Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: Miami Dolphins

Win the close games. It's essential for good football teams. It was Miami's biggest downfall in 2007, the year they went 1-15. They lost six games by three points, including games against the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in London and in Pittsburgh against the soon-to-be AFC North Champion Steelers on a rainy Monday Night. If they had won just one or two of those close games no one would have considered that Miami team among the worst of All-Time. In 2008 Miami played in seven games decided by a TD or less. The Dolphins were 5-2 in those contests. A year does make a big difference. Now Miami looks to win back-to-back AFC East Division titles for the first time since 1985, when they won three straight.

The Dolphins really don't jump out at you statistically. Of the eight major categories - points, total yards, passing yards, rushing yards for both offense and defense - Miami ranked in the Top 10 only once (9th, points allowed per game). They really were a slightly above average team in 2008 that won games when it mattered. It may not have always been pretty but they were able to get the job done. I won't say much about the schedule. Yes, they played the two West divisions which were clearly the weakest in the NFL. But they lost to only one of those teams - the NFC Champion Cardinals. They beat the Chargers, who were possibly the third best team in the AFC at the end of the year. They also dismantled New England in Foxboro. And they didn't lose the games they were supposed to win. Say what you want about the schedule but Miami got the job done. Their pass defense was the worst group on either unit, ranking 25th. They were a pretty balanced team, ranking 10th in passing yards and 11th in rushing yards per game on offense.

I love the current Miami regime. I want nothing more than Bill Parcells to stay until next May, following his third draft as Dolphins Czar. I am perfectly comfortable with GM Jeff Ireland and love Head Coach Tony Sparano. This group of front office personnel and coaches will make Miami winners. While the schedule gets harder in 2009, Miami won't win less than eight games. That is a step back but still shows the staying power of the franchise.

1/25/25 - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
2/12/44 - Pat White, QB/RB/WR, West Virginia
2/29/61 - Sean Smith, CB/S, Utah
3/23/87 - Patrick Turner, WR, USC
4/8/108 - Brian Hartline, WR, Ohio State
5/25/161- John Nalbone, TE, Monmouth
5/29/165 - Chris Clemons, FS, Clemson
6/8/181 - Andrew Gardner, OT, Georgia Tech
7/5/214 - J.D. Folsom, ILB/OLB, Weber State

  • WR - Check!
  • DL - Try again.
  • LB - Check!
  • CB - Check!
  • OL - Check!
Miami was able to fill al but one of their needs. They definitely have fewer worries at CB and WR. Missing on a developmental NT to take over for Jason Ferguson would have made this draft a complete success, need-wise. They used nine picks overall, four on defense and five on offense. They found someone to take the "wildcat" to another level plus may have gotten a new CB tandem for the future. Dolfans may be imagining a renaissance of the Madison-Surtain pairing from the turn of the millennium.

GRADE: 90/100

Pick 1 - This was an easy pick. Vontae Davis was easily the most talented CB available. Some character concerns, though unwarranted, dropped him to the end of round one. He's been compared to Rod Woodson. That would be awesome! Davis wants to be the '09 DROY. I say go for it! Grade: 10

Pick 2 - I like the "wildcat". It is more than a gimmick; it is just another wrinkle on offense that keeps the defense on its toes. Football is a game of leverage - actual and perceived. The "wildcat" gives that to the offense. I don't know how I feel about the White selection, knowing that he is around as a slash or "wildcat" player. He won't be a full-time starting QB though he has the talent to be like a Seneca Wallace. White can be a slot receiver and change-of-pace RB but not a full-time QB. I'd like to love this pick, and I am excited for what could happen with him, but for now I can't give this too high a grade. He was taken very early with many other players available that would have filled a need, such as Clint Sintim and Connor Barwin. Grade: 6

Pick 3 - I didn't think it was possible to top the pick of Davis but the Smith selection may have done that. I can't go higher than a 10 but, if I could, Smith would be it. Smith was a possibility for Miami at 25. And then at 44. Then they traded down and landed him at 61! Wow. Smith and Davis could be starters opposite each other by next season. Smith could become the teams nickel back out of training camp. His size helps him match up with Terrell Owens and Randy Moss in divisional games. Grade: 10

Pick 4 - The Dolphins wanted a big WR that could potentially become a #1 guy. Someone who has size and speed comparable to Anquan Boldin. I'm not saying Patrick Turner is the next Boldin; I'm just laying out what Miami is hopeful for. Turner was a reach, no doubt about it. He was taken at least two rounds sooner than expected, mostly due to his perceived lack of performance. Was it because he never lived up to his high school hype in college or because he was surrounded by so many other weapons, such as Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Steve Smith, Dwyane Jarrett, Fred Davis, and Damian Williams? He did show improvement each year and caught double digit TDs in 2008. I like Turner and was hopeful Miami could grab him but, even as a Dolphins fan, this was too early. Grade: 4

Pick 5 - And then they grab another WR. Hartline was overshadowed by Ted Ginn and Brian Robiskie recently at Ohio State but was actually rated higher than Patrick Turner. Hartline is smaller but quicker than Turner. The Dolphins now have a glut of WRs. This pick makes the Turner pick look even worse. Were two WRs needed, with Ginn, Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, Brandon London, and Ernest Wilford already on the roster? Wilford is apparently working as TE/H-back now but still, that's a lot of WRs. Grade: 5

Pick 6 - Nalbone is a developmental TE and yet another player selected too early. This time it was at a position of low need making it worse. If they wanted a developmental TE why not Bear Pacoe or Cameron Morrah, both still available? Nalbone wasn't expected to be drafted and is most likely destined for the practice squad. He's too raw to beat out Anthony Fasano, David Martin, or Joey Haynos. I'd actually say UDFA Jared Bronson may make a bigger impact. Grade: 3

Pick 7 - Ah, back to good picking. Clemons shouldn't have been left here in round five (neither should his teammate Michale Hamlin, who went one pick later to Dallas). He has tremendous speed and will be great on special teams this season as well as a nice relief player if Yeremiah Bell or Gibril Wilson need a breather. Clemons could eventually succeed Wilson if he develops as anticipated. Grade: 9

Pick 8 - Here's another solid pick. Andrew Gardner was selected right where should have gone. He is a big tackle capable of maturing into the RT of the future. Of course he's blocked by Vernon Carey and will serve as his backup for some time. Gardner was excellent value at this juncture both on needs and ability. Grade: 7

Pick 9 - I hate to rip on late round picks, but the fact that Folsom wasn't expecting to be signed as a UDFA - let alone drafted - speaks volumes about the reach Miami made. Folsom is a character guy but I'm not sure if he fits anywhere in Miami's scheme; he may just be a special teams guy. He was an OLB at little Weber State but will transition inside for the Dolphins. To be able to take on and shed numerous blockers he'll need to beef up his 230 pound frame. Practice squad anyone? Grade: 4

GRADE: 58/90


You can't get much better than Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Pat White is intriguing and could make this class even better if he is utilized properly. There was an abundance of reaches that drug this class down. However they filled two big needs in CB and WR by doubling up at the position. For that their successful. Outside of the two CBs - who will start eventually - they got a backup OT and FS. The others are too much of projects that won't contribute much in 2009.


WHY: They got two CBs that may be Madison/Surtain Version 2.0. They have a "wildcat" QB that could fully introduce an option scheme to the NFL. After that not much. Getting those three was good enough for a B+ but the other reaches brought it down. I'd anticipate no more than five of these nine guys sticking around for 3+ years.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Smith
Worst Pick: Nalbone
Sleeper: Clemons
Instant Impact: Davis
Developmental: Folsom

CBS Sports (Prisco): B-
CBS Sports (Rang): B-
ESPN (Kiper): C-
NFL.com (Brooks): B
NFL.com (Fan's): B
Walter: B-



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