Save for an extreme case or two, a prospect’s ability remains static; he’s the same player he was when he played his final college snap. But free agency does actually affect things, shifting a team’s “needs” quickly. As the Dolphins filled holes, mock drafts were adjusted, having the Dolphins take anyone from Ansah to Vaccaro, and everyone in between.
But ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., who has been at the draft evaluation and prognostication game longer than just about anyone else, is dropping a new name. In a recent conference call with the media, Kiper Jr. said that D.J. Fluker, the massive Alabama tackle, is a player to watch at No. 12.
“A guy that is as good run-blocking right tackle as you’ll ever find,” Kiper Jr. said. “Could be a guard, some think he could be a left tackle. I question that, but I think D.J. Fluker from Alabama would be interesting at 12.”
Tackle, for now, seems to be a good bet, especially if the Dolphins opt not to acquire a veteran in the next few weeks. Despite Kiper’s bullishness, there are sure to be questions about whether, at 6-foot-5, 339 pounds, Fluker really fits the Dolphins’ zone blocking scheme. The trio of top tackles — Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson — all seem to be better fits schematicly than the road-grading Fluker. In a typical year, all three would be an option in the N0. 7-12 range, Kiper says, but all three could be gone by No. 12 this year.
While Joeckel and Fisher may be in line for the top pick, Johnson, a relatively inexperienced converted tight end, is not far behind.
“Two or three years from now, he may be the best,” Kiper Jr. said. “Right now, it’s Joeckel and Fisher vying for the top spot. But down the road, most upside, it may be Lane Johnson.”
Corner was a chic pick for a hot second, with “gurus” most often connecting the Dolphins to either Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Washington’s Desmond Trufant. Miami’s acquisition of Brent Grimes, a 2010 Pro Bowler, has slowed the corner talk a bit, though Grimes will have to work his way back from an Achilles injuy that cost him essentially the entire 2012 season.
So corner could still be an option, but it’s not an overwhelmingly appealing class for those in the top half of the first round, Kiper cautions.
“There’s no corner to take after Milliner at pick No. 6,” Kiper Jr. said. “I don’t think there’s a corner to consider until you get into that 19 area – that’s the first time I’d consider a corner.”
The paradigm-shifting success of Rob Gronkowski (a second-round pick) and Jimmy Graham (a third-round pick) is going to affect where tight ends are selected in the near future. But does that mean teams are going to start reaching to find the next great one? Tight end may not be of primary importance for the Dolphins — the team signed veteran Dustin Keller to a one-year deal – but, led by Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, a legitimate top-15 option, this class has plenty of solid options.
“A tight end group that you look at and it’s developed some depth,” Kiper Jr. said. “A little bit better than you would have thought on paper.”
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