The NFL season has officially reached the quarter mark as all but two teams have played their first four games of the season. So with one month in the books, we will take a look at the Dolphins draft class of 2012 and see what the early returns look like. We will check in again throughout the year to see how the draft class progresses and look ahead to the future as the season goes along.
MDD Staff Writer: Chad Pullen
QB Ryan Tannehill, First Round
The face of the future and the key to this draft class for the foreseeable future, Tannehill has shown plenty of flashes of the talent that led to him being selected in the top ten of the draft. After a rough start early vs. a very solid Houston team, Tannehill has continued to work and improve each week and has corrected many of the mistakes he has made. With a lack of talent surrounding him at this point, Ryan has made the most of what he has been given and with each game gains belief in the fan base that he may be the answer at QB the Dolphins have been searching for since 2000. Only knock so far is he needs to limit turnovers. Turnovers can be expected for a rookie QB but that doesn’t mean they all need to be absolved. Tanne will need to learn how to correct those mistakes that are his fault only. Receivers falling down or running the wrong routes shouldn’t be on him, but not every turnover is due to incorrect routes or slipping.
Quarter Grade: B+
RT Jonathan Martin, Second Round
Martin got off to a very rough start early in training camp and preseason, since then, he has grown almost as much as Tannehill has. Still not a dominant tackle yet this early in his career, but he’s improved each week and isn’t being a liability to the offense like he was in preseason. Every snap could be viewed as a learning tool for both he and Tannehill, and their futures should be linked together for several years to come. One has to think, going up against Cam Wake in practice every day can only help Martin prepare for battle each week. He won’t face many better than Cam on Sunday’s.
Quarter Grade: B-
DE Olivier Vernon, Third Round
Vernon may be the wildcard when this draft is analyzed a few years down the road. Miami needs a pass rusher to line up opposite Cam Wake and the local product from Miami is very talented but still very raw. It’s possible that the light can come on for him at some point, but to now he is better at stopping the run than he is at rushing the passer. That could change as he learns his role and gets more playing time, but for what he was selected for, he has not provided as of yet. He has the talent, and he could make a big leap at some point, it’s a matter of will he be given the time to learn and start helping this team in the near future? Dolphins will have to be patient with him, until then he helps on special teams and does at least help in the run defense at times.
Quarter Grade: C
TE Michael Egnew, Third Round
Egnew has been the biggest disappointment for what the Dolphins were hoping to gain from his selection. At 6-5, he was expected to be a major weapon for Tannehill and a safety valve for check downs and late releases when he stays in to block. Instead, Egnew has not once been on the active roster on Sundays. He was dreadful in preseason and famously chastised by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman on HBO’s Hard Knocks series. Miami needs Egnew to work out and become the piece they envisioned when they selected him in the third round. He could change the entire offense and create multiple mismatches for opposing defenses if he became reliable. Miami needs these third round picks to improve greatly to make a jump from good draft to great draft.
Quarter Grade: F
RB Lamar Miller, Fourth Round
Another local product out of Miami, Miller has excited several Dolphin fans and given the Dolphins several glimpses of what he can be when Reggie Bush is no longer in the backfield. Miller is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball, and so far has surprised everyone with his ability to gain yards after contact. He still has much to learn in terms of pass blocking and identifying blitzers and for that the Dolphin staff has not been able to get him on the field as often as some would like, but putting him out there now would be a clear indicator of a run play, and if Miami tried to get cute and throw it anyways, Miller could miss blocks that would lead to hits on Tannehill. As of now his role is limited, but as he learns more about his position, he should see more snaps and could become a very solid threat to combine with Tannehill and Martin making this class a very solid draft on the offensive side of the ball.
Quarter Grade: C+
OLB Josh Kaddu, Fifth Round
Kaddu is currently on the practice squad as there was no place on the roster for him. I believe it’s possible that Koa Misi could move inside in the next year or two as Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett do not have long term futures in Miami. If Misi does move inside, Kaddu could take Misi’s spot on the outside as they are virtually identical size wise. Kaddu should be using this season to learn everything he can for the chance he may be able to make the roster next season.
Quarter Grade: INC.
WR B.J. Cunningham, Sixth Round
Cunningham never caught on in camp or preseason and was released before the season began. He becomes a wasted pick for the Dolphins in the sixth round.
Quarter Grade: F
DT Kheeston Randall, Seventh Round
Randall is a bonus being selected in the final round of the draft and not only making the roster, but also seeing playing time as a rotational fill in in the middle of the Dolphin defense. He has yet to make any impact plays or stand out but just being on the field and not being overmatched coming from the seventh round is impressive in its own right. It would be a huge boon if Randall is able to stick on the roster and eventually grow into a solid player, his size and skills will always be welcome in the NFL as the middle of your defensive line is a tremendous need in stopping the NFL run game.
Quarter Grade: C
WR Rishard Mathews, Seventh Round
Mathews has made the roster, however has not been active for three of the games and the one he was active for only saw a snap or two on special teams. He did impress in the preseason as he led the Dolphins in receptions and yardage and made several nice grabs to earn his spot at least temporarily. Mathews knows the offense having played a variant of it in college and has a solid frame at 6-2 to make an difference in the Dolphin passing game if they ever cut the cord on Legedu Naanee.
Quarter Grade: INC