Miami.

    The front fffice filled the Dolphins’ obvious needs, except for adding an interior lineman.

    So, here are my grades for the Miami Dolphins’ draft, which culminates in a decision of whether Miami should give Jazzy Jeff one more chance, or if even more fans should join the campaign to “Fireland."

1st-Round Selection: Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M (8th Overall)

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    It finally happened.

    The Dolphins selected a first-round quarterback for the first time since Dan Marino in 1983, selecting Ryan Tannehill in the hope that he becomes their future franchise quarterback.

    The selection of Tannehill made sense, not least because Miami need a quarterback to develop, and he was the best quarterback in the draft outside of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but also because of Tannehill’s links with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.

    Miami knows all about Tannehill from Sherman, who was his head coach at Texas A&M, and their new offense will be very similar to the one he ran at college; the fit in Miami makes perfect sense.

    Having said that, Tannehill has only 19 starts at quarterback in college; his limited experience and ability to read a defense are questionable, and as a result, the pick does not come without risk.

    In addition to that, Tannehill was a slight reach at eight. He was by no means the eight-best player in the draft, but his upside, and the need for quarterbacks which often results in them being over drafted, means it is easy to justify the Dolphins using the pick on him.

    Miami can now let Tannehill sit behind Matt Moore and David Garrard and develop, allowing him to improve and not have the pressure of playing straight away.

    The pick made sense for the Dolphins, and fans finally have the first-round quarterback they desired. He may not have warranted the eighth pick of the draft, but the potential of a franchise quarterback is too good to pass up.

    However you look at it, Tannehill’s upside makes him a good pick. (And guys, did you see his wife?)

    Grade: B+

Second Round: Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford (42nd Overall)

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    In the second round, the Dolphins went with the best-player-available approach and solidified the right side of the offensive line.

    The best players on the board were arguably Martin and wide receiver Stephen Hill, someone who was very raw and a risky selection (who ended up with the Jets).

    Of the two, I am much more comfortable with Martin, as Hill is very raw.

    Lydon Murtha was pencilled in as starter, something I would have been comfortable with, but Martin can also start as right tackle and has the potential to cover for Jake Long at left tackle—something Miami needed badly.

    Martin was left tackle at Stanford and has the athleticism needed to fit in the new West Coast offense.

    His strength is a slight concern, having only completed 20 bench press reps at the combine, but his work ethic is unquestionable, so the coaches must be confident he will improve that area of his game.

    Martin was given a first-round grade before the draft and was mocked as high as 10 to the Bills before the draft.

    To fall to Miami’s pick (10th in the second round) means he was a steal for the Dolphins, and fans should be happy to finally have an answer to the void at right tackle.

    If Lydon Murtha can be kicked inside to guard, then Miami have solved the problems on the O-Line. Alternatively, if Jake Long is to leave when his contract expires next year, Martin could fill the void left by Long.

    Overall, Martin fills a void and was picked for great value.

    Grade: A-

Third Round: Olivier Vernon, Defensive End, Miami (72nd Overall)

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    The front office finally drafted a Miami Hurricane early in the third round, taking defensive end, Olivier Vernon.

    Vernon has the speed and physique to play as a 4-3 end, or even as a 3-4 OLB, judging by his 40-yard dash.

    He has all the physical tools to be a success in the NFL, but has not consistently performed on the field in college, and never really registered the statistics that many expected from him with 11 career sacks in college.

    He is quick off the line and offers the pass-rushing threat Miami require, but does not yet have the technique.

    If he is willing to work on his technique, then he could become a real force in the NFL, although in the build up to the draft there were concerns about his maturity and work ethic.

    As a result, Vernon was seen by many to be a late-round pick and he was clearly a reach as a third-round pick.

    However, he has NFL-calibre size and athleticism, which meant he would likely have been over drafted regardless of Miami selecting him, as plenty of teams would have loved his blend of speed and size.

    He is raw, but has all the tools to succeed with the right coaching, essentially making him a boom or bust draft pick for the Dolphins, and while he was a reach, his athletic tools were always going to push up his draft stock.

    Grade: B-

Third Round: Michael Egnew, Tight End, Missouri (78th Overall)

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    Having traded down in Round 3, picking up a sixth-round pick from San Diego in the process, Miami selected a seam-threat tight end in Michael Egnew, a player I really liked and hoped the Dolphins would select (although with a late fourth-round pick).

    The pick was another surprise and a reach, but his blend of size (6'5," 252 lbs) and speed (4.62) cannot be ignored, and led to comparisons with Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley, who played a huge part in Joe Philbin’s offense with the Packers.

    Egnew burst onto the scene with 90 catches for 762 yards and five touchdowns in 2010-11, but his productivity dropped last season to 47 catches for 484 yards and three touchdowns.

    However, he is a pass-catching tight end. His long frame makes him look like a receiver, he has good speed and soft hands and is able to make difficult catches.

    His blocking is suspect, but he does give a lot of effort to make blocks which means he will benefit from improved coaching in this area.

    Anthony Fasano is in a contract year and due to earn over $4 million, which might lend weight to the suggestion that Egnew will play more next year opposite Charles Clay in two tight end sets.

    For now, he adds depth to a tight end corps with questionable pass-catching experience and could make a limited impact this year.

    His talent is there, but he was a reach and that bumps down his draft grade.

    Grade: C+

Fourth Round: Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami (97th Overall)

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    First-round talent with a fourth-round pick...need I say more?

    Many had him projected as a first-round prospect, with most mocking him to the Bengals in either the first or second round.

    Yet Lamar Miller fell all the way to the fourth when Jeff Ireland traded up for him, giving up their fourth rounder and a sixth-round pick in both 2012 and 2013.

    He ran a 4.4 at the combine, but can run even quicker and he is a game-changer with great size (5'11," 212 lbs).

    He fell on draft day due to concerns about his durability, but with just one season as a starter, he has plenty of tread left on the tires and is a home-run threat whenever he has the ball.

    He ran for 1.272 yards and nine touchdowns last year, and 646 yards and six TDs in 2010, but can also serve as a kick-off returner, scoring on a kick return against Ohio State.

    Miller’s exceptional speed and burst mean he can break for a touchdown whenever he touches the ball, and he is an effective receiver too, although his pass protection needs lots of work.

    He will back up Reggie Bush, who is in a contract year, so ultimately could form an effective one-two punch with Daniel Thomas in the backfield.

    For now, he may see occasional snaps and will fill in should Bush be injured, but he could see the field early as a kick returner too.

    Miller was a very popular pick, having played for the Hurricanes, but he was also a steal in the fourth round. Ireland made a great pick.

    Grade: A+

Fifth Round: Josh Kaddu, Outside Linebacker, Oregon (155th Overall)

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    While Josh Kaddu’s name might not be too familiar, the Dolphins got themselves a solid pick when they took the Oregon linebacker in the fifth round.

    Projected as a fourth-round pick by most, his strong showing at the East-West Shrine game could have forced him into the top-100 picks, so he was good value with the 155th pick of the draft.

    He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67, and has a good frame and size (6'3," 239 lbs) for the position, but does need to add muscle now he’s in the NFL. He’s raw and quick though, with decent production through his time with the Ducks.

    Kaddu is an explosive athlete, who blitzes well and plays at a quick pace and is a good, strong tackler. He will start as a special teams’ player and has good experience in this role at college.

    There is no doubt he needs to get stronger and his hard-hitting style means he lacks awareness, and relies more on power than technique. However, he registered 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss last year, and had his best season to date in Oregon.

    He, like many of the Dolphins’ picks, is raw and needs to work on the mental side of the game, but his athleticism means there is good upside.

    He offered very good value at the pick, and although a project, will see game time early thanks to his special teams play.

    If he improves his technique, and his football instincts follow suit, then Miami could have a very solid player who will find himself very popular with fans due to his hard-hitting style.

    Grade: B

Sixth Round: B.J. Cunningham, Wide Receiver, Michigan State (183rd Overall)

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    Cunningham was good late-round pick, but may not have even been drafted the way things were playing out. Despite this, he was the best player on Ireland’s board and fits the Dolphins’ approach.

    He doesn’t have great speed (4.59) or quickness, but plays quicker than his times suggest, and he has good size (6'1," 211 lbs) and excellent production in his last two years at Michigan State.

    With 50 catches for 611 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010, he improved to make 72 receptions for 1,240 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, and is a reliable possession receiver.

    He has good field awareness, and finds a way to get open despite sometimes struggling to get separation.

    His excellent production in college shows he may have been somewhat undervalued due to his average quickness. In addition to this, he is a physical receiver who is also a good blocker, and can help in the run game.

    Cunningham stands a decent chance of making the final 53, but it remains to be seen whether he will beat out Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore and the undrafted free agents.

    Grade: B

Seventh Round: Kheeston Randall, Defensive Tackle, Texas (215th Overall)

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    I’m a big fan of this pick, not least because I mocked Randall to the Dolphins, but also because I mocked him to Miami (perhaps a little high in hindsight) in Round 4.

    However, the former Texas Longhorns defensive tackle was another excellent value pick who fortunately fell to Miami, and was the best player on the board when they picked.

    Randall has good size (6'5," 293 lbs) and is a high character player on and off the field.

    He is explosive, but could do with adding some bulk. However, he was listed as a nose tackle at the combine and could be groomed in that position if he can put on more weight and get a little stronger.

    His stats are not outstanding (34 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack) last season, but his job for the Longhorns was to eat up blocks—something he did very well.

    He often draws attention from multiple blockers and is tough to beat in one-on-ones, making him an excellent prospect at nose tackle.

    He could see time early as a defensive end or tackle and be groomed as a nose tackle, possibly on the practice squad, but that would leave him open for other teams to poach him away, and Randall is the sort of player you want to keep on your team.

    With the right coaching, he could become a useful part of Miami’s defensive line rotation, and I believe he has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL.

    Grade: A

Seventh Round: Rishard Matthews, Wide Receiver, Nevada (227th Overall)

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    Projected as high as the fourth round, Matthews slow combine time (4.62) may have cost him a higher selection, but he plays much faster than his time suggests.

    At 6' and 217 lbs, he has good size and has long arms to help him bring in catches. He also has good vision and the ability to get yards after the catch, but he is not quick off the line, which could make it hard for him to gain separation in the NFL.

    In two seasons with the Wolfpack, he put up big numbers, with 56 receptions for 879 yards and five touchdowns in 2010-11, and 91 receptions for 1,364 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011, but his level of competition is about to increase.

    He needs work on his route running, but could see time early as a punt returner.

    In college, he scored twice on punt returns, averaging 11.4 yards per return. This is an area he could be used by Miami, considering their reluctance to have Reggie Bush return punts due to his injury history.

    Matthews was a nice final-day pickup, and he should compete with Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace for a spot on the final 53.

    His skills fit the West Coast offense and he brings value to the return game, but he will need to improve his route running and getting separation to succeed in the NFL.

    Grade: B-

Undrafted Free Agents

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    There were some good undrafted pick ups by the Dolphins too, as Jeff Ireland looks to find the next Davone Bess in Miami, but I will not grade this side of affairs, as it's impossible to know what they will deliver.

    Instead, here’s some information on the additions.

    The best of the selections were Notre Dame running back Jonas Gray, Missouri defensive end Jacquies Smith, Utah defensive end Derrick Shelby, Arkansas State safety Kelcie McCray, and receivers Derek Moye from Penn State, and Jeff Fuller from Texas A&M.

    Former Miami Hurricanes’ quarterback Jacory Harris is also having a try-out in Miami, before also working out for Arizona and Kansas City. He is practice-squad material, but has some upside and could beat out Pat Devlin.

    The chances of these players making the roster are slim, but some could make the practice squad if they impress pre-season.

    Of the undrafted free agents, Jeff Fuller arguably has the best chance of making the roster.

    He was one of the reasons for Ryan Tannehill’s low college completion rate due to a number of drops, but he will have an advantage over the other receivers having played under Sherman at Texas A&M, as he will know the offense.

    Moye is 6'4" and 209 lbs with 4.4 speed, and was seen by some as a mid-round pick. He totalled 144 catches for 2,395 yards and 18 TDs in college, and was a good undrafted FA addition.

    Derrick Shelby (6'3," 266 lbs) is another promising talent, who registered five sacks, nine TFLs, seven pass breakups and scored two touchdowns (one interception return and one fumble return).

    Jacquies Smith (6'3," 253 lbs) has a good motor and the versatility for the 4-3 and 3-4 as a pass rusher who deserve practice squad consideration, providing he is over his 2011 injury troubles.

    Safety, McCray, has good speed and size and was considered a fourth or sixth-round pick. He pulled in four interceptions last year, but is practice squad material.

    Jonas Gray, from the Fighting Irish, ran for 791 yards and 12 TDs in 11 games before a torn ACL last year and could have gone as high as the third round if he stayed healthy.

    He ran a 4.58 at the combine coming off the injury, but if he can find the speed he lost while injured, could be a good find by Ireland  and should remain on the practice squad.

Overall Grade

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    Those fans who entered the draft with no faith in Jeff Ireland still must give him his due. It was a very solid draft for Miami.

    Ireland found a new franchise quarterback, right tackle, athletic defensive end and seam-threat tight end. He selected two draft steals in Martin and Lamar Miller, with the latter a game-changing back who, if healthy, will deliver big things for Miami.

    While the two late-round receivers were good value picks, it is possible to argue he should have taken one of the early-round picks who have higher ceilings, but Ireland must hope Michael Egnew delivers to relieve any pressure on the receivers.

    However, it is possible he made value picks and intends to add a veteran receiver like Donald Driver too.

    As well as not selecting a dominant wide receiver, the only other major concern was his failure to find an athletic interior lineman.

    Miami need more athletic lineman for the new offense, and unless Lydon Murtha or Jonathan Martin move inside to guard, Ireland didn’t find one. He may now turn to the veteran free agents on the market to bolster the line.

    The failure to find a starting lineman is his only real failure though, from what appears to be a very solid draft on the face of it.

    The draft may be graded in the future on the Tannehill pick, but it goes much deeper than that.

    Ireland will now hope his solid picks can solidify his future in Miami.

    Overall Grade: B+