The Miami Dolphins won the division last year but that did not mean they were rebuilt. The 2009 off-season was supposed to fill more holes but free agency came and went without any serious signings. Gibril Wilson on the eve of free agency, Cameron Wake a couple of weeks before. The real story however was the re-signing of Miami’s own free agents. Channing Crowder, Vernon Carey, and Yeremiah Bell. Thus, the focus turned to the NFL draft for some answers. When the final pick was made, the Dolphins draft was more for need than best player available. For better. Or for worse. And it hasn’t stopped with the ending of the draft as the Phins already have added two.
The Draft started with the selection of Vontae’ Davis. Davis will be expected to challenge Eric Green opposite Will Allen. Will Allen’s replacement, he is scheduled to be a free agent next season, was drafted with the Dolphins 2nd, 2nd round pick. Sean Smith. Smith will be a project but his height and hands has some in the media believing that he will make an impact this year in the nickel and dime packages.
With the teams first round pick, the Dolphins selected versatile WV QB Pat White. On Sunday, that selection was garnering as much media conversations on both ESPN and NFL Network as Matt Sanchez of USC. White will immediately be penciled in by fans as the new Ronnie Brown in the “WildCat” formation but Jeff Ireland said that the team will work him as a QB as well. The future of John Beck, which was previously being questioned is now likely a matter of when rather than if.
If the Dolphins finished day 1 by adding top talent with a lot of upside, they turned around on day 2 and added a few projects that had many, including some of the media scratching their heads. For fans, a quick trip to any draft page found little scouting reports on the first two drafts pick on day for the Dolphins.
Patrick Turner of USC a highly sought after HS prospect was called a big reach by ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. Turner never became the WR he was supposed to be coming out of HS but seemed to break out in his final season with the Trojans scoring 10 TD’s. Turner has good hands and may be the “over the middle” WR the Dolphins may be looking for. Athletic and aggressive, Turner tends to play physical, but he isn’t explosive and doesn’t always get separation…according to one scouting report.
Turner will join a Dolphins squad that already has issues with unproven talent. Ted Ginn is still the number 1 WR if only by default and Turner will compete with Davone Bess and Brandon London for the 3rd WR spot. He is however, not going to be the only rookie WR that the Dolphins will be looking at.
If Turner surprised a few by being chosen in the 3rd round, then the drafting of Brian Hartline in round 4 surely didn’t make fans any happier. The OSU product is seen more as a special-teamer than a 1, 2, or 3 WR. Some believe that he could catch on as a 4th WR. Again, the Dolphins already are saddled with a plethora of unproven talent at the position and in order for Hartline or Turner to make the roster, a couple of WR’s will be out of a job.
Hartline is a tough receiver though. While not possessing world class speed, like Turner he stands over the 6′ mark and has solid hands. Hartline is not afraid to get dirty. In a post draft interview, Hartline told the interviewer that he just wants to “Kill someone on special teams”. While not the most talented WR in this draft class, Hartline apparently fits the Bill Parcells mold of tough tall wide-outs.
Hartline will not likely become a main target in the Dolphins offense but good blocking skills and intelligence could allow him to make the roster, even if as a practice squad player. With Turner and Hartline drafted, the first name that comes up as “gone” is Ernest Wilford. The Dolphins will not likely carry more than 5 WR’s into the season which again means, at least two players are out of a job.
After the two WR’s came off the board, the Dolphins waited until round 5 came along. With two picks they looked once again to the offense for the first pick and need for the second.
All fans know of Illinois, Ohio St., Michigan, most even know of Rutgers, Marshall, and UConn, but Monmouth? If the name sounds familiar it may be because Dallas WR Austin Miles came from the school and his name has been in the news lately. The Dolphins are hoping that Monmouth will now be known because of TE John Nalbone whom they drafted with their first of 2 5th rounders.
Nalbone likens himself to a Tony Gonzalez type TE. Big, physical, soft hands, and average speed. Nalbone stands 6’4 255 pounds and if you searched for his name on Draftcountdown.com you didn’t find him. In fact, a google search only pulled up vital stats such as height and weight along with his 42 pass receptions, 400 plus yards and 5 touchdowns last season.
At first glance Nalbone made little sense, but his size and ability is something that Dolphins like. First, he is a very hard worker, or so he says. A good work ethic goes a long way with this regime. The Dolphins are reportedly high on current rostered TE Joey Haynos and already have David Martin and Anthony Fasano as starters. The latter 2 will be seeking new deals after the 2009 season when they become free agents. The Dolphins will likely let one of them go. Presumably Martin.
Following the Nalbone pick the Dolphins went back to the secondary and drafted Clemson safety Chris Clemons. Clemons is 6′ tall and has a lot of experience as a starter in his collegiate career. At this stage of the game all players have some weaknesses, but his appear to be coachable. Hip turns, foot work, hands. What he does have is good speed and acceleration along with a productive college career. The Dolphins entered the draft short on starting talent and depth in the secondary. After adding 3 to the Todd Bowles back-field, the Dolphins filled some serious holes. Questions abound sure, but the prospects are there.
Andrew Gardner was the Dolphins lone 6th round draft pick. The Georgia Tech 4 year starter at OT comes in at 6’6″ but only 304 pounds. The Dolphins will work at getting his bulk up. An ACC 1st team All-Pro in ’07 and ’08 Gardner will give the Dolphins some much needed depth on the offensive line which will allow him to learn the system and the NFL. Gardner has good hands but has a lot of work in front of him. The good news is that he is a hard worker and his foot work, the way he handles speed rushers off the ends, and his inability at times to maintain blocks are all coachable downsides.
The Dolphins finished their draft in the 7th round by selecting OLB J.D. Folsom. Folsom will be a project, but the Dolphins like his potential. The question is, with a team already set with depth at the position, can Folsom generate enough interest from the teams coaches to earn a roster spot and put one of the other OLB’s out of a job? Jeff Ireland stated that while he is a project he is a good candidate for special teams and will start his NFL career as a middle LB and not an OLB.
The Dolphins traded their final pick in the draft to Kansas City for future considerations.
In the end, the news is good for fans wanting to see the Dolphins bring back DE/OLB Jason Taylor. The Dolphins did nothing to fill the question marks on the outside or the inside next to Channing Crowder. The Taylor camp supposedly wants a deal in place this week and Jeff Ireland said that the team will begin looking at what it will take to get Taylor back into the Aqua and Orange, saying: “We mentioned acorns and [Taylor] is one sitting there on the ground right now,” Ireland said. “We have to make a decision whether we’re going to do that right now or not.”
Like most teams, the Dolphins are not waiting to add players from the undrafted pool. Looking for approximately 8-10 players, the Dolphins have already signed Division II Central Washington TE Jared Bronson and also added Oregon offensive lineman Mark Lewis. The Phins will look to add more tomorrow.
All in all, the Dolphins filled their gaping holes in the defensive secondary, added a potential star in Pat White, and addressed the WR position. The team got younger and deeper but questions still remain about the reigning AFC East division champions of 2008.