Over the last 3 years, the Dolphins drafts have been better than those in the 5 years of Dave Wannstedt, but that didn’t make them good NFL drafts. A few nice picks came out of them here and there but only Ronnie Brown in 2005 makes you really smile.
So if this is the best draft in a decade or more, how are they fairing this season? Here is a look.
Jake Long – 1st overall pick. The Dolphins bucked the traditional rule of thumb about taking a LT with the first pick. Passing on QB Matt Ryan who is nothing short of stellar in Atlanta and top RB Darren McFadden who is bordering on the first year bust moniker, Long has only impressed his opposition, coaches, fans, and everyone else.
Long currently is the leading vote getter for the LT position in the AFC Pro-Bowl voting and there is a good chance that he will actually make the game in his first year. After starting the season with 3 penalties vs. the Jets…Long has had only 3 the rest of the season. Jake Long appears to be the big bodied lineman that this team has needed since the Richmond Webb days. Grade: A+
Phillip Merling – DE – Many fans were surprised by the selection of a DE with the Phins 2nd round pick. Especially given the needs at WR. However, the Phins knew that Jason Taylor could be gone at any time and with the change to a 3-4 defense on the horizon, big DE’s were a need.
Merling has 15 tackles, one fumble recovery, and 1 sack. While his stats don’t show the whole story, Merling has been getting a lot of push up field and pressuring the QB. It appears that the Phins have hit on this DE. His playing time will only increase as he is not on the field every series. Grade: B
Chad Henne – QB – The Dolphins love what they have with Chad Henne and fans are clammoring silently to see the kid. Chances are without Chad Pennington, they already would have. Henne has the big arm of an NFL QB but is learning behind CP which is not a bad thing. Grade: Not able to grade.
Kendall Langford - DE – Surprise was an understatement when Langfords name was called at the top of round 3. The Phins had already drafted Phillip Merling and this pick only increased the Jason Taylor trade talk. Langford has 19 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 passes defensed. He is getting a lot of playing time and is making the most of his first season in the NFL. Langford could be one of the steals in this draft. Grade: B+
4th Round: Two things happened in the 4th round. The Phins traded the first pick in that round for Akin Ayodele and Anthony Fasano. That move is a sure A+ rating. Fasano isn’t statistically having a great year but his blocking has been stellar and teams have to account for him. Ayodele has been a solid defensive and ST contributor.
The Dolphins also moved back into round 4 and drafted OG prospect Shawn Murphy. While you can’t call him a bust, Murphy has been inactive all season. He is a prospect and the Dolphins knew that when they drafted him. Grade: C-
Round 6: Three players were taken in round 6. RB’s Lex Hilliard and Jalen Parmale and OG Donald Thomas. Hilliard and Parmale will not likely stick on the team. Both players are on the practice squad but with the contract extension of Patrick Cobbs and the play of Ronnie Brown, both are looking to be expendable with Ricky Williams extended as well. Grade: D+ Neither were bad picks but neither ever really appeared to be destined for the roster in the first place.
Donald Thomas could be the biggest steal in the history of the Miami Dolphins. Sure Dan Marino was a huge steal but he still went in round 1. Before injuring his foot in the first game of the season, Donald Thomas looked like a road grading offensive line machine. The Phins have a lot of hope for the youngster and he should return next season with no issues. Grade B+ (injury)
Lionel Dotson – DE/DL – Dotson has been active and seen some playing time but not much as he sits behind the other veterans. It’s too early to tell what impact he will have on this team in the long run. Grade: C. A 7th round pick on the active roster? That’s not a bad thing at all.
Undrafted Rookies: The Phins made some impact pick-ups after the draft concluded and some of these guys are playing huge rolls this season and productive ones at that.
Davone Bess – 24 receptions, 245 yards, and 1 touchdown. He is the primary punt returner as well. Bess has been nothing short of impressive and does not drop many passes. With a season ending injury to Greg Camarillo, Bess could be the number 2 option for the final 6 games and could be the man the Phins look towards to make the playoffs. Grade: A
Dan Carpenter - Carp booted veteran place kicker Jay Feely in training camp and while some of his kick-offs have been short, he has shown some nice poise at crunch time. He has one game winning field goal this season and is 13/15 on FG attempts this season with his only two misses coming from the 40-49 yard range. He has attempted 8 from that yardage and none over 50. Grade B+