The Dolphins will have some tough decisions to make in the draft and not having a veteran QB available to them in free agency means that Chad Henne will start the 2011 season (training camp) as the starter regardless of what happens with the labor issue. Now many felt early on that the Dolphins would forgo a quarterback in this years draft because of the uncertainty surrounding the HC and GM...Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland respectively. Owner Stephen Ross, the owner who is not People’s “Most Beautiful Woman in the World (J.Lo), told his staff to plan for the future. A sign they are safe for at least another year or more.
So that brings the QB position through the draft back into the picture completely and in the case of the Dolphins, more than likely that a top pick will be used on a signal caller.
The question is who and when!
Looking at the Dolphins draft slotting, 15 in round 1 and not again until round 3, the Phins have to decide if drafting a QB mid-way through day 1 is going to allow them to address the other needs they have later. Without a second round pick, a lot of players will come off the board between 15 and pick 79. With needs at RB, something they could address in rounds 4 and 5, TE, and offensive line, the team will have to play a numbers game to see who stands above the others and what need stands above the others.
Today, I will look at the QB’s at the 15 slot.I am going to say this, I think there are two positions the Dolphins will seriously consider in round 1. Quarterback and offensive line. While I think the team will make every attempt to trade down and gain back a 2nd round pick, it’s going to be hard this year with the inability to add players into the mix and the uncertainty surrounding the labor agreement could keep teams for moving up. For the Dolphins, the good news is that they are in the middle of the pack which means if someone does fall from the top 10, the Phins are in a prime position to field phone calls.
In the end, I think round 1 will look like this: Quarterback. Quarterback. Quarterback.
Regardless of whether they trade down or not, and it should be noted that they will NOT trade up…they simply don’t have the picks to make that move this year, I don’t think that offensive line is as important and here is why. If the Phins fail to trade down, they won’t pick again until round 3 and the top QB’s on tier 1, 2, and 3 will all likely be gone and your not finding your future star without divine intervention. Ideally, the team trades down and drafts their QB later in round 1.
Since we are talking about QB’s and I will get to the names in a moment, it’s important to look at the teams that will be in the market for a QB.
Buffalo picks in the 3rd spot and could trade down if they don’t take Blaine Gabbert. Cam Newton is almost a lock for the Panthers at number 1. After the Bills, if they do in fact take a QB, it’s more than likely that the Bengals at 4, Cardinals at 5, and SF at 7 all pass on QB’s in round 1. That is not to say they won’t try and trade back into the latter half of round 1 to grab one that is available. When QB’s start coming off the board a lot of weird things start to happen.
Following the 7th pick, Washington at 10 and Minnesota at 12 become possible QB landing spots and both teams are rumored to have interest in Jake Locker of Washington. The next in line is the Dolphins and if you look at the teams after the 15th pick, you go all the way down to Seattle at 25 to find a team that would likely take a QB in round 1…especially given the tier of QB’s available. So if the Phins can move down they should still have their choice of the remaining top 3 signal callers.
So who could that guy be? Let’s take a look.
Jake Locker – Washington: The Dolphins have met with Locker but he hasn’t garnered the kind of rumors as a couple of other QB’s that are slated to be taken in the first two rounds. In fact, Locker could easily go the Washington Redskins at 7 but I hear more and more that the Vikings would take him at 10. Locker is a runner as well as a passer and that seems to fit more in line with what the Vikings offense currently runs. In Miami, Locker will take some time to develop and the Dolphins are not against allowing him to do that. He has a higher ceiling than many of the other QB’s which means he has a lot of room to grow but also a lot more room for improvement.
For Miami, Locker would give the team a highly mobile QB, something they thought they were drafting with Pat White. Locker is big at 6’2″ but not a monster. He runs with conviction but also tends to take off too quickly as he needs a lot of work to become a pocket passer. If the Dolphins want a pocket passer, Locker is not it and is a long way from becoming one. But he has a big arm and can throw on the run. Not always the best decision.
Ryan Mallett – Arkansas: The Dolphins are either playing a very big game of “smokescreen your intentions” or they simply really like what they have seen in Ryan Mallett thus far. He visited the Dolphins for a 4th time yesterday and Mallett has told close friends of his that the Dolphins meetings have been very very good. Mallett is the big arm, pocket QB the Phins have not had since Dan Marino was at the helm. He is not mobile at all and freely admits that. He will have to learn to slide and move in the pocket better but he has shown an open willingness to be coached. At 6’7″ he is one of the taller QB’s and has a desire to succeed at the next level. The question is will his off-field issues curtail that drive?
Mallett has been accused of having a drug addiction, unconfirmed, and an addiction to heavy drinking, which has been widely reported. Southbeach as a new backyard is not likely going to keep Mallett from that path of the straight and narrow. He also possess a street like attitude that comes across as being a thug and Jamie Dukes of the NFL Network called him a “Caucasian street guy“. He also is not thought highly as a field leader and many in the scouting community questions whether or not he can perform in the bigger games as he consistently has failed when facing top college teams.
While the negatives surround him and rightfully so, the physical nature of this talent can’t be overlooked anymore than those negatives can. Mallett is a pure pocket QB. His ability to make throws is undeniable as is his willingness to be coached…which really doesn’t mean much in Miami where Karl Dorrell who has never coached a QB before is at the reigns this year. Mallett is one of those QB’s that will simply be hit or miss and nothing in between. Brian Billick calls him a Ryan Leaf in the making while others see him as a Phillip Rivers type. Which one an NFL team gets will have to wait and be proven.
I think the Dolphins interest in Mallett is genuine. But not likely at the 15 slot.
Christian Ponder – Florida State: Evan Silva of PFT mocked the Dolphins taking Ponder 15th overall citing the fact they have failed taking QB’s in round 2. So taking a QB who many slot as a round 2 QB in round 1 presumably would change that string of bad luck. He has since changed that and has the Phins taking RB Mark Ingram. But Ponder does bring some intrigue to the Dolphins offensive plans, especially if the team moves back later in round 1. Which is why I have added him to this list.
Ponder by all accounts is another Chad Pennington. Cerebral, meticulous, a natural leader who makes very good decisions with the football. He can work under center, move around the pocket, pick up yards with his legs when he needs to, and has played very well against top college defenses. Sounds like a winner already. Except for two small problems that won’t find favor with a lot of Miami fans who want an “air it out” system.
Christian Ponder has arm strength and injury issues.
Ponder doesn’t, like Chad Pennington, possess the deep ball in his repartee. His deep balls are floaters and not always close to being on target. For a team that is looking to spread the offense more, Ponder may not fit that mold. He has also had durability issues and had two in-season elbow surgeries and has had some shoulder injuries as well…sounds like Pennington.
For the question marks it should be noted that Ponder is a very solid QB if a team isn’t looking to open the passing game with the deep ball. He really does compare well to Chad Pennington and if the Dolphins feel they can win with that style then Ponder is a guy the team will need to seriously consider. He won’t be flashy and the offense will likely maintain a medium to short passing game but Ponder could be a key to the development of the Brian Daboll offense. Which may employ a faster paced New England style offense in which case the deep ball may not be 100 percent necessary every play.
There really isn’t any other QB’s that map out as first round talents. Especially at 15 and the only reason I mentioned Ponder was due to the Silva mock. In reality, outside of Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Ryan Mallett, the third tier of QB’s are all rather jumbled together. Guys like Colin Kaepernick, Ricky Stanzi, and Andy Dalton. Of the three, Dalton has gotten some air time as a possible Dolphin target but not until round 3 and it’s really unlikely that he lasts all the way to the 79th pick as it is. The other two will likely be gone in round 2.
Miami will have to make a decision in round 1 as I stated earlier. Draft a QB at 15 and live with the decision, trade down if they can and make that decision a whole lot easier, or go a different direction. With the team needs as they are, who they draft won’t be as profiled as the position road they take. LB, RB, Oline, or QB. Who knows, maybe the team drops down and drafts a TE.
The NFL draft is a crazy, crazy event that no one can really predict. Unless of course the guy making the decision is Dave Wannstedt.