NFL 2011 Mock Draft: Projecting the Miami Dolphins' Picks Before the Combine
With all shrine games and senior bowls in the books, it is time to turn our attention towards the NFL Combine, which will take place from February 23rd to March 1st in Indianapolis. The Combine serves as the most overrated and over-analyzed part of the scouting process, yet it grows larger and more relevant by year.
Until all 32 NFL teams poke, prod, and observe the roughly 350 collegiate prospects in attendance, each team's draft outlook is nothing more than muddled. However, each team, including the Miami Dolphins, have started in the process of narrowing down their draft board. The Dolphins enter the 2011 off-season with a slew of needs, headlined by quarterback, running back, and simple speed. They may not address all of these needs in April's Draft, but expect all of the following players to fall onto the 'Fins radar come draft day.
First Round: Mike Pouncey, Center, Florida
Pundits nationwide are forming an almost unanimous census that 'Bama running back Mark Ingram will be the Dolphins' pick here. Obviously that is highly likely, but considering the sheer volume of quality free agent and mid-round running backs, Miami needs to address a lack of depth, youth, and talent along the interior line.
Florida's Mike Pouncey is the premier interior line prospect in this year's draft class. Some have argued that 15 is too early for Pouncey, but Scouts Inc. has him rated as the 21st best prospect (one spot behind Ingram), and considering he is the the only interior lineman of note, his stock is bound to rise.
He weighs in a 6'5", 309 pounds, but has a unique set of skills that allows him to alternate between both guard and center, making him an even more valuable prospect.
Third Round: Kendall Hunter, Running Back, Oklahoma State
Criminally underrated despite compiling 1,548 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in 2010, Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter currently projects as a second or third round pick.
Hunter burst onto the national scene as a sophomore in 2008, rushing for 1,555 yards and 16 touchdowns. His junior season was derailed by a severe ankle injury, but Hunter dispelled all doubters by posting huge numbers in 2010.
Based on his incredible athleticism, speed, and elusiveness, it is difficult to imagine him slipping past the early portions of the third round. His strength and power have cast concerns, but Hunter would likely begin his career as a change of pace back where his athleticism would be best utilized, anyway. If Hunter does fall into the third round, Miami would most definitely be in play for his services.
Remember, the Dolphins are in the market for any and all players who possess speed, and Hunter is a bolt of electricity.
Fourth Round: Pat Devlin, Quarterback, Delaware
Four years ago, Penn State freshman Pat Devlin lost the Nittany Lions quarterback job to upperclassman Daryll Clark. Devlin promptly transferred to Delaware, where he has amassed 5,696 passing yards and tossed 32 touchdowns in two seasons as the Blue Hens' starter.
Despite his impressive statistics, Devlin has been groomed in Delaware's spread offense and has faced second-tier talent playing in the Division I-AA subdivision, factors which will work against him come draft day.
Inevitably, Devlin will also draw comparisons to his Delaware predecessor, Joe Flacco. Flacco is roughly two to three inches taller, and his arm is undeniably more powerful, but his immediate NFL success definitely bodes well for Devlin. Plus, Flacco's success running the Ravens run-first offense increases the odds Miami will take a chance on Devlin.
In all likelihood, Brian Daboll and Tony Sparano will maintain Miami's ground 'n' pound style of play, but thanks to the trail blazed by Joe Flacco, that does not rule Devlin out as an option for the Dolphins.The Dolphins must address the need for a young quarterback at some juncture, and Devlin is a low-risk, high-reward prospect.
Fifth Round: Kelvin Sheppard, Linebacker, LSU
The Dolphins might boast the league's sixth best defense, but they have arguably the worst special teams unit in the NFL. The special teams' struggles are well documented, and it is time Miami start placing a very heavy emphasis on upgrading its coverage teams.
LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard was a perennial stud for the Tigers during his four year career in the Bayou. He racked up over 100 tackles in both his junior and senior seasons, but despite standout play at the collegiate level, is pinned as a fifth round prospect.
Sheppard is heralded for his durability and impeccable tackling skills, which makes him a quintessential prospect for the Dolphins. He can be an immediate contributor on special teams and hopefully develop into a contributor in Miami's linebacker corps.
Sixth Round: Edmond Gates, Wide Receiver, Abilene Christain
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of recent Abilene Christian Wildcat successes in the NFL (Johnny Knox, Bernard Scott, Daniael Manning), wide receiver Edmond Gates has chosen to declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft.
Gates dominated the Division II ranks in 2010, reeling in 66 receptions and 13 touchdowns for the Wildcats. His standout play earned him an invite to the NFL Combine as well, so you can expect to hear more from Gates as the draft process progresses.
Gates is an explosive wide receiver who could be on the Dolphins' radar in the mid-to-late rounds of the Draft. His limited experience as return man also makes him a valuable commodity to the 'Fins. The theme of the 2011 Draft and off-season will be speed, and Gates has plenty.
Seventh Round: David Arkin, Guard, Missouri State
Heralded as one of the best offensive lineman in the FCS, Missouri State's David Arkin could make for an intriguing pick at the tail end of the 2010 draft.
Arkin possesses the mammoth size typical of this Dolphins regime's lineman. He stands at 6'5", 305 pounds, and did not miss a start throughout the entirety of his stellar four-year career.
Arkin might grade out to be a practice squad project, but he dominated the I-AA ranks, and certainly deserves a shot with the big boys. Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano seem to have an uncanny knack for finding quality offensive linemen in the darkest depths of the football world (Joe Berger, Nate Garner, Donald Thomas, Pat McQuistan, others), and Arkin seems to fit the bill for Miami.
Seventh Round: Virgil Green, Tight End, Nevada
There are many trends amongst the league's elite teams, but one that stands out is the presence of an athletic, receiving-oriented tight end. The Colts have Dallas Clark, the Patriots have Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, the Falcons have Tony Gonzalez, the Chargers have Antonio Gates, the Steelers have Heath Miller, and so on.
The Dolphins have lacked this dynamic since Keith Jackson in the early 1990s, and whether or not this regime wants to admit it, Anthony Fasano does not fit the bill. He has subpar speed and his 39 receptions for 528 yards were both career highs (not impressive).
Nevada tight end Virgil Green stands at a commanding 6'5", 245 pounds, but he still managed to catch 35 passes and five touchdowns (solid numbers for a collegiate tight end) during his senior season with the Wolf Pack. Although he stems from Nevada's funky Pistol offense, Green is a project worth investing in.