2018 NFL Draft

Finding the Fits: Dolphins hoping for Finley-like role at TE for Egnew

Finding the Fits: Dolphins hoping for Finley-like role at TE for Egnew

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
Over the next several weeks, NFLDraftScout.com will be reviewing some of the more intriguing picks made during the 2012 NFL draft through a series called "Finding the Fits." The goal of the series is to identify one relatively unheralded player per team who appears to be a good schematic fit and therefore more likely to be a surprise contributor early in his pro career.

The best schematic fit of the Dolphins' draft happened to be their first pick -- quarterback Ryan Tannehill. By now, you know he's relatively inexperienced at the quarterback position. With only 19 career starts there, he is a definite work in progress. Tannehill currently lacks the anticipation to consistently throw before his receivers are open -- a skill that must be developed if he is to have any success in the NFL. Tannehill also tends to deliver passes through a 3/4 release, which leads to a disproportionate number of his passes getting knocked down at the line of scrimmage.

Despite these areas of concern, there is a lot to like about Tannehill. He possesses an ideal combination of size, arm strength, accuracy, mobility and toughness for the quarterback position. In other words, all of the physical traits are there for him to develop into a Pro Bowl quarterback. And while he has only 19 career starts at quarterback, all of them came under Mike Sherman, who after being fired at Texas A&M, was hired by the Dolphins as new head coach Joe Philbin's offensive coordinator. Philbin, who, of course, agreed to become the Dolphins' head coach after serving as Green Bay's offensive coordinator, will be using the same West Coast Offense principles that Sherman and his staff taught with the Aggies. Therefore, in at least this sense, Tannehill is more experienced and a than any rookie quarterback drafted this year -- including Andrew Luck.

Because of these factors, I am confident that Tannehill will develop into the Dolphins' long-term answer at the quarterback position that general manager Jeff Ireland has been looking for. To do this, however, he'll need help from a group of pass-catchers that frankly on paper leaves a lot to be desired.

By trading 2012 Pro Bowl MVP Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears, the Dolphins clearly felt that the talented but troubled wideout wasn't worth all of the distractions he brought to the team. In doing so, however, the Dolphins now lack a true No. 1 target at wide receiver. Consider that the Dolphins entered the draft with Davone Bess and Brian Hartline listed as their starters. In ignoring the wide receiver position until taking Michigan State's B.J. Cunningham in the sixth round and Nevada's Rishard Matthews with their final pick (20th pick of the seventh round, No. 227 overall) Miami may not have done enough to improve their overall talent level at the position.

Considering the impact Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham (among others) had at the tight end position last year, however, the Dolphins might be thinking that a more immediate impact could be felt by drafting a coverage mismatch at that position rather than wide receiver.

While much of the success the explosive Green Bay offense has had under Philbin has rightfully been placed at the feet of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the most talented receiving corps in the NFL, because of the rare combination of size and speed offered by tight end Jermichael Finley, he's the team's most difficult matchup for defenses. With outside linebackers and safeties often asked to cover him down the seam, few defenses are able to allocate enough defenders to bracket any of the Packers' receivers, often leaving them one on one for Rodgers to exploit.

In much this same fashion, Miami appears to be hoping to use third round pick, former Missouri tight end Michael Egnew. The 6-5, 252 pound Egnew was clocked at 4.62 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine and his speed translates well onto the field. Because his numbers dropped significantly in 2012 as the Tigers adjusted to life without first round quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Egnew entered the draft without the hype of some of the rest of this year's tight ends though he's as reliable a receiving specialist at the position as there was in this year's draft.

Now, to be clear, Egnew is not a traditional tight end -- at least not yet. He was rarely asked to come off the ball from the three-point stance while at Missouri, often lining up wide as essentially a slot receiver. Though he posted a respectable 21 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press, Egnew's strength does not translate onto the field nearly as well as his athleticism. He is willing as a blocker but lacks strength, physicality and leverage. NFL defenders will be able to toss him aside if he's left as an in-line blocker -- which is precisely why the Dolphins aren't likely to use him in this way.

Miami already boasts a solid blocker (and effective red zone target) in incumbent starting tight end, Anthony Fasano. Though Fasano is a respectable NFL starter, he's not the type of athlete that will scare defenses.

Egnew, the Dolphins hope, could prove to be that type of player.

The rest of the Dolphins' picks:

1st Round - No. 8 overall - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
2nd Round - No. 42 overall - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
3rd Round - No. 72 overall - Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami
3rd Round - No. 78 overall - Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
4th Round - No. 97 overall - Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
5th Round - No. 155 overall - Josh Kaddu, OLB, Oregon
6th Round - No. 183 overall - B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State
7th Round - No. 215 overall - Kheeston Randall, DT, Texas
7th Round - No. 227 overall - Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada

Read more about all of the Dolphins' picks here.
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