Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins went into the 2012 NFL Draft with a litany of needs including quarterback, wide receiver, defensive end, and tight end. When Mr. Irrelevant was finally called and the draft ended, the Fins walked out with an impressive haul that met most of the team needs.
The Dolphins first round pick will be the deciding factor in the team’s 2012 draft class. The Fins selected quarterback Ryan Tannehill number eight overall out of Texas A&M. Tannehill was projected to the Dolphins for months and is expected to be the team’s franchise quarterback.
Tannehill had only 19 starts at quarterback for Texas A&M. He also spent the first two years of his college football career playing wide receiver, where he was a solid receiver for the Aggies in the Big XII.
In the second round, the Dolphins did what most teams who take a quarterback in the first round do, get him some protection. The Fins selected Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin who spent the last several years protecting the blind side for quarterback Andrew Luck.
Martin projects to be a right tackle for the Dolphins after playing his collegiate career as a left tackle. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said Martin was “athletic, a good kid, high character guy.”
“I really like the guy,” Fins head coach Joe Philbin said of Martin. “When I first watched him, right before the combine, what got my attention was his hand usage. He’s got good length in his arm. I’m excited about him.”
If Martin can translate his athletic ability and skills to the right side of the line, he and current Dolphins left tackle Jake Long could form the bookends of a vastly improved offensive line from last year.
The third round saw the Dolphins fill both the need for a pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake and a tight end to stretch the field. The Dolphins reached out just 30 miles down the road for the first third-round pick and drafted Olivier Vernon out of the University of Miami.
“He’s got big hand; he’s 21-years-old and I like his strength,” Coach Philbin said of Vernon. “I like the way he worked and I think he’s got great potential.”
Vernon could end up being one of the steals of the draft if he can put what happened to him at the beginning of his senior season behind him and put all of his skills towards becoming a bookend defensive end for the Fins for years to come.
The second third round pick saw the Dolphins grab University of Missouri tight end Michael Egnew. The former Tiger stands 6’5” and weighs around 250 pounds. He’s a pass-catching tight end that was used almost exclusively as a receiver in college.
Egnew is looking to break the tradition of Missouri tight ends that excelled at Mizzou and then bombed in the NFL including Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker. Philbin said Egnew could be a good blocker and that he creates a lot of mismatches.
“He’s certainly been comfortable playing outside the box,” Philbin said. “In a slot, and even as a wide receiver like throwing screens through him…He’s a willing blocker. He can bend. If you can bend and you’re willing, then you got a chance.”
The Dolphins were hanging back as the fourth round started, but as University of Miami running back Lamar Miller continued to plummet down the draft, the Fins pounced. Miller, who was one of the fastest players in the draft, will fight to become a backup to Reggie Bush for the Fins.
Miller’s stock took a hit because of the perception that he couldn’t catch the ball out of the backfield. But, with the Fins looking for speed and difference makers across the field; Miller was the best player available in the fourth round.
Later in the draft, the Dolphins selected wide receiver B.J. Cunningham out of Michigan State in the sixth round. NFL Networks’ Bucky Brooks called Cunningham an underrated pass catcher and a good route runner.
The Dolphins also rolled the dice on University of Texas defensive tackle Kheeston Randall. Coming into the 2011 season, he was touted as an early-round prospect. He struggled during his senior season, but if the Dolphins can get him back to his old game, he could turn out to be a late round steal.
Overall, the Dolphins had several needs and filled most of them in the 2012 NFL Draft. Martin, Vernon, and Egnew have the potential to be immediate impact players, as does Miller. But the true value of the class will be determined by Tannehill’s play.