Sorry to get all Dave Hyde-y on your asses. But I've asked our resident Draft Guru/star commenter/beer holster owner/guy that gets berated by Paul Burmeister on national T.V. Chris Kouffman, AKA CK Parrot, to break down the Dolphins draft for us.
And then he went and wrote an article that makes Tolstoy say, "Holy fuck, comrade. You make many words. Nostrovia!"
But, hey, I figured with all the dickjokes we sling around here, it was time for some serious football talk. At least for now. And mainly because I'm just too fucking angry to put my own take on it in coherent terms.
Anyway.... you may want to take a three hour lunch today in order to take it all in. Or read part of it now, and then come back later. I kid. It's well worth it.
Thanks to Chris for this. He has a kickass name. You can visit his site here.
Rather than find fifty new and clever ways to describe the pain of what has become Miami Dol-Fans' equivalent of Groundhog Day, I'll just dig right in on the results of this year's NFL Draft.
Pick #15: Center Mike Pouncey, Florida
The Good: The good news is when you pick a Center this high up in the Draft, you can pretty much scratch that position off the list for the next ten years. There were six Centers drafted from 2000 to 2010 and all of them have been regular starters. Five of them continue to play their natural position, and one has moved to Guard. Personally, I was not the biggest fan of Maurkice Pouncey when he came out of Florida in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was big and powerful, but I did not see the kind of special athleticism that would make me tempted to take him in the middle of the 1st round as an impact player. Despite the snap issues, which I kid about but don't really take to be a serious problem, I actually liked Mike Pouncey a little better than Maurkice. His athleticism and ability to jump out in space are at a different level from what I saw in his brother Maurkice, and he proved that out at the Combine both in his times and measures, as well as in his drills.
The Bad: I just have one word for you: impact. That is the primary problem with this pick. He doesn't anchor as well against the pass rush as he'll need to in the NFL, and I've always thought he could do a better job of finding work. But the biggest criticism of drafting Pouncey is a simple question: how much is a Center like him going to impact the offense? There's a reason that, of the 42 Centers that played at least 60% of their team's snaps in either 2008, 2009 or 2010, only 5 of them were taken in the 1st round. Just as many were taken in the 7th round. This is a position that can be found, and it's one where a player's awareness and mental processing can be as important as his physical prowess. Ask yourself this: is Chris Spencer an impact player on the Seattle Seahawks' offense? Did his presence prevent the Seahawks from having one of the worst rushing attacks in football this year? Did Alex Mack help any tailbacks dominate in Cleveland, until a dominant talent Peyton Hillis decided to hit on Josh McDaniels' wife and found himself Fedex'd to Browns' headquarters for a bag of Doritos? Did the Cleveland Browns offense really suck much less even with that kind of dominant rusher? Did the Steelers go to the Super Bowl because of Maurkice Pouncey? Or perhaps was it because of Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Heath Miller and that stellar defense? Maurkice went down hurt at the beginning of the Conference Championship Game and they still racked up 166 yards rushing, en route to a 24-19 beating. Did the Steelers lose the Super Bowl 31-25 because of Maurkice Pouncey's absence preventing them from doing better than 126 rushing yards at 5.5 yards per carry, or because Aaron Rodgers impregnated the wives of every member of the Steelers secondary? Here's a simple exercise: watch the above YouTube video, compiled by my excellent cohort Richard Lines, and simply count the number of times Mike Pouncey did something exceptional (ie. something a Joe Berger wouldn't have done), that also had a significant impact on the play result. You won't need two hands. And if you do, quit jerking off and actually pay attention to the video.
Pick #62: Tailback Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
The Good: Daniel was a super-productive back at Kansas State, on a one-dimensional offense that every defense knew how to defend. He carried a heavy load while at K-State, carrying or catching the ball about 24 times a game. The coaching staff definitely focused on running the offense through him. Four things stood out for me immediately on Thomas in 2010: his blocking, his vision, his versatility (pass catching) and his improvement arc. What I mean by the latter is, when I took a look at him in 2009, I was sure that I was not going to like him at all for the 2011 Draft. He made significant improvements in his game by 2010 and I tend to like guys that show discernible trajectory (ie. they get better). Thomas notches for me a check box that I always love see in guys that either switch positions or switch sports, and come a real far distance in a very short amount of time. Thomas has been carrying the ball since High School, so he is no stranger to that. However, he did so in High School and in Junior College as more of a Quarterback. His final two years at K-State, he played more of a true tailback position. I know that experience is supposed to be coveted, but all the experience in the world isn't going to do you any good if you don't have a natural aptitude for the game, and if you do then you can make ridiculous strides in no time at all. Take Sean Smith and Jimmy Graham as examples. Sean Smith was a wide receiver at Utah until they moved him to corner his final two seasons there. He started 16 games in the NFL in only his 3rd season even playing on the defensive side of the ball. Jimmy Graham was a basketball player until he came onto the Hurricanes in 2009, catching a bunch of touchdowns. By the final 8 games of the 2010 NFL season, only Jimmy's second playing football, he was taking a starter's share for the New Orleans Saints and, you guessed it, catching a bunch more touchdowns. Now with Jeremy Shockey given das boot, Graham is set to be a full time starter.
The Bad: Start with a simple fact: he's slow. It shows up on tape and it showed up at his Pro Day where, despite Jeff Ireland's itchy thumb timing him at 4.55, most scouts had Daniel Thomas in the mid-4.6's. Thomas only ran the 40 one time, claiming he 'tightened up'. He'd previously been avoiding running due to a nagging muscle pull that wouldn't heal. My complaints about Ricky and Ronnie in 2010 were that they were slow and they don't break tackles or make people miss. Daniel Thomas is slow and he didn't break many tackles or make many people miss at K-State, despite the numbers. Upgrade? Not sure I see it, in those respects. Here's a game: watch the video posted above, again compiled by my superb cohort Richard Lines. Every time he gets stoned in his tracks and tossed backward by a Nebraska linebacker, or taken to the ground by a cornerback with very little yards after contact, take a shot. Try not to die of alcohol poisoning.
As for the blocking, the simple fact of the matter is I find that I can't give a guy a premium on his grade due to blocking, as it very rarely means anything. College coaches don't coach it. You see a guy you think can't block, he actually gets coached on it, suddenly he's Clinton Portis. It happens all the time. Kendall Hunter at Senior Bowl practices is a good example of this. And then you see a guy that looks decent as a blocker in games, then you see him coached on it and at a higher level of competition, he looks clueless. Alex Green of Hawaii showed up exactly like that at Shrine practices. I liked Daniel Thomas to some degree, but not where the Dolphins took him. There were other backs I liked better, such as Delone Carter of Syracuse, who is the same kind of big, tough load handler with vision. Daniel Thomas has the kind of speed limitations you might see in a Peyton Hillis or LeGarrette Blount, but he didn't play with anything even close to their violence or tackle-breaking ability. Those are things he'll have to develop in the NFL, and even if I'm impressed with his improvement and trajectory, it's hard to count on that improvement to where you're looking at Thomas as a potential featured back.
Pick #111: Wide Receiver Edmond Gates, Abilene-Christian
The Good: This pick was a homerun. I had Gates rated as a 2nd round prospect. The Dolphins have convinced themselves that they need a deep threat to take the top off defenses, even though they already have Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess and Brian Hartline. I may not fully agree with the need, but I have to admire that when they delivered on this promise, they did so with a player that is probably the fastest, most athletic wide receiver in the Draft. I believe Gates compares very favorably with Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He can flat out fly, but he also has a natural ability to track the ball in the air, along with the hands to go up and get it. His athletic control is impressive, and he's one of those rare players I can watch run a superlative 4.3 in the 40 yard dash, or do an 11 foot broad jump, and he looks so impressively controlled and translatable that I can imagine him showing the exact same things on the football field. He is also another player that notches for me the intrigue of being a fresh convert to the sport, and having come into dominance at Abilene-Christian in a relatively short amount of time, considering his basketball background. He dominated in the offense the way Johnny Knox previously did, and I'm impressed by the coaching that both players had that allowed Knox to make such an impact as a rookie two years ago. You can see that same coaching in Gates' game, which is not quite as raw as some would make of it.
The Bad: I alluded to one problem with this pick and that is the need. This is a perfect example of where not having a good quarterback can make any and every aspect of a team look snake-bit. The Dolphins added Brandon Marshall onto a team that already had Davone Bess and Brian Hartline, and yet because their quarterback can't succeed with that embarrassment of riches, everyone have convinced themselves that the Dolphins need to spend more quality resources on another receiver. What do you suppose would happen if you transplanted those three players onto a team with Phil Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? Would their fans be clamoring for another receiver? As for weaknesses in Gates' game, he has a tendency when he's worried about precision in his routes to go at about 90%, not playing at what Mike Martz would call "Max Q" (whatever the fuck that means). He was flat out flying on a lot of the routes he ran at Abilene Christian, but that is because many of them were not that complicated. I wouldn't worry about his lack of experience on the jam or with running routes precisely. As I explained, his physical attributes, not just his speed and explosion but his control, should make him a quick learner on those things. I would coach him to not worry about his routes. Like Martz, I would place a premium on speed and tell him that his speed is his primary weapon, so never give it up without a fight. Always stay fast, and the routes will come to you eventually. And thus, you can expect the Dolphins to coach him to run precise routes at all costs even if it means slowing down.
Pick #174: H-Back Charles Clay, Tulsa
The Good: This was a highly productive player at Tulsa. The Dolphins clearly want themselves a #2 Tight End that they can move around the field, create mismatches with, and have run a lot of routes, potentially catching a lot of balls. Here's a thought, if you want to take a guy that you're going to ask to catch a lot of footballs, why don't you take a guy that...caught a lot of footballs? Mind-boggling, I know. The philosophy behind this pick is similar to why the Dolphins pay significant amounts of attention toward receivers that come out of the June Jones/Hawaii/SMU system. They signed Davone Bess undrafted, then signed his buddy from Hawaii Ryan Grice-Mullen, salivated all over SMU receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and most recently showed heavy interest in SMU receiver Aldrick Robinson, along with Hawaii receiver Kealoha Pilares. Why? Because if you play in that system, you ran a ton of routes and caught a lot of balls. Charles Clay did the same. He caught 189 balls in his career at Tulsa, and also ran the ball 179 times. He scored 38 TDs. He knows how to get his hands on the ball, secure it, and then do something with it after the catch.
The Bad: For all that, the talent you see on the field isn't necessarily eye-popping. He needs a lot of work on controlling his body in his routes, and he most certainly needs some work on blocking although that will not be as big a factor in Brian Daboll's offense because he will have his #2 Tight End running a lot more routes than Dan Henning tended to with a Joey Haynos, for example. Clay is quicker than fast, doesn't show a ton of quick twitch or natural route-running skills. He will have his work cut out for him translating to the NFL.
Pick #231: Defensive Tackle Frank Kearse, Alabama A&M
The Good: I'm one of the few people that can actually say he's seen Frank Kearse play some football.
The Bad: I'm one of the few people that can actually say he's seen Frank Kearse play some football. I watched him in the NFLPA game and have every snap he participated in isolated. To me, he was nothing special. He showed the kind of strength necessary to lock into a lot of stalemates with some pretty crappy offensive linemen. He was fairly quick off the snap but not enough to draw distinction. The best thing he showed was an ability to lock into stalemates with double-teams, but as that was mostly in pass rush, I am not sure that counts for much. He generally did not show special awareness or hand quickness, strength or explosion. He seems to me like a guy that is just a body to bring to camp and I would not expect anymore out of him than we got with Big Lou Ellis (remember him?) a year ago.
Pick #235: Cornerback Jimmy Wilson, Montana
The Good: I'm (currently) not married to any of his relatives.
The Bad: I've never seen him play football. Jeff Ireland must be very impressed with Montana's whore-screening process, because the Dolphins have more Montana Grizzlies than any team in the NFL. Wilson will join Lex Hilliard, Dan Carpenter and Cory Procter, all alums from the state that apparently knows no prostitution. Some would wonder why the team would go for a corner when they already have Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Will Allen, Nolan Carroll, Benny Sapp and Nate Ness. ... ... I have nothing to add to that, I'm wondering the same thing. I can only guess they may view Wilson as a potential slot corner, and as of right now they'd like very much not to have their two other slot corners, expensive veterans Will Allen and Benny Sapp, in the team's long term plans.
The Dolphins are not a team that I feel like I connect with, as far as what I value and how I would run things. From the embarrassing Harbaugh fiasco which I thought should have ended with Jim Harbaugh coming to Miami, to the hire of Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator when I thought he should have been the quarterbacks coach until he proved he deserved another crack at the job, to the somewhat embarrassing Daboll-pretending-to-be-Brandon-Marshall-during-QB-interviews hijinx, to the their strategy in the NFL Draft, and right on down to their most recent "oopsie", an admission that they didn't have the time to get playbooks out to any of their players when Judge Nelson temporarily lifted the lockout...this is not a team I "get".
No matter how strong you build a house, no matter what quality lumber you use, no matter what cool architectural genius you have in store and no matter how many Mexicans you hire from out front of Home Depot, if you don't lay the foundation for the house, it'll keep collapsing. Many people are under the mistaken impression that "the lines" are the foundation of an NFL team. This is outdated, and untrue. The lines are important, but the quarterback is the foundation of a team in today's NFL. He is the guy that handles the ball the most and has the most opportunity to make game-changing plays. The infection of spread concepts at the NFL level, along with NFL officiators' stance on defensive players being viewed like convicted sex offenders as far as the 'no touchy' thing goes with offensive players and quarterbacks, has ensured that passers have more ability than ever to affect the game's outcome. In today's NFL you need to find that special passer and if the guy you acquired shows you that he's not going to get there, you need to churn him and burn him.
The Miami Dolphins had an opportunity in this Draft either to try and trade up for Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder, or to go ahead and take a shot on Ryan Mallett at the #62 overall spot. In either case, the Dolphins chose what they did out of unnecessary fear. Take a player like Gabbert or Ponder at #10 overall where the Redskins traded out of their pick, and that player may fail. And if that player is giving you no reason to believe in him, and you are as good an evaluator as you should be, you should be able to make the decision within a few years to try again, and keep trying until you find a quarterback that is to your liking. In the case of Mallett at #62 overall, passing on him at that spot is nothing short of preposterous. The guy didn't murder anyone. He's never even tested positive for a drug test. A late 2nd round pick is not a highly significant asset to where you'd be sore if you lost it on a QB that didn't pan out. The rewards FAR outweighed the risk for a team that had no quarterback, but they passed anyway. And now the consensus seems to be that New England will merely let Mallett survive the next two or three years, and sell him for a 1st round pick because he'll have proven that he isn't about to be rooming with Erik Ainge at the rehab clinic any time soon.
Stability is key in the NFL. Consistent wins provide stability. Quarterbacks provide consistent wins. It's that simple. When you are stable, you aren't always changing offensive and defensive systems every year, pissing away value with the kind of personnel turnover that becomes necessary from constantly changing coaching staffs. You also aren't tempted to hack off your own arm just because you couldn't reach the high apple on the tree. Certain areas of your team could lead you to conclude "Well, SOMETHING has to change..." and see you taking on self-inflicted wounds, all because you lack consistent wins and the eternal hope that comes with knowing you've got the quarterback position nailed down.
I have no reason to believe the Dolphins truly feel ANY amount of urgency with respect to the quarterback position, and so the reality is they've acquired a fairly decent set of toys...for Bill Cowher to play with. As of right now, this regime seems doomed, and I do not believe we are truly any closer (on a timeline) to winning anything significant after this weekend, than we were before the weekend.