Monday, February 23, 2009

Reader Mailbag: Next biggest need; Harvin at 25?

Time to dive into another reader-submitted question:

Now that the Dolphins have signed Vernon Carey to a contract where is the most pressing need? Is Percy Harvin worth the Dolphins 1st round pick?

Re-signing Carey definitely clears up what could have been a huge mess this offseason, and the team's biggest needs now no longer reside along the offensive line, in my opinion.

There are three big areas of need as I see the situation right now - the secondary, the inside linebackers, and the receivers.

As you are all aware, the only starter in the secondary under contract for 2009 is Will Allen. Miami is going to have to re-sign at least one of the remaining three, or else they will likely find themselves overpaying in free agency. Luckily, it looks like the team is adamant about re-signing Yeremiah Bell. Hopefully they get it done before free agency begins. But even if the team can't re-sign Renaldo Hill or Andre' Goodman, it's not going to kill the secondary. As long as Bell and Will Allen remain starters, the team should be able to find new starters to fill the two open spots. Now, whether they should do that or not is another question, but as long as Bell re-signs I'm not overly worried about the secondary.

The inside linebackers are another substantial problem because, as of right now, there is a good chance that Channing Crowder will not be back, and even if he does return, this team lacks any playmaking ability from the two ILBs. If Crowder leaves, that means Akin Ayodele will take his spot, and I'm not sold that he can be an every-down type of player in this defense. Miami needs at least one ILB who can rush the passer and cover running backs, not a guy who does one or the other.

But the most pressing need, at this point, looks to be the receiving corps. Greg Camarillo did a tremendous job acting as the No. 1 WR on this team this season before he got hurt, but on a good offense he's probably a No. 3/borderline No. 2 receiver. Likewise, Ted Ginn's ceiling, in my estimation, is a No. 2 guy. This team lacks anything even approaching an elite wideout, and they should be planning for the future (aka Chad Henne's arrival) by getting a potentially elite wideout on board now.

I think Brandon London has a lot of upside, but there is absolutley nothing guaranteeing that he'll even sniff that potential. I for one am not okay to just stay content with what we currently have and hope that one of these guys rises to another level.

I'd like to see the team invest a high draft pick in a WR, but Parcells is notorious for picking his wideouts from the scrap heap. It's great to try and find diamonds in the rough, but I can't get behind a strategy that simply ignores skill position players in the first couple of rounds. If a WR is the best available player when Miami makes its picks on day one of the Draft, I hope they don't pass over him just because they think they can fill those needs with rookie free agents.

And that brings us to the possibility of selecting Florida WR Percy Harvin with the 25th pick. Harvin is probably the 3rd best WR in the draft, following Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin. He is an elite talent in the mold of Ted Ginn, but Harvin is heavier (192-195 lbs.) and his height/BMI combo place him into the elite "Short" body-type category. (For more explanation on this, see this previous column I wrote).

Like Ginn, he is electrifyingly fast and has great hands, but unlike Ginn he already has shown sharp route-running skills. The problem, of course, with being such a similar player to Ginn is that...well...we already have Ted Ginn. But should that stop us from taking Harvin if, as I think, his ceiling is much higher than Ginn's? I'm not sure it should.

That being said, there are several huge red flags when it comes to Harvin. Namely, his durability. Any team will be taking a huge risk by paying a lot of money to Harvin since he has proven to be so fragile already in his career. If Miami was already an established powerhouse, like the Colts for example, they could justify taking the risk on Harvin. But as Miami is in a rebuilding process, they have next to no room for error with their top picks. It's absolutely necessary that they get a return on all their top investments.

Another risk with Harvin is that he comes from an offense that has failed to produce many successful NFL-level WRs.

I like Harvin, I really do. And I wouldn't be upset if Miami selected him at 25. I think he can be much better than Ginn. But there are several other players I'd rather see Miami take over Harvin if they are still on the board when Miami picks. Also, I'd rather see Miami target a tall/thickly built WR to complement what they already have, rather than bringing aboard more of the same.

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