Fans of the Miami Dolphins should be excused for fearing the worst heading into the NFL Draft. From the Ted Ginn debacle in 2007 to the decision to trade up one pick for Vernon Carey in 2004, Miami has made a number of ill-conceived moves in the first round of the draft. Even when the best option for the team is blatantly obvious, the Dolphins have been known to try something different, usually to disastrous effects.
With the eighth overall pick in the draft Thursday, Miami has a chance to grab a player that can change the course of the franchise, but Dolphins fans are forever waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under them.
While there are prospects the Dolphins would love to draft, like Stanford QB Andrew Luck or Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon, the chances of any lasting until the eighth pick are exceedingly slim. So instead, let's examine three second-tier first-rounders who could get their name called when the Dolphins make their first pick on Thursday night.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. Some perspective on how far Tannehill's stock has risen over the past few months: When we gave odds on who would be the Dolphins' next starting quarterback way back in December, Tannehill did not even make the list (we totally nailed the combo of Matt Moore and a random free agent, though). The thought then was that only two quarterbacks were worth drafting in the first ten picks of the draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Tannehill wasn't even an afterthought back then, he was practically nonexistent.
There is a reason it took so long for scouts and draftniks to become enamored with Tannehill. He only started 19 games at quarterback for the Aggies, having started his college career as a wide receiver. Beyond that, he was downright putrid in A&M's four biggest games 2011 (Oklahoma St, @Oklahoma, @Kansas St, Texas - all losses), completing only 51% of his passes with 10 interceptions against 9 touchdowns.
But there is a reason Tannehill has become a compelling draft pick. His size (6'4"/221 lbs), natural athletic ability and strong arm excite scouts. He performed well at private workouts for teams and can use his feet to extend plays and evade defensive linemen. With some time to develop, Tannehill could be a viable long-term starter, but that is far from guaranteed.
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. With Brandon Marshall shipped off to Chicago, the Dolphins need a new go-to receiver to stretch opposing defenses. Floyd caught 100 passes for 1,147 yards during his senior season in South Bend, adding 9 touchdowns. He finished his Notre Dame career with 3,686 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Floyd is not especially fast (his 4.47 40-yard dash time at the Scouting Combine was far from impressive), but he is 6'3" tall with an impressive wingspan, making him a big target. He can pick up extra yards after making a catch, and is not afraid to venture into the middle of the field.
He is not without his red flags. Besides suspect speed, Floyd has been given the "character issues" tag, thanks in part to a DUI that nearly got him kicked off the team before his senior season.
Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina. Coples is one of the biggest question marks in the entire draft. His skills are unquestioned. He is enormous (6'6"/284 lbs.) and strong, and can also play a variety of positions in both a 4-3 and 3-4 defensive scheme.
But Coples has been dogged by questions regarding his effort. "There are times you watch him, and you think, 'This is the best defensive player in the class,'" ESPN's Todd McShay said of him earlier this week. "And there are other times you watch and you say, 'Man, he's mailed it in. He's not giving the effort that you need to give.'"
But Coples could become a chaotic force opposite Cameron Wake in the Dolphins' defense. Defensive linemen of his athletic ability do not come around often, and if the Dolphins want to bolster their defense, they could do worse than Coples.
Those three look like Miami's likely targets, but the Dolphins could go in a number of different directions. Iowa OT Riley Reiff, Mississippi St. DT Fletcher Cox, South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram, and Boston College LB Luke Keuchly have also been rumored to be on the Dolphins' radar.
In the end, though, Miami's overwhelming need for a franchise quarterback will probably carry the day, even if the quarterback available is a development project. In the past decade, the Dolphins have passed on Matt Ryan, Brady Quinn, Aaron Rodgers, and Joe Flacco among others. While there is no telling whether Tannehill will be another Rodgers or another Quinn (or somewhere in between), it seems like the Dolphins brass is willing to roll the dice on him now and hope they've picked a winner.
The draft starts at 8pm, with coverage on ESPN and the NFL Network.