It’s time for our first installment of “Miami Dolphins Stock Watch.” Here we will take a look at whose stock is on the rise and whose is falling within the organization. The 2013 NFL Draft certainly altered the stock of some. Here’s my take:
Jeff Ireland, GM: What an offseason for the Dolphins’ GM. Once exposed to daily criticism and demands for his dismissal among the fan base, Ireland swayed some opinions in a free agency period highlighted by the signings of Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, and Dustin Keller.
But anyone can throw money at free agents and convince professional athletes to bring their talents to South Beach. Ireland needed a great draft to complete the process.
Yes, trading up for Dion Jordan has led to some criticism among the national media, but Dolphins fans, almost unanimously, seem to approve of the work Ireland did in this draft. Ireland didn’t find a left tackle to replace Jake Long or a receiver to replace Davone Bess. But he did draft players that could turn out to be the final pieces to an elite defense.
It’s hard not to argue that the Dolphins now have the potential to be a playoff-caliber team. Jeff Ireland should be commended for that. But make no mistake about it, the Dolphins must win in 2013 or Ireland’s seat will heat up in a hurry.
Jonathan Martin, OT: The Dolphins are still looking to add an offensive tackle in free agency, but not drafting a tackle early in the draft or desperately trading away a second-round pick for Branden Albert suggests the Dolphins have some confidence in Jonathan Martin’s ability to protect Ryan Tannehill’s blindside.
Obviously, they are not completely sold on the idea, as they were, after all, discussing a trade for Albert and they visited with free-agent left tackle Bryant McKinnie yesterday. But Miami not coming away from the draft with a long-term answer at the position bodes well for Martin. He’s also reportedly bulked up some this offseason, adding some much needed strength.
Chris Clemons, FS: The Dolphins didn’t select a safety in the draft that is capable of competing with Chris Clemons for the starting job alongside Reshad Jones.
Clemons only signed a one-year deal this offseason to remain in Miami, meaning the Dolphins aren’t sold on him being the long-term answer at free safety. But not drafting a safety early on likely means Clemons’ job is safe for 2013.
He’s always been a solid player. He’s fast and makes few mistakes. But if he can somehow find a way to make more impact plays this season, the Dolphins will entertain the possibility of locking Clemons up with a multi-year contract at the end of the year.
Armon Binns and Rishard Matthews, WR’s: After trading Davone Bess to the Cleveland Browns, most assumed the Dolphins were targeting a receiver at some point in the draft. Surprisingly, they never selected a receiver, though, meaning the Dolphins are confident in their depth at the position behind Wallace, Hartline, and Gibson.
Armon Binns and Rishard Matthews are likely the two receivers that stand to benefit the most. Both would likely crack the 53-man roster if the Dolphins had to make cuts today. On a team of considerably small receivers, Binns would provide Tannehill a 6’3” target and could become a factor in the red zone. Matthews, meanwhile, showed some promise during his rookie season as a chain-moving possession receiver.
Daniel Thomas, RB: The writing has probably been on the wall ever since Thomas had another disappointing season in 2012. But now a competition is officially on after the Dolphins drafted former Florida Gator running back Mike Gillislee in the fifth round.
Thomas has the tools to be the productive short-yardage back the Dolphins offense needs, but inconsistency, durability concerns, and fumbles have put him in the dog house. Gillislee can unseat Thomas as Lamar Miller’s sidekick with a strong training camp and preseason.
Dan Carpenter, K: The former Pro Bowl kicker will have his hands full this summer if he wants to remain a Dolphin and earn his $2.675 million contract. Rookie Caleb Sturgis, who Miami drafted in the fifth round, will be a much cheaper option.
If Sturgis can prove to be the better option on the field in addition to financially, the Dolphins will have a new kicker this season. Sturgis certainly has the accuracy to pull it off.
Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson, CB’s: The Dolphins doubled down at cornerback selecting Jamar Taylor and Will Davis in the second and third rounds. They even took a third defensive back, who will reportedly play corner as well, in the seventh round when they drafted Don Jones.
Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson, with their combined $9 million salaries, are officially on notice. Second-round pick Jamar Taylor is thought to be ready to contribute right away and third-rounder Will Davis has the potential to play the nickel.
If Brent Grimes is healthy and good to start, the Dolphins won’t necessarily need Marshall or Patterson’s veteran presence, either. It’s hard to envision both Marshall and Patterson being on the team come Week 1.
Olivier Vernon, DE: Drafting Dion Jordan third overall doesn’t necessarily lower Jared Odrick’s stock in my mind. I see Odrick still getting the majority of reps at defensive end on first and second down while Jordan develops and bulks up. Then, next year, when Paul Soliai and Randy Starks hit free agency, Odrick will likely move inside to defensive tackle – his natural position.
The same can’t be said for Olivier Vernon. The second-year defensive end is going to lose some reps to Jordan. That much is certain. All hope is not lost for Vernon, who flashed some raw ability as a rookie, as you can never have too many pass rushers. But clearly the Dolphins weren’t willing to bank on Vernon developing into the rusher that would help complement Cameron Wake like they hoped he would when they selected him in the third round a year ago.