I have held off on analyzing the Dolphins' draft up to this point because I wanted to make sure that I wasn't basing my opinions on the hype of draft weekend and the quick and often poorly qualified judgments that are spread like wildfire in the immediate aftermath. Now that we know a little more about the selections and having seen them very briefly in this past weekend's minicamp, let's take a look at how well the Dolphins performed in the draft this year. (Disclaimer: I realize that most of this is purely speculative and the true grade of a draft cannot be told until several years have passed, but at least we can establish some guidelines for expectations.)
Round 1 (9) - WR Ted Ginn, Ohio State
I know that a great majority of Dolphins fans were upset and shocked by this pick. Admittedly, I was too at the time. However, I wrote an extensive commentary detailing why I think that collective anger was and is misplaced. So, having already established my position on the passing of Brady Quinn, let's look to the guy who is now a Miami Dolphin - Ted Ginn.
To start off, I think a bit too much emphasis is being placed on Ginn's foot injury. By all accounts he will be ready to participate in training camp. If the injury is still lingering around into August then it may be cause for concern, but not now. As far as what he brings to the table as a player, I think that can be summed up in one word - electricity. If the Miami offense has needed an injection of anything lately, it's certainly been some electricity. On most days, Ginn will be far and away the fastest player on the field, which will demand a defense's attention. His strength is going to be stretching the field on vertical pass plays. As he adjusts to being an NFL receiver, Ginn will be able to contribute immediately as a premier return man. His blazing speed renders initial pursuit-angles futile. As far as his weaknesses, he is very hesitant to run crossing routes over the middle of the field, and he has struggled to beat strong press coverage on the line. Also, while he excels on deep vertical routes, he is going to need to improve the rest of his route-running. I'm not so much concerned with his inability to catch over the middle since other guys like Marty Booker and Derek Hagan are more suited to those routes anyway, but I am worried about his ability to break away from a cornerback jamming him on the line. If he can't get good separation at the beginning of his route, his speed will be effectively neutralized.
Expectations: I'm really excited by this pick. I expect Ginn to immediately make the Dolphins return game a true weapon. As a receiver, he'll have his struggles like every rookie receiver does. I'm not projecting him to be a star right away, but his presence alone will help to open this offense up, freeing up guys like Chris Chambers and Marty Booker from constant double-teams. Given a couple years to refine his receiving skills, Ginn has the potential to be as big of a threat for the offense as he will be in the return-game.
Round 2 (40) QB John Beck, B.Y.U.
Beck is the guy that Cameron has put his faith into as the future starter for Miami. Cameron knows QBs so I trust his judgment. The most impressive thing about Beck is his intelligence - he's a true student of the game. If he struggles, it will not be because he hasn't prepared. The next thing that impresses me about Beck is his accuracy and poise in the pocket. He completed 69.3% of his passes last season and if he can translate that into a completion percentage in the mid-60% in the NFL, he will definitely be successful. Some people have knocked Beck's arm strength, which is a criticism I just don't understand. Sure, he doesn't have the arm of Michael Vick, but he's more than adequate. He is slightly shorter (6'2") than most passers which may lead to some passes being knocked down at the line.
Expectations: I don't expect Beck to start right away or at all this season. In fact, I think it would serve him better if he could spend a year on the bench being groomed by Trent Green. Granted, he will be 26 at the start of the season, so I don't think it will take him as long as other less mature rookies to adjust to the NFL. That could lead to him being inserted as the starter as the season progresses. There is certainly the possibility that he will fail at the NFL level, but I think it's much more likely that he eventually turns into an efficient and productive QB in Miami.
Round 2 (60) - C Samson Satele, Hawaii
Miami finally addressed its offensive line needs with this pick. Satele has experience at all the line positions, but he'll most likely play guard for Miami, unless Rex Hadnot is moved from center. He started 53 games for Hawaii, so he's definitely mature and durable. The strongest aspect of Satele's game is his pass-blocking. In Hawaii's offense that is what he was asked to do on a vast majority of plays. Because of this, his run-blocking is going to need a lot of work. He also struggles when blocking on the move, which may hamper his effectiveness at the second level. However, if he can concentrate on manning a single position, his good technique should go a long way in helping him to succeed. He has the aggressiveness and toughness that Miami's OL unit sorely needs more of.
Expectations: Satele has a good chance to crack the starting lineup at the beginning of the season, most likely as the LG. However, it's unclear whether the team will stick with Rex Hadnot at center. If not, Satele could assume that role. If he doesn't start right away, I don't think it will be long before he does.
Round 3 (71) - RB Lorenzo Booker, Florida State
Rounding out Day 1, Miami chose its fourth offensive player. Booker is going to be a really interesting player to watch on offense since he is much more than just a RB. He can line up as a slot receiver, an outside receiver, catch passes out of the backfield, stay in as a blocker, catch screen passes, and return kicks. He's a swiss-army knife on the offensive side of the ball and the ability to move him around before the snap is going to confuse many defenses. He presents the opportunities for some great mismatches. As a RB, he's probably best suited as a change-of-pace type runner, and he perfectly complements Ronnie Brown's all-around ability with a quick burst of speed. He's a slasher and he excels in the open field, but he can't break tackles. That's why he'll be spread around so much to try and get him open. I really hope that his selection does not spell the end of Ricky Williams. Ricky is a perfect backup to Ronnie Brown who can share a significant portion of the carries. Booker is a smallish back who is better suited to being a role-player, at least at first.
Expectations: Booker is going to add another burst of speed to Miami's offense. Whether it's being used on a toss-sweep or lining up as a slot receiver, Cameron has a bevy of ways to utilize his abilities. Hopefully Ricky Williams is welcomed back as the backup RB, which would allow Booker to ease into the NFL and really excel as a jack of all trades for the offense. He will make an impact in some way for this offense as a rookie.
Round 4 (108) - DT Paul Soliai, Utah
Weighing in at 345 pounds, Soliai is one big dude. I really think that Miami got great value at this spot. He's not going to record a bunch of sacks, but he has a great chance of becoming a fine NT in the mold of Keith Traylor. He has the ability to clog running lanes and he can easily take on two blockers. He's not a pass-rushing threat, but he wasn't brought in to be one. He clogs up the middle of the field, pure and simple.
Expectations: This was one of my favorite picks in the draft. Miami got such great value here in the fourth round. As a rookie, Soliai will most likely be part of a rotation as he polishes his skills, but with Traylor's injury history and age, it's very likely that he will be pressed into action later in the season. After Traylor is gone, look for Soliai to step right in and fill the NT position more than adequately.
Round 6 (181) - FB Reagan Mauia, Hawaii
The second player from Hawaii, and third Samoan drafted by Miami, Mauia is a bruising FB. Once a NT, he is a big-bodied battering ram who has the potential to be a powerful run-blocker. He also has decent hands out of the backfield. He's raw and will benefit from being tutored by Corey Schlesinger.
Expectations: I wouldn't be surprised if Mauia lands on the practice squad this year while he refines his blocking skills and learns from Schlesinger. By the time Schlesinger is gone though, Mauia should be ready to come in and be a solid blocker for Ronnie Brown.
Round 6 (199) - C Drew Mormino, Central Michigan
A four-year starter, Mormino can play both G and C. He's very tough and he plays with good leverage, but he's smaller than most (300 lbs.) and lacks great power. While he is good at the point of attack, he has problems getting to the second level effectively.
Expectations: Mormino will probably make the team as a back-up who has the versatility to play both guard spots and center.
Round 7 (219) - LB Kelvin Smith, Syracuse
Although Smith played ILB in college, he'll most likely be used at OLB in Miami. He tackles well and can rush the passer with some success, but he doesn't have much of a burst and probably isn't a big playmaker. He will have trouble in pass coverage as well.
Expectations: Despite Smith's weaknesses, he will be able to make an impact on special teams for Miami. With his versatility at LB, he'll make for a good backup. He has a lot of experience coming out of college and that will help him transition.
Round 7 (225) - P Brandon Fields, Michigan State
I'm not a big fan of drafting a punter, but with three seventh-round picks, Miami was able to get the one they wanted. This guy is huge for a punter and he can certainly boom the ball with his strong leg. He also has experience kicking off, should the need ever arise. The biggest concern is his inconsistency. He has trouble angling punts out of bounds and he will probably shank one every now and then. Another big problem is that he holds onto the ball too long and is a big risk to have his punt blocked. Luckily, the problems he has can be corrected with some good coaching.
Expectations: Since Miami spent a draft pick on Fields, I'm pretty sure that he will be the punter for this team. His immensely powerful leg is a treat, but he will have to get better at directional kicks, as well as becoming more consistent. It will probably take a while to see significant changes take place in his game, so he might struggle this season. Down the line, I think he'll make a solid if unspectacular punter.
Round 7 (238) - DE Abraham Wright, Colorado
Wright is a smallish, tweener-type player who might play DE or OLB. His small size makes him poor against stopping the run, but he is an above-average pass-rusher. He didn't play much special-teams in college, so it's yet to be seen whether he'll be able to make an impact there for Miami.
Expectations: His versatility is a plus, but Wright may find himself bouncing between the practice squad and the roster until he matures and polishes some skills. Hopefully he shows that he can play special-teams. In the future, I could see him filling the role of David Bowens as a pass-rush specialist.
Overall, I think this was a fantastic draft for Miami. They didn't really reach in any spot with the exception perhaps of Ginn at #9 and Mauia in the sixth-round. It's hard to call a sixth-round pick a reach though. It's also rumored that Houston was prepared to take Ginn at #10, so Miami chose wisely by taking their man. Without reaching or trading away picks, Miami was able to address most of their glaring needs including QB and OL. They also added guys who can make an immediate impact (Ginn, Booker, Fields) and developmental guys who can start off playing special-teams. Hopefully this draft will look as good or better in a couple years than I think it does now.