We are officially a month away from the 2014 NFL draft, which is the lifeblood of every NFL team.
The draft is critical because it restocks each roster with young, CHEAP talent. The problem the Dolphins have had the past decade is that most of the drafted talent hasn't been very good. Adequate, but not good, which explains exactly how South Florida's NFL franchise has performed this past decade.
However, the Dolphins have a new grocery picker in Dennis Hickey, who is a first time general manager, and this happens to be the deepest draft in a decade because of various factors.
That means this could be the year the Dolphins turn the corner.
I've been studying this draft, and the Dolphins' roster since January, trying to get prepared for what is to come on May 8-10. You've been exposed to most of that information, and now it is time to check how much you're been paying attention.
So here's our pre-draft Pop Quiz....
1. Name the three priority needs the Miami Dolphins have in the 2014 draft, and the top player at each of those position?
Right tackle (Auburn's Greg Robinson, and athletic freak of nature), offensive guard (Notre Dame's Zack Martin, who has the versatility to play all five positions on the O-line), and inside linebacker (Alabama's C.J. Mosley, a polished, instinctive Nick Saban product).
2. Who are the six in-house candidates to start at right tackle and offensive guard?
Shelley Smith (free agent addition, career backup), Nate Garner (career utility man the past six seasons for the Dolphins, started at OG an OT), Sam Brenner (practice squader who ended up starting at OG, but struggled), Jason Fox (former Hurricanes starter who battled injuries with the Lions), David Arkin (former Cowboys practice squad claimed late last season), and Dallas Thomas (a 2012 third-round selection who struggled as a rookie). If you mentioned Jason Weaver or Michael Ola, who are more realistic for the practice squad, I'll allow it. Anyone drafted will compete with these eight players for the starting spots, and space on the 53-man roster.
3. Name the last three drafts the Dolphins used the BPA approach in the first round, and the player taken.
Jake Long (2008), Jared Odrick (2010), and Dion Jordan (2013). The point, taking the BPA isn't always the wisest approach to the draft. Selecting Long, a four-time Pro Bowler, over Falcons QB Matt Ryan turned out to be a mistake. Miami traded down to double up, selecting Odrick in the first and Koa Misi with the second they acquired from San Diego instead of taking Seattle safety Earl Thomas. And Jordan barely played last season because the Dolphins have depth at defensive end and he couldn't unseat Olivier Vernon, who produced a 11.5 sack season.
4. Who are the three Dolphins the front office might need to CONSIDER extending before the 2014 season ends?
Charles Clay, who is looking to cash in on a breakout season, Mike Pouncey, who has a fifth-year option that will likely be exercised on May 3, and Jared Odrick, a valuable and versatile defensive lineman playing the final year of his rookie deal. The Dolphins would be wise to make Clay replicate his sensational 2013 season instead of making him the next Reshad Jones. Odrick's status will depend on whether or not he's a starter moving forward, and if the Dolphins add another defensive lineman in the draft. Right now he's Miami's most tradeable commodity because of his low salary, versatility, and experience in a 3-4 and 4-3.
5. Why is receiver an area of concern for the Dolphins?
Because Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Armon Binns are each coming off season-ending knee injuries. ACL injuries, which Gibson and Binns suffered, typically take 9-12 months to rehab. The Dolphins aren't certain about their availability for OTAs, which begin later this spring. And Mike Wallace is battling knee tendinitis. When you factor in all the running receivers do you're destined to have one receiver suffer a setback, so depth at the unit's deepest position is a bit concerning.
6. Why is Mike Wallace presently untradeable, and what year is the backdoor in his contract?
Wallace has $15 million of his five-year, $60 million deal completely guaranteed this coming season. The Dolphins can't escape that payday. Only the Raiders, Browns and Jaguars could swallow that type of cap hit, but nobody will take that kind of contract for Wallace. Miami can’t backdoor Wallace's contract until 2016, unless they want to eat the $3 million he’s guaranteed in 2015. However, Wallace is only slated to make $9.9 million in 2015, which is manageable. Releasing Wallace during the offseason of 2016 would create $9.3 million in cap space.
7. What are the three weakest areas in the 2014 NFL draft, and the three strongest?
The weakest positions in the 2014 draft are at inside linebacker (six decent prospects, offensive guard (nine decent prospects) and defensive end (nine decent prospects). The three strongest areas in this draft are cornerback (21 potential starters), receiver (15 with a starter grade), and offensive tackle (15 starter worthy talents).
8. What type of blocking scheme is Miami using, and what type of athletes does it require? And name a team that uses it successfully.
The Dolphins will utilize a zone blocking scheme, which requires the offensive tackles and guards to reach, and get down-field to the second level, which means they must be athletic and possess good feet. Look for offensive linemen around 310 pounds, with good agility metrics. The Texans ran a successful zone blocking scheme for years, and John Benton is Miami's new offensive line coach. The Redskins also ran a successful zone blocking scheme under Mike Shanahan's leadership.
9. Why is Knowshon Moreno viewed as a clear-cut upgrade over Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas?
Because he’s an all-purpose tailback, a talent who can run effectively between the tackles, catch passes with ease, and pass block. None of Miami’s 2014 backs possessed all three traits. Moreno's versatility will help the Dolphins offense stop telegraphing plays.
10. Why is the 2014 draft considered the deepest in a decade?
Because of the influx of 104 underclassmen, which broke last year’s record for early entrants. As a result there are over 150 draft prospects who have evaluation grades that hint they could become NFL starters in year one or two. But the second tier talent in the draft is also pretty solid, which means it is possible to find starters in rounds five and beyond.
If you missed more than two questions you've got some reviewing to do before the next phase of our draft prep. If you got 9 or more right you're ready for the AP course of draft prep.
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