I don't want to get too far ahead of things here ... but let's take a look at next year's draft.
As I wrote in an earlier blog, I don't think it is fair to expect the Dolphins to fix all their ills in one year and it is less fair to expect them to repair their 2008 troubles with the players they currently have on the roster. It will take another draft or two. It will take more free agents that, hopefully, will deliver more production than this year's free agents have.
But six games into this season, it is becoming clear where the Dolphins will be searching for talent after the season. They want a starting caliber cornerback. They want a young, beefy nose tackle. They want a play-making wide receiver. And oh, yeah, they'll have to fill some needs at linebacker in addition to rounding out more depth throughout the roster.
So today I want to focus on the draft and what it promises in the early rounds at CB, WR, and NT.
So why CB? The Dolphins have been victimized much too often the past few years by prototypical wide receivers that simply out-run, out-jump, out-muscle, and otherwise out-play Miami's cornerbacks. Recall the games Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and others have had against the Dolphins as proof.
The problem is Miami's secondary isn't necessarily a good matchup for that type of receiver. So the Dolphins will be looking for a prototypical CB to deal with prototypical WRs going forward. Where would that lead Miami early in the draft?
Vontae Davis of Illinois. He is 6-foot and 204 pounds and perhaps the top corner in the country despite being a junior.
Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio State. He is 6-1 and 200 and also has prototypical size. Victor Harris of Virginia Tech is 6-foot and 192. He could add a little bulk and be a better run-support guy, but he is said to be quite accomplished in coverage.
All the so-called gurus also like Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest but he is 5-9 and 190 pounds. I've never seen him play so I don't know if he plays bigger than his size. But this strikes me as a guy the Dolphins wouldn't include as a first-round selection because of his size. (Perhaps someone who has seen him play can comment on the guy.)
One other possibility based on his senior-year performance, size and connections to coach Tony Sparano is Darius Butler of U-Conn. The guy is 5-11, 181 pounds and is from South Florida.
At WR, the Dolphins want a prototypical receiver that will cause other teams the problems they have been dealing with for some time. Also, they want a wide receiver that will be productive because, right now, Greg Camarillo is the only WR on the roster that is producing consistently.
I personally don't see the Dolphins picking a WR in the first round unless they are picking later on and there is a value pick that falls in their laps. Why? Teams have shown themselves capable of finding quality, productive receivers later in the draft (late first, second, third rounds) and that is where the value lies at WR.
At wide receiver everyone is apparently in love with Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech. What is not to like? He is 6-3 and 214 pounds and fast as the wind. He has amazing numbers and he is expected to come out as a third-year sophomore. The question on him is whether he is a product of the freaky Texas Tech system and whether he can translate to NFL systems. (Again, only seen him play one quarter so somebody please comment if you've seen him extensively.)
Others that demand attention are Jeremy Maclin of Missouri who is 6-1 and 200 pounds, Darrius Heyward-Bey of Maryland who is 6-3 and 206 pounds, and seniors Brandon Tate of North Carolina, who is 6-1 and 195 pounds, and Brian Robiskie of Ohio State, who is 6-3 and 199 pounds.
Tate is done for this season after he underwent surgery to repair his ACL and MCL. But he is expected to be ready by next season and the surgery only means he'll be available later in the first round and likely the second or third. By the way, Robiskie is the son of former Miami assistant Terry Robiskie.
Also: I know Florida faithful will shout from the rooftops that Percy Harvin deserves mention here as a top receiver prospect. But the guy has had some injury issues this year, is not a big guy per se at 5-11 and 195 pounds, and I just don't like Urban Meyer. So there.
As you obviously saw last Sunday against Baltimore, the Dolphins are hanging by a thread at nose tackle. Jason Ferguson is great as long as he's healthy. But he wasn't healthy last year, he's battling an oblique injury now and he'll be 34 years old in November. Miami needs help there.
And I don't see a ton of help available in the draft.
Several of these guys I'm about to mention are not prototypical nose tackles so the Dolphins will have to do a better job with, you know, actual scouts and film study than what I did by making two phone calls and going on the Internet.
But here are some early names I've uncovered:
The guy that stands out the most is Alabama's Terrence Cody, who is a freakin' giant of a man at 6-5 and 360 pounds. Alabama coach Nick Saban (yeah, that Nick Saban) has talked Cody's need to stay in shape because the guy apparently likes to eat.
But if Cody is a big eater he also feasts on running backs. When Cody was injured and missed most of the second half against Mississippi last week with a knee injury, the Rebels gained 158 yards in that half, or 66 yards more than any of Alabama's other opponents had managed in an entire game.
So it is fair to say Cody stands out.
Two guys that also stand out to me are BJ Raji of Boston College and Terrance Taylor of Michigan. Raji is a fire hydrant at 6-1 and 323 pounds while Taylor is not far behind at a compact 6-foot and 319 pounds. Neither is prototypical, but I think the Dolphins must consider their production as well as size.
Sen'Derrick Marks of Auburn is 6-1 and 288 which seems kind of smallish to me, but he is perhaps the most athletic man of this bunch. The guy dunks while taking off from the foul line. Geno Atkins of Georgia, who is 6-1 and 290 pounds should also be considered a possibility. He is also from South Florida.
There you have it. The first draft update of the season comes six games in. I think that is a record.