NFL: Dolphins have options with 12th overall pick
By Armando Salguero
MIAMI — The Dolphins started preparing for the upcoming NFL Draft by studying film of college players in early December, when it was becoming clear their best hopes for a playoff spot would come in 2010 rather than 2009.
One week into free agency, as other teams were still hosting visits by unrestricted veteran free agents, general manager Jeff Ireland was spending much of his time in draft meetings.
The draft is the thing for the Dolphins.
With the 12th overall selection, and nine more beyond that, the Dolphins are looking for players to improve their roster and fill obvious needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker, free safety and nose tackle.
There will be other areas addressed, as well, but the question everyone wants answered is, who will be the No. 12 pick?
Bill Parcells isn't saying. Much to everyone's surprise, he is not explaining Miami's draft strategy to the public.
Everyone knows Parcells has choices and should get a good player with that pick. Here are the possible choices:
Texas safety Earl Thomas: This guy gets it. He is leaving Texas as a redshirt sophomore, and that usually raises a red flag for Parcells. But the reason Thomas is leaving is he wants to buy his parents a home because theirs was wiped out by a hurricane years ago. Thomas has a pristine reputation off the field; his grandfather is a pastor, and he played piano at his church. Even his favorite TV channels are ESPN and Disney Channel, for goodness sake. Thomas started all 27 games during his Texas career and had 10 interceptions. The biggest knock on Thomas is his size. He played at 198 pounds at Texas. After last season, he began training and added 10 pounds of muscle. He gets it.
Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams: Jason Ferguson is 36 and will miss the season's first eight games after being suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. Even if Ferguson comes back, the Dolphins need to address the nose tackle spot at some point because of his age. Williams is considered the draft's best prospect at nose tackle, but this draft also offers a handful of late-round nose tackles who also could become good players.
Idaho State guard Mike Iupati: The Dolphins are breaking ties with left guard Justin Smiley, which means they have a void at the position. Iupati is a classic left guard, and he happens to be the best at his position in the draft. He is only slightly smaller than a trailer at 6-5 and 330 pounds. Iupati is tough and aggressive, but he does need to work on his conditioning, and his learning curve in adjusting to NFL play might be extensive because Idaho played only one ranked team (Boise State) the past four seasons.
Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain: When the Dolphins signed Karlos Dansby to a five-year, $43 million contract, some assumed the team quenched its thirst for help at inside linebacker. Perhaps. But the team visited with McClain last week because he's the best inside linebacker prospect. McClain has prototype size at 6-3 and 254 pounds, he was smart enough to call the defense for Nick Saban at Alabama, and he is tough. But his speed (4.68 in the 40-yard dash) is uninspiring, which could be the reason he's not been a sideline-to-sideline tackler.
Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant: His reputation precedes him, which is good and bad. He is, by most accounts, the best wide receiver in the draft. His size (6-2, 220) and playmaking ability are excellent, although he has struggled against good secondaries in games against Texas and Georgia. He was suspended for most of last season for lying to NCAA investigators. But it does paint a picture of a risky pick at No. 12. Many teams gladly would take that risk. Would Parcells?
Georgia Tech defensive end/outside linebacker Derrick Morgan: He has the size (6-3 and 265), and adequate speed and agility. He was productive in college, with 12 1/2 sacks in 2009. He is reliable and reminds some folks of John Abraham. But will he fit into a 3-4 scheme?
Others in the conversation?
Michigan outside linebacker Brandon Graham has the motor, the production, the desire and the pedigree. He will be a good NFL player. But No. 12 might be a reach for him.
Clemson running back C.J. Spiller got 21 of his 50 college touchdowns from 50 yards or more. He is electric. He could deliver the "chunk yardage" the Dolphins' offense sorely lacks.
The Dolphins haven't shown Spiller the type of attention they have some of the other players.
Maybe they should spend some time recalling how concerned they were about Chris Johnson for six days as they prepared to play the Tennessee Titans last year.