2010 NFL Draft Debate: Should Dolphins Go NT or OLB at No. 12?

Chris MaierCorrespondent IApril 8, 2010

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 07:  Linebacker Sergio Kindle #2 of the Texas Longhorns sacks quarterback Greg McElroy #12 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the Citi BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl on January 7, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

When Bill Parcells arrived as team president in 2008, nobody expected the Dolphins to reverse their fortunes so quickly. GM Jeff Ireland and Head Coach Tony Sparano were with Bill Parcells in Dallas and have also had significant contributions to the immediate success of Miami.

The Dolphins won the AFC East in 2008 and finished with a 7-9 record in 2009. The biggest reason the Dolphins won four fewer games in 2009 was slippage on the defensive side of the ball where they ranked 25th in total defense.

Miami's draft philosophy the last two years has been to attack position groups of weakness. In 2008 the Dolphins fixed the offensive line and defensive lines with offensive tackle Jake Long and defensive ends Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling.

In 2009 Miami upgraded its secondary with corners Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Even after signing inside linebacker Karlos Dansby to huge contract, look for the Dolphins to focus on the front seven in Round One.

After the release of OLB Joey Porter and the suspension of aging nose tackle Jason Ferguson, the Dolphins have two huge holes in their 3-4 defense.

The staff at NFL Draft 101 debates which direction the Dolphins should go with the 12th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. The one position we agreed they would not take was wide receiver because Bill Parcells does not place a first-round premium on the position.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Why the Dolphins Should Take an Outside Linebacker at No. 12  (By Chief Scout Dan Wernery)

Going back to his days as head coach of the Giants, Bill Parcells has always had a dominant 3-4 outside linebacker.

From Lawrence Taylor (Giants), to Willie McGinest (Patriots) to Demarcus Ware (Cowboys), Bill Parcells believes in an aggressive scheme with athletic pass rushers. He values the positions, as the three previously mentioned players were all first-round selections. 

I can't see Bill Parcells going into 2010 with 35-year-old Jason Taylor as his top pass rusher. Nose tackle is a hole on their defense, but are the Dolphins ready to give up on  355 lb Paul Soliai, who is only 26? Soliai has potential to be a big-time run-stuffer on this defense.

Is Dan Williams or Terrence Cody enough of an upgrade to justify this pick? The answer is no.

At  No. 12 overall the Dolphins will have their choice of the top 3-4 OLB prospects. In our recent seven-round mock draft we had Miami selecting Texas' Sergio Kindle .

Kindle is a versatile defender who has experience at both defensive end and linebacker in college. I contend he is the best rush linebacker in the draft and also the one capable of making the easiest transition to the position.

There is depth at the position, but with 3-4 teams such as San Francisco (No. 13 and 17),  New England (No. 22),  Arizona (No. 26),  Kansas City (No. 36), Washington (No. 37), and Cleveland (No. 38) all picking before Miami's second-round pick at No. 43, the Dolphins cannot risk losing an upper-tier 3-4 OLB prospect.

Why the Dolphins Should Take a Nose Tackle at No. 12 (By Senior Editor Chris Maier)

Nose tackle is the linchpin to any 3-4 defense. With a good one, teams are able to stuff the run and focus on rushing the passer, but without one teams are unable to force the third-and-longs that make the blitz-heavy scheme so dangerous. 

Jason Ferguson has been a Bill Parcells staple going back to his years with the Jets but after 13 NFL seasons, age and an eight-game suspension have forced the Dolphins to look for his replacement. Backup Paul Solai is OK but he does not project as a full-time starter.

While the 12th-overall pick seems early for a nose tackle, one must consider the combination of need, position, scarcity, and talent. 

After a tremendous senior season playing under Monte Kiffin, Dan Williams has elevated his stock as much as any player in the draft and has established himself as the top nose tackle on the board. He is a prototypical run-stuffer who anchors well and occupies blockers. 

His skill-set is perfect for the 3-4 defense. Beyond Williams, there is talented but conditioning-challenged Terrence Cody, and a solid but unspectacular crop of developmental types with no better than third-round grades.

Compare that to this year's rush linebacker class, which is both talented and deep.  There is not a clear-cut No. 1 prospect but there are six to seven players with first or second-round grades. Even with a large number of 3-4 teams picking between 12th and 43rd, the Dolphins are all but assured of having one of the top prospects still being on the board in Round Two, not to mention a deep collection of prospects in Round Three and beyond.

If the Dolphins select Dan Williams at No. 12 they will have plugged the hole in the middle of their defense while still positioning themselves to acquire a top-tier linebacker.

Dan Wernery is chief scout for nfldraft101.com and can be reached at dwernery@nfldraft101.com .  Chris Maier is senior editor for nfldraft101.com and can be reached at cmaier@nfldraft101.com . Follow me on twitter at: nfldraft101 .

Also, be sure to check out NFL Draft 101's Third annual Seven-round mock draft .