MDD Staff Writer: Chad Pullen
The NFL Draft has become an event almost as big as any game that’s played in the NFL in today’s age. 32 fan bases go into draft weekend with hopes and dreams of seeing their team the following February competing in a Super Bowl.
If those fans favorite teams don’t do well on draft day, they most likely won’t be seeing a Super Bowl anytime soon. For the teams that do take full advantage of the draft and the steady pipeline of talent from the college ranks, those teams have a much better shot than teams that select punters in the third round.
(Jacksonville fans may begin rooting for next next year… now.)
For much of the last decade, the Dolphins have struggled with the draft and their record has supported that claim. However, in the past couple of April’s, the Phins have started to improve in their selections, and a small talent base is now building in Miami off players drafted by them all currently under the age of 26. Not including this year’s rookie crop, the Dolphins have a few players on each side of the ball that the team will look too for production and leadership in the upcoming years. All of them, drafted by Miami. If a few of the members of the 2012 draft live up to their hype, they will join this list to provide Miami with the deepest crop of young talent the Dolphins have seen since the late 90’s.
In the second part of this three part series, we will look at the defensive side of the ball for the 25 and under crowd.
Jared Odrick, DE, 24
A First Round choice in 2010, Odrick will now move into the starting lineup and try to make an impact opposite Cameron Wake in Miami’s new 4-3 scheme. Versatile enough to switch inside on passing downs, Odrick has the size and motor to be a solid compliment to Wake as teams slant their protection schemes based on where Wake lines up, Odrick should see plenty of one on one matchups and be able to disrupt things on his end. A leg injury cost him his rookie season but he was able to come back and be productive in his second campaign. Now the Dolphins will look for him to make a big leap and validate his first round selection.
Koa Misi, OLB, 25
Misi was drafted to play OLB in the 3-4, but it appears likely that he could be moved inside in a 4-3 and take the place of veteran Karlos Dansby when the Dolphins decide to go younger at the position. For now he will continue to play outside and try to learn the inside position in an emergency backup role. With the selection of Josh Kaddu in the 2012 draft, the plan may be to shift Misi inside within 2 years once Kaddu has shown enough to warrant playing time. Misi came in the same draft as Odrick as both were expected to infuse youth into a defense that was getting up there in years. To this point, both have underwhelmed Miami fans but as they enter into their prime years, they could start to turn the corner beginning this year.
Vontae Davis, CB, 24
Vontae was the second First Rounder picked in the Parcells/Ireland era and the results have mostly been favorable. His skills are that of a true shutdown corner with the added physicality to help in the run game as well. He has 9 interceptions in his first three seasons, including 4 in only 12 games last year. Injuries slowed him last year as the lockout may have left him physically unprepared for the season. If Davis can come back fully healthy this year and stronger, he could emerge as a Pro Bowl level CB and should stay at that level for a long time in Miami.
Sean Smith, CB, 24
Much like Odrick and Misi came in together, Smith was drafted the same year as Davis to give Miami two young corners to work together for the next decade. Smith has shown solid coverage skills but has lacked for making “big” plays on defense in terms of turnovers. What Smith has lacked in turnovers, he has excelled in availability having missed only one game in his first three seasons. To this point, Smith has only made three interceptions in his first three years, however a career high two of those did come last season. If Smith and Davis can make a nice improvement in their games this season, the Dolphin defense could be very problematic for NFL offenses in 2012 and beyond.
Reshad Jones, S, 24
Jones makes the third player in the Miami secondary under the age of 25. That many players should have Miami set in the defensive backfield for several years provided all continue to develop and produce on the field. Jones is a talented playmaker who has taken some bad angles early in his career. If the coaching staff can help him correct those mistakes, he could help provide some of the big plays that Davis and Smith have not made as of yet in their careers. With these young and talented players developing in their skills and paired with veterans like Wake, Dansby and DT Paul Soliaii, the Dolphins defense should be very strong in 2012, and possibly going forward as the Youth to Watch develops in South Beach.