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2002 Pre-Draft Thoughts
04/16/02

Despite the fact that the Dolphins will not make a selection until the 3rd round, the 2002 NFL draft could prove vital for the future of the team.  I don't anticipate any immediate starters being added, but the Dolphins have holes to plug and a few aging, expensive players they need to start thinking of replacing.  

I've identified several areas of need that the Dolphins should try to focus on in this draft.   Even though Miami has been in the playoffs the past five seasons and had an 11- 5 record in '01, I see plenty of room for improvement.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the Dolphins could use help (and in some cases, MAJOR help) at every position.  Based on that reasoning, I think the Dolphins can be flexible in this draft and can focus on taking the best player available, regardless of position, with each of their picks.  Following are the Dolphins' main areas of need, in my opinion, in no particular order.  I've also included the draft prospects at each position that I'd like to see the Dolphins pursue.  I've tried to be realistic, so you won't see many (any?) players that are expected to go in the first two rounds.  All prospects are listed in my order of preference; in other words, the first player listed is my top choice, the second player listed is my second choice, etc.

OFFENSIVE LINE
The only position on the Dolphins' OL that is set for the foreseeable future is Right Tackle, where future Pro Bowler Todd Wade should be a fixture for years to come.  Every other OL position needs work.  At Left Tackle, Brent Smith and Marcus Spriggs will battle for the starting job.  Both are coming off major knee injuries, and neither should be considered more than a stop-gap solution until a better player can be obtained.  Mark Dixon is one of the better Left Guards in the league; however, constant injuries and a bad back make him a question mark.  Tim Ruddy is a solid Center and has been a mainstay for the Dolphins for years.  However, he isn't getting any younger and his salary is too high.  It's time to begin looking for a replacement.  Todd Perry, acquired via free agency prior to the '01 season, did not impress much in his first season at Right Guard.  Leon Searcy was recently brought in to challenge for the starting job, and I think he'll get it.  Searcy, though, has been plagued with injuries the past two seasons and is getting old.  The Dolphins have virtually no depth behind the starters on the OL, although Anthony Cesario and Troy Andrew have shown promise.   The Dolphins are unlikely to select their future LT in this draft, but they should be able to add a quality Guard or Center.

Prospects:
Guard
Fred Weary, Tennessee, 6'4", 310
Martin Bibla, Miami, 6'3", 300
Terrence Metcalf, Mississippi, 6'3", 315
Ed Ta'amu, Utah, 6'2", 335
Center
Seth McKinney, Texas A & M, 6'3", 300
P.J. Alexander, Syracuse, 6'4", 300
Melvin Fowler, Maryland, 6'3", 300
Tackle
Victor Rogers, Colorado, 6'6", 330
Jeff Hatch, Penn, 6'6", 310

DEFENSIVE END
With the free agent losses of Kenny Mixon and Lorenzo Bromell, the Dolphins are suddenly thin at this once-crowded position.  The Dolphins desperately need a DE that can take pressure off of Jason Taylor.  As good as JT is, he simply can't handle being double-teamed on every play.  Daryl Gardener will reportedly be moved to the outside from his Tackle position, and I think he could be a big-time end.  However, his recurring back problems and lack of experience at the position are a concern.  Adewale Ogunleye and David Bowens have looked good at times, but neither is proven.  The Dolphins are reportedly interested in signing a veteran free agent, with Rob Burnett and Michael Sinclair being mentioned.  If a vet is signed, DE becomes less of a draft-day need - which is a good thing, since in my opinion the DE crop is slim aside from future Hall of Famer (as he long as he stays healthy) Julius Peppers.

Prospects:
Aaron Kampman, Iowa, 6'4", 280
Rocky Bernard, Texas A & M, 6'3", 290

RUNNING BACK
With the acquisition of Ricky Williams, the Dolphins finally have the franchise back they've sought for decades.  However, the depth behind Williams is not good, to say the least.   If Williams gets hurt - and he's missed time every season - the team currently has no legit back to take his place.  Travis Minor showed flashes this season, but he is not suited to be an every-down back in the style of offense the Dolphins employ.   Robert Edwards was recently acquired, but he has not played football in over two years.  I don't think the team can or should expect much from him.  The good RBs in this draft - and there aren't many - will go quickly, leaving the Dolphins to try to unearth a diamond in the rough.

Prospects:
Najeh Davenport, Miami, 6'1", 235
Omar Easy, Penn St., 6', 230
Josh Scobey, Kansas St., 5'11", 215

LINEBACKER
Zach Thomas is entrenched as the starting Middle Linebacker, and he's one of the best in the game.  The Outside Linebackers, however, are less than stellar.  Derrick Rodgers continues to under whelm, and Morlon Greenwood (a rookie in '01) looked lost most of the season.  Behind the starters, the situation is worse.  There is definitely a lack of depth at the position, and while Tommy Hendricks, Twan Russell and Scott Galyon are all excellent Special Teams players, none appear to be very good linebackers.  Corey Moore is an intriguing player; he was excellent in college but has so far had a non-descript NFL career.  I'd be curious to see how he'd play if given the chance.  There should be some decent LBs available in the middle rounds in this draft, and the Dolphins would be wise to select one.

Prospects:
Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma, 6'3", 240
Larry Foote, Michigan, 6'1", 230
Ben Taylor, Virginia Tech, 6'2", 235
Kevin Bentley, Northwestern, 6', 230
Rocky Boiman, Notre Dame, 6'3", 240

TIGHT END
The starting Tight End of the past few seasons, Hunter Goodwin, was released and will not return.  Goodwin was an excellent blocker, but had only marginal receiving skills.  New Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner loves to throw to the TE, so a receiving TE is a big need.  Jed Weaver has shown promise, and will be given a chance to step up his game.  Alonzo Mayes will get one more chance to jump-start his faltering career, but I don't expect much - if anything - from him.  Fortunately, this draft class appears to be fairly strong at TE.  Though the studs like Jeremy Shockey will be long gone, the Dolphins should have their choice of several decent TEs.

Prospects:
Chris Baker, Michigan St., 6'3", 255
Justin Peelle, Oregon, 6'4", 255
Derek Smith, Kentucky, 6'4", 265
Mike Banks, Iowa St., 6'4", 255

QUARTERBACK
Jay Fiedler, a player many Dolfans love to hate (myself included), signed a long-term deal this offseason.  However, it is highly unlikely that Jay will see more than two years of the contract.  Back-ups Ray Lucas and Cade McNown, while both talented, are probably not being groomed for a starting job.  This draft is hard to read at QB; there's a lot of talented players, but I wonder how good some of them will be at the next level.   Still, a couple of talented passers will be available to the Phins should they choose to look for a QB to mold for the future.

Prospects:
Rohan Davey, LSU, 6'2", 250
Kurt Kittner, Illinois, 6'2", 215
Nick Rolovich, Hawaii, 6'1", 200
David Garrard, East Carolina, 6'1", 240

DEFENSIVE BACK
Even without Brian Walker, the Dolphins have one of the - if not THE - top starting defensive secondaries in the NFL.  Corners Sam Madison and Pat Surtain, and FS Brock Marion are among the best at their positions.  New starting SS Arturo Freeman has looked good in a back-up and dime capacity, and I expect big things from him.  Veteran Shawn Wooden should do well in a back-up role for both Safety positions.  The Dolphins are otherwise a bit thin behind the starters, with Jamar Fletcher, Trent Gamble and Zebbie Lethridge all unproven.  Adding a CB would be a smart move, but the Dolphins may choose to wait for a vet to become available, as they did last year with Terry Cousin.  If they do decide to look at the incoming rookie class, though, there are some interesting prospects to consider.  I view this as a deep draft for DBs, and there could be some gems available late.

Prospects:
Cornerback
Markese Fitzgerald, Miami, 5'10", 185
Willie Ford, Syracuse, 6'1", 200
Kris Richard, USC, 5'11", 185
Andre Goodman, South Carolina, 5'10", 180
Safety
Bobby Gray, Louisiana Tech, 6', 210
Jermaine Phillips, Georgia, 6'1", 215
Brian Williams, North Carolina St., 5'11", 205

WIDE RECEIVER
The Dolphins have a pretty good receiving corps, but there is room for improvement.  2001 rookie Chris Chambers came on strong at the end of the season, and appears to be a star in the making.  Oronde Gadsden continues to be a reliable playmaker and a tough competitor, although his arthritic feet are always a concern.  Free agent James McKnight put up decent numbers, but he had problems with drops and fumbles.  He was a major disappointment overall.  Dedric Ward is a fairly one-dimensional receiver, but he came through big in several clutch situations.  Ward missed a lot of time with foot injuries, and I'm curious to see how he'll perform if he remains healthy.  Number five WR Jeff Ogden was just re-signed, but I believe his position on this team is tenuous at best.  Robert Baker and Albert Johnson will get long looks in training camp and pre-season.  I don't expect the Dolphins to draft a WR this year, but they may take a look at several receivers with punt and/or kick return skills.  With that in mind, I've chosen a few WR prospects with the ability to be big-time Special Teams performers as well as capable number four or five receivers.

Prospects:
Antwaan Randle El, Indiana, 5'9", 190
Freddie Millons, Alabama, 5'10", 185
Kahlil Hill, Iowa, 6'2", 195
Daryl Jones, Miami, 5'10", 185

As you can see, it's my belief that the Dolphins have a lot of needs.  The good news is that even though the Phins don't have a lot of picks (and no early picks), this appears to be a deep draft, and there are plenty of good players to be had.  And the great thing about the draft is that you just never know how it'll turn out - that little known-player picked in round five could turn out to be a future All-Pro.

So order the big sandwich, put the beers on ice, and let the family know that you'll be on an Al Bundy-style vacation for two days - the Draft is here!!!   (Note: Those who don't get the Al Bundy reference are directed to watch "Married…With Children" - and ask me if you need an explanation!)

GO PHINS!!!!