If you’ve visited this blog before, it’s fairly obvious what I want the Dolphins to do in next week’s draft. I would love to see them trade down and acquire a second-round pick, but at the end of the day, I firmly believe their number one priority in the draft’s first round should be landing Ryan Mallett. I don’t care if they stay put at fifteen, trade back, or trade up, if the Dolphins are on the clock when Ryan Mallett is still on the board it just makes too much sense to pull the trigger on the only quarterback in this year’s class that has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback.
However, if we must play devil’s advocate for a moment, the Dolphins are a team that prefers to draft high-character guys. In last year’s draft they made a concentrated effort to select players who were captains in college and who were widely thought of as good kids. If the Dolphins are planning on going that route again in 2011, Colin Kaepernick may be the quarterback prospect they have secretly been targeting all along. If it was me, I’m holding out for a veteran in free agency to compete with Chad Henne if the Dolphins pass on Ryan Mallett, but it’s easy to see why the front office could have a strong interest in Kaepernick.
Size: 6-4, 233
Projected Round: 1-2
Pros: Physically, Kaepernick’s measurables are about as eye popping as Mallett’s. At 6’4, 233 pounds, Kaepernick has the prototypical size you look for in an NFL QB, and he accompanies that size with superb athleticism. His 4.53 forty at the combine is almost off the charts for a quarterback with his size. Doesn’t have great acceleration, but because he’s such a long strider, he’s tough to catch once he gets going. He also throws very well on the move, which suggest he will be very useful on rollouts and broken plays at the next level.
Don’t label him exclusively as a scrambler, though. The kid has the arm strength to make any throw in football and was fairly accurate in the short to intermediate passing game at Nevada. Many GM’s believe the theory that the biggest factor in determining which quarterbacks will succeed and which quarterbacks will bust is experience. Kaepernick was a four-year starter at Nevada, where he became the only quarterback in Division 1 history to pass for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards in a career.
And if the Dolphins are looking for a guy who’s got a good head on his shoulders and has excellent leadership ability, unlike Ryan Mallett in the former and Chad Henne in the latter, Kaepernick may be their man. His stock significantly varies depending on which expert you talk to. It would be a little unexpected if the Dolphins were to use their first-round pick on Kaepernick, but I wouldn’t be shocked. Ideally, though, if they are convicted on Kaepernick as the new potential long-term solution in Miami, the Dolphins will trade back into the late first round and use their newly acquired second-round selection on him.
Stepping aside from the first-round debate for a moment, where all the talk and speculation is revolving around the likes of Ryan Mallett, Mark Ingram, and whether or not the Dolphins will trade down from the 15th overall selection, let’s take a look at the tight end prospects in this year’s class that could potentially upgrade a huge position of need for the Dolphins.
Anthony Fasano has been a solid starter in Miami for three seasons now as a fantastic blocker that can contribute some in the passing game as well. But the Dolphins lack a tight end of the athletic mold that can consistently make a living in the middle of the field as a receiver. With all the attention Brandon Marshall attracts on the outside, a seam-stretching tight end would have the space needed to make an immense impact on the Dolphins’ offense.
Regardless of whether or not the Dolphins invest a high-draft choice on a rookie or stick with Chad Henne, a receiving tight end would truly be an asset for whoever the signal caller is as a crutch in the short to intermediate passing game and an extra red zone weapon on an offense that was pitiful in the red area in 2010.
School: Notre Dame
Size: 6-6, 259
Projected Round: 2
If only tight end was the Dolphins’ primary need, Rudolph would potentially be Miami’s most coveted player in the 2011 draft. He excels at exactly what the Dolphins are missing from their tight end corps. Rudolph possesses great size, adequate speed, and has elite ball skills as a tight end that catches the ball with his hands, not his body and can make difficult receptions in traffic.
There are concerns about Rudolph’s blocking and whether or not he can get clean releases because he spent so much time in the slot at Notre Dame, but his skill set would greatly compliment former Irish Anthony Fasano. Doesn’t look like a realistic option for the Dolphins, but if they are able to trade down, pick up a second-round pick, and Rudolph slides some, you never know.
Size: 6-2, 243
Projected Round: 2-3
Doesn’t have ideal size, but has the initial burst and speed to be a threat in the passing game. Runs routes well and receiving comes pretty natural to him. Would fit what the Dolphins are missing as a receiving first tight end, but don’t underestimate Kendricks’ blocking ability.
He was rarely used as a lead blocker at Wisconsin, but he has the ability to seal off the edge. Kendricks is flying under the radar a bit, but he could be a mid-round option for the Dolphins when they figure to begin to consider addressing the position in round three.
At the beginning of the pre-draft scouting process, Mark Ingram was the center of attention in most talks pertaining to what the Dolphins would do with their first-round pick. Although Ingram at 15 was never unanimously agreed upon amongst Dolphin faithful, the outside media once portrayed him going to Miami as nearly a sure thing. How things change in a matter of weeks.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that Ryan Mallett is the fan favorite among first-round caliber prospects. Not saying that every fan is high on Mallett, and certainly there are people out there that hope the Dolphins stay clear of his “character issues,” but it’s safe to say that a higher percentage of Dolfans want Miami to draft Mallett over any other prospect.
The media is beginning to open up to the idea as well. More and more mock drafts are penciling in Mallett’s name as the 15th overall selection. And most importantly, the Dolphins appear very interested in the former Razorback.
The front office reportedly began a two-day meeting with Mallett today in South Florida, which marks their fourth meeting/workout with him since the NFL Combine. So either they are strongly considering taking Mallett somewhere in the first-round and are doing as much homework as they can on one of the draft’s most polarizing prospects, or they are going way, way out of their way to create one big diverting smokescreen. Even putting my personal bias aside, as I’ve been a huge advocate of the Dolphins drafting Mallett since January, I tend to side with the former over the latter. Let’s take a glance around the web at some of the headlines relative to Mallett today.
Gruden host Mallett on ESPN’s QB Camp
Ryan Mallett got the chance to sit down with Jon Gruden on ESPN’s always entertaining Quarterback Camp. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check it out right here. Gruden grilled Mallett some on how to handle the blitz, something many draft experts warn Mallett will struggle with at the next level. But we do get a great look at how Mallett digest the X’s and O’s of the game. For a guy that some have called "dumber than a box of rocks," Mallett sure seems like he grasps the mental aspect of the game just fine.
Sport Science chronicles Mallett’s size and arm strength
If you’re a fan of Sport Science, their Ryan Mallett feature is a much watch. As you can see, Mallett has truly elite size at 6’6 with hands that would be proportional on the body of Yao Ming and a laser rocket arm. Legitimate or not, Mallett’s so-called character concerns will likely cost him millions of dollars on draft day because the kid has the physical make-up of a top five pick.
Dolphins interested in Matt Hasselbeck?
John Clayton speculated to 710 ESPN Seattle that the Seahawks will likely let quarterback Matt Hasselbeck test the open market. “And now it's put the Seahawks in a position where I think what'll happen is, if free agency would start -- and we all don't know when -- I think they'll let him test the market,” Clayton said. “And that could be dangerous because he could go someplace else."
Where exactly is that someplace else, you might ask? Well, Clayton goes on to mention three teams that may be interested in signing the 35-year old veteran signal caller; the Arizona Cardinals, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Miami Dolphins.
This isn’t the first time this offseason that the Dolphins have been thrown out there as a possible destination for Hasselbeck if he indeed becomes a free agent whenever a new collective bargaining agreement is in place. But it does serve as a reminder that the draft prospects we have been discussing for the past several weeks aren’t the only options out there for the Dolphins.
It all depends on what the front office’s mindset is. Some say they are in a situation where they feel they have to win this season, and won’t be patient enough for a rookie quarterback to develop. If that is the case, a veteran like Hasselbeck that would provide competition and insurance to Chad Henne would make sense.
I happen to believe that the Dolphins should do whatever it takes to find a franchise quarterback because they will never be a Super Bowl contender in today’s pass happy game without one, but that’s just me. The Dolphins do have themselves a playoff caliber defense, though, so maybe a veteran quarterback that could step in and provide a little bit of consistency would be enough to get them over the hump and into the tournament in 2011.
But is just becoming a playoff caliber team enough, or should the focus of this regime be doing whatever it takes to get the Dolphins to that elite level? If you feel that they should pursue the latter, it may be time to step away from the conservative route and invest a first-round pick in a quarterback.
After selecting Ryan Mallet with the 15th overall pick in the Bloguin mock draft, my mind couldn’t help but wonder to the later rounds of the draft and the other needs that the Dolphins desperately need to address. With that in mind, I decided to put together a seven-round Dolphins’ mock that attempts to fill all of their voids.
It’s composed with a bit of an optimistic mindset, as my dream scenario is played out with the Dolphins trading down in the first round, acquiring a second-round pick, and still getting a potential franchise quarterback in Ryan Mallett. But nonetheless, I think it puts us in the ballpark as far as the caliber of prospects that could be available in each round and does a fairly adequate job of potentially filling all of the Dolphins’ holes.
Round 1, Pick 15: Dolphins trade 15th overall selection to team within picks 25-32 for their 1st and 2nd round draft choices.
Round 1, Pick 25-32: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas- I’m sticking with Mallett in the first round for the time being. Still believe he’s the best pure passer in this year’s class and could be the Aaron Rodgers of this year’s draft despite concerns about his mobility and character.
Round 2, Pick 25-32: Clint Boling, OG, Georgia- I think the Dolphins address the interior offensive line before they look to bring in a running back. Boling plays with the type of nasty streak Tony Sparano loves, and could start from day one for the Dolphins.
With the lockout preventing free agency, most of the talk surrounding how the Dolphins will fill the likely voids of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have centered around the draft and in particular, Mark Ingram. Let’s not forget, though, that whenever a new CBA is agreed upon, free agent options like DeAngelo Williams will hit the open market.
At the beginning of the offseason, a few rumors swirled around suggesting that the Dolphins have interest in Williams. But with no end in sight to the lockout, most of the speculation involving free agency has died down. Even though the draft is a mere 19 days away, let’s reopen the discussion on Williams to the Dolphins now that we know the soon to be free agent has interest in making Miami home.
DeAngelo Williams told the Sun Sentinel’s Omar Kelly on 560 WQAM radio that Miami is a place he would love to live, but admitted his choice will boil down to the quarterback situation.
There is no questioning that Williams has been one of the truly elite backs in the league when healthy. He’ll be 28 on April 25th, which is approaching the dreaded age of 30 for a running back, but because he’s been able to share the rock with Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, he still could have a solid four or five years left in the tank as a back that has only amassed 200 carries twice in his career.
Running back is a position that has lost a quite a bit of value in recent years, and the Dolphins could easily find themselves one or two potential quality starters in the middle rounds of the draft. But DeAngelo Williams is an extreme case. He’s one of the few backs in the league that force opposing defensive coordinators to adjust their game plans. He’s truly a game changer and would instantly provide the Dolphins more offensive firepower.
The question is, though, will the front office be willing to open up the checkbook when they are well aware that this year’s draft class is fairly deep at the running back position? If the Dolphins are planning on making a strong push for Williams, or any free agent running back for that matter, it would give them more flexibility in the draft however.
Instead of feeling obligated to take a back in the first few rounds, or possibly even double up on the position like they’ve done with other needs in the past, they may allow themselves to focus more on their other pressing needs early on. Signing Williams would be no sure thing, though, so not addressing running back for the sake of holding out for him in free agency would be risky to say the least.
His interest in coming to Miami seemed genuine, however. And if that interest is indeed mutual as speculated, it will be interesting to see how that influences the Dolphins’ draft plans.
Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
The Dolphins have several pressing needs on offense. They are expected to lose Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to free agency, the interior offensive line needs rebuilt, the receiving core could use a speedster to stretch the field, and a receiving tight end needs to be added. The Dolphins could fill all of these needs this offseason, but until they find a franchise quarterback, they will never be a legitimate title contender.
There’s still an outside chance Chad Henne could be the guy in Miami, as there have been late bloomers at the quarterback position before, like Drew Brees for example. But Henne hasn’t shown enough progress to keep investing in him as the long-term solution.
Ryan Mallet is the best pure passer in the draft. People want to rant and rave about the athletic ability of some of the quarterbacks in this year’s class, but the top two signal callers in the game, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, are average Joes athletically. I’ll take the guy with the best arm.
Some may consider this a bit of a reach here at fifteen. Ideally, the Dolphins would trade down and still snag Mallett later in the first, but if they are as convicted as I am that he can be a franchise quarterback it may be worth staying put to make sure they get their man.