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Miami Dolphins: 2017 NFL Draft

The 2017 NFL Draft has arrived.

The Draft is my favorite spring sporting even.

Better than the NBA playoffs? Have you met me? Absolutely and it is not close.

The Miami Dolphins pick at 22. They may actually be in position to actually pick BPA(best player available). While they have multiple positions of needs they do have stopgap players at those positions.

It is a wonderful situation to find a team in. it is also maddening. Very rarely do you have a true BPA. Each teams set their own boards and try as they might they are still influenced by needs. one teams BPA may not be another. that makes it so hard to predict who they will take.

Almost any position could be in play. OJ Howard(Alabama) at tight end, Buddy Baker(Washington) at safety, TJ Watt(Wisconsin), Rueben Foster(Alabama), Jaraad Davis(Florida) or Haason Reddick(Temple) at linebacker are all possibilities. You could even see running backs Christian McCaffery(Stanford), Dalvin Cook(FSU) or speedy wide receiver John Ross(Washington).

Of course for me I lean towards two names-if they are there. Forrest Lamp(W. Kentucky) at guard or Derrick Barnett(Tennessee) who is a beast coming off the edge.

Many do not see Lamp as a sexy pick in the first round. When you think of what Ryan Tannehill and Jay Ajayi could do with Lamp blocking next to last years number one pick, Laremy Tunsil, it starts looking awfully sexy.

What about Barnett?

Think the next in a line of great pass rushers. Watching him I see shades of Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor.

Will he reach such heights? I do not know but I would love to find out.

In a few short hours we will see who the Dolphins pick. So many choices. So many directions.

The future is bright.

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NFL Draft: Prototypes and More

Less than a month from now 32 NFL teams will put the final touches on their draft plans and set up the war rooms for the 2017 NFL Draft. In the coming weeks numerous mock drafts and related stories will be written. Football fans will be bombarded with analysis and scouting terms, my favorite remains hands like feet.  Some will insist that teams look for prototype players or that they need to get bigger and faster.

Those last few have always bothered me. I do not believe a ‘prototype’ player exists. While some well regarded coaches have lived by the mantra of prototypes for each position(looking at you Bill Parcells) it does not track in the long run. First off each team, each system needs different players based on how they use them. So a firm prototype is short sighted. Now if you want players that look the part a prototype is great but at the end of the day you need players. To find those players you need to see them on the field not simply the measurements.

Then you have the notion of getting bigger and faster. Everyone wants bigger, stronger and faster. Unfortunately you rarely find all three in the same player. To get bigger and stronger you usually have to sacrifice some speed and vice versa. That is when you come back to finding players who show they can do it on the field. Then you use all the facts and figures gathered at the combine to try to maximize the attributes the team desires.

Jerry Rice was never the biggest or fastest wide receiver but he is widely regarded as the best wide receiver to ever play the game. Tom Brady has dominated the quarterback position for over a decade, no one would have imagined that looking at him in the combine. Nothing is ever as simple as a prototype or measurements. You take those and add them to the film study you have done on each player. After that interviews and team needs narrow it all down to a very inexact science.

It is nearly impossible to speculate on what each team might do. But we still try.

That is where the fun comes in.

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Miami Dolphins: Linebacker Shuffling

The Super Bowl is in the rearview.

One season over another just begun.

Teams have started making cuts and positioning themselves for free agency which officially begins March 9th.

This is the time of year that teams suddenly look quite a bit different. Good teams try to shore up their problem areas before the NFL Draft comes around to give themselves more flexibility when it comes time to welcome young college players.

The Miami Dolphins have already started by cutting Mario Williams and Earl Mitchell. They are also exploring the possibility of trading tackle Brandon Albert to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The major problem area for this Dolphins roster is at linebacker. First year middle linebacker Kiko Alonso was a pleasant surprise.  The rest of the linebacking corps struggled through injury and inexperience. Veterans Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins remain big question marks of whether they will be even on the team come training camp. There is a strong possibility that the team will add two(if not more) new linebackers through free agency and the draft.

That makes very good sense.

What does not make sense is the notion of replacing Alonso in the middle and moving him to outside linebacker.

Yes there is the chance that you find a gem in the middle and Kiko slides outside with no issues whatsoever. Only problem is-

Zach Thomas is not walking through that door.

Moves like this rarely go off like clockwork.

Do I need to remind you of the attempt to move Koa Misi to middle linebacker a few years ago?

Not only did the move not solve the middle linebacker issues but it also significantly weakened the play on the outside.

Alonso is solid in the middle. In his first year with the team. He may be even better in year two.

Spend your time(and money) finding players to play on the outside. Which is much easier than finding a great mike linebacker.

If it works do not fix it.

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Miami Dolphins: Options, lots of options.

Most years I write a full first round mock draft the week of the NFL Draft. Taking time to consider what each team may do heading into the draft. This year this is simply not happening. Call it draft fatigue if you like.

This time I simply plan to look at some options for the Miami Dolphins in the first round and the alternative solutions if those players are not there.

Before I begin I would like to say under no circumstances do I believe the Dolphins should trade up for any player. This team has a number of holes along with a salary cap situation which begs for inexpensive young talent. The more draft picks the better not the fewer.

And we are off:

Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State

Elliot is an excellent runner. That is not what is most intriguing about him as a prospect. His pass blocking and receiving skills are what draw many to him as a prospect. The Dolphins would love to add him to the team but he is not the only option.

UCLA’s Paul Perkins and Florida’s Kelvin Taylor could easily compete for a starting spot while Keith Marshall from Georgia could surprise in the later rounds. At the same time if you simply want a change of pace back Daniel Lasco(Cal) and Tyler Ervin(San Jose St) would nicely fit the bill.

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Great hands, nice technique. Very disruptive player. Some are down on him because he is not a pure pass rusher. He will get decent sack numbers but what makes him great is his ability to disrupt. You can play him all over the line creating havoc everywhere he goes.

If you want pure pass rush Clemson’s Kevin Dodd or Shaq Lawson will get you those sacks. My personal pick is Penn State’s Anthony Zettel. First saw him as an attacking tackle a few years ago but he has also shown ability on the edge.

Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Hargreaves is the best corner in the draft. Period. Great ball skills, play recognition and the physicality needed to provide run support. He excels at both press man coverage and while playing off the receiver. The only thing missing is another inch of height but he makes up for it with competitiveness and a 39 inch vertical.

Like with many other players in this list there are some other excellent options. William Jackson III(Houston) is probably the best of the other corners. Other options are Eli Apple(Ohio State), Artie Burns(Miami) and Jalen Mills(LSU). Another player I do like is Sean Davis from Maryland while he may project better at safety.

Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Jack is a ridiculous athlete. He explodes into the play. The biggest concern is the medical check on his knee. If healthy he is the best defensive player in this draft. The question is will his knee affect his ability to play or the length of his career.

Joe Schobert(Wisconsin), Su’a Cravens(USC), Reggie Ragland(Alabama) and Tyler Matakevich(Temple) are all nice options. Nick Vigil(Utah State) brother of current Dolphins Zach Vigil would be a nice late round pick but my favorite of the group is Scooby.

Scooby Wright(Arizona) did not test well at the combine, not that many expected him to. Coming off an injury that cost him most of this last season it is not the numbers that should interest teams. Wright is simply a player. Great, not good but great, instincts. There is a reason he won the Bednarik, Lombardi and Nagurski awards as a sophomore.

So Thursday night the Dolphins will add someone to the team, someone they hope will make an early impact. We all have our favorites but even if they do not take your player there are many other options throughout the draft.

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Miami Dolphins: Sophomore Season

As we work our way through the endless NFL offseason much of the conversation is about who was or was not signed in free agency and of course the never-ending debates about who will be picked by which team in the upcoming NFL Draft. These things do matter but it leans into this very human thought:

‘New is always better.’

It does feel that way at times. However in doing so we forget about the new toys we had this time last year. Those draft picks and undrafted free agents prepare to enter their sophomore season. They spent a year getting stronger, getting healthy and most importantly, they spent a season learning how to be pros. Now they have a chance to take that next step.

Jay Ajayi, RB: Ajayi missed the first seven games of the season but towards the end of the year he showed promise for the future. While only running for 187 yds in relief of departed running back Lamar Miller, he did have several runs of over 20 yds. A healthy season should give him the opportunity to compete for the starting job.

DeVante Parker, WR: The 2015 first round pick finished strong after missing several games with injury. When in the lineup he showed the skills that made him a coveted wide receiver just a year ago finishing the year with a 19-yd per reception average and 3 touchdowns. Like Ajayi, a full healthy season should pay dividends.

Jamil Douglas, G/C: Douglas struggled at times when thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie but a year of seasoning and a new coaching staff could allow him to grow into more than a backup.

Jordan Phillips, DT: Serving as a reserve tackle Phillips contributed just two sacks but he did manage four timely pass deflections.

Neville Hewitt/Mike Hull/Zach Vigil, LB: the trio of undrafted free agent linebackers(each was expected to be taken in the late rounds of the draft) combined for just 44 tackles last season but each has the ability to play at this level. Hewitt played some outside linebacker when Jelani Jenkins was out of the lineup. Vigil shared time in the middle early in the season. I feel of the three Mike Hull, the former Penn State star, has the best upside.

Bobby McCain/Tony Lippett, CB: Once they let him on the field Bobby McCain showed he had what it takes to at worst be a slot corner if not outright competing for a starting spot this season. Lippett on the other hand is a raw prospect. A converted wide receiver he has earned rave reviews for how quickly he has made the transition to corner. If he continues to progress his length will be a welcome addition to the secondary.

Perhaps the biggest jump in ability for any player occurs between the first and second year. These are nine players that may make a jump going into their sophomore seasons. Add to that the potential that the new coaching staff may get more out of all of the players on the roster than the previous regime did and there is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming season.

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Miami Dolphins: Early, Early 7-round Mock Draft

In one short week the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos will face each other in the Super Bowl. For the other thirty teams of the NFL thoughts have already shifted to the upcoming NFL Draft.

After a season of college football games followed by Bowl games and ultimately the National Championship game college prospects hoping for a career in the NFL often participate in the post season all-star games. Namely the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. It is the last chance for these players to show their wares against live competition. Next up will be the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

I like to take a look at these players before the facts and figures come in from the Combine. Think of it as something of a rough draft. Just kind of a taste of players that I already like before some workout warrior wows all of us.

So here goes. Eight picks over seven rounds…starting now

1. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Even if Brent Grimes returns next season(nothing is guaranteed) the Dolphins desperately need a solid corner on the other side. With impressive body control and great play recognition Hargreaves could easily be penciled in for the next decade. He is an impressive playmaker who does not shy away from defending the run.

2. Nick Martin, G, Notre Dame

If the name seems familiar it is because Nick Martin’s older brother is Zack Martin the two-time pro bowl guard for the Dallas Cowboys. I am not claiming that he will be as good as his brother but he should be a solid guard for the Dolphins. Something they have needed for several years now.

3. Scooby Wright, ILB, Arizona

Beyond belonging on the all-name team Scooby is a former Bednarik Award winner-given to the nations best linebacker. At 6’0 and 246 lbs he has good size which is complimented by excellent instincts and good athleticism. While he is coming off an injury plagued season(torn meniscus) he finished the season strong in the New Mexico Bowl with 11 solo tackles and two sacks.

4. Sean Davis, FS, Maryland

Strong safety Reshad Jones made his first appearance in the Pro Bowl this weekend. That does not mean that help is not needed on the other side. Davis provides length and athleticism while being an aggressive run defender.

5.  Anthony Zettel, DE/DT, Penn State

Zettel first jumped off the screen for me two years ago as a distruptive defensive tackle. This year he slid outside to end. And did not lose a step. The position flexibility reminds me of former Dolphin Jared Odrick. But Zettel is far more athletic than Odrick ever was and the need may be there depending on what happens with ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon.

6. Joe Schobert, OLB, Wisconsin

Yes this draft is heavy on defense and after the performance last year I think that is necessary. Schobert showed special teams ability in the Senior Bowl and he has the ability to play on the outside.

7a. Michael Caputo, SS, Wisconsin

Known primarily as a run stopper Caputo showed range and playmaking ability in the East-West Shrine Bowl coming down with two interceptions. He could not ask for someone better to learn from that Reshad Jones.

7b. Glenn Gronkowski, FB/TE, Kansas State

The Dolphins have not used a fullback recently,  however new coach Adam Gase has been know to use one. Gronkowski(youngest brother of Rob) has shown ability at fullback, tight end and H-back. During the Senior Bowl he caught the ball with ease. That position flexibility may help Glenn to stick on the 53.

This is just an early snapshot at what they may do come the draft. Things should start coming into focus over the next couple of months.

 

 

 

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The Last NFL Mock Draft of 2015

The hour is getting late and I still have not written my mock draft. Procrastination is strong this year.

I have no good reason for being so late this year. For once I do not have a real sense of what teams will do. Some of this is due to several teams clearly needing a quarterback with only two real prospects out there for the taking.

Regardless it is time. In fact it is past time that I put my name on the 2015 NFL Draft.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers– Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

This seems like a no brainer. Lovie gets his franchise quarterback.

2. Tennessee Titans-Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

I am not saying the Titans are taking Mariota. I am just saying someone takes him here. The phone lines will be burning up.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars-Dante Fowler Jr, Edge Rusher, Florida

Fowler stays close to home and excells in Gus Bradley’s defense.

4. Oakland Raiders-Leonard Williams, DT, USC

Williams is one of the best players in the draft. He should be able to work inside or out for the Raiders.

5. Washington Redskins-Amari Cooper. WR, Alabama

With Washington picking up RJIII’s five-year option they could give him some more weapons. Cooper does everything you want from a number one receiver.

6. New York Jets-Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

With Mariota off the board new coach Todd Bowles solidifies the offensive line for whoever is under center for the Jets next season.

7. Chicago Bears-Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

John Fox’s first job as new Head Coach should be to shore up the middle of the defense. Shelton should do nicely.

8. Atlanta Falcons-Vic Beasley, Edge Rusher, Clemson

Former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn upgrades his pass rush with Beasley

9. New York Giants-Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

Not a sexy pick but good value. Always need to protect Eli.

10. St. Louis Rams-Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

Great size, speed and body control. Nick Foles gets a number one receiver.

11. Minnesota Vikings-Devante Parker, WR, Louisville

Reuniting Parker and Teddy Bridgewater is a no brainer.

12. Cleveland Browns-Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

Wide Receiver could be the pick here but I think the Browns look to solidify the defensive line with their first pick of the first round.

13. New Orleans Saints-Randy Gregory, Edge Rusher, Nebraska

The off-field stuff drops Gregory to the Saints who desperately need pass rushers.

14. Miami Dolphins-Erik Kendricks, ILB, UCLA

Dolphins could go a few places with this pick. Todd Gurley and Breshad Perriman are definetly in play here. I think they take Kendricks to fill middle linebacker for the next decade.

15. San Francisco 49ers-Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon

Armstead steps in as the replacement for Justin Smith.

16. Houston Texans-Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF

While they still need a quarterback the Texans get their number one receiver. While raw I expect Perriman to excel at the NFL level.

17. San Diego Chargers-Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

If not for the injury no way Gurley falls this far. The Chargers jump at the chance for a dominant every down back.

18. Kansas City Chiefs-Cameron Erving, C, Florida State

Erving is the best center in the draft.

19. Cleveland Browns-Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma

Someone will take a chance on DGB. And yes I don’t think Cleveland has learned from Josh Gordon.

20. Philadephia Eagles-Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

Chip Kelly wants to move up for Mariota, badly. If he cannot pull it off he takes the best corner in the draft.

21. Cincinnati Bengals-Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

Goldman will learn from Geno Atkins. Making the front four very dominant.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers-Marcus Peters, CB, Washington

The Steelers desperately need to rebuild their secondary. Despite his issues Peters fits perfectly.

23. Detroit Lions-Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Gordon can be a game-breaking back. Detroit will be thinking of Barry Sanders when they pick Gordon here.

24. Arizona Cardinals-DJ Humphries, OT, Florida

Humphries may be the best tackle in this draft when all is said and done. Carson Palmer will need the protection as he comes back from his injury.

25. Carolina Panthers-Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami

Flowers can play all across the line. Should immediately upgrade the offensive line.

26. Baltimore Ravens-Philip Dorsett, WR, Miami

Joe Flacco will love Dorsett’s speed and big play ability

27. Dallas Cowboys-Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington

Athletic and versatile. Thompson should be able to fill multiple roles in the Cowboys defense.

28. Denver Broncos-TJ Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh

With Peyton Manning coming back the offensive line is absolutely a need. Should fit well in the new offensive scheme under Gary Kubiak.

29. Indianapolis Colts-Jake Fisher, OT, Oregon

Andrew Luck is the franchise. You can never have enough protection for the franchise. Fisher should slide right in at left tackle.

30. Green Bay Packers-Erik Rowe, CB, Utah

Good size, speed combination. Can easily play either corner or safety.

31. New Orleans Saints-Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State

A nice long target for Drew Brees.

32. New England Patriots-Bud Dupree, Edge Rusher, Kentucky

Dupree is a raw, versatile player. Can work standing up or with a hand in the dirt. Bill Belichik loves players like that.

 

The time is growing short. Draft day tends to change things minute by minute. Cannot get enough of it.

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