Grading the draft is an inexact science. Take for instance this post-draft analysis done by Trev Alberts in 2000. Seriously, take a look, because it’s hands down the most comically bad analysis you’ll ever read. But it probably sounded great at the time. My point is, trying to grade a draft before any of the players have had an NFL snap is insane. But, that doesn’t stop people from trying. So with that in mind we now kick off a week of post-draft analysis hear at PhinPhanatic.
The Dolphins front office is one of the highest paid and most experienced in all of football. That’s probably why they’re comfortable sticking to their board and picking the guys they want instead of worrying about being splashy or what the rest of the NFL thinks. I doubt very much that Bill Parcells gives a damn that Mel Kiper thought the Dolphins had the worst draft in the AFC East or that outside of Jared Odrick we had to research pretty much every other pick the Fins made.
But at some point, frankly on the third day when Miami drafted it’s 19th linebacker, it almost began to seem like the Dolphins were throwing darts at a board in the hopes at least one of them would work out. Ok so Miami only took four linebackers, but it still felt as though every pick after the first was an obscure linebacker.
I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing though, the Dolphins are as meticulous in the scouting process as a team can possibly get, and over the course of their careers Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells have scouted and picked some very impressive ‘backers. All of the Fins’ linebacker picks fit the type of prototype that the trifecta look for. All of them 6’2 or taller, around 250 pounds, solid speed and athleticism, high character and higher collegiate production. Parcells and Ireland constantly preach that they pick based on how a player looks in pads, not in shorts, so it wasn’t surprising at all that the Dolphins looked for dynamic college players with the correct measurables and demeanor.
The thing I can respect, regardless of whether I agree, is Miami was going to get their type of player with their picks. A lot of people cried out for Derrick Morgan, Jason Pierre-Paul or Sergio Kindle, but as Jeff Ireland said Thursday evening, the Dolphins felt those three players were pretty much the same guy. And apparently that type of guy didn’t fit the Dolphins’ bill. With that in mind, let’s get to grading the draft.
The Dolphins were solid on Thursday and as was discussed ad nauseam after the first round, the Fins were able to maneuver expertly and trade down in the round while picking up a high second round pick and a solid reserve ILB (that will factor heavily into special teams). For just that trade alone the Dolphins deserve a lot of credit. Then with the 28th pick the Dolphins took Jared Odrick, a big physical defensive lineman that will bring great versatility to the Dolphins front seven. At first blush the pick wasn’t exactly what a lot of fans wanted, but after it came out that under Mike Nolan the Dolphins will be transitioning to more of a hybrid 3-4 it became a little bit easier to understand what the Dolphins were doing with this pick. The new defense will rely on the lineman to fill space and apply pressure when possible, but will also allow the linebackers to get greater penetration. Randy Starks will be moving inside to play the tackle position. A lot of Dolphins fans wondered why Miami didn’t fill its need at Nose Tackle in the draft, that’s why. Starks will most likely add a little bit of bulk, but look for the athletic former DE to stay somewhat lean and play the position more like Justin Tuck did during the Giants Superbowl run.
Will the decision be a good one? That remains to be seen. But the most underrated move of the entire offseason was the Dolphins bringing Mike Nolan in to run the defense. This is a move that has largely been forgotten because of Karlos Dansby, Brandon Marshall and Jason Taylor, but remember Nolan took an older defense (ironically full of Dolphins cast-offs) from the bottom of the league to the top ten in just one year, largely due in part to his defensive scheme and ability to get his players into advantageous positions. He made an undersized Elvis Dumervil into an elite pass-rusher as an outside ‘backer last season. This year he gets to develop a prototype Parcellsian-breed outside linebacker. He has a much better defensive line to work with and a promising group of young players in the secondary.
Friday was an interesting day, the Dolphins began by taking OLB Toa Misi from Utah. Misi is an underrated prospect with the ideal size and intangibles to be a very good outside linebacker at some point. It certainly helps he’ll have Nolan scheming for him and helping to get him prepared. He may not have been the sexy pick, his name certainly wasn’t Sergio Kindle, but clearly this was the linebacker the Dolphins wanted, they had their shot at the other more high profile prospects and decided on Misi.
The second pick on Friday, the Dolphins third rounder, was the first pick I really didn’t agree with. I know all about Tony Sparano’s ability as a line coach and how well he can scout talent, break a player down and build him back up. That being said, this was a waste of a pick. Miami’s offensive line was already a strong-point on the squad. Last year, despite injuries, Nate Garner and Joe Berger played very well off the bench and when he was healthy Justin Smiley was arguably the Dolphins’ second best lineman (behind Jake Long who is going to be a perennial All-Pro). When Richie Incognito signed most figured he would be playing right guard and the Dolphins now had the meanest line in football. Then the Dolphins announced they were trying to shop Justin Smiley (and now, inexplicably, it seems they may cut him) and spent their third round pick on John Jerry.
It’s rare to refer to the choice of an offensive lineman as a luxury pick, but that’s essentially what this was. Miami wasted a second day pick on a player that doesn’t even really fill a need. The line was fine, forget that, the line was more than fine. Last season even despite injuries the Dolphins sported one of the top rushing offenses in the NFL. And John Jerry has the measurables, but he isn’t an upgrade over Justin Smiley. In fact, think about what happened to Jevan Snead this year. He entered the year as a top prospect and ended up plummeting in the draft, now why was that? Well according to Kiper and Todd McShay, a big part of it was that he had an awful line in front of him. And the Dolphins just spend a third rounder on one of his tackles. This was a bad pick.
On Saturday Miami was very active, the Dolphins kicked off the day by going after another Big Ten guy in Iowa’s AJ Edds. This is a solid pick, Edds will come in and compete on special teams while Mike Nolan and the Dolphins bring him along on defense. It’s tough to project how much playing time Edds gets, but the Dolphins found another high character, high production player in this pick. Clearly Edds fit a mold.
The 5th round was spend solidifying the secondary and was arguably Miami’s best round for picks. The Dolphins started by selecting Nolan Carroll out of Maryland and then traded back into the bottom of the 5th round to grab Georgia safety Reshad Jones. Carroll missed most of last season with a broken leg, but could end up being a solid corner in the future. He comes from good stock, his mother is a Florida State Congressman from Jacksonville and his father is a former Sergeant in the Army. So it probably goes without saying that Carroll will end up being an excellent representative of this team. He’s intelligent, well-spoken and more importantly, he’s a talented athlete that undoubtedly would have gone much higher if not for his injury. In my book the Nolan Carroll pick is the steal of the Dolphin’s draft.
Reshad Jones is a solid safety with great athletic intangibles but he’s also very rough around the edges. I texted a good friend of mine that was a die-hard Bulldogs fan and was told that when Jones isn’t being too aggressive he has all the physical tools to be a great safety. The knock on Jones from scouts was his tackling was too inconsistent and he takes a few too many chances. That being said, the Dolphins coaching staff will go to work on this guy and if he can learn to play under control he could end up being the type of big-hitting ball-hawk safety the Dolphins are looking for. He certainly has the potential, it’s just a matter of whether the Dolphins can teach him to dial back the aggressiveness and play smart football.
Miami had to trade out of the sixth to get back into the fifth and select Reshad Jones, they also sent a sixth to San Diego in their first round trade. I believe at the start of the draft the Dolphins had two (possibly three) sixth round selections, that number had shrunk to zero by the time the sixth started. In the seventh Miami selected two more linebackers. Their first selection was spent on Chris McCoy, an interesting prospect out of Middle Tennessee State. Of all the picks the Dolphins made, this may be the most intriguing. McCoy was Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Sun Belt Conference and had the type of measurables and production the Dolphins love. What intrigues me about McCoy is that he just may be the type of small-school player that comes into the league with a big chip on his shoulder and wreaks havoc. Of course he could just be a good special teamer, hell, he may not even make the team. But do you ever just get a feeling about a guy? I just feel like Chris McCoy could end up being real good, one of those players that they show a highlight reel of as a late-round steal in a few years at the start of the 7th round to keep people from changing the channel at the end of the draft. We’ll see how he turns out, but I liked this pick.
The last pick was spent on Austin Spitler out of Ohio State. Oh boy, more Big Ten. I’m always a little skeptical about Big Ten players, specifically defenders, because theirs is not a conference predicated on speed. Do you all remember what’s happened to Ohio State (and the rest of the Big Ten, like Illinois in the Rose Bowl a couple years ago) when they ran into a school with great team speed? It turns into a blood-bath. Watching Ohio State play in the BCS Title Game is like the football equivalent of a Saw movie. Vernon Gholston has been real good in the pros… I just don’t love getting anyone besides linemen from the Big Ten (with apologies to Brian Hartline, whom I do like quite a bit). But I can’t justifiably complain too much about a pick spent in the 7th round.
The Dolphins spent this draft helping to build the type of defense Mike Nolan needs to be successful. And after three years of drafts, Miami has now spent significant time developing three levels of defense. Starting with the line in ’08, the secondary last year and then the linebacking corps this year. The Phins now have a young rotation on the defensive line with Phillip Merling, Kendall Langford, Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Tony McDaniels, Matt Baker and Jared Odrick. The secondary was addressed and improved again this year and Miami added a number of Linebackers through the draft and free agency. Mike Nolan certainly has been given some tools.
What the Dolphins didn’t do in this draft was focus on a need at free safety, opting to select a player in the 5th round but passing on higher profile (and arguably better) prospects earlier on. The third round would have been a better time to address that position rather than waste a pick on a lineman and wait until the 5th round.
Miami also didn’t draft a back, no that wasn’t a pressing need, but a lot of people around Miami feel as though Ronnie Brown is done as a Dolphin after this year, Ricky isn’t getting any younger and there isn’t another back on the roster that could carry the load for a game. This would have been a good year to draft a back in the mid-rounds and spend time grooming him for the future. Miami didn’t do that either, they focused almost entirely on the defensive side of the ball.
Well here goes, I’m going to go round by round and then give a final grade. Don’t both calculating an average, I sure didn’t.
Round 1: B+, The Dolphins made a good trade to recoup the pick they gave up for Brandon Marshall and managed to draft a solid defensive player at the bottom of the first round.
Round 2: B-, Not the splashiest pick, but solid nonetheless.
Round 3: F, I’m not even going to church up this pick. Miami didn’t need to spend a pick this high on a lineman when they had other, more pressing needs, and a solid (and youthful) line already in place.
Round 4: C, Edds was an ILB in college, unless the Dolphins plan on using him outside I don’t fully understand this pick. The Dolphins are pretty full-up inside with Channing Crowder, Dansby, Reggie Torbor and the recently acquired Tim Dobbins. But, Edds can still contribute somewhere so the pick isn’t a total waste.
Round 5: A-, The Dolphins found a steal at corner in Nolan Carroll and then added a safety that has the potential to fill a big need with a little (ok, a lot of) coaching. The Dolphins got good value for their picks in this round, even if they had to trade to move back into the end of the round.
Round 6: N/A, No picks in this round.
Round 7: C+, Intriguing pick with Chris McCoy but I would’ve liked to see Miami take some kind of chance with their last pick. I know why Miami didn’t want LeGarrette Blount, but taking another ILB from the Big Ten (whom most likely only makes the practice squad) is pretty pointless to me. Watch Austin Spitler make me eat crow, I hope he does, but I doubt we ever see the pro shop selling Spitler jerseys.
Overall Grade: B-
The Dolphins had a solid draft, better than many teams. Contrary to Mel Kiper’s claims the Dolphins definitely did better than Buffalo who passed on Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen a couple of times each on their way to completely ignoring their glaring lack of a quarterback. How you can draft that irresponsibly and still get a higher draft grade than Miami in Mel Kiper’s book is inexplicable to me, but then again so is Mel’s hyper-gelled hair. The man is an enigma. But all kidding aside, Miami did well for itself, but failed to fully address its needs for a free safety or a prospect at tailback. So good draft, but not great.
Check back tomorrow for more analysis from another PhinPhanatic writer. And remember to follow us on Twitter.