There’s no question that the top prospect in the Miami Dolphins organization is the top pick from the 2008 draft, Jake Long. Long came in as a rookie, started every game and solidified the left side of the offensive line for the Dolphins. Long’s presence was a major reason why the Dolphins went from a 1 – 15 team in ’07 to being the AFC East Division champions in ’08 with an 11 – 5 record. The resurgence of quarterback Chad Pennington, who won the Comeback Player of the Year Award, also helped the Dolphins become one of the league’s elite, but without Long upfront, Pennington wouldn’t have been as successful. For his efforts as a rookie, Long was selected to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for then the Buffalo Bills Jason Peters, who’s now with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ted Ginn has the ability to be one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, despite his slender frame, and he’s electric every time the ball is in his hands. The one dynamic that Ginn has to improve in his game is his ability to run intermediate routes and show that he can physically withstand a 16-game season. As a rookie, he caught 34 passes for 420 yards and two touchdowns, and last year he had 56 receptions for 790 yards and two touchdowns. He’s continuing to improve and gaining confidence every time he’s on the field.
It may be a surprise to see Pat White on this list as the No. 3 prospect over Chad Henne, but from a strictly athletic standpoint, he’s probably the No. 1 prospect in the organization. The fact that the Dolphins were the first team to institute the Wildcat formation in 2008 and with the success that it generated, there’s no question that White will play a huge part in the Dolphins offensive scheme this season. He may not be your prototypical quarterback or do everything conventionally, but he’s a hybrid type of a player and an outstanding leader that an organization can build its franchise around.
It’s amazing to think that Davone Bess was an undrafted free agent after the 2008 draft and that all 32 teams had a chance to sign him to a bargain basement contract. But it was the Dolphins that scored big time, and they may have received their best all-around receiver without using a draft pick. At the completion of the 2007 season, I anointed Bess as the best slot receiver in college football, and he proved me right. And now he’s quickly becoming one of the most complete slot guys in the NFL. In a situational role last year as a rookie, Bess caught 54 passes for 554 yards and a touchdown. Although he’s just 5-10 and 190 pounds, Bess is extremely quick and understands how to work the middle. His game is reminiscent of another former Dolphins undrafted free agent and now New England Patriots star Wes Welker.
The fifth rated prospect in the Dolphins organization is the player they believe will eventually assume the role as the team’s starting quarterback, 2008 second round pick Chad Henne. Henne served as Pennington’s backup last season and saw action in three games. In limited action last season, Henne completed 7-of-12 passes for 67 yards. He didn’t start a game in ’08, and with the Dolphins on the upswing with Pennington behind center, it may take longer than expected for Henne to become the starter. It’s been reported that the plan is for Henne to backup Pennington again this season and become the start in 2010. But if the Dolphins take another step forward this year, win the AFC East and advance to the second round of the playoffs behind Pennington, it will be difficult to name Henne the starter for the ’10 season.There wasn’t a defensive player rated in the top five, but the bottom five in the top ten are all defensive players. Starting at No. 6, former Clemson standout Phillip Merling has tremendous talent and is very good against the run. He played in all 16 games last season as a rookie, starting two, and faired very well by registering 26 tackles, a sack and an interception. Another defensive end that showed great promise as a rookie last season was former Hampton standout Kendall Langford. A fourth round pick in 2008, Langford started 13 out of 16 games and was a pleasant surprise on defense collecting 31 tackles and two sacks. Punter Brandon Fields, who’s started since being a seventh round pick in 2007, should continue to improve and will have a shot to make the Pro Bowl this season. And two selections from the ’09 draft, cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, will be big contributors this year and will eventually emerge as top five prospects in the Dolphins organization.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.