While my comments on the WR position has drawn some ire from our readers, I stand by my Ginn comments (albeit without Wilford). So what can today’s number 2 need be? What kind of feathers can I ruffle while explaining why this is a bigger need than WR?
The Miami Dolphins may actually pass on what I feel is the teams number 1 need (read that tomorrow) should one of the top LB’s actually fall to the 25 slot.
Team need number 2: Linebacker
What the Phins have: Eric Walden, Cameron Wake, Joey Porter, Matt Roth, Channing Crowder, William Kershaw, Tearrius George, Akin Ayodele, Reggie Torbor, Quentin Moses, and Charlie Anderson.
The Good: The Phins locked up Channing Crowder who will have only his second full off-season in the new 34 system. Crowder is emerging as a leader and while he still is not quite there, his future in this defense looks promising. Crowder gives 110 percent each and every play and his locker-room attitude is well received by his teammates.
Akin Ayodele began to emerge last season and the coaching staff has raved about his development. Reggie Torbor and Charlie Anderson give the Phins much needed depth.
On the outside, Matt Roth and Joey Porter have anchored the OLB spots but still the Phins need to get more production opposite Porter who had one of his best years last season, making the pro-bowl. Cameron Wake is the Dolphins big “FA” pick-up on the defense and he was brought in prior to the markets open. Wake has all the tools but will playing in Canada translate to success in the NFL.
The Bad: While the Phins have plenty of LB’s on their roster they lack a true play-maker. Channing Crowder is solid in run support but he is not a solid pass rusher and his tackles are rarely at or behind the line of scrimmage. Akin Ayodele was consistent but unspectacular last season and all the praise in the world doesn’t amount to much when the teams focus is on sacking the QB.
On the outside, Matt Roth has become the locker-room leader and his play on the field is finally starting to gel. Going into his 2nd season under the same scheme should finally help him take the next step…if he does. Wake was a beast in Canada but that doesn’t mean he will be in the NFL.
Then there is J-Peezy. While Porter had some of his best success last season there was no doubt that he wore down towards the end of the season and his production suffered. The Phins are looking at the end of Porter’s career and will need to find his replacement sooner than later.
Why LB is a need:
The Phins simply do not have a “playmaker”. Joey Porter is great at rushing the passer but he struggles in coverage and against the run. Crowder is great at stopping the run but can’t get to the QB. Wake is an unknown and Matt Roth can be up and down and while his game seems to be getting more rounded, fans and the Phins are waiting for him to start dictating the plays to the offense instead of letting the offense come to him.
The Dolphins have placed a premium on stopping the oppositions passing attack. They want to do that by pressuring the QB. So far, only Porter is having success. That must change with the additions made in the AFC East this off-season and for the future of the unit as Porter gets older.
Who is available:
Brian Cushing – Most draft experts have Cushing coming off the board in the teens of Saturday’s first round. It’s unlikely that he will fall. Cushing is a strong LB who can support the run and put pressure on the QB but he has some durability concerns and at least one draft expert points out that he works out harder than he plays.
Clay Mathews – Mathews is one of the 3 USC LB’s that are expected to go in round 1 and his slotting ranges from mid-teens to mid-20′s. Mathews came on strong last year but the problem is that he has only truly had one successful season in college after walking on to USC. Mathews’ however has something that can’t be taught. A bloodline. Clay’s father played LB for the Cleveland Browns and his uncle is Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Mathews.
Clint Stintim – Stintim is a long armed OLB who can take on the run, cover the pass, and rush the QB. He uses his body well in shedding blocks and can play physically. Has a lot of intensity and reads plays well. He struggles a bit in coverage when asked to work man to man but the Phins would likely want him to move up-field rather than down-field. Stintim is “mocked” in the late 1st to mid second and could be available with the Phins first pick in round 2 at 44.
Connor Barwin – Barwin is not the strongest against the run and can struggle against bigger Olineman while rushing the passer. He lacks a solid technique to get around TE’s. He is however very smart and quick and has not yet maxed out his potential which means that while he is a solid project who still has a lot of room to grow, he is still a project. Barwin is a 2nd round LB.
Everette Brown - Brown has been called one of the best pure athletes in this years 1st round if not the entire draft. Brown however will not likely make it as a DE in the NFL in the 34 as he is on the smaller size. Still, as an OLB, Brown has the tools to be a future star. Quick reads, able to stop the run, and a smooth arsenal of pass rushing techniques. Where Brown falls short is that he hasn’t been a long time starter at FSU. While he is explosive off the line, he doesn’t possess great instinctiveness and can get lost in coverage if asked to drop back. His frame is reportedly maxed out but he still has plenty of upside.
Tyson Jackson – Jackson is climbing many mock drafts of late mostly do to solid performances at his pro-day and private workouts. Jackson is not a good change of direction LB and he doesn’t possess great up-field attack ability in pass rush. Jackson is a first round talent.
Robert Ayers - Ayers is more of a DE than an OLB but would likely have to move back in a 34 in the NFL. Ayers is a monster off the ball. He has a strong first contact move but then tends to trail off a bit. He is not a sack artist and that seems to be more of what the Dolphins are looking for. Still, Ayers is a solid talent who should be gone in the 2nd round if not the end of the first.
Larry English – English is an explosive player with solid instincts and a good array of moves to get to the QB, the problem is that he is on the small end for an NFL DE which moves him back to the OLB position. English will have to learn to play differently in the NFL if in fact he is asked to make the position change as he has not been asked to drop in coverage often. English is a 2nd rounder.
Rey Maualuga – Rey is kind of an unknown in terms of draft slotting. He is “mocked” everywhere from the top 10 to the late 20′s. A solid LB at USC, Rey is often compared to another California product, Junior Seau. He is very strong but still unpolished. While he can deliver a solid “knockout” hit he will also miss tackles while trying to deliver that blow.
James Laurinaitis – Had JL come out in last years draft he would have been a top 20 pick now most drafts have him going in late round 1 and some as far as round 2. JL is very fast but often gets caught up in the middle and has a hard time releasing from blocks. While he has good range and quickness and can pursue side line to side line, he will struggle with the up-field pass rush.
Darry Beckwith - This LSU product is a lot like James Laurinaitis. He has great speed and football knowledge but he isn’t a physical player and often gets lost in the middle rushing the gaps. He is very solid at stopping the run, but the Dolphins have a run-stopping LB in Channing Crowder. They need a more rounded player.
And the Dolphins select…
If Rey Maualuga falls to 25 I wouldn’t think that the Phins will entertain many offers to trade down. Rey could be the type of LB that Bill Parcells has been looking for. I think the same thing can be said for Everette Brown if he is there at 25 as well.
While many believe the Phins would use the 25th pick on Clay Mathews, I’m not so sure. Parcells likes players who have been consistent over time and Mathews doesn’t have the starting longevity that some of the others do. If Brown and Maualuga are gone, I suspect the team will try and trade the pick or draft another position focusing their attention at the LB spot in round 2.