Hello? Over here ...
No, further out here. Yeah, you see this big void over here where a starting cornerback should be getting ready to line up for the Miami Dolphins? This is what folks in the NFL call a major honkin' draft need.
I have covered the Dolphins for a good many years. I've covered Tim McKyer, who Don Shula hated. I've covered Vestee Jackson and J.B. Brown. I've also covered Troy Vincent and Patrick Surtain, the two best cornerbacks in team history.
So I think I know when the spot is well-manned. And when it is not.
The Dolphins cornerback spot opposite Will Allen is not well-manned today. Not even close. Of course, general manager Jeff Ireland isn't that blunt about the enormous gap at starting cornerback he must see when he looks at a current depth chart.
But even the word-cautious Ireland admits the spot needs addressing in the coming draft.
“We have three undrafted free agent corners there so it is a position we are going to have look at like every other position," Ireland said during his pre-draft press conference last week. "When you have three UFAs going into a position, you have to look at the draft and free agency. We have Eric [Green] and we didn’t get some of the other guys we looked at.
"There is Joey Thomas who I think has tremendous ability. Will Allen is here. He is a terrific player for us. Nate Jones did a terrific job for us. Jason Allen is going to have a chance to compete again. It is kind of like the receiver position. There are some young players there that have to come out of their shell a little bit. They need do show what they can do.”
I say Ireland needs to show what he can do relative to the gaping hole at this spot. He must, absolutely must, draft a cornerback or two in the coming draft. And that isn't all. Ireland and Bill Parcells must identify and select a cornerback they have confidence can compete for a starting job as a rookie.
That doesn't mean the rookie must start immediately. But he has to be a factor immediately because at least that makes other players at the position better as a result of the competition.
You see, just filling the spot with bodies that might develop in a year or so isn't good enough when the Dolphins are facing a 2009 schedule that threatens Terrell Owens twice, Lee Evans twice, Randy Moss twice, Andre Johnson, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith, Wes Welker twice, Antonio Bryant, and Roddy White. All those players, without exception, have played at a Pro Bowl level at some point in their careers.
The Dolphins need to draft a cornerback or two that will serve as an answer to the problem those players pose.
So, you ask, who is available and interesting?
The Dolphins, as you read here a month or so ago, have shown consistent interest in Utah cornerback Sean Smith, who is likely a second-round type of player.
The team on Friday will host University of Connecticut corner Darius Butler, who is a local player and will be among the two dozen or so locals visiting the Miami facility.
Everyone is enthusiastic about Illinois corner Vontae Davis (in the video) as a potential first-rounder. He has elite size, an excellent closing burst and very good ball skills. The guy rocks, which is one reason the Dolphins have spent countless hours studying him and meeting with him and working him out last week.
But ... well, he's not a sure-fire guy. And the Dolphins often pick sure-fire guys ahead of more talented players that aren't as safe.
This is what Scouts Inc. says in part about Davis: "Illinois head coach Ron Zook did not start him versus Iowa in 2008 because [the coach] reportedly felt [the player] wasn't playing as well as he could. Lack of visible improvement from sophomore to junior year is a concern. We've been told by multiple sources that he lacks proper respect for coaches and he only works hard when he's in the mood to do so. Vontae's brother is 49er TE Vernon Davis, who is currently underachieving in the NFL."
There are other cornerbacks the Dolphins have shown varying degrees of interest in so their names deserve mention: Jairus Byrd of Oregon, Mike Mickens of Cincinnati, Alphonso Smith of Wake Forest, Morgan Trent of Michigan and Jerraud Powers of Auburn.
Byrd is interesting. He's the son of former NFLer Gil Byrd. He also has elite ball skills and knows how to be a professional. But he lacks top-end speed.
Trent is lanky at 6-1 and 193 but the Dolphins always believe they can make players stronger in their workout programs. He's a second-day possibility.
Mickens had good production, which is always something the Dolphins study, but his left knee caused him to trouble at the end of the season and required arthroscopic surgery. That's a red flag.
Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins is expected to be gone by the time the Dolphins draft at No. 25 in the first round.
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