As the ongoing labor dispute continues, even now as the lockout has been lifted, we will continue to focus our attention strictly on the draft. The major news outlets do a great job of explaining the uncharted waters the league is currently in, and frankly it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the ramifications of Judge Nelson denying a “stay” as expected. So we will keep our focus on the draft, while the league potentially turns to chaos.
We’ve talked all offseason about players like Mark Ingram, Mike Pouncey, and Ryan Mallett. Players that would fill pressing needs for the Dolphins if taken in Thursday’s first round. But it’s important to keep an open mind when dealing with this front office. Last year’s draft should have taught us our lesson.
In 2010, most of the pre-draft speculation centered on outside linebacker, nose tackle, and free safety prospects. What did the Dolphins do? Only shock us all by taking defensive end Jared Odrick with Randy Starks, Kendall Langford, and Phillip Merling already on the roster.
The next day we learned that the Dolphins planned on moving Randy Starks to nose tackle, which rationalized the pick. Ultimately, though, that decision didn’t last as Starks was forced back over to end due to injuries to Merling and Odrick, and Paul Soliai went on to blossom at nose.
The point being, don’t limit your expectations for what the Dolphins will do with their first-round pick, whenever it will be made. It’s clear that Jeff Ireland prefers the best player available strategy early on, and in the event that the Dolphins are unable to trade down, I doubt he would be willing to reach for a player that would fill a need but doesn’t grade out as a mid-first round prospect on his board.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Dolphins’ board could drastically differ from the experts’ projections. For example, just because Ryan Mallett doesn’t grade out as a first-round pick to Mel Kiper, the Dolphins could easily have him ranked near the top of their board. But there are several prospects that aren’t being discussed among Dolphins fans that could easily be on Ireland’s radar. Without further ado, here are the top five prospects the Dolphins could surprise us with tomorrow night.
1. Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri: I’ve seen some Dolphins’ writers and bloggers pencil in Robert Quinn as the pass rusher the front office could surprisingly take in round one. I highly doubt Quinn falls all the way to the 15th pick, though. Aldon Smith, on the other hand, is a realistic option if the Dolphins decide to forgo addressing their offensive needs in the first and attempt to sure up their pass rush opposite Cameron Wake instead. Smith has all the tools to be a double-digit sack guy at the next level and could potentially be the last piece to an elite defense in Miami.
2. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: We all know the Dolphins need to upgrade the interior offensive line, but if Carimi is the best player available when they select at 15, Vernon Carey’s time in Miami may be numbered. Carey has been a very solid starter for the Dolphins for seven years now, but has had a difficult time staying healthy lately and has seemingly lost a step or two. He’s also compensated fairly well; possibly a little too much for the Dolphins’ liking. Carimi is a good all-around tackle that could potentially be ready to start from day one.
3. Jake Locker, QB, Washington: For all the talk about Ryan Mallett, I think a lot of people have forgotten that Jake Locker is actually considered the third rated quarterback in this year’s class by many of the experts. Obviously, the Dolphins’ board could be drastically different, and I believe it probably is. But you just never know with this regime. Locker has great arm strength and playing in a pro-style system going for him just like Mallett. You don’t have the concerns about his character and leadership, though, which could be a reason why we shouldn’t sleep on Locker to Miami.
4. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois: You could argue that the Dolphins could surprise us by taking Mark Ingram with how drastically his stock has dropped since the beginning of the offseason when most of the mocks believed him going to Miami was nearly a sure thing. But nobody expects the Dolphins to take Mikel Leshoure in the first round. They wouldn’t do it with the 15th pick, but if they are able to trade down to the last six or seven picks in the first, don’t overlook the possibility. Leshoure isn’t the scat back many believe the Dolphins will be targeting, but they will likely be drafting/signing at least one big runner this offseason. And personally, I don’t think the Dolphins have strayed away from their value of size as much as they lead on.
5. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame: Like Leshoure, the Dolphins wouldn’t reach for Rudolph in the middle of the first, but he could become a possibility if they trade back to later in the round. I feel like the Dolphins rightfully place tight end as a higher area of need than a speed receiver. Rudolph is the consensus best tight end in the draft, and he has the size, speed, and receiving ability to make a huge impact on the Dolphins’ offense.