Despite Tony Sparano saying that Chad Henne “absolutely deserves another chance” to be the starter in Miami, the Dolphins, at the very least, are strongly considering taking a quarterback in the first few rounds of next month’s draft.
We’ve already taken a look at the top three quarterbacks in this year’s class, but now we get to some of the prospects that I am personally more intrigued by. They also happen to be much more realistic options for the Dolphins, as Gabbert and Newton are projected by many to come off the board in the first five picks and Jake Locker certainly should be considered one of the more risky prospects in the entire draft.
Ryan Mallett is on today’s slate. Heading into this offseason, I actually considered Mallett second only to Blaine Gabbert in my quarterback rankings. His stock took a bit of a tumble, though, when rumors about his character surfaced. But after a very impressive combine and a pro day workout some scouts labeled “spectacular,” Mallett has resurfaced as a legitimate first round possibility.
He undoubtedly will still be available when the Dolphins are on the clock at pick number 15, but trading down to later in the first round and snagging Mallett if he’s still on the board could be the best case scenario for a team looking to retrieve a second round pick as well as pick up a new potential franchise quarterback.
Size: 6-7, 247
Projected Round: 1-2
Pros: People want to rant and rave about how much athletic ability this year’s quarterback class brings to the table. That’s all well and good, but at the end of the day, I want to know who throws the football better. Ryan Mallett arguably has the most gifted arm in this year’s draft. From the moment he steps on an NFL field, he’s going to have one of the strongest arms in the entire league. He’ll be able to make any throw in football and will force defenses to cover the entire field.
Some experts knocked his accuracy when the offseason evaluation process was kicking off, but Mallett was on the money consistently at the combine and at his pro day. Combine his size (6’7) with his high, quick release, and Mallett should never have any trouble with seeing over the line or getting his passes tipped or batted down. He was solid at reading defenses and going through his progressions in college, which gives him the potential to pick defenses apart with his laser-rocket arm. Overall, just one of the most natural quarterbacks in this year’s class.
It’s no secret that the Dolphins will likely be drafting a quarterback at some point in next month’s draft. They’ve been doing their due diligence by scheduling workouts with some of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s class in the same manner they conducted a similar search before taking Chad Henne in 2008.
Through this whole process, though, it’s important to maintain that Chad Henne could very well be the starter again in 2011, if not the more likely option to start the season over whichever rookie the Dolphins draft. Tony Sparano echoed that line of thinking today to the Palm Beach Post.
GM Jeff Ireland and owner Stephen Ross haven’t exactly been the most endorsing of Henne to the media this offseason, but Sparano gave him a firm vote of confidence. "(Henne) absolutely deserves a chance. No question about it," Sparano said. "There's other players that are pretty good quarterbacks in this league, that if I remember correctly, like their first year in the league were 3-13 (Peyton Manning). "All you have to do is go back through the 900-and-something snaps that this guy has played and say, 'Did he show progress, did he get better in different areas?' And yes, he did."
Now, of course, we have to remember to take everything we hear from this regime with a grain of salt due to the fact that they tend to say one thing and do another in the offseason. And even though the Dolphins likely will, and should, find a new potential answer to the long term solution at quarterback, Chad Henne should at least be given the chance to compete for the job. It’s not too late for the light bulb to finally turn on in Henne’s head.
I still don’t think it’s likely, but like I’ve said before, Drew Brees had similar struggles to Henne in his first two years as the starter in San Diego. Competition needs to be brought in this offseason, there’s no denying that, but until someone else seizes the job, it’s still too early to write Henne off.
If you’ve been looking for more lockout talk or finger pointing as to whose fault it is that the 2011 NFL season is in jeopardy, you’re not going to find it here. The major news outlets do an adequate enough job at detailing how the talks, or lack thereof, between the players and owners are coming along.
Here at Phins Phocus, I’m going to keep things relevant to the Dolphins, and in particular their player personnel. And since this whole lockout mess has prevented free agency from taking place this March, posting has been rather slow around these parts.
But fear not, with spring now officially here, it’s time to jumpstart our 2011 NFL Draft coverage. We’ve already delved into quarterback prospects like Cam Newton and Jake Locker, with other options like Mallet, Ponder, and Kaepernick on the way, but now it’s time to unveil our first Dolphins’ draft board.
I will compose an overall big board as draft time gets a little closer, but until then, I will be looking at each position that could be considered a need for the Dolphins this offseason. Let’s start with running back, a position that is virtually guaranteed to be addressed in the draft next month, with Ronnie and Ricky likely to sign elsewhere and the uncertainty of having free agency after the draft looming.
1. Mark Ingram
Size: 5-10, 215
Projected Round: 1
It seems as though everyone and their mothers have Mark Ingram going to the Dolphins in their mock drafts. It just appears to be the perfect match. The Dolphins, with the contracts of Ronnie and Ricky expiring, are in desperate need of a running back or two. And Ingram is the consensus highest rated back in the draft. However, when you talk to Dolphins fans, most would prefer the front office to select a quarterback or even an interior lineman, than to use a first round pick on Ingram. Reason being, taking a running back that high just isn’t a great value pick anymore with the position’s shelf life dwindling. It’s also fairly easy to find a quality starter later in the draft, as long as you have a quality O-line in front of him.
Having said that, though, if the Dolphins are able to trade down like many expect them to, Ingram would be very tempting if he’s still on the board later in the 1st round. Some were disappointed with Ingram’s 40 time at the combine, but more importantly, he has a fairly quick first step and doesn’t take long to hit top speed. He obviously fits the mold for the type of runner Sparano has liked to employ in the past, as a big, thick, low pad level runner who has great balance and lower body strength. He’s one of the few backs in this year’s class that could carry the load all by himself, but would especially be effective paired with a scat back like a Darren Sproles in free agency or a Noel Devine late in the draft.
The Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero has stirred up quite the buzz this afternoon. The Miami Dolphins have suddenly emerged as the favorite to land Carson Palmer after Armando spoke of people inside the organization that have leaked the team’s interest in Palmer.
I’m always cautious to trust reports like this, this time of year, but I don’t doubt the Dolphins’ interest in Palmer one bit. The Dolphins are in desperate need of a franchise quarterback, or at the very least a reliable starter if they want to emerge from mediocrity next season. They could obviously look to the draft to address the need, but how often do rookies step in and take a below .500 team from the following year to the playoffs?
Realistically, if the Dolphins want to win now, pursuing a proven veteran would be the direction to take. Carson Palmer is the most proven of any of the veterans who are projected to become available. Sure, he’s shown some decline over the past few years, most notably tying a career high with 20 picks this season, but we’re still talking about a guy who threw for 26 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards in 2010.
With all that said, however, establishing that the Dolphins have interest in Palmer is the simple part. Things get very complicated from here. First off, this whole lockout mess has prohibited teams from dealing players. Meaning, even though the draft will still run as planned, the Dolphins won’t be able to use one of their draft selections to acquire a player in a trade until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place. Judging by how the talks seem to be progressing from the outside, I would be shocked if we had a new CBA before the draft.
Even if the players and owners are able to compromise, though, the Dolphins are currently void a second round pick. I would expect the Bengals to ask a first rounder for Palmer’s services, but with no second to work with, I have my doubts about whether or not the Dolphins would be inclined to wait until round three to make a selection.
But where the lockout could actually benefit the Dolphins is, the Bengals may be forced to start considering 2012 draft picks as compensation. If a new CBA isn’t agreed upon until after the draft as expected, and Palmer remains adamant that he will retire before he plays another down as a Bengal, Cincinnati will really have no choice but to either let him walk away or get what they can in next year’s draft for him.
I don’t know about you, but in an offseason where the entire running game needs rebuilt from the ground up, I would much rather prefer the Dolphins to deal a 2012 draft choice as opposed to one of their selections next month.
But the tricky thing with that scenario is, the Dolphins would likely have to risk not addressing the quarterback position at all this offseason with an upgrade over Chad Henne, by passing on a rookie prospect and holding out for the possibility or reeling in Palmer.
Is that a risk they should be willing to take? It all depends on how much they trust Chad Henne as their fall back option. Personally, I don’t think Henne will ever emerge as anything more than quality backup, but then again, with better coaching and a better running game in 2011, I would only expect him to improve significantly.
In news related to the Dolphins’ search for a potential franchise quarterback, the team is reportedly one of eight ball clubs that is scheduled to hold a private workout with Cam Newton. Of those eight teams, though, all select before the Dolphins’ 15th overall selection.
So unless Jeff Ireland is seriously considering trading up in order to land the Heisman winning quarterback, something I find unlikely already being void of a 2nd round pick, we might want to start assuming that the Dolphins will realistically be in the market for the prospects beyond the top two (Gabbert and Newton).
The third ranked quarterback may vary depending on which draft expert you talk to, but more often than not, you will find Washington’s Jake Locker as the next quarterback in line. Unless Locker’s stock takes a significant boost sometime between now and the draft or unless a top 15 team becomes sold enough on his talent to reach a bit for his services, he still should be on the board when the Dolphins are on the clock.
Now, just because he may be the most realistic option for the Dolphins at pick No. 15, does that mean they should select him by default being in desperate need of a franchise quarterback in a day in age where winning championships is not feasible without one?
Draft Projection: Mid to Late 1st
Pros: Yes, Locker had a disappointing 2010 season, but the skill set he brings to the table was impressive enough for him to be considered the consensus number one overall selection coming into the year. His combination of size and athleticism is about as rare as it gets. Combine his running ability with the arm strength good enough to make any throw in football, and it’s easy to see why his upside is so intriguing.
If you’re looking for a guy who could potentially step in from day one and contribute, Locker may be capable of just that, as he doesn’t project to have a steep learning curve having played in a pro style system at Washington. After witnessing two years of Chad Henne, Locker would also be refreshing change of pace from a leadership standpoint. He’s the type of quarterback that always plays with emotion and has the ability to put a team on his back. Most consider Locker a high risk, high reward prospect, but based on the fact that he was once considered a sure-fire franchise quarterback, the Dolphins may be in position to make the steal of the draft.