The saving grace for Miami's inactivity in the unrestricted free agent cornerback market has been the thought Miami will simply reach into the draft and pluck one or two solid corners to supply its need -- doing so perhaps as early as the first round.
Well, that may yet happen. But anyone thinking there will be a ton of available excellent cornerbacks in this draft didn't watch the NFL combine when many corners ran disappointing times. And now the "draft gurus" are starting to chime in on the class.
Meet Mel Kiper, draft guru. This is what Kiper says about this year's available corners over at espn.com: "There isn't that one true shutdown cornerback available this year," Kiper says. "And after the subpar 40 times run by the defensive backs at the combine workout, this position isn't really as strong or as deep as originally anticipated."
Obviously this is an opinion and it's not necessarily shared by the Dolphins. And the 40-yard dash times in the draft have been called into question because of a possible clock malfunction. But I think we can all agree Kiper studies this stuff more than the average layman. So I'm sharing what Kiper has to say about some of the top-rated cornerbacks.
Understand the Dolphins have apparently taken a hankerin' to Utah's Sean Smith. They've interviewed him. They've poured over tape of him. They really like the kid. More on him in a minute, including a youtube video below. This is what Kiper says about the "top" cornerback prospects:
Michael Jenkins (Ohio State): "Jenkins is barely maintaining his spot as the No. 1 cornerback," Kiper says. Although Kiper points out that Jenkins "brings a ton of experience and sound technique to the position," he ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at the combine, which makes Kiper worry whether he's worthy of first-round consideration.
Vontae Davis (Illinois): Davis is on Jenkins' heels as the top cornerback in this class. But "he lacks the necessary consistency and is still a work in progress," Kiper says. "But physically, he has the awesome physical talent you look for to warrant a first-round grade."
D.J. Moore (Vanderbilt): Kiper says he has impressive cover skills, good return skills, smooth hips and good ball skills, but he lacks good recovery speed.
Alphonso Smith (Wake Forest): "The 5-9, 193-pounder would be a first-round lock if he were a few inches taller and a bit faster," Kiper says.
Darius Butler (UCONN): Butler is a multiskilled athlete with outstanding recovery speed, Kiper says. Butler also saw action on offense, with nine receptions, and is a solid kick returner.
Donald Washington (Ohio State): Washington left school early, a move that many people questioned, but Kiper says he is a solid second-rounder and will draw consideration in the latter portion of Round 1. "He has the physical skills you look for," Kiper says.
Kiper includes Smith among a group of other corners with "early-round potential." Looking at the guy you have to figure he's a bottom of the first round or top of the second round player. He has elite cornerback size (6-3), he had good production throughout his career, he stays healthy which the Dolphins love, and he has no off-field issues.
"He has excellent, excellent instincts," one college scout told me this morning.
The scout told me Smith has to, "improve his technique getting out of his backpedal because sometimes his steps are awkward and that hurts his recovery to the ball." But, this scout added, "From what I've seen, he's very coachable and will be eager to work on his technique when a good pro coach gets a hold of him."
One more thing: Smith, the scout said, "has excellent ball skills. If the ball is in the air and he's in good position, he's more likely to come down with it than the receiver."
The other corners Kiper mentions as having early-round potential are Jairus Byrd of Oregon, Keenan Lewis of Oregon State, Brandon Huges of Oregon State, Captain Munnerlyn of South Carolina, Jerraud Powers of Auburn, and tough-guy Asher Allen of Georgia, who my scout source sees as something of a sleeper with great potential despite limited production."