Miami Dolphins Draft Needs

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Shane Ford is the draft specialist for PhinPhanatic.com. Shane has been working with the site as a contributing draft writer for a year now and posts all of the PhinPhanatic.com Mock Drafts.

Positions: LB, NT, FS, CB, OL, WR

At best most people thought Miami would end 2008 with a 5 to 6 win season and be looking at a top 10 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Enter Bill Parcels. Enter Jeff Ireland. Enter Tony Sporano. The Trifecta restored hope in South Florida by bringing in football players and instilling discipline. This translated to an 11-5 record and the AFC East crown. The challenge will be to keep the momentum going and while from the outside it may look that all is well in Miami, a tougher schedule will surely test the Dolphins in 2009.

Vernon Carey holds the key to Miami’s draft. The free agent market will not be great this year if Miami is looking to replace Carey at RT. Dolphins have said the resigning Carey is a priority. If Carey is resigned that will give Miami the opportunity to look for a project at RT for a mid to late round pick, by combing the waiver wire or simply wait until the 2010 draft. If Miami can’t resign Carey then look for Miami to target a RT on day one of the draft that can be a plug and play type player. A couple of names to look at could be Phil Laodholt, Eben Britton and Alex Boone.

For the purpose of this article we will assume that Carey will be resigned by Miami and hold down the RT spot for at least another 2 years. We will focus our attention to the offensive side of the ball first. To be the smash mouth football team that the Trifecta wants Miami has to be able to run the ball effectively between the tackles without running the Wildcat formation. They will look to upgrade the center position first and foremost. Satele had a very nice rookie season, but regressed when Miami went to a less finesse offense. To his credit he played most of the season with a torn labrum, and it’s been reported that Miami has asked Sampson to add 10 to 15 pounds of upper body muscle in the off-season. The lackluster guard play could be corrected by the returns of Justin Smiley and Donald Thomas. If the Trifecta is not happy with the progression of Satele they might be in a position to draft one of the top 4 center/guards with their first round pick. Pay close attention once free agency starts and see if Jason Brown hits the market and if Miami takes a run at him, this could tip their hat in the draft and Miami could target players like Alex Mack, Eric Wood, Max Unger and Jonathan Luigs who can all play either guard position as well.

Sticking with the offensive side of the ball many feel Miami lacks a true #1 receiver. I have never been caught up in the numbers game for receivers, but more looking at what they can do. Teams need a receiver with solid hands that runs excellent routes and will go over the middle, enter Camarillo. They need a solid slot receiver that can create space with quick feet and excellent hands, enter Bess. They need a receiver that can be a big red zone target, enter London. They also need a receiver that can stretch the field, enter Ginn (for now, but that’s another article). Then they will need a young receiver that may be a bit of a project, but is a playmaker, enter Pat White. The Dolphins have been rumored to show some interest in White’s playmaking abilities as a WR and lining up running the Wildcat adding a new wrinkle to the formation. I do not look for Miami to go WR early in the draft, and would be surprised if they took a WR before round 4. Players to keep your eye on would be Brooks Foster, Ramses Barden, Patrick Turner, Marko Mitchell and DJ Boldin, yes the other Boldin.

I also look for Miami to take a project QB in a late round pick or as an undrafted free agent, because I think they will move Beck before the draft. A few guys that could fall into that category could be Hunter Cantwell, Tom Branstater and Todd Boeckman.

Now let’s focus our efforts on the defensive side of the ball. This is where I feel at least two of Miami’s fist three picks will be spent. The needs on defense wont change with the signing or not signing of key free agents like Bell, Hill, Goodman and Crowder (who I believe is as good as gone).

This writer believes Miami’s biggest off-season need is in the line backing corps. They mat have addressed the pass rush by going up to Canada and signing the two time defensive player of the year in Cameron Wake. Miami sorely misses a play making ILB and knowing Parcells’s history the Vegas odds should be on him to look to improve that with the #25 pick. With the signing of Wake the need for an outside line backer that can get pressure on the QB is not what it once was, and they may look at a late round or undrafted free agent to groom behind Porter. Many mock drafts have Miami taking USC linebacker Brian Cushing with the 25th pick. Cushing is a very talented athlete, and has the ability to play inside or out, but I like the other linebacker from USC who has been shooting up the charts. Clay Mathews Jr. seems like the perfect fit for a BP run team. He is tough as nails, non-stop motor, and comes from a NFL family so he knows what it takes. Like Cushing Mathews played outside linebacker, but seems to have the ability and size to move inside and he be an attacking ILB. Another name I like as a day two pick that could be a one to two year project is Antonio Appleby out of Virginia. He is a very solid ILB and while he may never turn into a Pro-Bowl type player he could be a very solid starter.

Miami will also look to address the NT spot either in free agency or in the draft. I don’t feel this is as big of a need as most because I felt Soliai started coming on towards the end of the season and seemed like the light finally came on for him. With that being said we’ll still take a look. I have been preaching BJ Raji all season, and it finally looks like the rest of the country caught on and Raji may have moved himself up to a top 10 pick. So we won’t look at Raji anymore, who I think will be better in a 4-3 base defense than a 3-4. His teammate Ron Brace on the other hand I feel is the perfect NT for a 3-4 scheme. Unlike Raji, Brace won’t get the pressure on the QB, but he may be a bit stouter against the run than Raji, and that is what a 3-4 scheme needs. If Miami likes Brace they will more than likely have to take him with their first pick in round two in not their round one pick. Some other players to look at in round three or later would be, Dorell Scott, Terrance Taylor, Sammie Lee Hill, Terrance Knight and Miami’s own Antonio Dixon. I think this spot is very deep in the draft and don’t think Miami will address until later or in free agency.

I am going to group the defensive backs together. Three of Miami’s fours starting DB’s are unrestricted free agents. There is a very good chance that all three will be back, but won’t hide the fact that all fours starting DB’s are 30 years old or older. I think Miami will address this area often in the draft. If Miami does not spend the number 25 pick on a DB like DJ Moore, Alphonso Smith, Sean Smith or William Moore, look for rounds two three and four to be spent on at least 2 players for the secondary. Miami currently has two pick in round two and Jeff Ireland has said he would like to gain a third. I believe he would like that because there are some good players that will be available throughout round two. Corners like Darius Butler, Jairus Byrd, Coye Francis Victor Harris, Mike Mickens and a guy I like in Domonique Johnson should all be there in rounds two and three. Corners that could be around on day two and could be nice picks to learn the game for a year or two would be Cary Harris, Keenan Lewis, Sherrod Martin, Kebin Barnes and Morgan Trent. This group is very deep and will be quality players available on day two.

Sean Smith (corner/safety) may be the only safety to go in round one. With Taylor Mayes deciding to stay in school and falling stock of William Moore and Patrick Chung, Miami will be able to wait till the second round or later to get a safety that can learn for a year or two. Players like Louis Delmas, Derek Peques, David Burton, and Brandon Underwood will be free safeties that will be available. If Miami would like to look for an understudy for Bell they may look at players like Michael Hamlin (who I like a lot and can play both SS and FS), Kevin Ellison, who like Hamlin can play both safety spots.

Ok, there you have it. These needs will definitely change between now and the last weekend in April because Miami will be very active in free agency once again, and may find a few diamonds in the rough.