Posted: 1:36 pm Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Mel Kiper: Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, coach Tony Sparano don’t have time to develop another young QB 

By Post Staff

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano both signed contract extensions in January, keeping the two in charge of the team’s football operations through the 2013 season.

But ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t believe Ireland and Sparano will have that much time to groom another young quarterback, especially after two disappointing 7-9 finishes in a row.

Kiper believes that the Dolphins are in a must-win situation in 2011, and if anyone is going to challenge Chad Henne for the Dolphins’ starting job in 2011, it will have to be a veteran.

“They’ve got to decide right now, ‘Is Chad Henne the guy?’ and if not, are we going to draft a quarterback?” Kiper said Wednesday morning on a conference call. “Then we’re going to wait a couple years before he’s effective. So, do you have a couple of years to wait if you’re that organization? I don’t think so.”

“Is Henne the right guy? If he’s not, you may as well go out and be in the mix for a Kevin Kolb.”

Henne is the starter by default right now because he and practice squad player Tom Brandstater are the only quarterbacks currently under contract with the Dolphins. Tyler Thigpen may return depending on the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, but at least one roster spot, if not two, will be open for a rookie or veteran quarterback next year.

Ireland said at the Senior Bowl that he will explore all options at quarterback in the draft and free agency, and he his scouts have looked at several quarterbacks in the draft process, including Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick, Ricky Stanzi and Nate Enderle.

But unless the Dolphins pull off a high-stakes trade for Kolb Carson Palmer, no rookie would likely supplant Henne as the starting quarterback next year, even with Henne’s major struggles in 2010.

“I wasn’t as high on Henne as some other people were,” Kiper said. “He’s erratic at times with his accuracy, which he was at Michigan. The same things I said about Henne at Michigan I’m saying again right now.”

Though Kiper said that the Dolphins’ 15th pick is too high to draft any quarterback other than Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert (both of whom will be long gone by then) Kiper still likes a few of the quarterback prospects to have better careers than Henne. One player he singled out in particular is Mallett, who like Henne is a big, strong-armed quarterback.

“Where Mallett makes two or three throws every game you say, ‘Wow,’ Henne made two or three throws every game that left you scratching your head because they weren’t on target,” Kiper said. “They were throws you should’ve been able to make, and he did that at Michigan and you’re seeing the same thing in Miami.”

Other highlights from Kiper about the Dolphins and some of the quarterbacks:

* Kiper said Alabama running back Mark Ingram, No. 12 on his big board, would “make sense” for the Dolphins at 15. “If they’re restructuring the running game, you’ve got to think about Mark Ingram,” he said.

* But Kiper said that only three teams have a real need at running back – Dolphins, Patriots and Bengals – and that the Dolphins “may be able to trade down and still get Ingram.” One caution, though: The Patriots draft right behind the Dolphins at 17 and could steal Ingram.

* If the Dolphins want to improve the interior offensive line, “you can find numerous guys in the second, third, fourth round,” Kiper said. Several players play multiple positions on the line, including Mike Pouncey, Rodney Hudson, Clint Boling, John Moffett, Orlando Franklin and Danny Watkins.

* Kiper says “I like Mallett a lot more than some people do” and is skeptical of Ponder, who performed well at the Senior Bowl and Combine. “I can make an argument for Christian Ponder to be a second-round pick, I can make an argument he could be a fifth-round pick,” Kiper said. The case for: Smart and accurate, drawing comparisons to Chad Pennington. “Smart kid. Tremendously intelligent,” Kiper said. The case again: Questionable arm strength and lengthy injury history, drawing comparisons to Chad Pennington. “I wish he would’ve been able to stay healthy,” Kiper said, referring to Ponder’s myriad shoulder and forearm injuries. “It’s just inconsistent film evaluation.”

* Kiper believes Locker will be a late-first or early-second round pick, but doesn’t have faith in his long-term prospects in the NFL. “The issue with Jake is the accuracy,” he said. “Is (his completion percentage) going to be up around 63 in the NFL when it was only around 55 in college? … He has everything else you want – intangibles, toughness, athletic ability, size, arm strength. (But) instincts and feel for the position sometimes make you wonder.”

* As for Kolb, Kiper said the Arizona Cardinals make the most sense, but identified five other teams would could be interested (Cincinnati, San Francisco, Tennessee, Washington and Minnesota). The Dolphins likely won’t have much of a shot at Kolb because he will almost certainly cost at least a first-round pick, which the Dolphins almost certainly will not give up.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] ESPN’s Mel Kiper weighed in on the situation during his media conference call this morning and pointed out that head coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland aren’t guaranteed to have the time that it would require to develop another quarterback. This news was provided by Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post. [...]

  2. [...] draft expert Mel Kiper says no, according to Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post, and that’s why the Dolphins won’t take a a quarterback in the first round this [...]

  3. [...] Tony Sparano is on borrowed time. [Palm Beach Post] [...]

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