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Well Ladies and Gents, the draft is upon us, and for the Miami Dolphins, this is a wide open draft, and that in and of itself has pros and cons. On one side it's not such a good thing, be cause it means the Dolphins have a lot of holes to fill, on the other side, they have many options for drafting the best player available for multiple positions.
Even though it is a wide open draft for the Dolphins, many people, myself included, feel like they will draft a wide receiver, and there are good reasons for people to feel that way. WR is a position of great need for the Dolphins, it is one of the largest positions on any team, carrying anywhere from 4 to 7 players, but usually 5 or 6. It is also one of the deepest positions in this draft, especially at the top, there is a fairly large group of prospects that will be considered in the first 2 rounds.
The Dolphins current crop of WRs are young and inexperienced, with the exception of the recently signed Greg Jennings, who is going to be 32 in September. Jennings was most likely signed as a stabilizer for the unit, a proven veteran that can function as a mentor and a sound board for the younger WRs on the team, and for the highly expected, and newly minted, fresh from the draft WR.
After Jennings there are questions surrounding the other WRs on the team, such as Kenny Stills, who the Dolphins aquired in a trade with New Orleans. Stills had some success with the Saints, but then why did they let him go so easily, when he was a cheap option at WR. There is a question about whether he can line up on the boundary, he has been a slot WR on the Saints, but will be expected to be a replacement for the traded Mike Wallace. Will he be able to take the top off the defense as Wallace did, or will he have trouble with #1 and #2 cornerbacks, especially against the jam in press coverage.
Now if Stills isn't a boudary WR, then you might say, just move him to the slot, but thats where last years rookie Jarvis Landry shined. There is a question about Landry as well, will he, in his second season be as good as he was last year. If he does take a step back, it will not be because of him, a hard working, dedicated, gamer. The one factor that may hinder his production is the absence of the double covered deep threat Mike Wallace, if Stills cannot generate the same type of pressure on the defense, the shorter routes will not be as open.
Then there is the infrequently used Rishard Matthews, and the basically unknown quantity of last years late round pick Matt Hazel. So there is a declining veteran, an unproven boundary WR, a second year slot WR, and 2 uncertain WRs, which would lead people to believe that there is a priority for grabbing a WR high in this draft.
WR is not the only need however, starting CB is also a need, there are hopes that Jamar Taylor or Will Davis will step up and grab the spot opposite Brent Grimes, but they are far from set in stone, the Dolphins also signed a couple of CBs in free agency, but they are basically, slot/nickel/dime CBs. There is depth at the position now, but no certain starter besides Grimes, so a CB, like Trae Waynes may be the target in round 1.
Starting saftey is another position of need, but this is not a deep S class, and no 1st round worthy candidates, but there is a need to get someone next to Reshad Jones. Will the Dolphins pursue a FA after the draft, or will they address it in the draft, only time will tell.
Linebacker is another need for the Dolphins, but maybe not as big as some believe. Jelani Jenkins was forced into action last year because of an injury to departed Dannell Ellerbe, and Jenkins turned out to be the best LB on the team last year. To many people the other 2 spots need to be filled, but those player may be on the roster. Misi was nicked up most of the year, and was sub par, but it was his first year at MLB, so a healthy Misi, in his second year at the position, may be a solid MLB. He has the tools, and the smarts to be solid, if not spectacular in the middle. Then there is Chris McCain, a draft pick from last year who really flashed some great potential last year at times in a limited role, if he takes the next step, he'll be the other OLB opposite Jenkins.
Now we come to what I believe to be the priority of the Dolphins, offensive line, particularly, guard. Last year was a disaster at G. There are hopes that second year man Billy Turner, will step up and take a starting role, and ever dwindling hopes that Dallas Thomas may develop, but they, Thomas in particular, cannot be counted on. 2nd round would be the consensus target round for a starting G, there will be some very good G prospects in the 2nd, including my favorite prospect in this entire draft, Alexander (Ali) Marpet. He, along with a couple other prospects, are very good prospects because they are scheme diverse, strong enough for a man scheme, and athletic enough for the zone scheme that the Dolphins run.
It would be ideal to get a strong presence in the interior, that is also athletic and smart enough to handle the responsibilities of the zone, and in my opinion, there is no one better than Marpet when it comes to all those things.
Depth is also a concern on the line, a good LT prospect would be a good idea, Brandon Albert is coming off ACL surgery, it's uncertain right now whether he will be ready for the start of the season, and, well, lets face it, he is injury prone, and a replacement should be sought after. No need to spend a top pick this year, as Albert is under contract for a few more years, but a mid round prospect should be a priority.
As it is with every draft, many people have different ideas on what we should be doing, but this draft for the Dolphins is very wide open, and because of that, it's a very interesting draft, and I'm sure it will generate much debate, during and after the draft, so whether your the type to wait until after the draft to see what happened, or the other type, thats sits and watches the entire draft, it should be a very interesting draft for the Miami Dolphins.
Here's to hoping we get some real superstars out of this draft!
Ali, Ali, Ali!
Dave Blake has a blog posted from Saturday, Should the Dolphins consider RB Todd Gurley at #14. I say the Dolphins should give Todd Gurley a VERY LONG AND HARD LOOK. There is a good chance that the Big 3 at wide receiver, Amari Cooper of Alabama, Kevin White of West Virginia and DeVante Parker of Louisville will be gone by the time the draft rolls around to Miami at #14.
At this point, if you are Miami, do you look to take the BPA, Best Player Available, or do you trade down to acquire additional picks. Seattle Seawhawks GM John Schneider has stated that his orgnization believes that there are only 16 players worhty of a 1st round draft grade. While I do not know if he has Gurley in that group of 16, I have done some research the last week to see where Gurley does rank among some of the better known draft sites. ESPN has him ranked 10th, NFLDraftscout.com on CBSSports.com has him ranked 14th, Scott Wright of NFLDraftcountdown has him ranked 4th, SI.com has him ranked 16th and Daniel Jeremiah, the former Baltimore Ravens scout and NFL.com analyst has Gurley ranked at #12.
The only reason that Gurley is not a top 10 in all list is he tore his ACL in the Auburn game last fall. He also has had to deal with an ankle injury in 2013 that caused him to miss 3 games. There are concerns about his durability, but we have seen players come back from more serious knee injuries than Gurley. Frank Gore, now of Indianapolis has had numerous knee surguries along with Adrian Peterson, who came off his torn ACL and MCL to post a 2,000 yard season. Willis McGahee had one of the most severe knee injuries I have seen, but was able to come back and have a VERY successful NFL career. Gurley just recently had his knee re-checked in Indianapolis with other prospects that had to have injuries checked out and came away with good news. Here is a quote from ProFootballtalk.com.
"Gurley, who looked like a sure-thing first-round pick before suffering a torn ACL in November, had his surgically reconstructed knee inspected by doctors as part of the NFL’s medical-recheck today in Indianapolis. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Gurley’s knee checked out fine and there’s optimism that he’ll be good to go in time for training camp."
This is from NFL.com in regards to the teams top 5 draft needs, and below is what they have as the Dolphins needs.
Top 5 needs: WR, G, DT, CB, RB
No. of selections: 6
Draft picks: Round 1 (14), Round 2 (47), Round 4 (114), Round 5 (149), Round 5 (150), Round 6 (191)
Analysis: The addition of Kenny Stills doesn't mean the Dolphins have their No. 1 WR. Finding a big-time target for Ryan Tannehill is an option. Miami made strides on the offensive line last season but needs guard help. The addition of Ndamukong Suh helps, but another interior defender, as well as a nickel cornerback, could be added.
While RB is not an IMMEDIATE need, it is listed as a need for the Dolphins. If the chance is presented to take what some are calling the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, would you not seriously consider taking him. Gurley certainly fits the mode as BPA, and he would give you an explosvie, big back that can catch out of the backfield, has homerun kickoff return ability and the same homerun ability as a running back. This is considered to be a deep draft for running backs, and some have made the case for waiting until later in the draft to address the need for a big running back, but my arguement is that if you are looking to take a big back, why pass on the best back in the draft.
This is the write up on Gurley from NFLDraftscout.com, a site that I think does a great job and have a lot of respect for. While doing their scouting report on Gurley, they do mention how NFL has devalued the running back position and make a case for one of our poster and big draft guy Mark (swerve) guy, David Cobb.
STRENGTHS: Built for the NFL with a muscle-bound, physical frame and naturally lowers his pads and squares his shoulders to attack the line of scrimmage and bounce off defenders. He runs with natural balance, power and momentum that makes him tough to slow down, rarely conceding with the first tackler.
Reads the first line of attack very well and senses daylight to hit holes with authority and quickness to stick-and-go, accelerating extremely well in his cuts. Knows how to shift his weight extremely well for a 232-pounder and strings together moves with devastating jump cuts and long strides to eat up yards.
Soft, natural hands out of the backfield and is a willing, cognizant blocker in pass protection.
WEAKNESSES: Bit taller than ideal. Torn ACL in November of 2014 a big red flag that will cause pause for NFL teams with a timetable for return around mid-August. Also missed three games in 2013 due to an ankle injury, so durability concerns are significant, especially considering the physical punishment he has absorbed in the SEC over the past three seasons.
COMPARES TO: Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks -- Like Lynch, Gurley is best known for simply bowling over defenders, but each back's success is also a testament to good vision, surprisingly light feet and balance to bounce off would-be tacklers.
When healthy, Gurley has proven he has the unique skill set to warrant first-round consideration. The 6-foot-1, 232-pounder boasts a combination of vision, power and acceleration which earned comparisons to Marshawn Lynch and former All-Pro Jamal Lewis from NFL scouts.
Gurley was in the Heisman conversation in 2014 with 773 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in six games before missing four games due to an NCAA suspension for accepting money for autographs. In his first game back, Gurley suffered a season-ending torn ACL. He still rushed for 911 yards on 7.4 yards per carry in 2014, and finished his Georgia career with 3,285 yards on 6.4 yards per carry and rushed for 36 touchdowns in three seasons. He added 615 receiving yards, six receiving touchdowns and two kickoff return touchdowns.
With youngster Nick Chubb putting up Gurley-like production in his absence, some wonder if both backs aren't benefiting from outstanding offensive-line play at Georgia. The talent at running back could actually allow NFL teams to devalue the position a bit in this draft. In a case of supply and demand, teams could elect to draft other positions, believing a good back like Minnesota's David Cobb could be found in the middle rounds.
I will also add that in 510 career carries, Gurley has fumbled only 3 times. In a league that values ball security, this is a big stat as well. And to address those that are concerned about addressing perhaps the most pressing need, the offensive line, this is how my mock draft would look if Gurley were the pick at #14.
1) Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
2) Ali Marpet, OT/OG, Hobart
4) Chris Conley, WR, Georgia
5) Charles Gaines, CB, Louisville
5) Ramik Wilson, ILB, Georgia
6) Wes Saxton, TE, South Alabama
I would understand if the Dolphins were to trade down to gain additional picks, especially if the Top 3 wide receivers are gone. Losing that 3rd round pick in the trade to New Orleans hurt. But Miami has shown a lot of interest in Gurley, and a good bit of it has been undercover for the most part. Some think the Dolphins are trying to build up interest in Gurley, but there is interest in him already.
Miami had a very difficult time coming up with short yardage and run out the clock in key games in 2014. You give this team Gurley to go with Lamar Miller, and you have a POTENT 1-2 punch. I would bring Gurley along slowly, even with him possibly being ready by training camp. But he gives you that big back you are looking for, a homerun threat that can catch the ball out of the backfield and much more. People state that Bill Lazor did not run the ball enough in 2014, and I agree. You add Gurley with an improving Miller, and all of a sudden you give the Dolphins the type of balance that would make this offense very unpredictable and very dangerous. The offense improved greatly in 2014. Add Gurley and Marpet, and watch this offense take another step forward.
My thoughts are, if Todd Gurley is there at #14, YOU TAKE HIM.