Let's begin with the fact that no one -- not me, not you, not Mel Kiper nor Mel Gibson for that matter -- can give you an absolutely fair and accurate grading of the Dolphins draft.
I haven't seen these guys on the field. So I have no idea if Charles Clay is the next coming of Chris Cooley or Dallas Clark. I have no idea if Mike Pouncey is as good or better than Maurkice Pouncey. I don't know whether Edmond Gates will play like Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers or Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes.
So why does everyone want a grade for the draft?
Why did I get 127 151 e-mails since Friday asking me to grade the draft, some of those before the draft was even over?
Post-draft grades from the media are bogus. They are ignorant. They are an exercise in futility. They are a waste of your time.
Alright, are you ready for my grade?
Here we go:
The case: The Dolphins addressed the long-standing need for a center in Pouncey. They came into draft with only two running backs on the roster and no second round pick and got running back Daniel Thomas in the second round. They needed speed badly that might both improve Miami's ability to get behind the secondary and maybe put a charge in the special teams returns game. The Dolphins want to run a double-tight look a lot with one of those an H-Back type. The team had Paul Soliai locked up as its starting nose tackle and needed some help behind him. And, in the bottom of the musts-needs-wants totem pole, the club wanted a playmaker in the secondary.
The results: The Dolphins got the highest-rated interior lineman on their board in the first round and expect him to start at center. They landed Thomas while other teams were in the middle of a run (pardon the pun) on running backs. They yielded a third-round (valuable), fifth-round (valuable) and seventh-round pick (not so much) to get into the second round. Edmond Gates is now the man they Dolphins expects will "knock the top" off defenses. He is now charged with being deep open to give the QB a chance at a big play. Oh, and he's got a shot at helping on teams in the return game. Charles Clay was versatile and valuable at Tulsa as a fullback and pass-catcher. He's supposed to be good in space. We'll see if that space is located 10-15-20 yards down field. Frank Kearse comes as Miami's project mountain-sized nose tackle. And Jimmy Wilson is the gamble with the final pick that could add an athletic, hard-hitting, angry, sometimes too angry hitter that might upgrade special teams and knock some balls loose.
The projections: Mike Pouncey will start at center. If he doesn't, something went terribly wrong. I don't believe anything will go wrong here. He's solid, smart, and tough. He's a competitor and winner. I predicted this pick and agree with it. Daniel Thomas is another pick I predicted so how the heck am I going to rip it? He'll bring speed to the position that Ronnie Brown seemed to lose in recent years. He'll offer some second-level elusiveness the Dolphins haven't seen in a long time and one would not expect from a 230 pound running back. Gates is the X-factor. If he makes it, this draft makes it! If he's a bigtime playmaker, the Dolphins will score points, improve the passing game and help keep people honest on the running game, and, oh yeah, there's also the possibility I might see a punt-return or kickoff-return TD before I retire. Kearse smells like a practice squad guy to me. Wilson needs to be on his absolute best behavior -- that's the way it is for someone who's been tried for murder. I don't care that he got off, he is by all accounts not an angel. He needs to watch himself and not sully the name of the franchise. Dolphins do that in other ways already, they don't need to add more of that stuff. Clay? Please, please, please makes some plays in space against overmatched LBs and safeties.
The misses: No quarterback. The Dolphins didn't pick either Ryan Mallett nor Andy Dalton in the first round, they passed on Mallett in the second round, and could not trade up to Mallett in the third although I have reported they tried. Bottom line? Mallett would have been a reach early and everyone agreed. I think he just wasn't right for the Dolphins because he needs to go to a situation where he sits for a good, long time and learns to be a professional. He wouldn't have gotten that in Miami. He would have been thrust into a starter competition and because Chad Henne is not a star, Mallett might have won. And then he would have been overmatched with the things it takes for a guy to succeed as an NFL QB -- not just the on-field stuff, but off the field as well. He might become a fine player eventually in New England. I think he would have failed in the wrong situation and Miami was the wrong situation. I wonder why the Dolphins didn't go with Pat Devlin late? Twelve QBs were taken and Devlin was not. Will be interesting to see if Dolphins chase him as an undrafted free agent when that's allowed. finally, it hurts me the Dolphins didn't land Taiwan Jones. Loved him. Loved his 4.3 speed. Thought he had that innate ability to keep defenders from hitting him on flush every time. The great ones have that ability. Yes, Taiwan Jones had fumble issues. Guess what? So did Daniel Thomas.
The spin: The Dolphins didn't have a second-round pick when the draft began because they yielded it and one last year for Brandon Marshall. GM Jeff Ireland talked about Marshall being among Miami's first three picks. No. Second round picks won't make some $18 million the next few years. Second round picks don't come to the team with a reputation for not meshing with the starting quarterback. Second round picks don't usually come with a long domestic violence history and a newly sewn abdomen from a knife wound inflicted by a wife. Second round picks also don't come with the experience Marshall has and the almost certain guarantee that he'll give you 85 catches for 1,000 yards. It's a two way street. But adding him to the draft is spin.
The bottom line: I like the job Ireland did. Really do. He made the best of a tough situation because he came into the draft without a second-round pick while not drafting particularly high. The way to get great is not by drafting where mediocre teams draft. It's hard to find a big-time star there. I didn't love that Ireland had to give up that fifth-rounder while the Patriots were adding picks for next year. (Told him as much, too). But I understand he didn't have much of choice. He needed a running back. Maybe Pouncey is better than his brother. Maybe Thomas is Adrian Peterson. Maybe Clay is Dallas Clark. Maybe Gates is Mike Wallace. If that's the case, this draft will be an awesome haul. I don't see all of that happening. More likely these generally safe, solid, logical picks will add a couple of solid starters, maybe one playmaker, and some guys whose names we won't remember three years from now.
The grade: C++. It is better than average. It is way better than average. But good? Can't be when you didn't draft in the third and fifth rounds. Can't be when you couldn't find a QB. Can't be when I haven't seen any of these players on the field. (By the way, I give the Pats a C+. They had a chance to go for the kill shot on the AFC East and didn't do it. They continue to put off for next year what they could do now, apparently not realizing Tom Brady continues to age and when he's done, they're done -- Ryan Mallett notwithstanding.)