The Candidates at No. 12

We are now less than three weeks away from the 2010 NFL draft, and speculation will only intensify in the next several days as to which player the Dolphins will get with the 12th overall pick — assuming Miami doesn't trade up or down in the first round. We've already heard a few names tied to the pick and it's likely we'll be hearing more, as we examine.

So far, the names that have been linked to the Dolphins include Dan Williams, Earl Thomas, Derrick Morgan, Dez Bryant, Rolando McClain, Sergio Kindle and Taylor Mays.

We did a thorough analysis last year of Bill Parcells' drafting pattern and came up with his tendencies to draft in the first round defensive players from the Big Ten. Sure enough, the Dolphins went ahead and took Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis in the first round in 2009.

This year, the only two defensive prospects from the Big Ten considered potential first-round picks are Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick and Michigan defensive end/outside linebacker Brandon Graham.

The Dolphins have their share of young defensive ends in their 3-4 defense, so Odrick probably won't get the call. As for Graham, he's considered a good prospect as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but no one is projected him to get drafted as high as No. 12.

So maybe the Dolphins will go to another conference. We would expect the defensive pattern to remain, though, which would eliminate Dez Bryant from consideration.

Yes, the Dolphins need a big-time weapon at wide receiver, but their defense probably was a bigger problem in 2009.

Of the other aforementioned prospects, we'd probably eliminate Morgan from consideration because it's difficult to envision the most complete defensive end in the draft not to be taken in the first 10 picks.

Taylor Mays is a physical specimen whose production at USC didn't match his tools, so we're inclined to think he'll be passed over by Parcells, who likes prospects who have a history of producing at major programs.

Williams was a solid player at Tennessee his first few years there, but not a great prospect until Monte Kiffin took over the Volunteers defense in 2009.

Williams then shot up the draft boards and he only helped his cause with a great showing at the Senior Bowl.

For production, though, it's tough to beat what Earl Thomas has done. In his two seasons at Texas, he picked off 10 passes in 27 games and broke up 33, while adding five forced fumbles.

He's a bit on the small side for a safety at 5-10, 205, but he's so good in coverage he could line up at cornerback in a pinch.

If he's available at No. 12, he's someone the Dolphins definitely should consider.

His teammate at Texas, Sergio Kindle, wasn't nearly as consistent, although he did flash big-time pass-rushing potential at times. Still, the 12th spot might be high for him and his inconsistent play in college should be a red flag.

Finally, there's McClain, who doesn't wow scouts with his physical tools but who shows great leadership and a knack for being around the ball.

The need for McClain might have diminished after the Dolphins signed Karlos Dansby in free agency.

From this vantage point, the two most appealing options at this point certainly look like Thomas or Williams. Then again, don't be surprised if we throw in a couple more names before April 22.

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