The Miami Dolphins are a year removed from the 2008 draft. A 6 pack away from their exit from the playoffs. And, they are 12 weeks away from their 2009 regular season debut. With talk surrounding this past Aprils’ draft and the secondary overhaul, it’s easy to overlook the other youngsters on the roster who are entering their “Sophomore” year.
1st Round – Number one overall pick Jake Long joined the Phins with a contract in hand before his name was uttered by the Commissioner, Roger Goodell. He was penciled in as the immediate starter and held that position from draft day on. His play on the field led to a Pro-Bowl birth although he was not the first selection (he should have been). Long learned quickly from his mistakes during games and practices and still continues to improve. An anchor on the left, Long often found himself lined up outside of the RT in the WC paving the way for Ronnie Brown.
Long has the LT spot in lockdown for what could be an easy 10-12 years barring injury.
2nd round selection Phillip Merling came with the “steal” tag as he was taken with the 1st pick in round 2. The Phins thought they had found a gem but Merling struggled in practices last season and couldn’t break into the starting lineup as expected. While his contributions on the defensive side of the ball were minimum, Merling is starting to break free of those issues and is receiving accolades from his coaches. Perhaps this sophomore will find it much easier as the speed of the NFL begins to slow down for him. At the end of the year, he was starting to find his groove and finished the regular season with a interception return for a TD against the NY Jets.
Chad Henne was to be the chosen one. A QB that could easily compete and likely beat out former Dolphins’ QB’s John Beck and McCown. Instead, the Phins traded McCown and relegated Beck to the inactive list when they traded for another Chad. Pennington. Henne took it in stride and learned from one of the safer QB’s in the league. It has been reported that of all the QB’s on the roster, Henne has the best throw velocity…no surprise. He still struggles with consistent accuracy. Some believe him to be the QB of the future while others don’t believe he is ready for those reigns. Still others think that newly added QB Pat White could push him out of a job at number 2.
Kendall Langford was taken at the start of round 3 and had a decent rookie campaign, but he will need to expound on that. 31 tackles as a DE is all well and fine, for a rookie, but not a veteran and that is what he is now. Langford looks to be the real deal and a solid addition to the DLine but like Merling, he has a long way to go before he is that unstoppable force that the Dolphins hope they drafted.
Shawn Murphy was the teams 4th round pick, but in actuality he cost more than just a 4th. The Phins had traded their own 4th rounder to Dallas in one of the biggest lopsided trades in Dolphins history…on their end. The Phins received Akin Ayodele and Anthony Fasano. The Phins however traded back into round 4 by shipping 2007 drafted RB Lorenzo Booker to Philly. They traded that 4th and a 7th to move up to grab Murphy. Murphy didn’t play a down all season and instead spent his first year on the practice squad.
Today, Murphy is in the rotation to compete for a job along the line of scrimmage but he is losing out to names like Berger, Frye, and Alleman. It’s unclear if he has shown enough to make this years roster and has a long way to go to proving his worth in the 4th round.
The top half of last years draft looks promising for the teams future but for now, each position (sans LT)is relying on a veteran in front of them until they can hold the reigns firmly in their hands. Shaun Murphy is the only one who is sitting on the bursting bubble and finding life as a free agent early in his career.
The Phins hit what looks like a home run with Long and for now, solid hits with Langford and Merling. Henne, is that MLB pitching prospect that you just have to give time to…something that past regimes would not have done. The trade of the 4th round pick for Ayodele and Fasano makes the top of the draft look that much better as Fasano was the best TE the Phins have had in years and Ayodele contributed at the LB spot.
Tomorrow, the bottom half of that draft.