Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dolphins Draft Questions

April 7, 2011

For the second year in a row, sports writer Michael Kranzler joined us in discussing some of the Miami Dolphins' and the NFL's biggest draft questions. Mike has written for a series of sites, including Bleacher Report and (check out some of his past work here).While he's a San Diego Chargers fan and a California native, Mike lives in South Florida and follows the Fins. Without further adieu, here is our chat with The Kranzler.

Since the Dolphins have no second rounder, what position is of most need to be addressed in the first round?

RB Mark Ingram
Mike Kranzler: That all depends on how Mark Ingram's knee checks out, and whether or not the Dolphins brass believes they can find a guy capable of starting as a rookie in a later round, since Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams could both potentially walk in free agency. For months, Ingram has been the nearly-universal pick to go to Miami at 15, but now people are starting to wonder if he's worth it, or if running backs in general are worth a top pick any more.

Consider this: out of the top ten leading rushers last season, only four of them were former first-rounders, and the league's leading rusher, Arian Foster of the Texans, went undrafted.

But if they don't go for Ingram or his closest competition at RB, Mikel Leshoure from Illinois, the Dolphins would be lucky to have a shot at drafting Mike Pouncey from Florida, younger brother of Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey. He would be a fantastic stabilizing force on the interior of the offensive line, but I just wouldn't expect him to play center. He's a fantastic fit at guard, but his snaps were all over the place at Florida as a senior. In the end, if the Fins don't go RB, they absolutely should grab Pouncey or try to trade down, acquire an extra pick or two and use them to fill multiple holes early in the draft.

If the Dolphins draft a QB, who will it be?

MK: Unfortunately, the Dolphins likely won't be in a position to draft a QB with their first-round pick, as Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton are both expected to be long-gone by that point, and no one else at the position is worthy of a top-15 pick.

QB Jake Locker
However, I could see them trading down with a team such as the Falcons or Buccaneers who need help on the defensive line and might want to jump past the Jaguars, Patriots and Chargers, who are all to be in the market for a defensive end. Should the Dolphins be able to drop down into the 20s, they might consider a guy like Jake Locker, who struggled as a senior at Washington due to lingering injuries and a sub-par supporting cast. Or, if they can find their way into the early second round (such as by trading down and picking up an extra choice), they would do well to consider TCU's Andy Dalton or FSU's Christian Ponder, both of whom have the tools to be starting quarterbacks in this league.

Unfortunately, while Ryan Mallett appears to be a great fit for the Dolphins on the field, I can't see them bringing in a guy with so many off-the-field issues to a city that leads the league in off-the-field temptation. But someone is going to take a chance on him, and if he falls, he could be a potential trade-up option in the second round based on talent alone. I just don't see the Dolphins taking that chance.

Given the lockout, how do you feel it impacts the the draft?

MK: Since teams can't pursue veterans through free agency or make any draft-day trades involving current players, a lot of teams in the market for a quarterback could be compelled to trade up or reach for a guy who might need a little bit more seasoning before leading their team.

With uncertain QB situations in places like Cincinnati, Arizona, Washington and even Denver (where John Elway is not sold on Tim Tebow), there will be a lot of phone calls once the first round ends as teams try to jump up and grab one of the second-tier QBs at the top of the second round.

QB Carson Palmer
And once there is a new CBA, whichever teams feel like they missed out on their QB targets in the draft will be knocking down the doors of Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer, Marc Bulger and other veterans who can lead their teams, either as a long-term starter (in terms of Kolb and potentially Palmer) or a short-term stopgap until they can groom their QB of the future.

Additionally, many teams will likely be drafting on the assumption of a rookie salary cap whenever the new CBA is finished. This means that more teams will pick the best player available early on rather than just picking the best player at a high-paying position (such as QB and OT). That may not be as big of a deal this year as this draft in general is unbelievably unpredictable at the top, but you could begin to see a shift in thinking as more and more teams move away from the current draft value chart that will soon be obsolete under a rookie cap.

With Bill Parcells no longer affiliated with the Dolphins, how do you think that will affect the draft philosophy of the team?

It really shouldn't make much of a difference at all. While Parcells got a lot of credit for the Dolphins winning the AFC East in 2008, they really were the same middle-of-the-road team as always, but they were put into a perfect situation to succeed. Tom Brady tore his ACL, Brett Favre had to shut it down with shoulder problems, the Bills continued to be the Bills, the Wildcat surprised everyone and Chad Pennington managed to string together consecutive games without getting injured. It really was a perfect storm of coincidences having absolutely nothing to do with Parcells.

WR Greg Camarillo
Personally, I feel that his best move with the Dolphins was picking up Greg Camarillo off of the Chargers practice squad, having had the chance to watch him in training camp for several years before he gave the Dolphins their only win of the 2007 season.

If anything, Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland will try to make as much of their own stamp on this draft as possible in order to possibly buy themselves another season with the team. Stephen Ross had to cover for himself after following Jim Harbaugh around the country by giving Sparano an extension, but barring a significant improvement this season, I would be surprised to see either of them with the Dolphins after this season. That alone may be a reason for them to try to draft a quarterback high, as coaches who do not alienate their entire fan base (read: Josh McDaniels) usually get at least a couple seasons to try to develop their quarterback of the future. Unfortunately though, I just don't see that happening this time around.

What position has the best talent in this draft class?

MK: The defensive line is absolutely stacked this year, and there could potentially be 13 or 14 defensive lineman picked just in the first round this year. Some of them may transition to more of a 3-4 OLB role in the pros, but all of them are very capable of playing with their hand on the ground and there are plenty of fits for any defensive scheme.

Who is the most overrated player in the upcoming draft?

QB Cam Newton
MK: Cam Newton and Nick Fairley are both supremely talented, but can they maintain their success or are they one-year wonders? Newton especially has a lot of questions to answer, because regardless of how you feel about his off-the-field criticism, you have to think about the guys in his position the last couple years: Dez Bryant and Aqib Talib both came into the league with elite talent but major red flags off the field, and both have since proved those concerns to be warranted.

While that may not exactly vindicate Jeff Ireland for asking Bryant if his mother was a prostitute in the pre-draft process, it does at least point to the importance of thorough background checks on every single player. Even a guy like Vince Young was flagged for maturity issues, and we have all seen how that turned out when he faced adversity with the Titans.

Who will be a steal in the draft?

MK: There are a handful of guys with first-round talent who will be picked in the second or third round due to injuries or off-the-field issues, including CB Ras-I Dowling of Virginia and DT Marvin Austin and LB Bruce Carter of UNC. At wide receiver, look out for Jerrel Jernigan of Troy, an undersized burner who can also contribute in the return game.

WR Leonard Hankerson
While the first round is stacked with defensive line talent, the second round looks to be a great spot to find solid contributors at WR, including Miami's Leonard Hankerson, Pittsburgh's Jonathan Baldwin, Maryland's Torrey Smith and Kentucky's Randall Cobb.

At running back, I'm very high on UConn's Jordan Todman, who can be a solid contributor as a starter if he can put on a little bit of weight to handle the rigors of an NFL season.

Michael Kranzler is currently the Social Media Director for OMG National (, a multimedia design firm specializing in audio, video and web production.

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