As we continue our look at the Miami Dolphins’ options in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the list of legitimate possibilities only seems to grow. I have to admit, this may be the most confused I have been about who I feel the Dolphins will select in several years.
There are multiple needs they could address, a couple potential best player available prospects they may not be able to pass up, and trading into the top ten or back into the 20’s may be just as likely as staying put at twelve. This should be a fun couple weeks, as the buildup to the draft two weeks from tonight will only increase speculation.
But if we have learned anything about Jeff Ireland during his tenure as the Dolphins’ GM, we know he prefers the safe pick. And by the safe pick I mean an offensive lineman that is almost guaranteed to be good but likely won’t be a game changer.
While this might not sit well with the fanbase, who can be starving for playmakers even after Miami invested big bucks to sign Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller, and Brandon Gibson this offseason, you can’t really blame Ireland if he goes this route again in this year’s draft.
Two gigantic question marks still remain on the right side of the offensive line. Most of the focus has been on the right tackle spot and the void created by Jonathan Martin’s likely shift to Tannehill’s blindside. But there is still a hole at right guard, as the Dolphins need to find an athletic, pulling guard that can equip them to run a successful zone-blocking scheme.
There is a good chance UNC’s Jonathan Cooper will still be on the board when the Dolphins select at twelve and he fits the prototype of the guard they will be looking for.
Jonathan Cooper, Offensive Guard, North Carolina
Bench: 35 reps
Strengths: Cooper is very athletic. Has the foot quickness and bend to be extremely hard to beat in pass protection. Very good mobility. Pulls to the left and right effectively. Gets to the second level of defense with ease. Quick recovery speed. Plays with good pad level.
Weaknesses: Average height. Could also add some bulk. Put up 35 reps in the bench at Combine but that strength does not translate to the games. Stronger tackles can get some push against him. Will miss an assignment from time to time.
Why draft Cooper?
The Dolphins need to shore up the offensive line to emerge as a high-scoring unit. Ryan Tannehill has all the weapons he needs to make huge strides in his second season. The last thing Miami wants is a mediocre O-line holding the offense back.
Since Joe Philbin became head coach, the Dolphins have switched to a zone-blocking scheme. That type of scheme requires more athletic offensive lineman. Richie Incognito and John Jerry, the two starting guards from a year ago, don’t exactly fit that mold. Jonathan Cooper fits like a glove.
12th overall is simply way too high to take an offensive guard. Cooper would be a great fit but you don’t take a guard that high when there will likely be quality game changers at pass rusher, tight end, and receiver on the board.
It is so much more difficult to find legitimate game changers later on in the draft. But you can easily find a starting caliber guard in the middle rounds. If you must take an offensive lineman in round one, taking a tackle makes much more sense. A guard won’t protect Tannehill from some of the top pass rushers in football. A quality right or left tackle could.
Dolphin fans everywhere would groan if Ireland selected Cooper. And rightfully so.