MDD Staff Writer: Chad Pullen
Here are the 2012 rookies expected to form a solid core within a year or two.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, 23
Hailed as the first true Franchise QB since Dan Marino, Ryan should be expected to sit for a year or two and learn in the Aaron Rodgers mold of development. He may see some spot duty in his early years but it seems clear that Miami will look to be patient and build a young core around Tannehill for when he takes the reigns in either 2013 or 2014. Doing so will allow the team to keep the pressure off of Tannehill early in his career and give him enough weapons to thrive in an offense he already understands quite well. His biggest test, as for any young QB, will be learning NFL defenses and how to attack them.
Jonathan Martin, OT, 22
Martin will join an offensive line that is starting to really take shape along with cornerstone LT Jake Long as well as 2011 First Rounder Mike Pouncey. Once Miami solidifies both guard positions long term, Miami should have a line built strong enough to protect Tannehill when he does assume control. Martin played LT in college protecting Andrew Luck’s blindside, will now shift to the right side yet provide some insurance in case Long is injured or he and Miami cannot come to a deal when his contract comes up next year. For now, Martin will be considered the weaker link on the OLine as rookies need to adjust to the speed of the game like anyone else. Going forward however, the Phins appear to be in great shape along their offensive line.
Lamar Miller, RB, 21
The most exciting pick of this draft class, the Dolphins moved up early in the fourth round to take the local standout from Miami and while he will certainly see the field more than Tannehill in 2012, the thinking may be that as he learns the game his real value will come in 2013 as well if the Dolphins decide to part ways with Reggie Bush. Miller would be able to fill a very similar role as Bush, but at less cost, as well as several years younger. Miller has the speed to be a homerun threat every time he touches the ball, but also has the vision and cutting ability to run inside. His biggest question, like it is for Bush, is will he be strong enough to take the punishment of an every down back that will need to run inside to keep the run game from being too predictable.
Michael Egnew, TE, 22
Egnew becomes the last piece of the 2012 draft on offense that should be ready to step up for Tannehill whenever he takes the QB spot full time. With a strong OLine built up, Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas manning the running back spot, and Charles Clay a versatile weapon as either a second tight end or full back, Egnew will provide Tannehill with a large target in the middle of the field, as well as the Red Zone and someone else that can stretch the seams of a defense. Once Miami adds a receiver or two to pair with slot receiver Davone Bess, the Miami offense could be very dangerous in the future provided Tannehill takes the steps necessary to succeed in the NFL. Egnew could have a major impact in that in 2013, whereas 2012 will be a chance for him to learn and grow at his position before Anthony Fasano moves on.
Olivier Vernon, DE, 21
Possibly the most important part of the young defensive core, Vernon could someday take over for Cameron Wake as the main pass rusher in Miami. For now, Miami will hope to be able to use Vernon on obvious passing downs opposite Wake while shifting Odrick inside to get the most pass rushers on the field as possible. Vernon is a very raw talent and it may take him a year or two to fully grasp his skills and what he can do, so Miami will need to remain patient with him and rely on Wake a couple years longer. It’s possible that by 2014, Vernon, Odrick, Misi, Davis, Smith, and Jones could all provide Miami with a dominant defense with all those players in their mid-20’s and in their prime as well as the next player we’ll look at.
Josh Kaddu, OLB, 22
Kaddu is almost a clone of Koa Misi in terms of size and ability. Kaddu was versatile enough at Oregon that he could line up at defensive end on one play, and drop back in coverage as outside linebacker the next. Miami will hope for a similar transition in his game at the next level. Once Misi is shifted inside full time, Kaddu may step into his OLB role seamlessly. He may not see much playing time this season outside of special teams unless there is an injury in the linebacking core. Kaddu does have the talent and ability to play in this league however, and with hard work should join the Dolphins suddenly deep new young core and be in position for many great things in 2013 and beyond.